About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, August 12, 2016

Exec Brown Diverts Civil Fund For Online Records

Though Northampton County has a $330 million budget, most of the money is restricted. It's spoken for, and can only be spent on certain things. Property tax revenues can be spent for anything, but that's less than a third of the revenue coming in. Most of the rest of the money comes from the federal and state governments for designated human services, from child abuse to Gracedale. You don't spend that money on something else, and if you do, a bad audit will be the least of your worries. Yet it appears that is precisely what Executive John Brown has done. He is dipping into a special piggy bank set up for the County's beleaguered and short-staffed Civil Division, and is spending it on two other departments, including the courts. Now before you call the FBI, he has been completely above board about what he is doing. One of his lawyers may have even given him a green light. But a little more public scrutiny is in order. You see, the Controller's Solicitor has the opposite opinion.

When a lawsuit is filed in Northampton County, a $5 fee is collected for something called the Civil Automation Fund. That is a special fund, authorized by state statute that can only be used for the purpose of automation and continued automation updates of the office of the Prothonotary (Civil Division). It pays for the computers used in the Civil Division, as well as its supporting software.

Though the state is supposedly working on a system for posting civil records online, John Brown is unwilling to wait. In January, he executed a $1.4 million contract with Teleosoft, Inc., for a new unified records management system. This system is supposed to go live in October. It will enable attorneys to file pleadings electronically, which should reduce the workload on Civil Division employees. It will also enable the public to view these pleadings, from the comfort of their own homes, similar to what already happens with federal lawsuits.

This contract will also enable the Court Administrator to develop a public court calendar that includes the Orphans' Court. It will also help the Sheriff's Office manage the Sheriff's Sale list.

The problem is that the Civil Division's Automation Fund is being diverted to help pay for a contract that benefits other offices, like Court Administration and even the Orphans Court.

According to Tim Brennan, Solicitor to Controller Steve Barron, it is "inappropriate" to use the Civil Automation Fund to help pay for a system that appears to benefit three other departments. Nobody is suggesting that anyone be sued, but this could come back as a material deficiency in a future audit.


Anonymous said...

Typical NC government in action! Rob Paul to pay Peter! And council sits back and does nothing! Throw them all out!

Anonymous said...

Isn't Human Services one of the main jobs of county government? Also I know it is one of the largest budgets and most of the money comes form the state and the fed's; however, I think the county has to spend some local dollars to get that money and also local dollars on some things not covered.

Seems like Brown is playing fast and loose with one of the main reasons the county exists.

Fair or unfair?

Anonymous said...

OK, so rather than just benefiting one department the special funds (rather than property taxes) were spent on software benefiting three. The Civil and Criminal Division are working closely with Court Administration. If this were done under the previous Executive, you would be orgasmic. Sounds like petty politics.

Anonymous said...

This theft of sevices rendered to the innocent indigent is just that a juggling ACT of the circus of many different entities supposidly doing one in the same job yet they all never really examine the third party facts and claim to have no knowledge of them?! This is a strange common situation for all caugt up in the triboro arena agenda and is a diversionary design that infects the HOLE?!
Church on the run and a couple of the same claiming to be a CURE for the uncurable importing of such by design for the catchers?
RE:publican redd no party affilliation

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:16, Brown is actually being more open about this than is usual, and this tells me he himself has concerns. If this is flagged in an audit, the money will have to come out of the general fund. There is nothing petty about that.

Anonymous said...

This guy is running for Auditor General and he is unsure about the legality of this diversion of dedicated funds? Oh, Pennsylvania will be in good hands if this phony is elected!

Anonymous said...

Brown is an empty suit and others move the mouth. He has no clue and never did. It was all smoke and mirrors from the get go. Totally clueless and his resume is as empty as his head. He is the lamb led to slaughter and he will disappear soon enough. Good riddance and all that.