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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, January 23, 2020

NorCo Elections Comm'n to Meet Today

Northampton County's Election Comm'n is poised to meet today at 3:30 pm in County Council chambers on the third floor of the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton. It has scheduled  and advertised four meetings this year.

Today, Executive Lamont McClure is expected to present an action plan for this year's Presidential election. He will outline what steps he is taking to avoid a repeat of last year's disastrous November 5 election, in which the Express Vote XL was improperly configured, programmed and tested. He will likely discuss recent changes in the Elections Code that, for the first time, permit voting by mail. He may also be recommending someone to replace Acting Registrar Amy Hess. Though Hess is the first choice of everyone who has come in contact with her, she likes being a Deputy.

Especially after last year.

Washington Tp Cop's Girlfriend Claims His Son Paid For Hawaii Visit

On Tuesday, I slammed suspended Washington Township police officer Mark Gwozdz or sauntering off to Hawaii on paid administrative leave with his girlfriend, who herself also happens to be a cop in another jurisdiction. I received an angry email from her yesterday, demanding me to remove my post because she said it is inaccurate. As regular readers of this blog know, I only rarely will poof a post. I decline to do so here as well, but I told Gwozdz' female companion I would be willing to provide her side of the story.

She explained that Gwozdz' son, who is in the military, actually paid for his Dad's trip. She paid for her half. "We had to sleep on the ship with him for 6 nights until we pulled into the home port, it was no Hawaii vacation let alone on public dime. We slept in metal racks as big as a coffin in about 50 degree temperature constantly. We learned what sailor life and what he has done for the last year is really like. It’s like jail and these guys come home to deal with this crap?"

She also told me her boyfriend is now on unpaid administrative leave, pending the outcome of charges filed against him for allegedly threatening his third wife.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

PMW Girls' Basketball Coach Succumbs to Cancer

Stacy Perryman, who coached high school girls' basketball at Pocono Mountain West for the past 14 years, has lost her battle with breast cancer. One of my friends, a basketball official, had this observation about her. "There were not many women coaches who would show up with a bald head to lead her team after a Chemo session, but last year I had a game where she did. Towards the end of the JV game, she was out of time outs and asked me if I could stop the game so she could put one particular player who had not participated into the game. I faked that my shoe was untied and called officials' time so that could happen. That is the kind of person she was, looking out for all her players. May she rest in peace."

DA Opens Investigation Into Police Chief's Crash

Northampton County DA Terry Houck has opened an investigation into Washington Tp Police Chief Scott Miller's January 5 (late night) or January 6 (early morning) accident at a property along Kesslersville Road in Plainfield Township. His office was at the scene yesterday, taking pictures.  A top prosecutor also spoke with property owner Mike Drosnock   I wrote about this matter last week and again on Monday. In addition, Lehigh Valley Live has published a story, including several good pictures of the damage to Mike Drosnock's home.

According to the LehighValleyLive story, the Slate Belt Regional Police (SBRP) Officers who initially responded to this accident never bothered to test Miller for alcohol. Despite the accident, they failed to even conduct a field sobriety test.

It is clear to me the officers who initially responded were covering Miller's tracks. When Drosnock awoke later in the morning and called SBRP, they initially told him they had no report.

At this point, DUI charges against Miller are highly unlikely precisely because SBRP failed to conduct a field sobriety test or have blood drawn at the time of the accident. But he is by no means out of the woods.

Under Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code, the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident that causes damage to another person's property has an affirmative obligation to notify the owner of his name, address, registration number of vehicle and proof of financial responsibility. Failure to do so is a third degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $2,500 and a year in jail.

In this case, Drosnock was in his home and asleep. His pellet stove was in operation. Miller hit the pipe leading to the stove and moved it. Had it gone over, the house could have burnt down. Had the pipe been bent differently, it would have released noxious fumes inside Drosnock's home, killing him.

Yet Miller made no attempt to contact Drosnock. According to Drosnock, there were no footprints on either of his porches, even though it had snowed. Had Miller bothered to look, he would see both a car and a truck were parked in the garage. He failed to look because he had been drinking and wanted to get out of there. The SBRP were busy covering Miller's tracks and wanted to get out of there, too. Their conduct recklessly endangered Drosnock's life, which is a second degree misdemeanor.

Neither Miller nor SBRP has reason to rest easy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Washington Tp Cop Visits Hawaii on Paid Administrative Leave

Relaxing in Hawaii on public dime
Last week and yesterday, I regaled you with the antics of Scott Enoch Miller, who is police chief in Washington Township (Northampton County). He was given that job in spite of  an Ocean City (Maryland) drunk driving charge. He was made chief notwithstanding a domestic altercation that at least briefly led to criminal charges and a Protection-From-Abuse Act order.  His most recent trick is a one-vehicle accident, after which he left the scene without checking on the welfare of the homeowner. He returned the next day in an unmarked police vehicle to collect his belongings. It's safe to say he's out of control, but people are beginning to wake up. This might explain why the police department's Facebook page, which should be informing the public, has suddenly disappeared. Unfortunately, the integrity of his entire department is now in question. My proof? Washington Tp Police Officer Mark Gwozdz.

In October of last year, Gwozdz was charged with terroristic threats after an altercation with his third wife. He is alleged to have threatened "to kill you before I give you anything"  He also allegedly said that he wished he had put a bullet in the head of one of his previous wives. Gwozdz has denied making these threats, but Magisterial District Judge Richard Yetter concluded after a preliminary hearing that there was sufficient evidence to hold the case for court.  Gwozdz, who is free on $15,000 unsecured bail, is scheduled for arraignment on February 6 and trial on April 6.

Chief Miller reacted to this situation by placing Gwozdz on administrative leave. Paid administrative leave.

So what did Gwozdz do? He went to Hawaii on the public dime with future wife #4, who happens to be a cop herself.

According to his LinkedIn page, Gwozdz has been with Washington Tp since 2003. He's bounced around in the Slate Belt as a cop or Chief in Roseto, Portland, East Bangor, Bangor and Wind Gap.

Hearing on ExpressVote XL Challenge Delayed Until Feb 18

US District Court Judge Paul S Diamond has delayed a hearing on Jill Stein's challenge to the ExpressVote XL voting system. Originally scheduled for January 21, the hearing will now take place on February 18 at 10 AM.

Stein is asking the court to ban the continued use of the ExpressVote XL voting system, which will be used by seven Pa. counties, including Northampton, in this year's fast-approaching April 28 primary. According to machine manufacturer ES&S (Electronic Systems and Software), this would throw this year's election into "complete chaos." Judge Diamond has concluded that the state has already made an adequate showing of prejudice, and wants Stein to address her failure to complain about the ExpressVote XL for nearly a year after it was first certified.

In addition, Judge Diamond has barred testimony from voters who wish to complain about their experience with the XL. "[W]hether the ExpressVote XL creates a 'voter-verifiable record' is best determined by examining the machine itself. An individual’s personal experience using the machine is not likely to be probative ... ."

In addition to Stein's lawsuit, an action seeking injunctive relief against the continued use of the XL voting system has been filed in Commonwealth Court. In that matter, the Court has sua sponte (on its own) raised the question whether the counties using this system should be joined as indispensable parties. Oral argument on that question is scheduled for January 23.

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK and Thich Nhat Hanh

MLK with Thich Nhat Hanh

"The moment I met Martin Luther King, Jr., I knew I was in the presence of a holy person." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ (1995). (Hanh is a Buddhist monk who has been allowed to return to the Vietnamese temple where he was first ordained at age 16. His letter to MLK persuaded the civil rights activist to oppose the war in Vietnam.)

Washington Police Chief Who Hit Home Failed To Notify Owner

Drosnock's carefully landscaped home.
Thursday's story about Washington Tp Police Chief Scott Miller's January 5 one-vehicle accident stirred quite a bit of interest, both here and at a Facebook page called Slate Belt Watch. He left the scene with all kinds of debris strewn about, including items that clearly identified him. He left without making any attempt to advise the owner of the property of the damage he had done.

That owner, Mike Drosnock, was in his Kesslersville Road home, sound asleep, at the time of Miller's visit. He tells me he's a sound sleeper. He awoke on January 6, day of the Epiphany, to see that a pilgrimage had arrived at his residence, not from the Three Magi, but Washington Tp police chief Scott Miller and a towing service.

"It looked like a tank came through my landscaping!" he told me. Whatever had hit him scraped the side of his house, taking out a window and bending a very important pipe leading to his pellet stove, which had been running. It completely destroyed the landscaping he had carefully planted, shearing off three trees. It tore apart stones embedded into his landscaping. It ripped a pump away from its cistern. Flying debris even damaged some of the shingles on his roof.

In my Thursday story, I said Miller had rolled his truck. Drosnock believes the truck never actually tipped over.

Some of the damage done
From a light coating of snow that had fallen, Drosnock could see that whatever had hit his home  had come nearly 75 yards from Kesslersville Road. He could see footprints from the driver, which appeared to go in circles. But there were no footprints leading to his porch. No one had tried to contact him or even leave a note. Under state law, a driver who damages another person's property has an obligation to notify this victim as soon as possible with the driver's name, address, information relating to financial responsibility and the registration number of the vehicle being driven.

Why does this matter? Drosnock can tell you why. One of the items that Chief Miller hit was a pipe from Drosnock's pellet stove. It bent the pipe and actually moved the stove, which was in operation. Hot ashes. Had the stove gone over, Drosnock would be dead today. A repairman who later visited the scene told Drosnock that, had the pipe been bent in a different way, it would have fed noxious fumes into the home, killing him.

Scott Miller
Drosnock should have been notified immediately.

Drosnock called 911.

Two Slate Belt Regional Police (SBRP) officers came to his home. They could see what had happened.

"We don't have any report about this," they told him.

By this point, Drosnock had his suspicions. He was looking at the debris littered all over his lawn. They included a lot of construction tools, golfing equipment and certain items that could only belong to a police officer. (I have been asked not to identify the objects found. ) In addition, Drosnock found one or more receipts issues to a Scott E Miller.

When Drosnock called the SBRP later, their tune had changed.

"We got it all figured out," they assured him.

"Everything's been taken care of."

At this point, Drosnock disclosed his suspicion that a police officer had hit his home.

"We'll call back."

Drosnock decided to visit SBRP in person. He knew by this time exactly who Scott Miller was, and wanted to know what police were doing about it.

"Did you give him a field sobriety test?" Drosnock asked.

"No, the officer at the scene determined it wasn't necessary," he was told.

This is contrary to my information, gathered from two police officers who have been talking to other police officers. According to them, SGT Andrew Daly and another officer met with Miller. There is bodycam footage creating grounds to believe Miller had been drinking. One officer tells another that he detected the odor of alcohol on Miller's breath. I was informed that Miller was requested to submit to a blood test. If that is true, and the BAC (blood alcohol content) is below the legal limit, then Chief Miller has no reason to worry. On the other hand, if this was omitted, then there definitely is a coverup.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Right before he left SBRP, Drosnock received a call or text from a neighbor who noticed someone on his property, picking up items from the accident. Drosnock returned to find Chief Miller, collecting his stuff. He never bothered to ask for permission to go onto Drosnock's property, but was apologetic.

Miller had come in a black and unmarked police vehicle

I have called Miller about this matter, but he has declined to speak to me. Where was he coming from? Had he been drinking?

I do know that Miller was charged on 4/14/10 in Ocean City MD with driving under the influence. At that time, he as a police officer in Washington Tp, Wilson Borough and for the Bangor Area School District.

In Maryland, when someone is charged with DUI, the arresting officer hands him an Order of Suspension, which becomes effective on the 45th day after arrest. I do not know whether these Orders are handed to out-of-state drivers. If so, Miller's license would have been suspended in early June of that year.

On June 28, 2010, Miller pleaded guilty, but the judge placed him on a program called "probation before judgment."  After successfully completing probation, the charges are dismissed but they stay on your record forever. It appears Miller successfully completed this program because the charges were dismissed. There was no suspension.

The following year, in 2011, Miller was charged with assault, terroristic threats and harassment following a domestic dispute with his then wife. According to a criminal complaint, he had grabbed his wife by the hair several times, choked her, pushed her to the ground, into kitchen cabinets and across a table. She filed for protection from abuse, and Miller was ordered to give up his firearms.

The charges were ultimately withdrawn.

Friday, January 17, 2020

A Second Road Trip to Wilkes-Barre

Some of you visit the Virgin Islands or Florida at this time of year. This past weekend, I visited Wilkes-Barre for a DeSales basketball game against King's College. I wrote a shitty story (quite literally) about the trip here. Guess what? I visited Wilkes-Barre again on Wednesday night because the Bulldogs were up against the Wilkes University Colonels. Both the men and women's team won exciting games, but this is again a story about my road trip.

This time, I was supposed to pick up a friend in Scranton and bring him. Unfortunately, he must have read the story about my first road trip because he called that morning and canceled. He said he had leprosy. He must have figured I would use him as a fall guy in case my last trip created any problems.

On my weekend trip, I avoided the tolls and took Rte 115. This time, I took the turnpike and found it took longer. When I arrived in Wilkes-Barre, I turned in at Wilkes U and began asking kids where the gym is located so I could find a parking spot.

"The gym's right there," said a student, pointing to a building across the street. Adjacent was a parking lot. I would not have to walk forever. But it charged $15. I asked the attendant whether he was serious, and he told me that rate only applied if I stayed past 11 pm. I was able to park for $2.50, and walked across the street to the gym.

It was the wrong gym. 

I was at the local Y, not Wilkes U. That gym was about a mile away. Once again, I had a long walk. But I am a highly conditioned, well trained athlete, and I hoofed it. When I finally arrived at Wilkes U's gym, which is called Mars Hall for some reason, I noticed numerous empty parking spots. I could have parked right by the gym!

Once I got inside, the first half of the men's game was nearly over. They had started early, without waiting for me.

When the buzzer sounded, I began talking to the Wilkes U fans.

"Can you name any notable alumni?" I asked one.

- "Not really."

"Haven't you heard of Lamont McClure?"

- "That dude from Sanford and Son? I had no idea.!"

I also spoke to one of the natives.

"Is it pronounced Wilkes-Beara or Wilkes-Berry? I've heard both"

 - "It's Wilkes-Berry, named after two members of the English Parliament."

"That's not really a very catchy name. Nothing like Bethlehem. You ought to change it to attract more tourists and business. How about Dingle-Berry?"

After the men's game was over, the coaches were in a pretty good mood because they had won, so I decided to offer my services.

"Coach, I have 16 years of eligibility and am ready to play."

- "We'll keep you in mind," I was told. So I got that going for me.

I left before the women got underway and began walking to my car. After about 20 minutes, I ended up at Mars Hall. I was lost. I was only able to find my car by plugging the local Y into my GPS.

I also used the GPS for the quickest route home, and ended up for about 20 miles on some dark, windy and narrow road, with my ears popping as I went up and down the mountains.

Next week, the team is playing away in Hoboken.

NorCo Looking For Cranky Old Men

Northampton County is looking for some outstanding seniors to honor before they keel over. They must be sixty years or older, a resident of Northampton County, and have a passion for helping others through personal action, inspiration, public service, sports, educational instruction or humanitarian efforts.

Nominations may be made in an essay of 250 words or less with a description of why the nominee deserves to be recognized and listing their volunteer activities. Forms for nominations can be obtained from Melissa Titus at 610-829-4509 mtitus@northamptoncounty.org For each nominee, please return one entry form along with the essay to:

Melissa Titus
Area Agency on Aging
2801 Emrick Blvd.
Bethlehem, PA 18020

Nominations must be postmarked by March 18, 2020. The selected individuals will be honored on Thursday, April 30, 2020 at Wesley Church 2540 Center Street, Bethlehem.

I'd nominate myself because I'm pretty great, but I'm only 39.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Washington Tp Police Chief Rolls Truck ... and Leaves Scene

As a Washington Township police officer, Scott E. Miller once filed criminal charges against a gentleman who committed the dastardly offense of flying the American flag upside down, in its traditional distress mode, as a protest against then President George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi "and all the other democratic politicians." This American citizen refused to remove the flag or fly it properly, so then Officer Miller charged the guy with "insulting the American flag," and as a second degree misdemeanor. This prompted prominent criminal defense lawyer Gary Asteak to ask, "How the hell do you insult the American flag? What do you do, walk up to it and start cursing?"

This case went nowhere. Then DA John Morganelli, who is something of a free speech purist, tossed it. Perhaps Miller should have been tossed, too. Not for insulting the American flag, but his own badge. In 2011, he was charged with simple assault, terroristic threats and harassment following a domestic dispute with his then wife. She also filed for a protection-from-abuse act order. Those charges mysteriously went away, and Miller and his then wife divorced.

Officer Miller remarried and was amazingly promoted to Chief, but it appears he has issues.

Which brings us to the early morning hours of January 5. Miller, driving a white truck, rolled it somewhere along Kesslerville Road, near someone's home. Miller left the scene before the Slate Belt Regional Police Department arrived. I don't know whether he or someone else reported the one-car accident. Miller reportedly left plenty of evidence, including parts of his uniform and his badge. There is video of the incident and the truck was towed.

I called Chief Miller for comment, but he's not talking. Chief David Mettin of Slate Belt Regional told me the investigation into the accident itself has concluded, but has declined to say whether charges will be filed.

I hope this matter does not mysteriously disappear, too.

Updated 9:30 am: - I am informed Miller did not call the police but instead called his girlfriend and Lane Towing. The tow truck driver called police. I also am informed that Slate Belt police did seek a blood test for alcohol.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wild to Host Town Hall

Lehigh Valley Congressperson Susan Wild, who is seeking a second term this year, will host a town hall somewhere in Easton on Thursday, January 23, between 7 and 8 pm. For what I presume are security reasons, the exact location is a secret until January 20. Her town hall conflicts with a County Council meeting so it's unlikely it will occur at the courthouse.

In her first term in Congress, Wild has sponsored 18 bills and resolutions. None have passed the House. 

Unfortunately, Wild's life partner committed suicide recently. She courageously addressed this issue on the floor of the House, and is working to expand mental health treatment options.