As the night wore on, it become apparent that Mayor Callahan is something of a dandy. He sure paid a lot of attention to his very shiny shoes and tailored suit, and at times it looked as though he was searching for a mirror. When citizen after citizen complained about their sewer back-up problems on Homestead Avenue, he piously proclaimed, "I know what those people are going through. I jog by there every day." He had no reaction at all to a citizen who claimed the Mayor once told him he was "off the clock" when he wanted to talk about the sewer problems along Homestead Avenue. It also became clear that a very serious Council has been frustrated by Callahan's administration at nearly every turn.
At the end of the public meeting, Councilman Joe Leeson, who had been listening to the public comment, quietly asked Council Solicitor Spadoni to look into the allegations. Joe was concerned about that pesky First Amendment, which gives people the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Lesson also pointed out that it doesn't cost the City a dime to receive an email.
Well, as it develops, Bethlehem WAS blocking email. Calling it a "nonissue," Bethlehem's business administrator lifted the block on Friday. But where did the decision to block this email come from in the first place? Do you think the Mayor knew nothing, as he claimed in Council chambers? And how many email addresses have been blocked, and for what reason?
Bethlehem's economic development director, Tony Hanna, later whined to the Morning Call that both he and the Mayor had been unfairly attacked in some emails. So did the decision to block emails originate with him? Does he have that authority? These questions all deserve answers. On Monday, I sent an email to Bethlehem's city council clerk and to Tony Hanna, and just asked them to acknowledge receipt. I heard back from the city council clerk within a few minutes, but I'm still waiting to hear from Tony. I'll send this blog post and ask him to explain how this administrative decision was reached without the Mayor's knowledge.
Bethlehem's business manager says we should all be happy and "move on to what's really important - city business." Personally, I think the First amendment is city business. It's even more important than a casino. But that's me.
Tuesday Morning Update:
I've heard from the City's Economic Development Director, Tony Hanna, and here's what Tony says:
"While very critical of me and the Mayor, the e-mail was invective laden, and at times profanity laden, and for some just irritating. About 6 or 7, it could have been more employees went to the City's IT Director and asked for the block. It was not a recommendation or an official action on anyone's part - except for IT's response. I was aware of the block, as was Dennis Reichard, Human Resources, and the City Solicitor's office and the employees of course. The Mayor may not have been aware of it. At this point, it's over and I am fine with the removal. Apparently, according to the Council Solicitor, Mr. Grubb is satisfied too. We can talk later if you wish."
I don't know about you, but I find it incredible that a techie would take it upon himself to decide who is and is not authorized email access. And if Bethlehem's Business Administrator had to issue an order directing the email block be lifted, doesn't it necessarily follow that an order had to be imposed to install the block in the first place? And if both Tony and the business Administrator were aware of this block, which was supposed to contain personal attacks against the mayor, isn't it likely the mayor knew? I thank Tony Hanna for his response.