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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, July 28, 2017

A-Town Boys Varsity Hoops Summer League to End in Holy War

I spent every night this week in Allentown. You might think this is because of all the excitement concerning the Fed Ed prosecution, but what really drew me there is basketball. Whether it's been at a high school gym on rainy night or Cedar Beach, it's been a great season. It's the last time my grandson, "Who Dat?," will be playing there, but he's going out on top. In his three previous years of summer basketball, his teams never even made it to the playoffs. But this year, the Allentown Central Catholic Vikings are going to the 'ship. They'll be playing Bethlehem Catholic in a Holy War scheduled to start tonight at 6 pm. The game will be postponed if it rains.

Throughout the summer, 30 talented boys high school varsity teams have played at Cedar Beach. JV and Girls' teams have also participated in this increasingly popular summer league. It was started 30 years ago by Glen Klein, a Parks employee who also runs the Cedar Beach Bash every summer. I don't know how he does it, but he makes it seem easy.

"It's all about the kids," he tells me.

And it is. During the summer, many varsity basketball players are away at camps, the beach or AAU tournaments. This gives an opening for other players to show a coach what they're worth, and excite the rest of us in the process.  Also, coaches become far more flexible. Because the games are unofficial, they are much more likely to experiment and just relax a little themselves

During the school year, these young athletes have to adjust to the academic grind, learning about sines, cosines and tangents. But on these hot Summer nights, they teach their parents (and grandparents) and make us all remember what it is like to have fun.

It's the perfect atmosphere for someone like Kwame Alexander's mythical and confident Filthy McNasty to emerge :

At the top of the key, I'm
      MOVING and GROOVING,
POPping and ROCKING--
Why you BUMPING?
      Why you LOCKING?
Man, take this THUMPING.
Be careful though,
'cause now I'm CRUNKing
      CrissCROSSING
FLOSSING
flipping
and my dipping will leave you
S
  L
   I
    P
     P
      I
       N
        G on the floor, while I
SWOOP in
to the finish with a fierce finger roll ...
Straight in the hole:
Swooooooooooooosh.

Above, you see poetry on a page. At Cedar Beach, you see poetry in motion as hundreds of Filthy McNastys make their mark and choose to do something positive

There's Sam "The Ice Man" Vaughan, whose excellent ball control, quick hands and eye for openings makes him an excellent guard. He never gets frazzled. When Sammy comes on the court, Central starts scoring and building leads. Chad Kratzer has come out of nowhere and is proving to be just as exciting as was his father, a former Dieruff Huskie, back in the day. Jayden Walsh is as smooth as silk. Downright elegant. Nick Filchner and Jordan McChristian, both of whom are growing about an inch every week, are deadly from the three-point zone. Kevin Kern is a warrior and team leader who will rip balls (and heads) off his opponents.

Who Dat never stops. Last night, he had a good game against Emmaus with 17 points. But his real strength is his defense. He pressures ball handlers and forces turnovers. He will do what he can to get that ball back, including diving right on top of it. He did that last night on the macadam surface and managed to get a nice gash on his leg. He tried unsuccessfully to hide this from the refs in the closing seconds of the game. But he was busted and had to back to the bench, where a coach threw duct tape or something on it.

But that was OK because as Who Dat went out, the Sam "Ice Man" Vaughan came in.

Game over.

Central took the sting out of the Emmaus Hornets in a 57-53 defensive contest.  

In other quarter-final action last night under threatening skies, Bethlehem Catholic's Golden Hawks clipped the Allen Canaries in a high-scoring 70-67 game that included a trademark Allen dunk and Becahi's murderous treys.

Both of these games could have gone either way. Allen and Beca were tied at 40 going into the second half. Emmaus and Central were never separated by more than 5 points.    

LV Municipalities Should Sever Ties With Allinson Law Firm

Scott Allinson
Norris McLaughlin and Marcus has stood by Allentown Attorney Scott Allinson. It's been widely known for some time that this self-described "economic development lawyer" has been a target of a federal investigation aimed at Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski's pay-to-play politics. He's largely been MIA while lawyers in that firm have picked up the slack. Not only is he still employed there,but some sources tell me the form has also been paying for his criminal defense. Allinson has expressed his appreciation by throwing the firm under the bus.

Scott Allinson - Pay-to-Play is the "way this shit works."  - According to the federal indictment filed earlier this week, Allinson himself has said that his firm receives its legal work, not because the partners are especially gifted, but because they engage in pay-to-play. He is quoted as saying it “isn’t like we are being hired because we are good guys. It’s not the way this shit works.” 

He also reportedly throws one helluva' party. Ask the people at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
He's an "economic development lawyer" who managed to get himself installed as the solicitor to numerous public entities that dole out public money.

He was appointed as solicitor to the Northampton County Industrial Development Authority soon after John Brown was elected County Executive, replacing Ed Andres. This decision was prompted by consultant Matt Deibert and others at Integrity Personnel, two of whom are identified in the email that Allinson sent out last week, warning his "old friends" that he was about to be indicted.

Brown also awarded a no-bid $24,000 contract to Integrity for a "strategic assessment" of the County's workforce.

Members of the Industrial Development Authority who opposed Allinson's appointment were given the bum's rush and replaced.

Allinson also represents NorCo's Gaming Board, NorCo General Purpose Authority, NorCo Higher Education Authority, Lehigh’s Economic Advancement Project, NorCo New Jobs Corporation, Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation, Lehigh Valley Regional Loan Pool, Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and NorCo Industrial Development Authority.

Matt Sorrentino
Managing partner Matt Sorrentno is Lehigh County's Solicitor. He also represents Lehigh Valley Health Network. I have high regard for him and his legal acumen,  but standing by a lawyer in his firm who essentially accuses him of being a crook is foolish.

Richard Somach
Richard Somach represents Pawlowski contributor Rob Bennett and Bennett Auto Dealerships. Bennett built a new dealership at the former Exide Battery Plant on Lehigh Street, thanks in large part to $4.5 million in federal brownfield remediation grants.. Though the original construction was done by J. G. Petrucci, the last several additions to the site were done by North Star (J.B. Reilly) and Jim Gentile. Bennett sold their East Allentown - West Bethlehem location to the Banko family. Banko never used it, instead moving to a facility in South Whitehall. Somach is an Assistant County Solicitor, Lehigh County Assessment Board Solicitor and is a collections attorney for Nat Penn Bank, among others.

Somehow,he represents banks foreclosing on properties while simultaneously representing the County at Sheriff Sales.

Fed Ed and his family are rumored to have used Rich Somach's Florida Keys second home for vacations, although I doubt he'll be making that trip this year. .

Ollie Foucek
I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention Oldrich "Ollie" Foucek III, City Planning Commission member and chair, ANIZDA Board member, LV Chamber of Commerce Solicitor and major Fed Ed contributor. He was among those to approve plans for a wholesaler along the Allentown NIZ waterfront despite the fact that there were no ... plans. He is a walking, talking conflict of interest. Being on the Planning Commission and NIZ Board is bad enough, but to be part of a firm that is financially benefiting from both is obscene.

Given Allinson's remarks and his law firm's decision to stand behind him, it is irresponsible for any public entity to continue association with that law firm.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tony Rybak: How To Avoid Tickets

Tony Rybak is a Northampton County Public Defender and claims to have a surefire way to avoid speeding tickets. He says it works for him.

Of course the best way to avoid a speeding ticket is by driving at a safe speed, and one that is below the speed limit. But if you do get pulled over, and the police officer asks you for your driver's license, Tony said it's important to have the right kind of picture.

What you see on your right is the license he's currently using.

He looks like he just got out of Jennifer Sletvold's courtroom.

You should see his passport picture.

Only in Northampton County.

It was Tony's birthday yesterday.

You know what I got him?

Nothing.

The Passion of the Pawlowski

According to prominent Philadelphia defense lawyer Jack McMahon, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski is looking forward to his day in court. He is going to make mincemeat of an "extraordinarily weak" prosecution. He said this yesterday afternoon at the stoop outside of Pawlowski's downtown 11th Street home. And he made a rather unsettling analogy. Fed Ed is apparently Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God and Light of the City Without Limits.

Well, we all know what happened to Jesus Christ, so he may want to rethink that one. If McMahon was really convinced this was a weak case, and if Fed Ed really cared about the City, they would both insist on invoking the Speedy Trial Act and demand their day in court well before the election. But McMahon deftly sidestepped questions about that yesterday as deftly as the NBA superstar his father once was.

Several people told me they saw me there, but I skipped this event. I was on my way to a basketball game at Cedar Beach, and wanted to make sure the rims were still there. I did watch the video shot by Lehigh Valley Live's Sarah Cassi, and loved her story that included the reactions of kids who were riding their bikes in the neighborhood. I'm sure they were excited to be part of this story.

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords flatly denied he had used his public office to benefit himself in any way, but the federal indictment completely contradicts him. In Paragraph after paragraph, there are allegations that Fed Ed himself strong-armed city vendors, and even had one of them take him to dinner and an Eagles play-off game.

Jesus Christ is an Eagles' fan.

One of his Apostles, Mike Fleck, promised Fed Ed to "beat the shit" out of Allentown Attorney Scott Allinson when he balked at making more contributions.

Allinson made clear that he expected legal work in exchange for donations.He said it “isn’t like we are being hired because we are good guys. It’s not the way this shit works.” He implied that his own lawfirm, Norris McLaughlin, gets work on the basis of political contributions, not because of any legal acumen. Allinson is still a member of that firm, which represents several municipal authorities in the Lehigh Valley. Those contracts need to be terminated.

And so it goes for 55 counts.

Unlike Jesus Christ, Fed Ed blamed everything on Mike Fleck, who apparently forced Fed Ed to go to an Eagles' game.

Fed. Ed is in complete denial. His refusal to step down has hurt the City of Allentown. It has also hurt his own children.

I fell sorry for them. For the Messiah, not so much. .  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

LC Dems Disavow Felton's Tepid Support for Fed Ed

In reaction to Walter Felton's tepid support of indicted Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski last night, the Lehigh County Democratic Committee has issued this statement:

As you may have seen, Walt made a statement supporting Mayor Pawlowski last night. He did not have authorization from the board or officers to say what he did. As a result, we need to send a statement to the press countering his statement. This is what has been prepared.

"As officers of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee and Allentown City Democratic Committee, we felt the need to clarify that the remarks made yesterday by Chairman Walter Felton were in a personal capacity, and a personal capacity only. He was not speaking on behalf of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee. He had no authorization from the executive committee, other officers, or the committee as a whole to do so. His remarks should not, under any circumstances, be construed as official support for Mayor Pawlowski from the Lehigh Dems."

This statement is from Hillary Kleinz, 1st Vice Chairperson; Danielle Shackelford, Secretary, President Allentown City Committee; Celeste Dee, Treasurer; and Executive Committee Members Naomi Winch, Joyce Moore, Kathleen Miller, Ce-Ce Gerlach, Clyde Thomas and Jamie Saye.

Why I Crashed a Pawlowski Presser

Walter Felton
When I heard last night that Lehigh County Democratic Chair Walt Felton had decided to host a presser at Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski's campaign headquarters on N 8th St in Allentown, I decided to crash it.

I arrived late, but was there in time to hear Walter Felton hem and haw about how the party never endorsed him, but he is their candidate. If anything, Walter damned Pawlowski with faint praise.

I was there to ask two questions. First, if Fed Ed was truly innocent of these charges, why the hell was he hiding?

Second, if he refuses to resign, will he exercise the Speedy Trial Act and demand a quick trial? Don't the people of Allentown deserve this?

Under federal law, the Speedy Trial Act generally requires that a Defendant be tried within 70 days of indictment or his first court appearance, which in Fed Ed's case will likely be today. This Act also provides that a Defendant must have at east 30 days to prepare, unless he agrees in writing to an earlier date.That means that Fed Ed's trial could conceivably be scheduled between August 25 and October 3.

This is the approach that US District Court Judge Paul S Diamond took in the recent successful prosecution of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. Like Fed Ed, Williams refused to resign after being indicted.

Despite a motion to delay the case by both prosecutors and the defense, Judge Diamond insisted on a speedy trial. He noted that the Speedy Trial Act “was designed with the public interest firmly in mind” and that it exists "to vindicate the public interest in the swift administration of justice.”

"I am hard-pressed to think of a case where the public’s right to a speedy trial is more pressing than it is here: the largest prosecutors’ office in the Commonwealth is being run by someone who is not licensed to practice law and is himself charged with 23 federal crimes. Defense counsel—an experienced lawyer—surely understood the need for a prompt resolution of this matter when he agreed to represent Defendant."

In this case, the Mayor of Pennsylvania's third largest city stands accused of being the criminal mastermind of a scheme to deprive the public of their right to honest services through bribery, extortion, bid-rigging and obstructing federal investigators.

Since Fed Ed refuses to resign, it is in the public interest to insist on a swift trial, and one that will be over before the election.

A baker's dozen of Fed Ed supporters were at this news conference. But not Fed Ed.

They quickly identified me as an enemy of this banana republic dictator, and in typical Fed Ed fashion, began denouncing me as disbarred, a nonresident and a drunk. They also said I was "radicalized."

I plead guilty, unlike Fed Ed.

They also began picking on NBC10's reporter, who was asking tough questions, too.

Though I acted all badass, I really felt sorry for these people. He's using them. Most of them are Latinos, the very people described by a former Fed Ed supporter as a "cancer" during a Business Matters broadcast. They reminded me of the female manager of a thrift store on Hamilton Street, who Fed Ed essentially ran out of town in 2007.*

Hamilton St merchants and community activists 
He ignored her multiple calls to him for help concerning bus stops that had been removed, which decimated her foot traffic by 75%. He ignored my calls, too, and at that time I had every reason to support him.

"He's our father. He's the father of our house. He's supposed to take care of us. If he doesn't take care of his children, who can he take care of?"


Those were the words spoken by Bibi Hazra, who operated the Loco Dollar Store. She went under, as did other merchants,and this was long before the NIZ.

Fed Ed now pretends he is the friend of the very people he abandoned in 2007.

In case you've ever wondered what turned me off about Fed Ed, it was this episode. He ignored the people he is supposed to represent.
_______________________________________________________

* Though blogger Michael Molovinsky and I have some serious issues (which actually is a good thing), I have to credit him as the person who first raised public awareness about Fed Ed's attempt to gentrify Hamilton Street.

Who Has Been Indicted With Fed Ed?

Yesterday, I told you that I expected to see Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski indicted before the day was over. NBC-10's Jim Friedman was the first real reporter, as opposed to bottom-feeding blogger, to break the story late in the afternoon. The other news outlets quickly followed.

It's bigger than I thought. Five people have been indicted, including Fed Ed and Allentown Attorney Scott Allinson. The US Attorney's Office has scheduled two news conferences on both Wednesday and Thursday. From this, I infer that the still-sealed indictments encompass political corruption in both Allentown and Reading.

In Reading, former Mayor Vaughn Spencer may be one of those indicted, although I had thought he was cooperating with federal authorities.

Another likely defendant is Dean Miller. He was the former Executive Director of the Reading Water Authority, and at the same time, owned a meter reading company that read the meters.  This company overbilled some customers while winking at others.

The Reading Water Company's records were part of the FBI subpoena list.

I suspect that the fifth Defendant may be a local entrepreneur with business interests in both Reading and Allentown, but this is purely a guess on my part.

We'll know soon enough.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is Today Fed Ed's Day?

Today is St. Cucuphas Day. He's like the Roadrunner of Catholicism. His persecutors first tried to slow roast him alive, but failed. Then they tried throwing him into a raging bonfire, but only managed to start themselves on fire. Then they decided to use iron whips from Acme to kill him, but started on fire again.

Don't worry. St. Cucuphas finally achieved martyrdom when they ran him through with a sword, and today, he is the patron saint of petty thieves.

It seems that federal investigators have tried in numerous ways to convince both Allentown Attorney Scott Allinson and Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski that they should acknowledge their guilt to political corruption. Hopefully, they've learned they need no raging bonfire. Their simple sword is a grand jury indictment.

I've published Allentown Attorney Scott Allinson's email to three "old friends," telling them that he finally expects to face charges in a federal investigation of political corruption. He said it could be as soon as this week. I've since learned that charges will be filed today. That's what Allinson's law firm told clients and colleagues in multiple calls today. They added that, aside from Allinson, there will be at least one other Defendant. It's no secret that both Allinson and Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski have been under scrutiny for some time. Neither has been willing to plead, as nine others have done. There are no more rocks to turn over. Though I could be wrong, I expect to see Fed Ed charged today. As of midnight, I saw no records on Pacer (the federal electronic docket) to indicate that any charging documents have been unsealed. But I expect it to happen today.

Based on charging documents already filed against nine individuals, we know what's going on.

In Allinson's case, it's quite simple. Upon hearing that Allinson had expressed doubt that he or his law firm could raise money for Fed Ed's Senate race, the Mayor exploded.

"Really! I've given him millions of dollars.. .. Relatively, compared to other law firms, they've given nothing. [Allinson] for sure will get nothing now. ... You know, f--k them! And I'm not gonna [award work to Allinson's law partner] or anything. Screw it all!"

A few days later, Allinson promised that in exchange for Fed Ed's agreement to steer legal contracts to his law firm, Allinson would solicit attorneys at his firm for campaign contributions.

The evidence in this case will also show that Allinson, who represented Pawlowski campaign manager Michael Fleck, accompanied him on a number of these fundraising expeditions.

Allinson's defense will be that he was extorted.

Evidence will show that Allinson was very much one of the King's men. He's attracted to money and power. Fed Ed, as Allentown's Mayor, has actual and perceived authority and influence over, among other things, the awarding of certain municipal contracts, the negotiation of leases for municipal offices, and zoning and licensing issues relating to certain buildings and properties located in Allentown. He has direct authority over city workers, and also had a lot of influence over Controller Mary Ellen Koval because she relied on him and his contributors for her own campaign money.

Though Fed Ed now claims he has a "passion for Allentown," the truth is that he was trying to get out of there before an inevitable tax increase. He sold everything that wasn't nailed down, and then used that money to buy property the City never needed for almost three times what it was worth from campaign contributor Abe Atiyeh.

Abe was unable to get anywhere in Allentown until he hired Mike Fleck as a "consultant."

That business consultant, who was also Fed Ed's campaign manager, told Abe to start contributing, and he did. Fed Ed used his Mayoral seat has been a springboard for both a gubernatorial run as well as a stab at the US Senate. He is ambitious.

To run statewide, he needed to raise a lot of money. So he and campaign manager Mike Fleck, a business consultant on the side with companies who wanted to do business in Allentown, came up with a scheme to defraud the citizens of their right to honest services.

It was a bribery, bid-rigging and kickback scheme. In exchange for campaign contributions, Fed Ed would steer City business to his donors.

One of these was entrepreneur Ramzi Haddad, the first person to plead guilty. Fed Ed made clear to him, both directly and through Fleck, that he needed to contribute to Fed Ed's campaigns if he expected to do business in Allentown. Haddad contributed $11,500 of his own money, and bundled another $15,000 from contributors in New York. Fed Ed was directly involved, even traveling to New York himself to discuss the money Haddad would raise in exchange for Fed Ed's "help."

During this time, Fed Ed Ed used burner phones, directed Haddad to delete text messages and even conducted sweeps of his office for electronic surveillance.

The remaining defendant contributors are all variations of Ramzi Haddad.

Fed Ed also used three of his subordinates, Managing Director Francis Dougherty, Ass't City Solicitor Dale Wiles and Finance Director Garret Strathearn, to rig the bids for contracts that Fed Ed wanted to steer to campaign contributors.

The City was for sale.

When questioned by federal authorities, Fed Ed himself lied to them.

Feds used several people to record conversations. Fleck himself was flipped. So were Sam Ruchlewicz and Francis Dougherty.

What I have posted here is the tip of the iceberg.

As his world crashes down around him, Pawlowski has remained defiant. The failure to charge him, despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, has made it impossible for the City to return to normal.

So I am hopeful that federal authorities finally play their hand. They had enough Aces at least a year ago.

While I doubt a federal judge would insist that Fed Ed resign his office as a condition of bail. it is my hope that, if he is charged, a trial is scheduled within the next 30-60 days. That was the approach taken with DA Seth Williams. A federal judgein that matter reasoned that the people of Philadelphia were entitled to a prompt resolution.

So are the people of Allentown.

Gerrymandering Forum at Nazareth High School on Thursday


On Wednesday night, at 7 pm, there will be a presentationon gerrymandering by State Rep. Steve Samuelson and Fair District Pa'sFritz Walker at Nazareth High School. Details are in the flyer above. I'd love to go, but I'll be at summer basketball.

Last year, I presented you with a four-part series called "Gerrymandering: How Our Elections are Really Rigged." (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). I was motivated by a presentation at Bethlehem's Unitarian Universalist Church attended by over 100 people on a hot August Friday night. The Pennsylvania League of Women Voters teamed up with Fair District Pa to make a compelling case for redistricting reform. The effort never made it to a vote in the land of midnight payraises, but this good government reform is really picking up a lot of steam.

Locally, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, Bethlehem Township, Easton, Whitehall Township and Lower Macungie Township have all adopted resolutions supporting the creation of an independent body to draw district lines. That's infinitely preferable to the the current system, in which politicians choose who will be voting for them.

In some states, Democrats oppose gerrymander reform because they are in control and have no desire to see that change. Here in Pa, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate have been the major stumbling block because they understandably want to protect their majority.

This thinking is short-sighted. Though the state legislature is undeniably Republican, the state Supreme Court is now undeniably Democratic. The Court can stop Republicans from gerrymandering. But there's a danger that a Democratic court could gerrymander, too. Some enlightened Republicans, like State Senators Mario Scavello and Pat Browne, understand that this is a sword that can cut both ways. But there are a number of local Republican State Reps who must be used to dealing with much duller instruments.

These Republicans are Gary Day, Zach Mako, Marcia Hahn, Joe Emrick and Ryan Mackenzie. They all prefer listening to House leaders over the voters.

In January, I bumped into Zach Mako at the elections office. At that time, he promised me he would sponsor this legislation. Is it too much for me to expect him to keep his word?

Judge Giordano Picking Up Big Union Endorsements

Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano took a lot of heat earlier this year when he invited Democrats to a pizza party he hosted in Northampton. He made no apologies because, as both a person and judge, Emil Giordano transcends party labels. He may wear the black robe, but at Allentown's Cedar Beach, he's a basketball parent watching his 23' tall son Caden develop into an outstanding player. Other parents call him Emil, not Judge. They probably have no idea that's what he does. And he doesn't tell them.

He's a regular guy. So it's no surprise to me that he's picking up a lot of big union endorsements in his quest for one of four seats on Pennsylvania Superior Court.

According to PoliticsPA, Judge Giordano has just picked up an endorsement from the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council. He also has the backing of the Laborers’ District Council of Western Pennsylvania, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Council #57 of Western Pennsylvania.

But will he be endorsed by the International District Council of the Western Eastern Pa Bloggers #9?

You betcha'.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Feds May Be Looking at Multi-Defendant Indictment

As regular readers know, I usually take off on weekends. People may love to read the Sunday newspaper, but my experience is that this blog's readership really plummets between Friday and Monday. But on Friday night, I reported that Allentown Attorney Scott Allinson, also known as Donor No. 4, has emailed his friends to say he expects to be indicted. He predicts that the Grand Jury could charge him as soon as this week. If they do, I expect we are going to see a multi-Defendant indictment and possibly a RICO prosecution with Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski at the center. My guess (and I stress this is just a guess) is that, in addition to Allinson, a local developer will be charged.

I also expect to see Feds wrap up their case in Reading. Vaughn Spencer, Sam Ruchlewicz and Rebecca Acosta are loose ends that likely need to be tied up.

There's little reason to delay. An weekend op-ed by Fed Ed makes quite clear that he's in complete denial. Whether he is guilty or innocent is one thing. But even he has to see that his continued presence in Allentown government has placed it in a stranglehold. Yet he's so arrogant he has scheduled a party at Cedar Beach for his campaign workers. That's the same venue where a swimming pool contract is completely out of control, thanks to him. That's also where Allentown kids play basketball while he removes the hoops.

If the feds act now, a federal judge could conceivably require Pawlowski's resignation as a condition of bail It could require him to withdraw as a candidate. But after August 14, it will be too late

They have a short window in which to act. Let's hope they do.

Updated 3:30 pm: Allinson's law firm has been contacting colleagues and clients to advise that an indictment will be sought tomorrow morning, and it will involve more than one Defendant.

Who Will Be Top Dog in Lehigh and NorCo?

I'm gearing up for November's election, and will be creating informational pages on my left sidebar for the Allentown Mayoral, Lehigh and NorCo Executive, Lehigh and NorCo Comm'r and Council, and Allentown City Council races.

In connection with the creation of these pages, I am asking for your help. For each of these races, I'd like to pose up to ten questions for the candidates. For example, I'd like to ask Brown and the Republican incumbents on NorCo Council why they've run away from any of the ethical reforms sought by Hayden Phillips. I could ask many pointed questions like that, but think it's more fair to ask readers to present questions they'd like answered.

For now, let me introduce the top dogs in the Lehigh and NorCo Exec race, and please ask what questions you'd like both candidates to answer in each county. For example, a fair NorCo question might be one that asks the candidates about the new jail that Brown is planning.  

Lehigh County Executive:  chief executive officer and administrative official who executes and enforces all county ordinances and presents the financial plan and budget to County Commissioners  The term of office is four years, with an annual salary of $75,000. Incumbent Tom Muller has decided against seeking re-election.

Phillips Armstrong, Democrat
Facebook - Phillips Armstrong
Webpage - http://www.armstrong4executive.com/ (not live)
Employment - retired educator, Whitehall-Coplay School District
Gov't experience - Whitehall Tp Board of Comm'rs (appointed 2014, elected 2015)
Education - Kutztown University, M.Ed., 1971
Residence - Whitehall Township
Activities: looks like water skis

Brad Osborne, Republican 
Facebook - Brad OsborneOsborne for Executive
Webpage - Osborne for Executive
Employment - retired as Plant Manager, GEO Specialty Chemicals
Gov't Experience -  So. Whitehall Tp Comm'r (2005-2012); Lehigh County Comm'r (2012-present).
Education - University of Virginia, B.S., Chemical Engineering
Residence -  So. Whitehall Tp
Activities: I'll fill you in.

NorCo Executive:  chief executive officer and administrative official who executes and enforces all county ordinances and presents the financial plan and budget to County Council  The term of office is four years, with an annual salary of $85,000.

Lamont McClure, Democrat
Facebook - McClure4Exec
Webpage -http://www.lamontmcclure.com/
Employment - Peter Angelos law offices
Gov't Experience - Appointed to NorCo Council in  2006, elected in 2007 and again in 2011. Served ten years.
Education - Wilkes University, B.A., 1992 and Duquesne University, J.D., 1995
Residence: Bethlehem Township
Activities: Active as a baseball and basketball coach in youth sports

John Brown, Republican (incumbent)
Facebook - John Brown and John Brown, NorCo Executive
Webpage - Could only locate his webpage for state auditor general, http://www.johnbrownforpa.com/
Employment - county executive
Government Experience - Bangor Mayor (2009-2013); NorCo Exec (2014-present)
Education - Notre Dame
Residence: Bangor
Activities: golf

Frank Danyi, RIP

Last Monday, Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to honor Frank Danyi for his 44 years of service as Solicitor to the Township Municipal Authority. Frank also represented the Board at one point in a long and distinguished legal career. President Mike Hudak expressed some regret that Frank was unavailable to be recognized personally, and I assumed he was enjoying himself on the beach, as many do at this time of year. Unfortunately and unknown to me, Frank was dying, and passed away on Saturday.

I remember Frank, both from my days of practicing law and later, as a title searcher. He sent his son Kevin to search titles, but Frank had an active real estate practice and was in the Recorder's office often. He was always a fastidious dresser but was known mostly for his easy humor. He was always full of jokes, and for some reason, liked to hand out stickers to the searchers. He always looked on the bright side of things.

He was always classy, always gentlemanly, and I will miss this happy litigator.  

You can read Frank's obituary here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Prominent Allentown Lawyer Says He's Being Indicted in Fed Ed Case


When word of a federal investigation of political corruption in Allentown first broke over two years ago, it quickly became apparent that The Norris, McLauglin law firm would have a starring role in a summer drama that soon became a mini-series that has drawn nine guilty pleas. Not only are partners identified on the FBI subpoena list, but they have been involved in the Mayor Pawlowski story for the past several years. In a sign that federal prosecutors might finally be wrapping things up, a Norris McLaughlin partner is telling friends that he's going to be indicted.

This target is Scott Allinson, a self proclaimed rainmaker whose firm profile once claimed that he helps businesses "achieve their day-to-day, as well as long-term, business objectives." He has represented the Northampton County Gaming Revenue and Economic Redevelopment Authority, the Northampton County General Purpose Authority, the Northampton County Higher Education Authority, Lehigh’s Economic Advancement Project, Northampton County New Jobs Corporation, Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation, Lehigh Valley Regional Loan Pool, and Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and Northampton County Industrial Development Authority. From those vantage points, he can really help businesses meet their goals. Whether it is the Chrin TIF or some other major project, Allinson was nearly always involved.

Closely connected to political and business consultant Mike(d) Fleck, Allinson helped raise money for various Fed Ed campaigns. Thanks to Fleck, he also represented Ruckus Brewing in their Neuweiler deal.

Allinson appears to be the person identified in federal charging documents as "Donor No. 4." When Fleck told Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski that Donor #4 (believed to be Scott Allinson) had expressed concern about making political contributions, Fed Ed reportedly responded,
"Really! I've given him millions of dollars.. .. Relatively, compared to other law firms, they've given nothing. [Donor #4] for sure will get nothing now. ... You know, f--k them! And I'm not gonna [award work to Donor #4's law partner] or anything. Screw it all!"
Given the use of quotation remarks, this statement from Fed Ed may very well be a transcript from a wire that Fleck was wearing.

Allinson also helped Fleck form Citizens Who Care. That was supposed to be a 501(c)3 charity "for a series oof collective measures aimed at making Lehigh County more prosperous." Fleck and possibly Allinsn misrepresented that contributions were tax deductible. Some of the money raised paid for an inauguration party for Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller. The rest went into Fleck's pocket.

Unlike the nine people who have pleaded guilty this far, Allinson has no intention of going gently into that good night. He intends to fight. He will "rage, rage against the dying of the light."

In an email entitled "challenges ahead," Allinson informed three people he considers "old friends" that "the government has decided to proceed against me. This could occur as early as next week. I am certain of my innocence to bribery or any other crime. The firm is standing by me and is fully supportive. I expect to work here after the charges are filed."

"I am in for the fight of my life and hope to have your continued support."

I believe the next and hopefully last round will be aimed at those who refused to cooperate with the government or who insist on their innocence. So I think Allinson and Fed Ed will be indicted together.

How to Make an Idiot out of Yourself

When it comes to making an idiot out of myself, I'm something of an expert. This blog alone is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But some people are less cognizant of their idiocy. One of them was at Allentown City Council on Wednesday night.

A fellow calling himself Scott Hudson, who refused to state exactly where he lives for privacy reasons, approached the podium to complain that police are mean to him. He had a 360 degree camera attached to his head as he spoke.

Now if this camera also shot out laser beams, I'd give this guy props. But no such luck.

What this guy does is run around at night, with the camera attached to his head, and taunt cops.

He says he's a journalist.

Come to think of it, I run around at night, and taunt public officials. But I have no camera attached to my head.

I'm a blogger.

Keen and His Teaching Gigs

CPT David Collins, who works for NorCo Corrections, has been suspended (with pay) for making "unfounded allegations" about Corrections Director Dan Keen. He first followed his chain of command, going to a Deputy Warden. He was told that Keen would speak with him, but was ignored. So he went to Human Resources Director Amy Trapp. Her response was to suspend him in an attempt to silence a whistleblower exercising his First Amendment rights.

I'm unable to say whether CPT Collins is right about everything, but know he is acting in good faith. I also know his complaints about Keen's outside employment are very well founded.

Let me share what I know with you. In addition to being the Corrections Director, Keen is also a paid instructor with Penn State's Justice and Safety Institute.(JASI).

In September 2015, he was paid $240 to assist JASI with a service presentation. Since I do not have the date of this presentation, I am unable to say whether he was being paid by the County at the same time.

From January 18-20, 2016, Keen taught a First Line Supervision course in Hudson County, NJ. He was paid $600 by JASI as a stipend, and also claimed $660.88 in expenses. January 18 was MLK Day, a holiday in Northampton County. But January 19th and 20th were regular work days and Keen's time card report shows him at work during days when he was actually in New Jersey. He received $402.88 per day from Northampton County for the 19th and 20th while getting paid $200 per day by JASI to teach a course for corrections officers.

This facially appears to be some form of double dipping.

From May 1-5, 2017, Keen was paid $600 by JASI to teach a leadership and command course in the slate belt. This was just two weeks after Controller Steve Barron issued a report recommending that there be stronger controls over outside travel. Keen decided to take one personal day. The remaining days are reported as regular work days.

On June 12-14, 2017, Keen was paid another $600 by JASI to teach first line supervision. He took one personal day, but his time card report shows him at the courthouse and on duty on those other days. This is the course that Keen insisted his lieutenants attend. He took either four or five of them, even though that left CPT Collins short-handed at the jail. These officers had to go to Penn State for a course that Keen could have taught here. The County spent $1800 just for the course, to say nothing of the travel expenses.

It appears that Keen used the authority of his office to recruit these lieutenants and beef up his class size. He benefited financially. In this situation, the prudent practice would be for Keen to use his stipend to reduce the cost of this class to his lieutenants and continue to receive his county pay. That way, no one could accuse him of packing the course so he could get paid. In fact, this practice is followed in other counties

Can anyone say state Ethics Act?

Amazingly, Collins is the one who has been suspended.

In the interest of fairness, I presented Director Keen with this story and asked him to set me straight about any factual error I may have made. He has declined to respond.

My experience with him is that he has a deep sense of personal integrity, but I am troubled by these gigs.

The NorCo Purge

HR Director Amy Trapp has been busy. In addition to suspending CPT David Collins, action has been taken against two other county employees. She suspended Andy Grossman, the County's Mental Health Administrator, just as he was about to embark on a family vacation. I'm sure he's having a god time. She also recently suspended a Human Resources Analyst in Human Services.

NorCo Council Really Is in the Dark


I've been saying it for years, and finally have proof. NorCo Council really is in the dark! Well, at least they were last night. Their meeting was interrupted when a Summer thunderstorm plunged the courthouse into darkness for about the 15,000th time this year.

"I called it!" said Ken Kraft, who previously had predicted there would be a power outage.

Undaunted by the darkness, Council President John Cusick forged ahead at a meeting that was initially attended by only six Council members. Bob Werner and Glenn Geissinger were absent. Matt Deitz did call in after the meeting started. Executive John Brown and Controller Steve Barron were also absent.

It was a good night to play hookie. Little was accomplished. Council made a few appointments to boards that only rarely meet. There were also a number of open space resolutions that support "livable landscapes," whatever the hell they are, and the "scenic wild Delaware River," located in the heart of the rustbelt. Even Hayden Phillips voted yes to the scenic wild Delaware River.

The only real item of business - an ordinance about the county's three booking centers that no one really understands - was tabled. John Brown, who has no intention of funding booking centers outside of Easton, spoke against it at a Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday. And last night, Lehigh Township Supervisor Cindy Miller, Lehigh Tp police chief Scott Fogel and Magisterial District Judge Robert Hawke, the judge who handles the northern tier, all spoke against it, too.

"I'll be brief," said Cindy Miller, and she more or less was true to her word.

"I'll be briefer than Cindy," said Scott Fogel, and then went on for about 20 minutes. In the process of doing so, he dug a hole for himself, and Ken Kraft deftly pushed him in. Like Miller, he disputed Brown's claims that the Lehigh Tp booking center was saving five northern municipalities about $80,000 per year in overtime. Kraft asked him what things were like before the Lehigh Township booking center was in place, and quickly had Fogel admitting that officers would be gone four or five hours, which meant overtime.

Magisterial District Judge Robert Hawke claimed he had permission to speak on this topic from Judge Baratta, who supervises the mini judges. But Hawke is in no position and should be in no position to explain whether fees are collected by the common pleas courts. But he wore a nice suit.

After everyone was thoroughly confused, sponsors Hayden Phillips and Matt Dietz moved to table the matter, and the other five Council members unanimously agreed.

As I left the meeting room, the elevators were out, meaning I would have to rough it and take the steps. My servants were not there to carry me to my estate atop the Army Navy store.

Instead of worrying about me, Administrator Cathy Allen was concerned about some bastard in a wheelchair who was obviously faking it.

I suggested throwing him out the window, and left.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Allentown City Council Tells Feds to Get the Lead (and Fed Ed) Out


By a 5-2 vote, Allentown City Council has this evening adopted a resolution calling on federal authorities to conclude, one way or another, their two-year long investigation of political corruption in Allentown. "We've had this cloud now for two years," said Candida Affa. "We're being held hostage with this."  Daryl Hendricks added that the citizens of Allentown are being deprived of  "open and honest" government. "Remove the cloud hanging over our city, " he said.

The measure was opposed by Julio Guridy and Roger MacLean "Investigations don't always go as fast or as smoothly as you want," said MacLean, a 40-year law enforcement veteran and former police chief. "There's gotta' be reason, and I know it's a good reason, why it is taking so long." Guridy said it would be ignored by federal investigators who will say, ""Who are you guys from the little city of Allentown to tell us what to do?"

Interestingly, no member of the public spoke, either in support of or against the resolution.

The resolution provides that allegations over the past two years "continue to bring the City into disrepute and continue to create a negative work environment making it difficult to effectively conduct city business." It finds that "the length of time and delay of indicting or exonerating Edwin Pawlowski is a disservice to the citizens of Allentown, robbing a majority of residents of any possibility of respectful governance so long as the allegations hang over Mr. Pawlowski."

Copies of this resolution are being provided to the FBI, US Attorney's office and to Judge Juan Sanchez. That will give him something to think about next time the feds attempt to delay a sentencing.

Updated 8:55 pm: This report is based on watching the video of the meeting in progress. I was there in spirit, but not in body.  

Mezzacappa Salutes West Easton


I am remiss. I have failed to update you about Tricia Mezzacappa, aka Constable cRaZy, since she plastered West Easton with Trump signs. As you can see above, she's understandably miffed that West Easton officials are considering a part-time police department. She was hoping she could arrest everyone herself and even bought a uniform.

Gotta' love the implied threat.

She was running for Borough Council, but inexplicably withdrew. If she can't beat 'em, she'll sue 'em. She wants a gazillion dollars in what appears to be a frivolous suit that she's already appealed to Commonwealth Court, before she's even lost.

She's cutting out the middleman.

She's also filed a federal civil rights suit against the Sheriff and Easton Auto Body for a gazillion dollars and has improperly snapped a default judgment against them all for failing to respond to a complaint that was never properly served.

She's represented by Larry the Otter, who has threatened to take county lawyers to the Disciplinary Board over a judgment that he improperly entered in a clear abuse of process.

911 Dispatcher: It's Not the TVs, It's the Morale

My recent story about NorCo 911 operators who watch television on the job sparked a lot of interest, most of it coming from dispatchers who defend the practice. I have also had several conversations with current and former dispatchers. This is what they tell me.

* The problem at the 911 Center is not the TVs, but morale."Morale is awful," one dispatcher tells me.

* The number of dispatchers who work a shift is set by PEMA, and there's no such thing as reducing the staff when activity slows down. At this time of the year, dispatchers are busy. But on winter nights, when it is 17 degrees, the 911 center can sit for hours without getting a call. "What are we supposed to do, stare at a wall?" one former dispatcher asked me.

*  911 Dispatchers could use down time to update CAD. "How is someone from Illinois going to know the address of the Marriott hotel at which he is staying?" one asked me. Another ex-operator told me there are numerous properties like that along Delaware Drive, which winds its way from Williams Tp and north into the slate belt.  An operator was instructed to contact a towing company she know has been out of business for several years.She has suggested that 911 take a proactive approach to businesses moving into the area, making sure the correct addresses are in the CAD. But "the Hall," which is how dispatchers refer to the administration, said it is up to new businesses to notify them. "This is a matter of public safety," I was told. Dispatchers lack the authority to update the CAD on their own,but could probably use down time to come up with numerous suggestions.

* Part of the reason for the poor morale is that the administrators in "the hall" are remote if not invisible. One dispatcher tells me she's never seen most of them. During emergencies, they sometimes walk into the center, but just glare at dispatchers.

* Dispatchers confirm that a quality assurance manager, who was supposed to be checking calls to dispatchers periodically, failed to do so for six years.

* Though most dispatchers are professional and courteous, there are some who are short with callers and even other dispatchers. This includes a 911 supervisor who recently yelled "Just die!" when a police officer's EID went off.    

NorCo News by the Numbers

From the July 19  Personnel and Finance Committee meetings:

50,000 - Northampton County parcels identified by aerial maps as having additions and improvements that need to be assessed. "That's a lot of tax revenue," said Council member Ken Kraft. "We hope so," answered assessment manager Cheryl Johnson.

$1.5 million. - What Northampton County Executive John Brown claims is lost every year in maintaining three booking centers in Easton, Bethlehem and Lehigh Township  He calls it a "drop and go" system that allows police officers who make arrests to resume their patrols right away. He claims it allows for continuity of police coverage, and has saved six northern tier municipalities $80,000 per year in overtime. "We've had zero complaints," he said. "We're down to 15 minutes, literally." Brown wants the Lehigh Tp and Bethlehem booking centers to pay the computer costs.

$40.7 million. - Support payments collected by Domestic Relations in 2016. Most comes through wage attachment, but $1 million is paid directly, at the door. A recent Controller's audit had no findings. "To have no findings is pretty incredible," said Controller Steve Barron, who complimented the office for "very good internal controls."