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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

McClure's "Law and Order" Committee Meets Illegally

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When he ran for Northampton County Council, Lamont McClure set himself up as a "law and order" tough guy who would grab child molesters with one hand while jabbing terrorists with the other. He lost.

Now it's the voters turn to lose. Thanks to some back-room maneuvering, McClure managed to get himself appointed to a Council vacancy. And "law and order" McClure, whose campaign was heavily funded by the DA and his staff, is now Chairman of Council's Judicial and Legal Committee. He was appointed by Council Prez Grube, who also coughed up $500 to fund McClure's losing campaign.


The "law and order" committee met yesterday to consider more effective ways to collect outstanding fines and costs from people whose financial woes are usually what get them in trouble in the first place. Let's face it, most criminal defendants aren't exactly sitting in the lap of luxury.

Now I don't know whether McClure was getting collection tips from loansharks, bookies, or the bastards at my video store because I wasn't there. In fact, not a single member of the public attended.

This is because the meeting itself was illegal. Both the Sunshine Act and Northampton County's Home Rule Charter require that public notice of the time, date and place of a meeting be posted prominently at the government center. Now a notice was posted, but it never told us WHERE this meeting was to take place. As it happens, the meeting occurred in the bowels of Council chambers, well behind closed doors.

Now don't forget that we have a new $43 million government expansion, complete with wind-sensitive fountains and private bathrooms for each judge. You'd think that someone somewhere might consider the public's need for a more accessible meeting place than Council's private boudoir.

And Lamont McClure, a lawyer, should know better than to conduct a meeting when the posted notice doesn't even tell us where it will occur. Of all committees, one would expect a "Legal" committee chaired by a lawyer to at least try to follow the law.

Of course, I keep forgetting that the decision to appoint McClure was itself as violation of the Sunshine Act. And since he was rejected by the voters, he's not there to represent the people's interests by doing silly things like following the law. Instead, he's trying to please his buddy and financial supporter, the DA, by looking like he's tough on crime. And I guess it doesn't matter whether he violates our Sunshine Act. After all, who's going to prosecute this dude? The DA? Try again. The state Attorney General? He's probably not too interested in pursuing a matter that would only result in a $25 fine.

We need a tougher Sunshine Act. Even more importantly, we need government officials who understand the importance of conducting the people's business in public.

14 comments:

LaMont McClure said...

Bernie,

I realize your license to practice law has been indefinitely suspended for mishandling your clients' cases. I also understand that you blame your suspension of your license to practice law on your continuing recovery for alchoholism. Fair enough. But as a former lawyer who has lost the right to practice, even in light of New York Times v. Sullivan, you should be very careful before your accuse someone of violating the law.

First, as a committee meeting is not a quorum of County Council, it is not necessary that it be held in public.

Second, the meeting was adverstised in our papers of general circulation in the Lehigh Valley.

Third, there were two meetings scheduled at the same time for the same room.

Fourth, our Council Clerk, caused Notices of the meeting to be prominently placed on two doors. These doors lead into County Council chambers itself and County Council offices.

Fifth, Ms. Precious Petty of the Easton Express Times was present at the meeting and indeed reported it in the June 6, 2006, addition of the paper. Additionally, the Morning Call was also aware of the meeting well in advance of it occuring. Indeed, the Morning Call was made aware of the change as soon as I was aware of it.

Sixth, I was not made aware of the change until I arrived a few short minutes before the meeting.

In sum, you are a very frivilous person. You've filed a frivilous Sunshine Act case in which you improperly named me as a defendant. I could not have violated the Act as I was not yet a member of County Council. Your frivolity is futher demonstrated by your reckless accusations regarding the Legal and Judicial Committee meeting - clearly made with malice.

I assure you that I am not a frivolous person and that I take reckless and malicious allegations like this one very seriously.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm a little ticked off right now. I was at the dance studio, trying out a few new moves, when my cell went off and told me McClure had responded to my blog. He tells everyone I'm a frivolous drunken ex-lawyer who's lucky he's not being sued for defamation. And he denies the Sunshine Act violation.

Well, I have to admit it. He got me. I am a drunken ex-lawyer, a lush who got a 2 year suspension in 1985. Can't handle the stuff.

Now I haven't had a drop since '85, but I don't write this sort of thing without expecting that kind of attack. When I sued the county over its $111 million megabond, I heard and read, time and time again, that I'm a frivolous drunken ex-lawyer. When that suit initially succeeded, I heard the same thing again. When I sued Council nost recently over its backroom deal to appoint McClure and Branco, I heard it again.

Now I'm not really complaining. I suppose it's fair. But what really ticks me off is the papers never print a word about my quest to become a Chippendale. And nothing about my adult film career, either. How about that?

Well, McClure brings up 20 year old history for one and only one reason - he's wrong and he knows it. And since he can't be persuasive on the facts, he makes a personal attack and threatens litigation. Lamont, if you look in a mirror, you'll see who you really damaged.

Now let's look at the facts:

1. Lamont tells us the Sunshine Act has no application to Council committees. Whew! Lamont, you better read that Act, buddy. A "committee" falls within the "agency" definition. Why do you think your Clerk advertisez these meetings and posts notices all over the place?

2. The meeting was advertised. Lamont, that doesn't excuse a Sunshine Act violation. It doesn't matter that a meeting is advertised if it's not properly posted. The Sunshine Act is not an either/or Act.

3. Two meetings at the same time excuses a Sunshine Act violation. Now if that were so, nearly every meeting would be double-booked.

4. Notices were prominently dispalyed. That's great, Lamont. Those notices actually told us when the meeting would occur, but you never told us WHERE. That's what the law requires.

5. The press was there. That's nice. But the Sunshine Act does not excuse a violation if the press happens to make it to a meeting. As important as the press may be, the Sunshine Act is intended primarily to benefit the public.

6. You weren't aware ogf the problem until a few minutes before the meeting. Well Lamont, then you should have postponed the meeting.

One final point, and this concerns the insinuation of defamation. In addition to reading the Sunshine Act, you should read something else - it's called the First Amendment. It gives frivolous drunken ex-lawyers like me the right to speak and petition my government for redress of grievances. I don't even have to be on Council.

And just so there's no ambiguity, you broke the law. What's worse, your comment evinces you don't even understand the Act.

This should not surprise me because you were illegally appointed to Council as part of a back room deal. And evenm if you played no part in this illegal deal, you are a necessary and indispensable party to the litigation.

Your attitude and statement validate remarks made by Teri Henning, attorney to the Pa. Newspaper Ass'n: "The real problem with the Act -- and this probably won't surprise anyone -- is that public officials ignore it. The penalties under the Act are insignificant and very rarely imposed. Worse, the Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly permitted public agencies to ignore the Act's requirements by holding that agencies can 'cure' Sunshine Act violations. This means that they can discuss and decide matters in private, in violation of the Act, and as long as they 'redo' their vote in public, their decision can stand. But this misses the whole point of the Sunshine Act."

Now if you'll excuse me, I have an audition.

LaMont McClure said...

Bernie,

The First Amendment does not protect citizens who lie with malice. You have demonstrated malice toward me. In the printed word on this webstie, you lied about me. You claim I committed an illegal act when you know full well, being a self-proclaimed expert on the Sunshine Act, that a violation can not occur unless there is a quorum of the body present. The Committee only has four members. The Council has nine members. You'd need five for a quorum. There were only three members present at the meeting. No quorum. No violation. And, you know there was no violation and you were aware of that before you wrote your original libelous post.

Additionally, no votes were taken, no deliberations occured, the meeting was purely investigative and informational. This is just another example of how there was no violation of the Sunshine Act. You recklessly called the meeting and my actions illegal before even investigating what had transpired.

Finally, the meeting was open to the public and anyone who wished to attend as is demonstrated by attendance by the Easton Express, the advertisement in newspapers of general circulation and the posting of the meeting particulars on both of the County Council doors.

I am calling on you to immediately retract your libelous posts and apologize.

Bernie O'Hare 4 said...

I'm guessing Lamont feels a lot better about himself now. Any real politician, as well as those that are appointed under somewhat "special" circumstances, are required to contest the 1st amendment at least once a month. Bernie (Dad), you should be ashamed of yourself for excercising your rights, what's wrong with you??

Is your blog beginning to threaten people?? Or are some lawyers turned politicians (is there a difference) just easily threatened? Sounds like a matter conscience searching to me. Maybe some people truly are hiding things. But not any of Northampton county's politicians.

Anonymous said...

Bernie - you are just upset that no one wanted you on coucil !!!!! just grow up and get over it - as for being a Chippendale dancer - I understand you had a dry run in a public restroom !

The chippendales said...

Bernie, I think you would look cute in spandex while your lambasting a guy with a name like laaaaamont

Bernie O'Hare said...

A note for Lamont McClure:

In my last comment, I asked you to read the Sunshine Act. Let me explain why. The Sunshine Act applies to any public "agency." And "agency" is defined to include not just County Council, but all of its committees. You will find this in Section 703 Section 703. I am amazed that the Chairman of a Council committee would actually argue that the Sunshine Act has no application to his meetings, especially a Chairman who is supposed to be a lawyer. So what I wrote was both factually and legally correct. You broke both the spirit and letter of the law.
In fact, with your personal attacks, you violated your own "Code of Civility," which you drafted to muzzle people who get in your way.

And from what I read in news accounts of this meeing, at which no member of the public was present, you were also deliberating.

In your latest comment, you ask me to withdraw my remarks and apologize. Dream on, buddy. What I said is the truth and you don't like it. Too bad. You go from personal attack to threatening a libel suit to get your way. The voters were right about you.

Government officials who use intimidation tactics, whether it's the loss of a job or a threatened libel suit, are very damaging to our First Amendment freedoms. When you threaten me, you chill not just my First Amendment rights, but those of other citizens who might now be reluctant to make a complaint.

I suggest that you resign your office. You have demonstrated you have no understanding of the Sunshine Act and that you're a thin-skinned fellow who can't stand up to criticism on the issues without resorting to personal attacks. Not very lawyerly. And we already know, from your campaign finance reports, that your losing campaign was funded heavily by both the DA's office and big city lawyers. You're a walking conflict of interest with no regard for the public's right to participate in open government.

You don't stand for good government. You instead are a continuation of the "pay to play" practices and secrecy that existed under Reibman, who also was roundly rejected by the voters.

But thanks for your comments. They really generated a lot of interest in my blog.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To Anonymous: To tell the truth, even I would never vote for me.

And your reference to a "dry run" as a Chippendale in a public restroom is factually challenged. Those were all very wet runs. Yes, folks, I change in a public restroom after riding my bike to work. Several of my co-workers were carted away on stretchers one day when I forgot.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To the Chippendales: Thank God you finally wrote. My spandex ripped when I bent over for a quarter.

Anonymous said...

A lot of quibbling and much ado about nothing. Bernie, you act like Lamont deserves the death penalty because of your very narrow interpretation of the Sunshine Act. If you want to criticize him for his votes on council or his failure to deliver what his constituents want, then go at it. But to make such a federal case out of one meeting that was not even the council meeting where he was appointed is a real stretch. All of your accusations fail to cast any doubt on Lamont's qualifications for office or his ability to serve. So, if I can be frank, what is the purpose?

Anonymous said...

I see, McClure sure loves opening someone else old box.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To Anonymous: Democracy dies behind closed doors. McClure's comments reveal a flawed understanding of the Act. I take the Sunshine Act very seriously, especially since his appointment was also a violation of the Act. And by the way, the legislature takes it seriously, too. Wehen it first adopted the open meetings law, it used this sweeping language: "The General Assembly finds that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decisionmaking of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process and that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society."

Now when a violation occurs, are we to remain mute just because it is not blatant? If we do, blatant violations become possible. And by challenging a transgression immediately, we preserve the public's right to insist on open government.

This is more fundamental than McClure's vote on any issue. This is a question of good government, which transcends party lines.

By the way, just who are McClure's constituents - the voters who soundly rejected him or the big city lawyers and DA's office, who heavily supported him?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Bernie O'Hare and the rest of the voting public:

What the newspaper reported regarding Mr. Lamont McClure's slanderous remarks about Mr. Bernie O'Hare should have violated Northampton County Council's recently enacted policy involving basic decency towards others. Council McClure's remarks were degrading and were way beyond any scope of civil discourse.

If this was any other council person or public figure, we would have been reading about this for days. This would have been a daily feature on either the front page of the newspaper or the front page of the local section.

Councilman McClure should be censured, fined, and made to publically apologize to his constituents, Mr. O'Hare, all of the members and peers on or of County Council, and all of the readers of the newspaper.

This sort of barbaric and uncivilized remarks cannot go on unnoticed and unreprimanded. These members have a higher standard to represent. They are the role models for the younger generation. If this goes by without any sort of action, what type of message is council and we the public sending? And what type of behavior will we be seeing escalate next?

Sincerely,
From a caring, voting, former county employee, and former barber that is a member of the decent public.

Bernie O'Hare said...

While I'm not really interested in an apology, I am interested in a County Council that pledges to follow both the letter and spirit of the Sunshine Act.

McClure was not elected, but was instead appointed, to his post. For that reason alone, he should not be chairing ANY committees. But when he does, he should bend over backwards to ensure that the publics right to participate in its own government is protected.

Thanks for your kind post. They remind me of what things used to like at the courthouse, when people genuinely cared for each other and the public they serve.