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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board Approves 70-Unit Apartment Complex at Armory

Earlier this month, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board considered a request for a 70-unit apartment complex at the Armory on Second Avenue. Last night, the Board voted 3-0 to grant the dimensional variances sought. Voting in support were Bill Fitzpatrick, Jim Schantz and Attorney Mike Santanasto. Twoother members of the Board - Gus Loupos and Attorney Linda Shay Gardener - were unable to participate.

Because I was at a basketball game, I missed the deliberations and vote. But Agent 54 was there, and let me know what happened. he also provided a copy of a motion that Attorney Micahel Shay filed, seeking to strike the testimony of Darlene Heller. That motion was also denied, 3-0.

Shay argues that Heller was essentially acting as a witness for developer Michael Perrucci.

It's perfectly acceptable for a Planning Director to appear on behalf of a Planning Commission that is recommending variances. This ios expressly permitted by the Pa Municipalities Planning Code. In this case, she was there to relay the recommendation of the Planning Commission. But she went too far, injecting her own opinions about some of the testimony opposed to the variances. What I also find noteworthy is that whenever Heller does appear on behalf of a developer, it is Michael Perrucci.

Below is Shay's motion.

May Planning Director Testify in Support of Zoning Appeal by BernieOHare on Scribd

Brown Met Secretly With Upper Nazareth For Jail at Gracedale

One of the biggest issues in November's election was Executive John Brown's secret plans for a jail at Gracedale. Since September 2016, I had been warning you about this possibility. In September 2017, I told you that Brown himself had visited a dozen different locations, had ruled out a new jail at Easton, and had told Council he would build on a greenfield. In July, prison advisory board chair Dan Christenson called Gracedale a "great location." When I pressed Brown on the issue, he said only that zoning approval would be needed. He declined to rule it out. Even when a large group of Upper Nazareth residents invaded Council to complain, he refused to rule it out. He finally did so from his Facebook page in mid-October, when I'm sure he was told he was digging his own political grave. Brown claimed Lamont McClure was trying to scare people. He also repeatedly referred to these stories, most of which came from me, as "fake news." Brown went on to lose the election, this is all water over the dam now. But I learned last night that Brow had every intention of building a jail at Gracedale. His statements to the contrary are the "fake news."

Above you can see the cover page of a 30-page power point presentation that Brown gave to Upper Nazareth Supervisors in a closed-door session on March 27, outside the public spotlight. Under our toothless Sunshine Act, you can get away with keeping the public in the dark by claiming it is just information gathering.

Brown met with Supervisors for over two hours. Attending this secret meeting with him were Corrections Director Dan Keen, Administrator Cathy Allen, Public Works Director Stan Rugis and General Purpose Authority Solicitor John Lushis. His presence is an indication that Brown was considering a P3 financing mechanism for a $180 million jail.

I only have the cover page of the power point for now, but will have the whole thing by the end of the day. i wish I had this before the election..

I'm informed that the power point shows the different sites visited by Keen, and also shows how a site from Kentucky would fit at Gracedale's campus. It even includes different rotations.

It's pretty clear that Brown did intend to build a jail at Gracedale. It'sjust as clear that he wanted to keep the public in the dark while disingenuously claiming to be transparent.

He should look up the word.

In short, Brown was untruthful. It caught up to him.

In June, Supervisors admitted to this secret meeting,. Three of them - Mike Rinker, Donna Hirst and Scott Sylvainus - said they oppose the idea.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Beitler to run for State House

One of my favorite elected officials is Lower Mac Comm'r Ron Beitler. Like Matt Dees in West Easton, he uses his blog (Lower Mac News) to keep residents well-informed about their community. I have learned that Ron intends to run for the state house seat currently occupied by Ryan MacKenzie.

Beitler is a graduate of Emmaus High School and Slippery Rock University. He owns and operates Bar None, an event services planner.

“By now, it’s no secret that Harrisburg is a mess. What has been a well-kept secret is that the problems can be fixed by honesty, integrity, and common sense,” Beitler said.

He has promised to term limit himself to a total of eight years in office.

“If you can’t get the job done in that time, then you shouldn’t be there.” Beitler said.

He also has signed a pledge to reject a government pension stating, “service is a calling, not a career path - my small business is my career, and when I get the job done in Harrisburg I’ll come home to that.”

Beitler claims to have reduced spending, opposed debt, lowered tax bills and worked to block waste while serving in Lower Macungie. He said he will support a State Constitutional amendment limiting spending increases.

“Government needs to live within the same constraints that we do,” he said.

He resides in Lower Macungie with his wife, Amanda, their nine-month-old daughter, Cecilia Adeline and their family dog Ellie Mae.

A Christmas Story in Coplay

As most of you know, I am a miserable bastard. I'm as mean as cat shit, a bottom-feeder who is always complaining about something. It's what I do. And today, I want to tell you all about the antics at a Buzz N Beyond. It's a small barbershop located at 601 Chestnut Street in Coplay, not far from the amazing Thai Diner.

Proprietor Sue Santiago has been cutting hair for 29 years. In her words, "I have met so many wonderful people, formed many friendships, shared joys of graduations, weddings, babies, grandkids etc. But sometimes, I hear the not so happy stories."

One of her customers, an elderly man named John, told Sue earlier this that his dream was to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but he was unable to afford the trip. So every time he came in for a trim, she'd set aside the money he paid her. When he came in for a haircut yesterday, she gave him all the money she had set aside for him along with a "Dear John" letter. But it was the nice kind.

Don't worry. I'll return to my usual miserable self by tomorrow. .

Vote For Dat!

Just when you think I'm done talking about elections, I've got another one that's far more important than anything else. My grandson Dat had a pretty good weekend with the Allentown Central Catholic Vikings, as his team won the Paul Corby tip-off tournament to start the season at 2-0. They all did very well.

I was surprised to learn that he's been nominated as The Morning Call's athlete of the week. So if you can, please vote for him.

I'm waiting for the beauty contest.

On the left, you can see Dat with Suki, his cRaZy dog. She is actually quite the athlete herself, but she plays dirty. When Dat played football, she'd not only tackle him, but rip off his shorts.

Monday, December 11, 2017

ACCHS: We Beat the Bubblers!

I was away most of this weekend at a boys' basketball tournament at Boiling Springs High School. Allentown Central Catholic defeated East Pennsboro on Friday and Boiling Springs on Saturday to win the tourney and start the season with a 2-0 record.

After failing to convince the attendant that I'm a student, it cost me $5 to get in. My hand was stamped with this:

BS? She must know me.

In the first game, four Central players scored in the double digits, showing a balance that portends well for them. Junior Chad Kratzer was unstoppable 16, followed by Jay Vaughan (14), Dat Lambert (13) and Nick Filchner (10). On Saturday night, Dat Lambert scored 19. He was named tournament MVP while fellow guard Jay Vaughan was selected to the all-tournament quad.

On Tuesday, Whitehall will host the Vikings.

Will Brown Veto Budget, Millage Rate?

One of my readers claims that outgoing NorCo Exec John Brown is on vacation and we'll never see him again. I believe it's entirely possible that we'll see him again soon, and not in a good way.  He could veto the budget approved December 7, the millage rate ordinance adopted by Council, or both. He has until December 14 to do so, and could even do it after Council meets that day. He has until December 17 to veto the millage rate ordinance. I actually expect him to veto one or both measures, and at the last possible minute. 

After promising Lamont McClure's transition team that he wanted to leave office on a high note, Brown pulled his own Pearl Harbor when NorCo Council met on December 7 to approve next year's budget and millage rate. He proposed a one-mill tax reduction ($8 million) to his own budget. He did so without a corresponding $8 million cut in spending. This was an attempt to sabotage McClure, forcing him to dip into cash reserves and limiting the county's ability to deal with an emergency.

Because Republicans were unable to agree on whether the tax cut should be a full or a half mill, they ended up with the millage rate originally proposed.

Three of them - Seth Vaughn, Glenn Geissinger and Mat Benol - are out to hurt the county. They voted against everything, even the salary for professional employees. Not surprisingly, all three are on their way out.

On Friday, Vaughn used Facebook to lash out at his fellow Republicans on Council for refusing to agree to a one-mill tax cut. "[F]our Republicans on council, Matt Deitz, Hayden Phillips, Peg Ferraro, and John Cusick voted against it. Keep that in mind next time you go to the ballot box."

What surprised me is that Brown's wife Tina slammed them, too. "True colors," she said of this quartet. Never mind that Peg Ferraro invited Tina and Brown to her fundraiser at Holy Family and let him give a speech that was so boring that Nazareth Ambulance had to be called in to revive the cooks. That's gratitude, Tina! Up until now, I considered you a civilian.  If you want to engage in these debates, you become fair game.

Given Tina Brown's comment, my guess is that the attempt to sabotage McClure is alive and well. But the Home Rule Charter may very well protect the citizens of Northampton County.

As I said, his options are to veto the budget, the millage rate ordinance, or both.

Veto of the budget. - The Home Rule Charter does give the Executive authority to veto the budget, but he may only delete or decrease items. So he can decrease the fund balance by $8 million and set the stage fora new millage rate ordinance.

Veto of the millage rate ordinance. - The millage rate ordinance is a separate ordinance, and the Executive can veto it, just like he can veto any ordinance. But guess what? Council would have no authority under the Home Rule Charter to adopt a new ordinance. It lacks the time for a new ordinance, which would take a month for two readings. It would be unable to adopt a new millage rate except as an emergency ordinance. And that's impossible for two reasons. First, there's no emergency. Council and Brown are just playing politics. Second, the Charter expressly states that "an emergency ordinance shall not levy taxes."

That would necessarily mean that the millage rate set in 2017 or the one that Brown vetoed would remain in effect. So Brown and his minions will try, but they will fail.

The law has never been their strong suit.

Ken Kraft had a good retort to Vaughn's false outrage. "If [Brown] wanted to create a budget with a lower tax rate, he would have done it from the beginning. What don't you understand? What part of County government don't you get? I understand exactly what you are trying to do, you're trying to be a vindictive prick and pass an illegal unfunded budget so the next guys are in a bind, you are probably the one who said those words about, lets cut taxes and see them balance the budget... little passive aggressive these days since the voters handed you your well deserved defeat... ."

Friday, December 08, 2017

NorCo's Lame Duck Council Gives $10M to DaVinci, Attempts to Sabotage McClure

The big story you'll see today is that Northampton County voted last night to award $10 million in hotel taxes for the Easton-based DaVinci Science Center. Wednesday, this project looked like it was dead in the water after Pearly Baker owner Jonathan Davis called it a "killer” to local business.  But over the next 24 hours, the aquarium dropped its plans for a dining facility and turned restaurateur Davis from skeptic to cheerleader. What followed was a stream of officials who view the giant fish tank as the answer to all of Easton's troubles. But before you get too excited, remember this decision was made by a lame duck Council on its way out the door. Next year there will be a new Council that  is much more critical, and they could decide to stop the funding before a dime is spent.

The grant passed by a 5-4 vote. Voting for it were Peg Ferraro, Glenn Geissinger, Mat Benol, Seth Vaughn and Bob Werner. Voting No were Ken Kraft, John Cusick, Matt Dietz and Hayden Phillips.

One of my readers predicted this, and it went down exactly as he or she said.

"None of the facts matter.

"What you will witness tonight is a carefully-choreographed performance where Council will appear to take the public into consideration before voting on something that was decided behind closed doors.

"DaVinci will turn out their people to make it appear that the fish tank has real and overwhelming support. The people who actually have their own skin in the game be swamped by the well-connected special interest group looking for public dollars.

"And we all know this story ends the same, with this Executive/Council or the next."

My only disagreement with this reader is that I believe that the new Council will reverse this grant. To use Ken Kraft's words, "It's insane."

Peg Ferraro, who has been named Pocketbook Peg by my readers, was the spearhead for this grant. She has placed a ball and chain around the county's neck for the next 40 years, really hamstringing its ability to fund tourism anywhere else. Kraft told me that repealing this ordinance is the first thing he intends to propose once the new Council is sworn in.

After this grant was approved, most of the public and even the press left. The Morning Call's Tom Shortell and I stuck around. What happened next is the real story last night. It is that a bitter Executive and lameduck Council tried their best to sabotage Executive-elect Lamont McClure and an incoming Council before they can get started. It was an appalling display of sour grapes. They failed last night. But with a few weeks left until they are gone, they just may succeed.

John Brown had assured McClure's transition team that he wanted to leave office on a high note. There would be no surprises. He'd play no games with the budget. But that's precisely what he did.

In a long night that included several presentations, Brown decided to give the longest Executive report of his career. He went on at least 20 minutes, patting himself on the back and congratulating himself on what a fine job he did. I had no problem with this. I'm sure he's disappointed that he lost the election. If he wanted to list some of his achievements, so be it. If he wanted to remind everyone he is still the Executive, he is. But then he told council to reduce the tax millage rate by a mill. Never mind that it is he who proposed a budget that required 11.8 mills for a balanced budget. Never mind that reducing the millage would result not just in deficit spending, but an unbalanced budget that violates the Home Rule Charter. The revenue estimate set by the Executive will fail to equal what the county spends.

Ken Kraft said that the budget Brown introduced in October, when he still thought he was going to win the race, called for 11.8 mills. Now that he's lost, he wants to reduce taxes by one mill without a corresponding reduction in spending, and let McClure deal with the consequences. "You're automatically putting the next administration on their heels, where they're going to have to raise taxes," he said. "I think it's a real shitty thing to do. Underhanded. And you people are despicable for even putting it up there."

Budget Administrator Doran Hamann advised Council that a one-mill reduction would translate to $8 million in tax revenue. "Decisions would have to be made to either cut the budget by $8 million or subsidize the budget with fund balance from the general fund, which only the County Executive can do."

Under the Home Rule Charter, Council has no authority to interfere with revenue projections. Only Brown could decide to deficit spend.

Brown eventually said he would take the money from fund balance.

At this point Council began squabbling over whether to grant a half mill or one mill tax decrease. Seth Vaughn, Mat Benol and Glen Geissinger voted against a half-mill tax decrease because they wanted a full mill. Hayden Phillips, Matt Dietz and Pocketbook Peg Ferraro voted against a full mill tax decrease because they wanted a half mill. So Council did ultimately vote to hold the line on taxes at 11.8 mills, with the Geissinger-Vaughn-Benol trio voting No.

Now you might dismiss what Ken Kraft said as the rants of a partisan Democrat who should be committed. I have tried to have him put away a few times myself.

But it's hard to ignore what Matt Dietz said. Matt is a conservative Republican representing the northern tier of the county. He'd love to cut taxes. But two things bothered him. First, the move to reduce taxes was coming over two months after Brown introduced a budget that called for 11.8 mills. Second, while declining to name names, Dietz said that there comments made by Council members at the last meeting stating that they would vote for a millage reduction "and watch the next council try to balance it. And the next administration. I think that it is poor servants of the people of Northampton County, and I'm pretty embarrassed that it was said."

An honest man.

Sitting next to Dietz was a partisan Republican (Mat Benol) who insists on hanging a decalogue behind him at every meeting. And sitting another seat away was a former Mormon bishop (Geissinger). I am always leery of people who wear their religion on their sleeves. If you ever wonder why I refuse to stand when these phonies offer their fake prayers, this is why. There is no doubt in my mind that the Mormon Bishop and Ten Commandment Kid colluded with Brown and Vaughn to hamstring McClure before he ever got started. Never mind that it's the people who will suffer.

Brown may very well veto this budget so he can press the matter.

I'm sure you have lots of questions about the specifics of this budget, as well as other matters. I'll have more for you next week. For now, I'll say only that it is highly unlikely that anyone who Brown brought with him into Northampton County will be kept after this attempted sabotage. Brown promised no surprises, and then broke his word with this stunt. McClure would be foolish to think he could trust any of them, and he is not foolish.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

DaVinci Center Called a "Killer" For Easton Restaurant Biz

Pearly Baker's Jonathan Davis
Like buzzards who circle a carcass while jackals and hyenas predators rip off the larger chunks of meat, DaVinci Science Center representatives watched and waited patiently last night at last night's final NorCo Council budget gearing. As Council members hacked into next year's $400 million budget, Executive Director Lin Erickson waited her turn. She has proposed a $130 million aquarium project in Easton's flood plain, and has her hand out for every public dollar she can get. She's been at more meetings over the past year than the Express Times. Though Council is scheduled to consider an ordinance tonight that helps to fund the aquarium with $1 million in hotel taxes ($100,000 per year over ten years), she wants  even more. $15 million, to be exact. Last night, for reasons that baffle me, Peg Ferraro pitched a $500,000 grant in 2005 hotel taxes to DaVinci. This is in addition to an amendment she'll be proposing to tonight's ordinance, giving DaVinci even more than the $1 million proposed.

Ferraro first said she would be offering an amendment two weeks ago. But in a remarkable display of secrecy, she has refused to say how much. She hoped to spring it on everyone at the last minute, keeping the public in the dark about their own money

"We have this money, we've been accumulating this money," was Ferraro's justification for giving DaVinci a "shot in the arm."

"I don't know what your rush is to give money," objected Ken Kraft, saying this is a decision that can be addressed by the incoming Council and Executive-elect Lamont McClure.

"It's time to move forward and do something," countered Ferraro, who called for a vote.

Fortunately, Council President John Cusick decided instead to recognize a member of the public who wanted to address the subject.

Jonathan Davis owns Easton's popular Pearly Baker's, Bank Street Annex and Mueller's General Store. He has been operating small businesses for the past 25 years after his graduation from Lafayette College. Claiming to be speaking on behalf of a large number of downtown Easton businesses, he said they are "very much opposed to the Science Center as it now stands."

Plans for DaVinci include a 250-seat restaurant as well as cafes. "The restaurant community cannot have that happen to its downtown," he argued. He noted that four Easton restaurants have closed this year, and only two have re-opened. "This quasi government kind of manipulation that has happened, with good intentions, has ransacked the business community." He said the food court at Crayola has negatively impacted lunch business. He added that the publicly subsidized Public Market is no public market. "It's a food court. That cut our business in half."

He called the DaVinci Science Center a "killer for the restaurant business." He said his 50 or so employees are suffering from lost tips already, and that DaVinci will be a "vacuum that sucks away any benefit it is supposed to have."

"This is our money, this is public funds, and it should be going for the benefit of downtown Easton."

"Destroy the restaurant community that established the downtown, and you will have larger issues than you ever expect," he warned.

He added that Erickson told him that the restaurant would be used as a profit source to offset future expenses.

"Maybe we could have an event center with a caterer and a liquor license," suggested Ferraro.

"Why? Why? What's the mission? The mission is science and education. Where is it coming that we're serving cocktails?"

Erickson admitted that current plans do call for a 250-seat restaurant, a liquor license and an operator.

Mat Benol thanked Davis for his visit, saying it prevented him from a "huge mistake." Matt Dietz said he had enough concerns before last night, but now considers the plan too indefinite to justify any public spending. Hayden Phillips added that he was concerned that a publicly subsidized aquarium would compete unfairly against a private venture like a proposed Ripley aquarium, located 60 miles away. But the competition against small businesses in Easton is much more immediate and serious. Public tax dollars would enable DaVinci to steal business from restaurants just blocks away.

Kraft moved to table Ferraro's grant, and it passed 7-2. Glenn Geissinger and Seth Vaughn voted No without explanation.

"We can visit it next year," said Kraft, who told Erickson that the incoming Council will work with DaVinci.

Later this evening, Council will consider the $1 million grant, which Ferraro wants to increase without bothering to say how much until the public hearing.

NorCo Council Approves Step Increase For Career Service Workers With Four Years Seniority

NorCo Executive John Brown's proposed 2018 spending plan calls for a two percent across-the-board wage hike for career service personnel. But during budget hearings, Council President John Cusick hinted that he might seek a step increase instead. That's exactly what he did at last night's final budget hearing. He proposed a step increase (about 4.5%) for career service personnel who have four years or more seniority as of of January 1.He noted that many of these workers have remained at step one since they were first hired. The step increase will apply to judicial workers and human services workers. The remaining career service employees will see no raise.
There will be a two per cent increase for part-time professionals like assistant District Attorneys, assistant Public Defenders and the 17 criminal defense lawyers who represent criminal defendants when there is a conflict of interest with the Public Defender.

Cusick's proposal would apply only to nonunion workers, which is about 25% of the county workforce. Union employees have their salaries set as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

"What I see happening here is this: we have people who have worked here for a long time, and then we hire somebody new, and they're at the same pay grade as someone who's been here a significant amount if time. The failure to award steps anywhere along the way has created that inequity."

Remaining career service employees, i.e.those with less than four years seniority or who are already at the top of the pay scale, will see no raise. People at the top will get longevity pay.

"I think it's a great idea," said Peg Ferraro, who said there should be "a little bit of separation" between newer and more experienced workers.

This proposed change to the budget was approved unanimously ,with the final vote scheduled for tonight.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

NorCo Has 175 "Exempt" Employees

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter, in an effort to professionalize the County workforce,  established the career service. The idea was to attract the best and the brightest and impose the "highest possible ethical standards." No one in career service may be "demoted, suspended, dismissed,or disciplined" without "just cause." Impartial standards should exist for each position, and people who already work for the county have the right to apply for vacancies as they occur. A pay plan is mandated as well as a policy in the event that a reduction in force is deemed necessary.

Without question, the career service provisions of the Home Rule Charter are paved with good intentions. So naturally, they have been a disaster. Throughout the Charter's 40-year history, there have been numerous examples of people being passed over for promotion, despite being qualified. In some cases, it's been because the test for the new position has nothing to do with the job being performed. In others, an outsider connected to one of the department heads is brought in and the job is never posted.

Perhaps the most glaring example of the inadequacies of the current system is provided by someone who himself was employed in Human Resources and tested for a position. Then HR  Director Pete Regina claimed this person had tested poorly, but this employee marked his test paper in blood and claimed that he had been cheated.

Another problem with career service is that it has no application to a large portion of the workforce.Of Northampton County's 2,200 full and part-time workers, 175 are considered exempt. Most of them work for the judges and are really just at-will employees, even if they belong to a union.

Three of the Clerks working for County Council are considered exempt, and could be replaced by the incoming Council. That's unlikely, but part-time Council Solicitor Phil Lauer (salary $55,858.61) is probably toast. He is one of the County's most formidable litigators. He's won every suit in which he represented Council. In a governing body dominated by Republicans, most of his opinions agreed with the Democrats. But I suspect he will be dumped solely because he is a Republican.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

More understandable will be the replacement of the County's legal department.

Part-time Solicitor Ryan Durkin ($61,886.03) is a gentleman, but the fact remains that he is an Emmaus collections lawyer with no practice in this County. In fact, he is not even a member of the NorCo bar. The six part time lawyers under him include First Ass't Solicitor Stan Margle ($52,675.79) and assistants Dave Backenstoe, Dave Ceraul, Dan O'Donnell, Jacob Sitman and Michael Snover. They are paid $45,340.46 per year. Ceraul is a regular GOP contributor, while Backenstoe gave Brown $1,000. Snover's wife is General Lee, the NorCo GOP boss.

I am sure they will all be replaced.

I'm less clear on the Public Defender's Office. Chief Public Defender (Part Time) Bob Eyer ($61,737.31) made the mistake of contributing $500 to John Brown and will undoubtedly be replaced. I think most of he part-time assistants ($48,338.99) are safe. They include Ed Andres, Syzane Arifaj, Jim Connell, Rory Driscole, Jordan Knisley, Alex Mills, Mark Minotti, Matt Potts, Tim Prendergast, Chris Shipman, Phil Viglione and Joe Yannuzzi. Two full-time public defenders, Susan Hutnick ($74,225.63) and Anthony Rybak ($71,029.30), will likely be retained, but they are exempt employees. So is First Ass't Goodrich Public Defender (Part Time) Matt Goodrich ($61,581.73).

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

NorCo Exec John Brown's Exempt Cabinet

Northampton County has essentially two classes of employee - career service and exempt. Members of John Brown's cabinet are called exempt employees. The purpose of this post is to explain why they can be fired for any reason or no reason.

Career service was created when the Home Rule Charter was adopted. Its purpose in theory was to reward and promote employees based on merit and ability, as opposed to who they know. Shortcomings in that system have led to unions, and 75% of the county workforce is now organized under 11 separate unions. But union or not, the chief advantage of career service is that you are given a property right in your job. You can be fired only of there is "just cause," and are entitled to due process, i.e. notice and an opportunity to be heard, before that happens.

Exempt employees are completely different. They were also established under the Home Rule Charter so that the Executive would have an inner core of staff in whom he can confide and set policy. Unlike career service employees, who are protected in the Home Rule Charter from termination without "just cause," exempt employees serve at the pleasure of whomever appointed them.

All judicial employees are exempt. Even if they unionize, a judge can send them packing.

When Executive John Brown was sworn in, he became the Lord and Master of a gaggle of county employees that extend beyond his cabinet. Each cabinet member has an exempt employee. Assistant county solicitors and part-time public defender are also exempt.

His cabinet is listed below,along with their salaries.

Director of Administration Cathy Allen - $93,626.00. Allen has no education beyon a high school diploma and had no county experience prior to being selected. There were several outstanding tax liens filed against her, and at one point, her home was in foreclosure. Call me cRaZy, but I think McClure will let her slip away.

DCED Director Tim Herrlinger - $85,392.53. Herrlinger is well educated but his prior career is as a fundraiser. Personally, I'd repurpose the department to focus on community development. But McClure has said he'd really like to create some jobs in the slate belt.

Corrections Director Dan Keen - $106,842.94. Keen is a glorified corrections officer who promised to move here, then didn't. His proposal to build a new $185 million jail, and most likely at Gracedale, was rejected by the voters when they rejected Brown. Keen will likely be eliminated.

Fiscal Affairs Director Jim Hunter - $93,626.00. Hunter impressed me with his honesty as Fiscal Director. He comes from the banking industry. He is too close to Brown for McClure to want to keep around.

Human Resources Director Amy Trapp - $111,202.83. Trapp is pretty much responsible for entire county workforce voting against Brown. With her salary, I'd like her to return the money for those gift cards that went who knows where. She was by far Brown's worst pick, unless you like $800 popcorn machines. She flouted rules that she enforced against others. She can sneak her dog into the next place that makes the mistake of hiring her.

Human Services Director Alison Frantz - $102,241.78. I have heard bad and good about her. She is apolitical.

Public Works Director Stan Rugis- $102,241.78. - He is held in high regard by County Council and understands the county's infrastructure. He'll be hard to replace.

Sheriff Dave Dalrymple - $97,446.75. Though likable and professional, Lamont McClure was very bothered about a Sheriff who does not live in the county he serves.

Coroner Zach Lysek - $111,202.83. Though technically exempt, all Lysek has to do is ask, "How are you feeling? You look a little pale." He's a keeper.

Beth Tp Comm'rs Approve Three-Year Contract With Police, Road Crew

At their Monday night meeting, Bethlehem Township Commissioners unanimously approved labor contracts with two of the three unions representing their workforce. Three-year deals were approved for both the 25 road crew and 32 police officers that will cover their salary and benefits over the next three years. A contract with a third union representing about 10 clerical employees is still in negotiation.

The road crew, members of AFSCME District Council 88, will see their wages rise by one, two and three percent in each of the next three years. A truck driver earning $54,100 a year will see payhikes over the next three years of $541, $1,102 and $1,706.

Police officers will see salaries rise over the next three years by 2.75, 3 and 3.5 per cent. A Senior Patrol Officer earning $75,878 per year will see pay increases of $2,087 in 2018, $2,339 in 2019 and $2,810 in 2020.

Both unions have agreed to contribute more to the cost of their health insurance. There's currently a $50 monthly co-pay for single coverage and $100 for family coverage. Starting in 2020, that monthly co-pay will increase to $75 for single and $150 for family coverage.

In 2018, the average individual medical premium is projected at $11,859. For families, it is $28,432.

These contracts were negotiated over a period of about three months.

Township administrators will see a two per cent raise.

In other business, Commissioners approved a survey of township residents that will be mailed and also appear online. The survey will educate Commissioners on numerous quality of life issues as well as continued participation in the Bethlehem Area Public Library. Over Malissa Davis' objection, Commissioners voted to remove a question that would have polled residents about a single hauler for trash.