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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, July 22, 2024

The Lord Almighty Has Spoken, But Does He Endorse Kamala?

After a disastrous debate in which he looked like he was auditioning for a part in the latest zombie movie, President Joe Biden attempted unsuccessfully to show that he has a few sparks left in several disappointing interviews. He told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he'd withdraw his candidacy for President only if the "Lord Almighty" came down and told him to pull the plug. That must have happened over the weekend because, as we all know by now, he's finally realized he has no path to victory and has pulled out of the Presidential race. At the same time, he's thrown his support behind his VP, Kamala Harris. While she's already received the endorsement of all 50 state chairs and many would-be rivals, several prominent Democrats (Obama, Pelosi, Schumer and Jeffries) are mum. I'd prefer an open process myself

Harris would almost certainly emerge victorious from a competitive convention. This would also prove that she can win, something she was utterly unable to do when she ran four years ago. It would also open her up to a little scrutiny. I believe she had a rough start as VEEP but has come a long way over the past year. My chief concern is whether this Californian from a deep blue state can finally succeed in laying out a vision that appeals to America's disaffected working class. If she can do this, as Trump and JD Vance have done, she could win. 

America has never elected a woman to our highest office. I'm uncertain whether that is coincidence or evidence of the sexism I saw hurled at the female Secret Service agents who protected Trump. I do know this. She will be subjected to numerous similar attacks precisely because of her sex, and some of them will almost certainly come from Trump himself. And those attacks will backfire, drawing more moderates to her. 

What's your take on Biden's withdrawal and Harris' sudden candidacy? Do you support an open process, or should the party just embrace her as if she were an heir apparent? 

Friday, July 19, 2024

NorCo Council Sets Salary for Council Clerk at $107,482, Deputy Clerk at $81,545.

Last night, Northampton County Council voted to set the salary for the Council Clerk at $107,482. It also established a new salary for Deputy Clerk at $81.545.  The vote on the Council Clerk salary was 8-1, with Council member Kelly Keegan being the sole dissenter. The vote on the Deputy Clerk was unanimous.

Keegan argued she is unaware of anyone who starts at the same salary as the person who retires from a position. She added that Council Clerks should get annual evaluations just like she does. Council member John Goffredo agreed with Keegan and said the salary is "bad business by us as the bosses."

Council member Ken Kraft, however, noted the precarious position under which Council Clerks work. They are considered "exempt" employees who lack the protection of career service regulations or a union contract. Council member John Brown added that the title "Council Clerk" is actually a misnomer because of the "complexity of the position."

Council President clarified a misperception by Goffredo and Keegan that the Council Clerk would be starting at the same salary being paid to Linda Zembo when she retired as Council Clerk. She said it is "not the same amount that Linda Zembo was paid."

That might be why Goffredo relented and voted Yes, but Keegan still voted No. 

Aline Shafnisky currently serves as Council's acting Clerk. 

NorCo Sheriff Rich Johnston to Retire August 2

At last night's meeting of NorCo Council, Executive Lamont McClure reported that Sheriff Rich Johnston will be retiring on August 2. He stated that Johnston "exemplified the best of what we would want to see in public officials, especially those in law enforcement." 

The Northampton County Sheriff provides building and court room security, transports prisoners, locates and apprehends fugitives, serves legal papers, administers the foreclosure, repossession and sale of real and personal property, and issues gun permits.

Unlike most other counties in Pennsylvania, which elect their sheriffs, the Home Rule Charter makes the Sheriff an appointed position. The Executive ranks his top three choices and forwards them to the courts. The courts in turn can rank the choices in another order or include new names. The Executive has the final say. Johnston was the top choice of both the courts and McClure.

It's mostly gone, but you can still detect a New York accent in Johnston's voice. He started his career there as a NYC transit cop in 1982. While working full-time, he earned an associate's degree in forensic psychology in 1993. In 1994, he was promoted to sergeant for the NYPD, where he supervised anywhere between 20 and 45 officers, depending on which precinct he worked

After putting in his 20 years with New York City, he continued his career in law enforcement here in the Lehigh Valley. He started as a District Security Officer at Easton School District and became a deputy sheriff in 2002. 

Johnston expressed his appreciation to nearly everyone, including deputies who certainly made his life more interesting. 

I have high regard for Rich, both as Sheriff and as a person. He has always been a gentleman, a rarity. 

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Corpora Proposes, Then Pulls Home Rule Charter Change to Ban Resolutions Irrelevant to County Business

Council member Jeffrey Corpora last night proposed a Home Rule Charter change that would prevent other Council members from introducing resolution that have no relevance to county business.  But after discussion among Council members, he agreed that Council could probably take action without introducing another change to the county's constitution. He also agreed that his wording was a bit unclear. 

I've posted a resolution similar to what Corpora seeks here. I believe my own proffer could use some work as well. How does one determine that a particular resolution is irrelevant? I believe any single member of Council should be able to raise that question. But if a majority can agree to be sponsors, that should indicate that there's some consensus. 

Tonight, County Council will consider a resolution sponsored by Kelly Keegan but that was drafted by Executive Lamont McClure, calling for fair elections in which all legitimate votes are counted. Unlike many other issues, the administration of elections is a core county function. 

Council member John Goffredo complained that it is a toothless resolution, and he's right. But most county council resolutions are toothless.   

NorCo Council Poised to Vote For $107,548 With A Deputy Earning $87,000

Tonight, Northampton County Council is poised to vote on salaries for the Council Clerk as well as a Deputy. Currently, the "Acting" Council Clerk is Aline Shafnisky, and at a salary of $107,548. From what I've been able to glean (it was difficult to hear the audio), Council will vote tonight on a resolution fixing the salary $107,548, well above what most county employees receive.  Moreover, the Deputy Clerk will be paid $87,000, which incidentally is higher than the Executive's salary. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

NorCo PJ Reinstates County Solicitor Fired Under Exec John Brown

Jill Mancini
Northampton County President Judge Craig Dally, in a 16-page opinion (you can read it below), has ordered that Jill Mancini, a former assistant county solicitor appointed under former Exec John Stoffa, be reinstated. He also awarded her four years of back pay and fringe benefits. The exact amount of these damages will be determined during an evidentiary hearing in December.

So ends the latest chapter in a saga that first began on December 23, 2013. There had been a change of the guard in the County after John Brown's election as Executive. His new Solicitor, Vic Scomillio, advised Mancini by phone, and while he was driving, that she was being fired. 

Since that time, this matter has been heard by a federal district court, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Revenue Appeals Board, court of common pleas and Commonwealth Court. A federal jury determined that Mancini's procedural due process rights had been violated. She was awarded $94,232 in back pay and attorney fees of $186,000

The dispute lingered after Brown was replaced as Executive by Lamont McClure. As a candidate, McClure supported Mancini's cause. As Executive, he appears to have been troubled by the huge payday Mancini would be reaping.

It's going to be larger now.

Mancini Opinion by BernieOHare on Scribd

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Female Secret Service Agents Attacked Mainly Because They Are Women

Yesterday, in response to a post suggesting that President Biden should pardon former President Trump if he really is interested in uniting this country, I received several sexist comments laying blame at the feet of female Secret Service agents who are portrayed as too short, too fat or just plain incompetent. Here's one of the comments: "Did anyone else notice the girls pretending to be secret service agents? Two were fat. Both were too short to provide the secret service "meat shield" on such a tall candidate. One kept pleading "what are we doing? What are we doing?" The men seemed to know without asking. The one fatty couldn't holster her weapon until the fifth try." Well, according to former Secret Service agent Mike McCarthy, who took a bullet for President Reagan in 1981, the agents did exactly what they are trained to do - cover and evacuate.

I suspect each of these female agents is fit and have BMIs under 25. I also watched video of several state troopers in the aftermath of the shooting, including a sergeant who was male but definitely was incredibly overweight. I doubt he could run 100 yards. Then there's a male Butler Township police officer who actually confronted Trump's would be-assassin several seconds before the shooting. He not only retreated, but failed to take any action to alert anyone in law enforcement that a potential killer was on the rooftop. This officer could have fired his own gun into the ground to alert Secret Service sharpshooters that mischief was afoot. He allowed a few crucial seconds to go by, and that was all the time needed for a killer to open up on Trump and innocent people.  

Interestingly, a local counter-sniper unit was actually inside the building in which an assassin climbed up onto the roof and unleashed a hail of bullets that killed and wounded.