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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, February 23, 2017

DA Blasts Timeclocks Planned at NorCo Courthouse

A timeclock is coming soon
Time clocks might be a good idea at NorCo jail or at Gracedale. But John Brown wants to use them countywide, including at the courthouse and at the Human Services building. HR Director Amy Trapp has of argued that they will reduce paperwork, save time and even be beneficial for employees in the long run. But employees resent them. They find the practice degrading, and feel that being compelled to supply their fingerprint for a biometric device is in an infringement of their privacy.  Now an administration that has unilaterally reduces the medical benefits of employees doesn't really care what they think. But it should care what DA John Morganelli thinks, especially since he's sued the Executive and won over the issue of who runs his office.

On Friday morning, when Morganelli was returning to his office from court, he noticed some of the County's maintenance team banging away part of the wall outside and stringing in blue wires.

"What's that for?"

"Timeclocks. They're going everywhere."

And they are.Blue wires are dangling from walls all over the place.

No one had bothered discussing this with the DA, so he fired off an email on Friday morning at 10:49 am, addressed to Amy Trapp and John Brown.

Amy and John

As we speak there are workmen outside my office putting up a time clock. I made it absolutely clear that my employees will not be subject to ANY timeclock as long as I am DA. The Home Rule Charter specifically give ME as DA EXCLUSIVE control over my employees. This is a waste of money and I am not going to decrease morale and efficiency in my office with this.

I think you shoulf stop work here immediately. I will not have my people do this. Period. JM

Morganelli heard nothing Friday, Monday or Tuesday.

You see, they don't have to worry about time clocks.They're management.

Finally on Tuesday night, at 10:46 pm, Morganelli got this response from Trapp.

Good evening John,

I apologize for the delay. I was off for my daughter’s birthday and I am trying to catch up on my messages.

I also would like to apologize for the lack of communication. I was not aware there was a mass installation of time clocks, but I am very excited to hear that they are all going in. I would very much like to sit and talk to you about this.

Your ADAs and Detectives would never need to punch. However, anyone else subject to overtime under FLSA regulations should be as it will create a great number of efficiencies. Much like the ET’s of the world we have discussed before, this holds everyone equally accountable and provides the most accurate information. I know how important that is to you as the District Attorney. No one can argue with facts.

Please let me know when you have time to discuss this week or next week and I would be happy to meet. I look forward to talking with you.

Does she get three days off for her daughter's birthday?

Oh that's right, she doesn't have to worry about a timeclock. She's management. And she wants him to know that he and his assistants and detectives are special, too, and would never need to punch. Only the lowly clerks, who are already shackled with low wages. Let them get stressed about being to work on time.

Morganelli had a meeting with police in Bethlehem on Wednesday morning, so he was unable to get to the courthouse until 10 am. As he parked his car, Administrator Cathy Allen was just pulling in herself.

She punches no timeclock, either. She's management.

This high school grad told Morganelli that federal regulations now require timeclocks. Morganelli checked.They don't. In fact, the Code of Federal Regulations specifically states, "Time clocks are not required."

Morganelli fired off this email to Trapp.

Amy

There is no need to discuss this. I am not doing it. Period. Unless the Supreme Court of Pa or the US Supreme orders me to do it, it will not happen. I am in charge of of my employees, not you or the County Administration. As far as I know, there is no legal requirement under FLSA or anywhere else that requires us to use time clocks at this time. I have no problem with my employees. When I did, it was addressed. I am not fixing something here that is not broken. We are the most efficient office in the county-- we do a big job with little staff. Morale is good here. People wanting to get into our office all the time. I am not suffocating morale. I am not meeting to discuss something I am not considering at all. JM

Morganelli refuses to practice the classism that seems to be in vogue among those who parade around on hoverboards and call themselves management.

He later told me that timeclocks would only breed resentment among his staff and create and "Us v. Them" mentality.

The notion is simply unworkable. If assessors are supposed to punch in and out, the county is going to lose productivity from staff who will need more time to hit outlying areas. Deputy sheriffs on hospital or court details will end up charging more overtime. Caseworkers in human services will become less productive because it will take them more time to meet with clients, and these include families with children who are being neglected or abused.

I can guarantee the judges will refuse to have their staff use timeclocks, so we will have uneven use all over the county. This just breeds resentment instead of stopping it.

This is a foolish idea and should be scrapped. It is, as Morganelli stated, a solution to a nonexistent problem.

"Save Green Pond" Lawyers Claim Absent Comm'r Biased

Breslin told Penn Farms' Anthony Orefice
that TOA Plan is"done deal" months before
Planning Commission Review
Last night was the first of what will likely be several public hearings seeking tentative plan approval for a retirement community adjacent to environmentally sensitive wetlands known as Green Pond Marsh. Things got a little more tentative last night. Testimony revealed that Commissioner Pat Breslin had told a neighboring homeowners' association that the matter was a "done deal."  Though over 50 people attended last night's three-hour hearing, Breslin himself was absent. Earlier in the week, he had drawn the ire of residents and Commissioners alike for a recent radio interview replete with what Commissioner Mike Hudak suggested were "alternative facts."

Green Pond Marsh is the home of 182 different bird species. They first caught the attention of businessman and environmentalist Jeff Acopian many years ago. He was driving in the area and noticed what he thought were numerous ribbons of white plastic. As he got closer, he realized they were actually snow geese, and they took off and surrounded his car briefly in a sea of white. "I've never seen anything like it," said a man whose interest in the environment has taken him as far away as Kenya.  He and Jack Glagola, a planner and architect who lives next to the marsh, co-founded Save Green Pond after becoming aware of plans to develop the site. Their group boasts about 200 members, including 38 township residents. The entire area around Green Pond Marsh has been Audubon-designated as an "Important Bird Area."

Brooke Kuronya passed out watercolors
of birds documented at Green Pond Marsh
at previous meeting..   
The marsh is owned by Green Pond Country Club. Most of their stockholders have no local ties and want a return on their investment. If unable to develop a golf course community, they have threatened to sell everything, including the golf course, for residential development. But if Traditions of America (TOA) can develop an age-restricted golf course community next to the marsh, the remaining land can never be developed, even if the golf course itself is eventually abandoned.

Reacting to concerns raised at numerous meetings, TOA has reduced the density of the development while increasing the amount of open space as well as buffering the wetlands area. The number of homes went down from the original 261 to 229. Open space has been increased from 22 to 29 acres, with 18 of those acres as true open space, independent of any storm water management. Buffering of at least 50' will surround the wetlands. The closest any home will be to the wetlands in 309.'

In November, the Planning Commission recommended "tentative" approval of the plan, although the Commissioners have the final say. In accordance with the Municipalities Planning Code, they must first conduct a public hearing and make specific findings leading to the general conclusion that tentative approval is "in the public interest." Even then, no plan may be recorded and no building permits may be issued until final approval is granted.

Bird watchers at Green Pond Marsh
TOA was ready to start their case last night. They had numerous bound copies of exhibits for each Commissioner, along with reams of rolled up maps. They also brought in well-regarded zoning attorney Marc Kaplin from Blue Bell, although his abrasive style seemed out of place in a township setting. He objected to nearly everything, including the identification of "affected parties" who are able to cross-examine and call witnesses. An increasingly exasperated Township Solicitor Jim Broughal  finally told Kaplin, "Unless you live in Alaska or Florida, you're probably an affected party."

Eight affected parties were identified. These include Jack Glagola and Jeff Acopian, the co-founders of Save Green Pond, as well as Save Green Pond itself      

Randi Jordan testified that Breslin laughed at
watercolor drawings of "fake birds."
After that, Save Green Pond attorneys Tom and Charles Elliott, who themselves are noted environmental lawyers, filed a motion to disqualify Commissioner Pat Breslin from participating because he is biased. Kaplin strenuously objected, claiming he had no advance notice. But Broughal responded that it was only moments before that Save Green Pond had been identified as an "affected party."

The Elliotts called three witnesses to support the claim of bias. Two of these included Anthony Orefice, Property Manager at Penn Farms Condominiums, and Board President Bill Walczak, Penn Farms Board President. They had were opposed to the use of their detention basin to handle some of the stormwaters from the TOA,and had written to Planning Director Nathan Jones about it on August 16, 2016. Not long after that, Orefice got a call from Breslin, who identified himself as the president of the Board of Commissioners. Breslin told Orefice that the TOA plan was a "done deal," even though it did not even have a Planning Commission recommendation at that stage. He also offered to accept a dedication of the detention basin, and said the Township was "financially strapped."

Green Pond Promo Appears on
Breslin's Township Observer webpage 
A third witness, Randi Jordan,was even more troubling. She testified that just a week ago, when she went to work at a local jewelry outlet, Breslin was there with a brochure for a publication called The Township Observer, in which the word Bethlehem was misspelled. This brochure identifies Breslin as the publisher and he was selling ads. The brochure represented that the publication has a circulation of 8,000. While there, Breslin belittled citizens, including a little girl, who came to previous hearings with paintings of each of the 182 bird species at Green Pond Marsh. He called the drawings "fake birds." Breslin told Jordan that the Township had to approve the plans or face a lawsuit, and complained that it was "ridiculous" that TOA opponents "had actually hired attorneys to represent them. When Jordan expressed concern about increased traffic, Breslin told her that residents there "tend not to drive."

In addition to Jordan's testimony, the Township Observer website appears to include an ad for Green Pond Country Club and banquet Facility and the brochure contains this notation: "In the News, Green Pond Country Club to Expand, p. 5."

Breslin was absent and therefore it is unknown whether he has received a financial consideration from Green Pond Country Club for what appears to be promotion of that business on his website. Under the state Ethics Act, elected officials must recuse themselves from matters in which they have a pecuniary interest.

Broughal indicated he would make no ruling on the disqualification motion without first affording the absent Breslin to respond to these concerns.

In three hours, no substantive testimony was heard. Laura Eberle, P.E., did qualify as an expert for TOA,and when testimony resumes in a week, she's on deck.

Boys Basketball: District XI Playoffs Start Tonight

Tonight, after what seems like an eternity, the PIAA District XI playoffs finally get under way. The kids at Allentown Central Catholic made this poster for my grandson Dat, and he loves it.

Allentown Central Catholic, seeded at #7, had to crawl its way into the playoffs this year, but I am predicting right now that they will upset #2 seed Blue Mountain tonight at magnificent Martz Hall in Pottsville.(7 pm) They came together at the end of the season and had some clutch wins against Becahi and Whitehall in he final two weeks.

There will be two other 5A games tonight.

Pottsville, always a threat, will face Southern Lehigh at Blue Mountain. (7 pm)

Mikey Esquilin and the Whitehall Zephyrs will say Hi to East Stroudsburg North at Allen gym. (7:30 pm).

The #1 seed Bangor, gets a bye. My second prediction is that if they eventually face either Central or Whitehall, it will be bye-bye.

The 1A is playing, too.

Notre Dame East Stroudsburg faces  Tri-Valley at Minersville (7 pm)

Salem Christian will take on Susquehanna Community at Allen (6 pm)

Top-seeded Lincoln Leadership gets a bye.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Allentown's Former DCED Director Claims Fed Ed Corrupt

Betsy Morris Levin is an 18-year veteran of the City of Allentown who resigned as Director of Community and Economic Development in 2007. She considered that her "dream job." Prior to that, she ran the Burau of Recycling and Solid Waste. Ten years after her resignation, she's finally speaking out on Facebook Facebook about what she calls "corruption and beginning of a "reign of terror" instigated by Fed Ed and his Managing Director, Fran Dougherty. I reached out to her today, but have yet to establish contact. I am told that FBI, which also reads Facebook, has contacted her, but have been unable to confirm that with her. Here's what she has to say on her Facebook page. her observations may be beyond the Statute of Limitations, even for RICO.    

February 2: "Do we really want to re-elect ed??? Did he make Allentown great again?? In my opinion, he has not. I have decided to start telling anyone who wants to listen that in my opinion ed is a terrible mayor. I intend to explain why I have this opinion in future posts. I worked as the Director of Community and Economic Development from July 2006 until I resigned in disgust in June 2007. I saw corruption and the beginnings of the reign of terror that has decimated the ranks of Allentown city government. That is why I quit despite being in my "dream job". So please people vote for anyone but ed in the primary."

Yes I personally witnessed corruption that was ordered by ed. That and other things drove me to resign before I was a party to the corruption reign of terror. and He and Fran Dougherty had a hit list of all the bureau managers in the department of community and economic development. I began working for the City in 1989. At that point, Allentown was run by professionals. I worked for 3 mayors before ed. They respected the department heads and bureau managers. Not ed. In my opinion ed brought Chicago style corruption and Fran Dougherty brought Philly money and corruption to Allentown. They fired Eric Weiss the head of Building Standards in February 2007 because he would not bend the rules for their developer friends. That was one of the last straws for me!! Eric Weiss was the consummate housing professional. Since Eric left ed has decimated the city's housing programs. The percentage of rental housing has increased dramatically under ed and enforcement has declined. I think ed will eventually be indicted but maybe not before the democratic primary in Allentown which ed could win. That is why I am finally speaking out. I feel that four terms of a corrupt and hitleresque regime is enough Ralph.

February 5: About 10 years ago I saw Fran [Dougherty] tell a building inspector to lay off of a certain developer who owned a building with multicolored window frames at Jordan and Tilghman Streets. I was new in the job as director of community development after 17 years running the bureau of recycling and solid waste. Ed and Fran were trying to get me to fire Eric Weiss who ran the bureau of building standards and reported to me. Eric is an honest, knowledgeable and dedicated housing professional. Being new in the job, I asked the inspectors who were trying to do their jobs, to take me to the building. It was like going to a third world country. Or back to 1865 in the US before laws were passed to protect us from greedy capitalists. OMG I saw families living in the building with small children!!! They were working with chemicals and blow torches making who knows what?? There were sheets hung for privacy for the families living there. They were cooking over propane rice cookers. Buckets instead of bathrooms, no sprinklers, multiple violations. An appalling and shocking sight. I should have taken photos. Back in city hall one of the inspectors said to Fran, after being told not to file the citations, "I don't work for you Mr Dougherty I work for the state." Apparently the building inspectors are professionals with state licenses. Eric was finally fired by ed and Fran in February 2007. They told him they were taking the bureau in a different direction!!!! Yes they have!! I started writing resignation letters and filing them away. I was in my dream job. Kids in college. I needed and loved my job. I resigned without another job in hand in June 2007. I have kept quiet for 10 years. Not anymore. I feel that we who care about Allentown can't wait for the FBI to indict ed before the democratic primary in May. I feel that 12 years of this regime is enough. And so do many former city employees!!! Just ask one. Have a great day!! Go team. I am putting my soap box away. For now.

Mazziotti on Lehigh County Tax Cuts

Tom Muller
Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller surprised me last week when he announced he had decided against standing for re-election. In doing so, he still took a few shots at the Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners. He accused them of providing  "'Happy Meal' tax cuts on the taxpayer's credit card." ...  "[I]t was on the taxpayer's credit card because we had a budget deficit each time." Vic Mazziotti, a former Commissioner who was a superb Fiscal Administrator in Northampton County, supported these tax cuts. He denies strongly that these tax cuts are on the taxpayer's credit card. He instead argues that Republicans simply took a more realistic view of government finances than Muller. The proof is in Lehigh County's financial statements.

The most recent financial statement online is for 2015. What it shows, on page 15, is that after three years of cumulative tax cuts, the fund balance grew from $3.6 million. That's a surplus.

If Tom Muller were correct and Republicans were financing a tax cut on the taxpayer's credit card, there would be a deficit.

Vic Mazziotti
According to Vic, it is important to look at both the budget and financial statements when reviewing government finances. That's because government never spends all the money it budgets. This conservative spending often creates a surplus even when the budget itself contains a structural deficit.

So is Muller a liar? No. The result of the tax decrease did create a structural deficit in the budget. But the reality is that there was a surplus, thanks to conservative spending. .

This confusion over what is budgeted and how funds are actually spent is what led NorCo Fiscal Affairs Director Jim Hunter to make some dire predictions during John Brown's first year as Executive. He thought the County would finish with just $1 million. This scared NorCo Republicans, who are a little less astute than Lehigh Republicans, into seeking a one mill tax hike. At the time, I certainly thought they were right.

Lamont McClure and his fellow Democrats were opposed because they understood that a county never spends what it budgets. In the end,the county finished that year with $28 million in its general fund.

Brown, like any County Executive, claimed it was a result of his fiscal stewardship. It's really because no county comes close to spending what it budgets.

I'd try to explain this in more detail, but I'm a Democrat and my head already exploded three times.

NorCo GOP Has County Council Slate, Dems Working On It


On Saturday, at the Bluein BethlehemTownship, Northampton County's GOP hosted its annual Lincoln Day breakfast for about 200 people.The featured speaker was Scott Wagner, who is running for Governor. Lincoln himself believed in malice towards none and charity for all, and this breakfast has traditionally included Democrats. But not this time. According to party boss Lee Snover, the event sold out early, so Democrats were barred. Even magisterial candidate Vivian Zumas, whose uncle owns the restaurant, was turned away. .

It appears NorCo Council has its slate of five GOP candidates. Glenn Geissinger, who spent half of last year running for Congress, thinks he's a shoe-in. Seth Vaughn, known mostly for absences that included the Budget hearing in which Council members proposed their own amendments, is running. He told me that in December and said he'd win, too, because "Nobody cares" that he missed Council's most important meeting of the year. Peg Ferraro (not pictured above) and Hayden Phillips are also seeking another four years. Though he's said nothing publicly, Ron Angle stood with the Council candidates and is circulating.


During this breakfast, Snover presented awards to worker bees who helped ensure that NorCo voted for Trump. This includes West Easton's Tricia Mezzacappa. She may be an adjudicated defamer with summary convictions for harassing West Easton officials. She apparently is a tireless worker.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, Republicans had well-attended petition-signing parties. They are pumped up

Democrats, whom I would expect to be energized in opposition to a so-called President who lies several times daily, are having a rough time finding five candidates.Peter Melan, Ron Heckman, Lori Vargo Heffner and an unknown named Tara Zrinsky are reportedly circulating. but the county party has no bench and is apparently having a hard time. finding a fifth candidate. Some suggest that party boss Matt Munsey circulate his own petition, hoping he can eventually recruit someone and step aside.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Endorsements? Fed Ed Needs No Steekin' Endorsements

In his latest epistle to his disciples, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski claims he needs no steenkin' endorsements because he delivers results. Hopefully, we'll be seeing some more of those results soon.  

911 Consolidation Between Bethlehem and NorCo Raises Concerns

Northampton County's 911 dispatchers fielded 97,000 emergency calls last year, 67% of which were from cell phones. There were even 161 emergency text messages. There were also 296,000 non-emergency calls. Bethlehem fielded about 40,000 emergency and 50,000 nonemergency calls, and dispatchers were able to use remote cameras to assist officers responding to crime or other emergencies in real time. What happens to those cameras when the County and City combine their 911 centers, as mandated by the state? That is just one concern raised by NorCo Council member Ken Kraft at Council's February 16 meeting.

Neither Northampton County nor Bethlehem has any say in this matter. This is a state mandate under a law enacted in 2015, increasing the fee charged for 911 services. Under this law, consolidation must be substantially completed by June 30, 2019.

Todd Weaver and Bob Novatnack, newly minted EMS Directors in NorCo and Bethlehem, said they have been meeting monthly to navigate this transition. Weaver estimated that this consolidation will require between 10 and 18 new dispatchers, each of whom takes a year to fully train. Novatnack added that Bethlehem currently has 22 FT and four PT 911 operators. They both acknowledged there are Human Resource issues.

The state has provided $8.1 million to facilitate this coordination. This money is being used to purchase new communication centers in Bethlehem, Allentown and in both counties. They will be connected to each other, so that if one goes down, the other can act as a back-up.

Kraft, who represents Bethlehem on Northampton County Council, wanted to know whether the consolidated dispatchers will still have the same camera access as they currently have in Bethlehem, which enables them to assist police officers in finding fleeing suspects.

Weaver and Novatnack danced around the question. Weaver said that monitoring cameras is a "law enforcement activity," while Novatnack suggested that operators in Bethlehem will still man the cameras. .

"It just seems like it's not going to go as smooth as it sounds," worried Ken Kraft Weaver said there will be "bumps in the road."

"I hope the County doesn't drop the ball," said Kraft.

Hayden Phillips warned that this consolidation is just the first step. He said there are reports that the state's ultimate plan is to have one regional communications center for the entire Lehigh Valley.

Breslin Slammed Over "Alternative Facts" in Radio Interview

Breslin does not like the attention
Pat Breslin, serving in his final year as a Bethlehem Township Commissioner, rarely speaks during Commissioner meetings. But he gave WAEB-AM790 radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh an earful during a recent interview about Township finances. He portrayed himself as a fiscal watchdog concerned that the "train is off the track."  He warned that a tax increase is inevitable next year, meaning that the Township will have raised taxes in two of the past three years. He lamented that "I'm only one person," and called on the public to join him at the next Commissioners' meeting and help him "streamline" local government. That meeting was last night. About five members of the public were there The one resident who spoke about Breslin's radio remarks took him, and not the Township, to task. So did Breslin's fellow board members

Taxes.- Breslin's chief complaint is increasing taxes. He noted that in his first year as a Commissioner, the Board depleted its rainy day fund, resulting in what eventually tuned out to be a 17% tax hike the next year. Though no taxes were raised in this year's budget, he "can almost guarantee a tax hike next year." He ripped the Township for its borrowing, but neglected to say that he is one of the Commissioners who voted for a $10 million line of credit on April 7, 2014.

Community Center. - He also complained about $1.5 million in repairs needed at the 11-year old community center, saying that the "government shouldn't be in the gym business." He never said that during a Township meeting. He failed to mention that, on July 18, 2016 he was one of three Commissioners who voted to hire an architectural and engineering firm for these repairs. He also failed to state that, on September 19, 2016, he was part of an unanimous decision to seek a construction manager. He complained about a $725,000 note owed on the community center construction, but was unable to some up with a single suggestion about how to do better.

Housenick Park.- He lashed out at Housenick Park, which he mistakenly called "Housenick Mansion." He called it a "money pit" and a "waste of taxpayer money," adding  that only five percent of the township even know it exists. He slammed a trail at the park "that nobody uses." He told Bobby Gunther Walsh that he voted against the trail grant, but on March 2, 2015, he was part of an unanimous vote in support of a $471,000 contract to NIMARIS Construction to complete the trails and build a driveway and parking lot. The funding for this came from a DCNR grant, matched by funds from the Housenick Park Trust.

Township Engineer.- He complained about the Township Engineer, noting that the Township has failed to issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) within the last eight years. But he was unable to tell Bobby Gunther Walsh what an RFP actually is.

"They run roughshod over us." .

"Who's they?

"Our Township engineer,. Their bills. They gouge us."

Breslin neglected to say that, in his three years as a Commissioner, he has been one of those unanimously voting to approve the Township engineer about whom he complained.

Bill Agenda - Complaining about the Township's "$18 million budget" (it's actually $19.6 million), Breslin next turned his attention to the bill agenda, an assortment of bills that the Township Commissioners approve each month. "[I]f it was my job, I'd go through it every month and I could probably save 5-10% just negotiating, getting people to sharpen their pencils more." Well, that is his job. Some Commissioners occasionally do have questions about items on the bill agenda. Mike Hudak, Malissa Davis, Tom Nolan and Kim Jenkins have each questioned specific charges, and so do the Township residents. But Breslin has never once uttered a word about the bill agenda in any meeting.

Streamlining. - Breslin also stated that he wanted to "streamline" Township government. When pressed by Bobby Gunther Walsh, he indicated he'd eliminate departments and staff. .

Since Breslin will be unable to inflict his brand of stupidity on Bethlehem Township much longer, I had decided against writing about this radio interview, littered as it is with misinformation. But since it was discussed during the meeting, it's news.

Citizen Reaction. - Barry Roth, a citizen who does a lot of complaining himself, has the personal integrity to do so at open meetings, where township officials can tell him when he is wrong and when he is right. He noted that Housenick Park is no "money pit," but has been self-contained. Money for its maintenance has come from a trust managed by luminaries like Judge Stephen Baratta, as well as grants from DCNR. "Please,do a little more research next time," he suggested to Breslin. "Personally, I felt that we just looked like a bunch of fools."

Commissioner Reaction. - Tom Nolan made clear he was "disappointed" by Breslin's remarks,and thought they were deceptive. He was particularly irked at Breslin's suggestion about eliminating township jobs, saying that sent a "totally wrong message to township staff." Malissa Davis noted that "we did not borrow more money for the last budget." Mike Hudak, who is now President of the Board and is doing an effective job at running meetings, told colleagues that "[w]e're all certainly entitled to our opinions" But he added, "We need to check the facts and not facts that are alternative facts."

Blogger Reaction. - Breslin was on a conservative radio show so he could represent himself as a conservative firebrand for whatever office he is seeking next. Some say he's running against Steve Samuelson. Others say he has his eyes on Congress. But he fed Bobby Gunther Walsh nothing but bullshit burgers.  I am astonished that he spent so much time complaining about things completely within his control as a Commissioner. It is his job to review the bill agenda, something he's never done. If he wanted to seek an RFP for an engineer, he could have opened his mouth and said something. Instead, he voted three times to retain the very engineering firm about which he now complains. His claim that he voted against the Housenick grant is simply untrue. He also voted both for the engineer and construction manager for the community center repairs. With no comment, he voted for a $10 million line of credit. He misrepresented himself. He was deceptive. And, as Hudak so aptly observed, he delivered "alternative facts" in the hope that it plays well to conservative listeners, most of  whom will unfortunately never read the truth.

When Breslin was unable to tell Bobby Gunther Walsh what an RFP is, that should have given him away as what he is  - a fraud.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fearmonger in Chief Warns Us About ... Sweden




Yesterday, the Fearmonger-in-Chief warned that immigrants did something terrible in Sweden on Friday night. It was complete bullshit, the very kind of "fake news" that he decries. His lie was meant to scare people. Be very afraid, says this totally ignorant demagogue.

Anyhoo, Sweden's Aftonbladet came clean and told us all the terrible things that happened there on Friday night:
3:24 PM (local time): A man set himself on fire at Sergels torg, a plaza in central Stockholm. He was taken to the hospital with severe burns. There is so far no information on his motives but the intelligence service is not part of the investigation.
6:42 PM: The famous singer Owe Thörnqvist had some technical problems during rehearsal for the singing competition ”Melodifestivalen”. (However, the 87 year old singer still managed to secure the victory the very next day.)
8:23 PM: A man died in hospital, after an accident in the workplace earlier that day in the city of Borås.
8:46 PM: Due to harsh weather in the northern parts of Sweden the road E10 was closed between Katterjåkk and Riksgränsen. Due to strong winds and snow in the region the Met office also issued an avalanche warning.
12:17 AM: Police officers initiated a chase for a fleeing Peugeot through central parts of the Swedish capital of Stockholm. The pursuit ended in police officers ramming the suspect at Engelbrektsgatan. The driver is now accused of driving under the influence, traffic violation and car theft.
Trump later tweeted that his lie was based on something he saw on Fix News. Locally, The Molovinsky Tabernacle Choir warns that Trump critics are obstructionists. I have another word to describe people who stand up to authoritarians - patriots.

EPC 'Ship: Wm Allen High School Is Unconscious

The word "unconscious" has been used in basketball since at least 2007, according to Urban Dictionary.   But I never heard it until last month, when Parkland's Sam Iorio scored 17,000 points against Central Catholic. "He was unconscious," I heard ballers say. I began hearing it again when Nazareth's Kevin Wagner scored 41 points in an otherwise fairly close victory over Northampton. "The kid's unconscious," I 'd hear. On Friday night, at Freedom High School, I watched William Allen Boys Basketball team systematically destroy a very good team from Becahi, 84-52. As I saw Alan Jennings leave the gym, he told me, "They were unconscious." Then, when I bumped into Allentown City Council Prez Ray O'Connell, "They were unconscious" was his assessment, too. .

Though Becahi has offered me money to say I graduated from Liberty, I'm a Beca grad and was there to root for my team. But I really have to salute William Allen on their victory.  This was about more than basketball to them. Their pride was on the line because the only team to beat them this year was Becahi.

The place went wild long before the game started. That's because the undercard was a girls' championship clash in which Beca came out on top of Easton in a game that could have gone either way.

I had arrived early and got myself a good seat near center court. Then some prick in crutches came and puked as he made his way up the steps. He just kept going, too. A woman called Chief Dan Pancoast over. He looked at it and then he called over some poor custodian. That guy looked at it, too. It just stayed there 'till the end of the game, sending aromas my way every few minutes.

Ordinarily, I'd move. But the game was so exciting I refused. In fact, kids from Whitehall sat beside me and told me they they would keep their eye on the old fart who hurled.  An Emmaus mom was right behind me and she refused to move, too. That was fine with me because she would have absorbed most of the next episode, which thankfully never came.

Then she would have been unconscious.   .

Racine Invites, Then Disinvites Fed Ed

On February 17, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski's publicly paid propagandist issued a news release proudly announcing that ha had been invited to Racine, Wisconsin. That city is considering building its own arena and hotel, and Fed Ed was going to share his pearls of wisdom. Thanks to their local newspaper, the Journal Times, he's been disinvited as fast as a judge's tipstaff can say, "All rise."

That newspaper did what some newspapers still do. It checked and learned that not only is Fed Ed himself under investigation for political corruption but six people around him have already enter guilty pleas to little things like bribery, lying to the FBI and bid-rigging. Three of those involved were city employees. One was his former campaign manager, who was also a business "consultant" to those who wanted to do business in Allentown.

“When you talk about a person who’s credible, in his case, he’s incredible,” Hendricks told the Journal Times. “He’s one of the least transparent, open and honest politicians I’ve ever met.”

“The investigation has been going on for almost two years and there’s been no charges filed against me,” Fed Ed told the Wisconsin paper. “I’m running for my fourth term as mayor and we’re getting good response.”

After that story broke, Racine Mayor John Dickert pulled the plug on Pawlowski's trip. “It was very disheartening how quickly the purpose of (Mayor Pawlowski's) visit and presentation turned into political mudslinging," he said in a dig at what he called the "hometown" paper. The integrity and economic benefit of this project is too important to allow it to be politicized.”

Rickert obviously failed to look into Fed Ed before inviting him. Given this lack of due diligence on his part, I question what effort he's really put into an arena project.

And that'snot political.

Some Thoughts on Presidents' Day

Forensic reconstruction of what Washington
really looked like as a young man
Today is Presidents' Day. Our two greatest Presidents (Lincoln and Washington) were born in February.

George Washington is the only man ever unanimously elected as President, and that happened twice. He was also unanimously elected as Commander-in Chief of the Continental Army and as President of the Constitutional Convention. On his last day in office, he told his secretary that "although we may be a little wrong now and then, we shall return to the right path with more avidity." That's pretty much sums up this nation's history

The dollar bill portrait of Washington in his waning years, painted after he had finally lost all of his teeth and was trying a new set of dentures, is a disgrace. Here are some little known facts.
  • He never wore a powdered wig, but tied his red hair behind him in what was then the military style. He did pomade his hair. 
  • He was a man of action,often leading from the front, even during the Revolutionary War. During the disastrous defeat at Fort Necessity, four bullets went through Washington's coat and two horses were shot out from under him, but he emerged unscathed. An Indian Chief who had fought against him later said that he had directed his warriors to fire right at him, but no one could hit him. At Princeton, Washington rallied Americans soldiers in flight from Hessians with drawn bayonets and fought alongside them to hold a bridge.
  • Called the Father of his Country, he had no children of his own. Though he loved to flirt with the ladies, he adored his wife and was never happy unless she was with him. 
  • He is also known in some circles as the Father of the American Mule. He developed the breed at Mount Vernon. 
  • He was considered the greatest horseman of his age.
  • Despite his land holdings, he was very often cash poor. He had to borrow money to travel from Mount Vernon after being elected President. He had to sell land in western Pa. to afford the move back to Mount Vernon.  
  • Though personally stung by partisan attacks in newspapers, Washington continued to defend the free press. His thin-skinned successor, John Adams, had critical editors arrested and jailed. But Washington understood the need for a free press, saying that without it, "dumb and silent may we be led, like sheep to the slaughter.".
  • When he surrendered his commission at the end of the Revolutionary War, King George called him "the greatest man in the world."
  • A slave owner, he refused to break up families or buy slaves, although he has been fairly criticized for failing to do enough to eradicate our original sin. In his Will, he set his slaves free and made monetary provisions for each family. This was an example to his fellow Virginians, but they failed to take the hint.
In contrast to Washington, Lincoln was actually uglier than portrayed. His election was far from unanimous. He only won a plurality of the vote. In the Lehigh Valley, Northampton County went with Stephen Douglas. Lehigh County voted for Lincoln.

As we learn in Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, most of  Lincoln's cabinet considered his election a colossal mistake. Some of them, like Secretary of War Stanton, snubbed him as a lawyer many years before, laughing at his tattered clothing. They called him an ape, a gorilla.

Even as President, Lincoln was snubbed. He once paid a late-night visit to General George McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, to discuss strategy. McClellan was out, so Lincoln waited, stovepipe hat in hand. When McClellan returned home, Lincoln waited another half hour until a porter came to tell him that the General had retired for the evening.

He was used to being snubbed. His was a life of hardship, what he himself would call the "short and simple annals of the poor." In his youth, he lost his mother and sister to illness. As a young man, his first love died as a result of illness as well, nearly driving him to suicide. And as a father, he saw two sons die.

People like Stanton grew to respect and eventually admire the man he once abused. Lincoln was just the man our fractured country needed. He started his second term with these words. "With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the Nation's wounds." Instead of preaching fear, his was a message of conciliation and compassion, even for his former enemies.  When he was cut down by an assassin, the very same Stanton who once derided Lincoln announced, "Now he belongs to the ages."

I could use this occasion to dump all over Donald Trump and point out how inadequate he is by comparisons. But so are most of us.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The NorCo Bulldog: "I Have Returned!"

When NorCo Council last met two weeks ago, Ken Kraft asked when Charlie Chrin was going to start kicking in money for farmland preservation.That was a promise made to Ron Angle when Council agreed to go along with a TIF that was supposed to produce at least 5,000 jobs at the Route 33-Tatamy Interchange. Whenever he sold a big box, he was supposed to kick in part of the profit until the county had $2 million to preserve working farms. Nobody seemed to know whether Chrin had kicked in anything. "Where's Ron Angle when we need him?" complained Kraft. He got his wish last night. After an absence of several years, the Northampton County Bulldog has returned, as full of fire and fury as ever.

"People of Northampton County, I have returned," said Angle, with a cigar in one hand and an old copy of Lehigh Valley Business in the other. An amateur historian, Angle was quoting the words that Douglas MacArthur uttered on his return to the Phillipines. The only difference is that, instead of the trademark corncob pipe fancied by the Gaijin Shogun, the Bulldog prefers a stogie and suspenders.

Angle came bearing gifts. He brought a few small bags of Class A sludge pellets, which he handed out before the meeting as Valentine's Day presents. Unfortunately, a Deputy Sheriff thought they were candy, and began eating them.

Her memorial service is on Tuesday.

As deadly as Angle could be in his three terms on Council, he is much more dangerous in the audience. Ask Upper Mount Bethel Township.Or Lower Mount Bethel Township. Or Bangor School Board. When they saw him, NorCo council members hoping for the usual twenty-minute meeting suddenly became quite uneasy. Administrator Cathy Allen scowled. Executive John Brown looked as though he had indigestion, and turned green when Angle plopped his yellow farm hat right next to this wannabe blue blood and former Notre Dame cheerleader, nattily attired like Mr Corporate America.

What made Ron leave his cows?

It was the story he read in Lehigh Valley Business about how John Brown and Council are addressing their crumbling infrastructure with a so-called public-private partnership.Under this program, called P3, 33 of the County's 119 bridges have been conveyed to the General Purpose Authority (GPA) for repairs at 20-30% less than would be paid if the County were to do the work itself. In addition to being cheaper, Executive John Brown has said that the work will be done more quickly. This sailed through Council 7 to 1, with Ken Kraft being the sole No vote, and I thought he was nuts st the time. What's not to like?

The Bulldog doesn't like it, either.

"The story started out saying this was 'innovative,' and ends up by saying they've been doing this for 17 years in California,"  Ron started. "I don't know how 'innovative' it could be if they've been doing it in California for 17 years" He added that he'd hate to see California's finances copied in NorCo. .

He then ticked off the following, more, specific criticisms.
  • If there are utility easements on a bridge, as is often the case, the County is going to have to pay extra. 
  • The project is already $1.5 million over budget and a year behind schedule, without a spade hitting the ground.
  • Kriger Construction, the low bidder on this deal, was well below the others. "The first thing you ought to ask yourself is why?"
  • Though Kriger has some PennDOT bridge qualifications, it's for minor repairs and to mow grass around bridges.
  • Kriger has zero P3 experience. "They've never done a P3, which is an RFP requirement. So again, you ignored that, and they had no experience. They actually have never, ever performed a fixed price contract. And I think all of you would agree this is a major project." 
  • Kriger had to get three lines of credit from three different banks (one of them owned by Louis DeNaples)to come up with the money. It is at best a $4-5 million company. 
  • Most of the work will be done by people from the coal regions. "Why did you not have in your requirement that a percentage - at least 50% - would come from Northampton County?"
  • Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has pledged to provide stimulus money for infrastructure projects, so it would make sense to wait and see what he plans to do.
"You people have gave this contract to someone with literally no money, with three banks on the hook, with no experience doing this kind of stuff, they never met the requirements of your RFP, the only thing they did do is give you the low bid. Well, I think you would learned in history that the low bid is not necessarily the best bid."

"When I hear the term 'public private partnership,' I cringe. In my lifetime of being around the world of public office, I've always understood what that meant. The public will be on the hook for the bill. The private sector will make the money.  It's like the NIZ in Allentown. What has the NIZ done for the citizens of Allentown? Nothing, but there's a couple of individuals who have made hundreds of millions and pretty well will make billions 'till it's over."

When Angle was done, he got 12 yard stares in a two-yard room.

Ron Angle is a husband, father, farmer, entrepreneur, antiques aficionado, cigar lover and is the greatest storyteller I have ever heard. Though he claims his heritage is Dutch and German, he is in reality Irish, a Slate Belt seanchaí, a valued keeper of the oral tradition. As a Druid, I know these things

He's also my best friend.

His appearance at Council tonight tells me he might run for one of the five at-large seats on Council, especially now that incumbent Mat Benol has decided to take a break. But Ron also enjoys private life and communing with the cows at his farm. He is a cow whisperer, and even understands the language. Don't reach any conclusions.

He's also the Republican that Democrats love to hate. They will come out in droves just to vote against him. Come to think of it, a lot of Republicans hate him, too. Especially the bluebloods. But Ron has enough supporters to win a county-wide race for one of five seats.

He makes government better. People have told me they took extra time to prepare if they knew they would be facing the Bulldog. If Lamont McClure wins the Exec race, which looks more likely as he raises money and chips away at Brown, Angle will hold him accountable. Lamont knows this. If John Brown prevails, Angle will be just as critical. He proved that last night.

Psychotherapist Continues NorCo Council Quest

For those of you who feel like the sane in an insane asylum, a psychotherapist is coming. Lori Vargo Heffner is expected to announce her candidacy for Northampton County Council and is currently circulating petitions. She ran in District 3 two years ago, but lost to John Cusick by 741 votes.

She will announce her candidacy at the courthouse steps today at noon.

A psychotherapist at Affiliated Clinical Services, she's a graduate of Moravian College who went on to obtain Master's degrees at Kutztown (psychology) and Temple (education). Her background is obviously an asset to a County charged with the responsibility of delivering human services.

Dietz Gets Answers About NorCo CYF Caseworkers

In the wake of the alleged murder of a 15 year-old girl by NorCo's former adoption supervisor, Human Services Chair Seth Vaughn originally vowed he would ask Human Services and Children and Youth to come to a meeting and explain in detail how child protective services works. But he eventually decided to play the same stonewall game that Executive John Brown was playing, and looked like a deer caught in the headlights when he was eventually confronted by NBC10's Deanna Durante last month.

Later, I submitted a series of questions that could be asked, but Vaughn refused to submit them. He toldKenKraft that it was out of animus for me.

Matt Dietz, another member of the Committee, is a person I opposed when he ran for election. But he posed those questions, especially since some of his constituents were asking them, too. He got answers from Allison Frantz, the Director of Human Services. Though she failed to appear at the meeting, he made her remarks part of the record. Here is their exchange.

Northampton County Department of Human Services
Children, Youth and Families - Questions/Answers
February 13, 2017


1.                   1.           How many CYF caseworkers are employed by Northampton County? 

There are 75 Caseworker (CW) positions approved and budgeted by the state and County Council.

Total staff complement is 128.  This includes case-aides, secretaries, and attorneys.

2.             How many positions are vacant and how long have they been vacant?

61 caseworker positions are filled, 16 are vacant.  Three (3) of the 16 are newly created positions attached to a new unit called Family Group Decision Making [FGDM], which was approved by Council in December 2016.

The oldest CW vacancy is from July 2016.  The hiring process was delayed due to the 90 day right of return per PA Civil Service regulation.


3.             What is the turnover rate and do we know what the industry average is?
               
                CYF has a continuous vacancy rate and is always engaged in the hiring process.

In 2015, 22 departed = 29% turnover rate.
In 2016, 16 departed = 21% turnover rate.

On the National level, the caseworker turnover rate is between 30% & 40%.The state rate is not available.

There are a variety of factors that affect turnover.  The typical reasons for turnover in a given entry level position [poor working conditions, salary, potential advancement into management] don’t apply here.

As an entry level position, some employees use the position as an entry point to county employment and transfer to other county agencies.  Some employees are at a mobile stage in their life and not rooted to a geographical area and move based on a variety of factors.  Some employees view the casework position as an entry point in the field of child welfare services.  They may leave county employment to focus on foster care work with a nonprofit organization.  They may find their calling in behavioral therapy or psychological services.  It’s a position that requires a great deal of training and certification after hire, and not all people prefer the intensity of the work or training involved.  


4.             What is their caseload like?
 

Caseload size is between 12 and 25.       

The CYF caseload does not exceed the state maximum caseload limit of 30 cases.

Child Welfare League of America recommends 12-15 cases


5.             How many hours do they work daily/weekly? 

Caseworkers put in an eight hour day with a forty hour work week.

Overtime hours average 2 hours per week.


6.             Does this caseload exceed the state recommendation? 

Caseload size is between 12 and 25.       

The CYF caseload does not exceed the state maximum caseload limit of 30 cases.

Child Welfare League of America recommends 12-15 cases.


7.             Do we have safeguards to follow up with families and/or youth when a CYF worker has contact with a child? 

The job description for a caseworker illustrates that a substantial part of their duties requires field work with families and contact with children.

Cases are tightly monitored for caseworker professionalism, thoroughness, and respectfulness as well as, regulatory requirements. 

During the probationary period workers go in the field with a seasoned worker.  During the course of a case, a caseworker can be accompanied by a seasoned worker or supervisor.

Every two years, existing employees must successfully obtain the PA State Police, ChildLine and FBI clearances.  At the DHS Director’s discretion, an employee may need to submit to clearance checks during the two year period.

Outline, generally and specifically, of case monitoring which provides for all manner of review of caseworker interaction.

Generally:
Cases are reviewed by a supervisor.  The supervisor reviews cases with the CYF Admin team.  Policy dictates cases are to be staffed /reviewed with CYF administration when direction is needed and if custody of a child is recommended.  Placement reviews occur on an ongoing basis; decisions are made as a team and are not solely resting on any one caseworker's shoulders. 

The Courts also monitor all dependent and Court ordered placement of children.

CYF has an annual licensing review/certification by the PA office of Children, Youth and Families.

Families with a concern call the supervisor and/or program director.  Families can also call the State Office of CYF.

Specifically:
A supervisor must review the cases, initially, every 10 days with the caseworker.  When the case is accepted for services, the identified risk level mandates the frequency of contact ranging from weekly face to face contact to monthly face to face contact.  Risk level determination is a state requirement and the minimum frequency is monthly face to face contact.

Northampton CYF also engages in quarterly reviews whereby every supervisor must submit current details of each case.  The caseworkers provide to the supervisors such details as:  the current status of the situation, paperwork completion status, court proceedings status and verification that all regulatory requirements and timelines are met.

8.             How are complaints against a CYF caseworker handled? 

Complaints are investigated by the administrator, assistant administrator, program director, supervisor or the Regional offices.

If a complaint is verified, discipline of different levels or dismissal may occur.

9.             How many complaints have been made against CYF caseworkers, year by year?

The last complaint against a CYF worker was in 2012.  The individual’s county employment was severed.

In 2016, Northeast Regional OCYF reported 44 duplicated complaints/calls attributed to the Northampton County Children Youth and Families Division.

Majority of complaints are in two categories:  unsatisfied with the outcome, unsatisfied with the issued court order.  There have been no specific caseworker complaints.

The Director of the Northeast Regional Office indicates the number of calls is not high for a 3rd class county.

In addition, the CYF Administrator receives approximately 35 general complaints a year.  These calls are in the same categories as received by the regional office. There have been no specific caseworker complaints.


10.          What are the ongoing requirements/certifications for a CYF worker?

A candidate must first submit application and complete testing with the PA State Civil Service Commission (SCSC) to be considered for employment.

Prior to employment, references are contacted.  Potential hires must provide PA State Police, ChildLine and FBI clearances prior to date of employment.

When hired, the worker must complete a 6-month probationary period and attain Child Welfare Direct Service Worker Certification inclusive of Human Resources, DHS and CYF orientations and completion of “Charting the Course.”  “Charting the Course” is a 120-hour (10-module) course provided by the PA Child Welfare Resource Center, under the auspices of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work.

All caseworkers, once certified, are required to have a minimum of 20 hours annual training in Social work related fields.  There are additional annual training requirements for staff that have attained licensure. 

Every two years, existing employees must successfully obtain the PA State Police, ChildLine and FBI clearances.  At the DHS Director’s discretion, an employee may need to submit to clearance checks during the two year period. 

Fred Williams On LANTA Board for 30 Years

Northampton County Council enthusiastically and unanimously voted last night to give affable Fred Williams another four years on the LANTA Board. Though Williams at one time owned an Exxon distributorship, he prefers walking or taking the bus to driving. In 1987, he saw then Executive Gene Hartzell soliciting voters one day as he he waited for a bus to take him to his home at College Hill. Hartzell was a bit confused to see a prominent local businessman using public transit, but Williams told Hartzell he loved riding in buses. Two days later, Williams received word he was on LANTA's board. He is currently their Treasurer.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Brown to Seek Re-Election in NorCo

Calling himself a "proven reformer," and claiming to have eliminated all deficit spending, Executive John Brown has released a statement indicating he plans to seek re-election in Northampton County. "Working together we have overcome deep financial challenges and I am excited about the positive results accomplished over the past three years,” Brown said. “While we have made great strides, I know our county can do even better. I will work to continue what we started by seeking to strengthen, bolster and reform our county’s services to ensure they are both more effective and cost efficient.” He also claims to have tripled the County's reserves.

He takes credit for making Gracedale, the county nursing home, profitable once again. It has gone from a $6.7 million taxpayer operating loss to profitability. A month ago, he reported that the facility made a $800,000 profit in 2016. Two weeks ago, he trimmed that down to $200,000.

He also takes credit for improving the quality of care there, noting there have been no deficiencies at the facility found by the PA Department of Health over the past two years. He claims the facility is now rated by Medicare as a four-star nursing home.

In addition, he claims he is doing something about the county's infrastructure. He is spending $37 million over the next five years on a PennDOT endorsed bridge bundling project that will repair and replace thirty-three (33) of the county’s bridges over the next four years. He said this will save taxpayers 20%-30%.

As for his claim to have eliminated all deficit spending, that's simply untrue. His most recent budget dipped into reserves to the tune of about $8.2 million to balance the budget. That's called deficit spending, and it ultimately leads to tax hikes.

As far as returning Gracedale to profitability, he went from a $800,000 profit to a $200,000 profit in the span of two weeks. And he himself acknowledged that the main reason for this reversal was the injection of $2.4 million of federal funds into the facility under a revived program that allows public nursing homes to pool their money and seek matching grants. Without it, Gracedale would be operating at a loss.

Also his claim that Gracedale is now a four-star facility is also untrue. According To Medicare, Gracedale is a three-star facility. And when it comes to "quality measures," which measures how well the nursing home is doing in caring for resident needs, the nursing home gets just one star, which is "much below average." In fact, this is one reason why Peter Melan decided to run for NorCo Council.

Brown's claim about the absence of deficiencies at Gracedale is also untrue. In September, the nursing was cited for failing to act properly when a resident threatened suicide, which resulted in a suicide attempt.

In essence, it appears that his re-election announcement, which he failed to deliver in person to a group that might have questions, is replete with misinformation.

You'll notice no claim to transparency. This is a guy who posted armed guards outside his office during a news conference,and who crated a new county website that advertised Lehigh County businesses.

Brown graduated from Bangor High School and has an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife, Tina, live in Northampton County and have a son, Zachary. He fails to describe where he worked in the private sector.

Brown is opposed in this race by Bethlehem Attorney Lamont McClure, who served on NorCo Council for ten years. He issued a statement of his own. "The Brown Admin. is itself a prime example of waste, fraud and abuse. Instead of fighting it, John Brown practiced corruption, cronyism and callousness. Brown's illegal budgets, misuse of taxpayer money for political purpose and unlawful taking of meals and mileage reimbursement to which he and Ms. Allen were not entitled, is the sad legacy of the Brown Admin."

NorCo: Personnel Appeals Board Back in Action

One of the biggest drawbacks to being a NorCo career service employee (nonunion) is that it takes forever to have a grievance heard. As I've documented here, hearings are scheduled and then re-scheduled ad infinitum in what really amounts to a denial of due process. Ralph Stampone, who served on that board for ten years, quit in disgust in April after driving to Easton for a hearing, only to learn it had been postponed. Bethlehem Attorney Christian Perrucci, who served as the Board's Solicitor, submitted his resignation at that time as well. According to HR Director Amy Trapp, things are about to change.

Trapp told NorCo Council's Personnel Committee yesterday that the Personnel Appeals Board will have a set meeting day on the fourth Thursday of every month at 5 pm. A hearing has been scheduled then as well. If there is no business on a given month, Appeals Board members simply will have the night off.

In addition to losing Stampone and their lawyer, the Board lost Dave "Lump" Sanders, who like Stampone had long argued there should be a set meeting night. Dave unfortunately passed away.

When the Board convenes in March, it will have a new lawyer - Allentown Attorney Juan Camacho. He is also an assistant Solicitor in Allentown.

Council is being asked tonight to reappoint Bill Alexander, a former corrections officer, and John Dally, a licensed Pen Argyl realtor. A third member, former HR Director Pat Siemiontkowski, has asked not to be re-appointed to the Board because it conflicts with other activities.

Executive John Brown has also nominated Thomas Foster, a recent Citizens' Academy graduate, to the Board.

Cedar Beach Pool GC Worked on Four Pools Simultaneously in 2016

Yesterday, I told you about  Allentown's Cedar Beach pool, which is now a year behind schedule and $681,000 over budget. This pool was designed by Bethlehem architectural firm Spillman-Farmer. Partner Dan Harrigan knows a little bit about swimming pools  He won the 1975 Pan American games in the 200m backstroke. He also took a bronze medal for the same event in the 1976 Olympics. But Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski is pushing a prestigious and local architectural firm away to coddle with MidAtlantic, a General Contractor from Trenton, New Jersey. He also hired the General Contractor's engineer, Frank Clark, to act as an "independent" intermediary while receiving paychecks both from the General Contractor and from the City.

Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza attempted to defend MidAtlantic and Clark yesterday. He points out that last year, MidAtlantic worked on at least four pool projects in Pennsylvania. The Cranberry Township Water Park addition (North of Pittsburgh), the Fleetwood Borough Pool, The City of Allentown Cedar Beach Pool and the Whitehall Township Parkview Hokendauqua pool. Hozza unwittingly explains what was wrong. MidAtlantic was behind everywhere because it was tying to do too much at once. In addition to being behind schedule in Whitehall, I know Fleetwood was very upset by the delays.

According to Fleetwood's Borough Council minutes, "The contractor is in breach of contract." The Borough had to pay Topton so that residents with passes could use their pool. Their pool did open in late June.

Allentown was upset, too..

On 4/11/16, Parks Director Lindsay Taylor emailed MidAtlantic to say, "I have seen no activity at either pool and that is not what I expected. I expected the project to be moving forward and do not see it as my role as having to oversee this. If you believe this to be my role, at this point, nobody will like it. Please provide us with a project schedule with milestones that will take this project through to completion. If you need anything yet from the City, please tell me ASAP. If there is activity going on behind the scenes and you will be at the sites Monday, please let us know so that we can feel as though we are finally moving forward."

I see no answer to this email, and no schedule.

On May 25, 2016, Allentown was notified by Superior Pool Products that it had a claim against MidAtlantic for services and materials at the site, and it threatened to file a mechanic's lien. "We need to resolve this ASAP," said Purchasing Agent Beth Ann Strohl in an email to interested parties. "If MidAtlantic is not paying their subs, then we need to call on their bonds."

So far as I know, no lien was ever filed.

This is the outfit working on Cedar Beach pool.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Brace's Baloney

I often criticize politicians for feeding their constituents baloney. But I never had one ask me to tell my readers he's doing it. ... Until now.

Lehigh County Commissioner Geoff Brace is launching his re-election campaign tonight at Zion “Liberty Bell” United Church of Christ (620 West Hamilton Street, Allentown), 6 pm., in the church basement.  He's asked me to tell you that he's bringing ring balogna. Then he started quoting Beyoncé's "Put a Ring On It."