When they first asked Northampton County Council to approve their planned $43 million courthouse expansion in 2001, court officials repeatedly assured the project would not go over budget. On no less than three occasions, Court Administrator James Onembo promised a skeptical council there would be no cost overruns. And President Judge Freedberg, in transcribed testimony, essentially guaranteed he would not be back for more: "Give us $43 million, and we'll come in at that or under."
Well, they're baaaaack! The courthouse expansion project has just $84,000 left in the till, but is expected to cost at least $3 million more. And heavens, they haven't even started those wind-sensitive fountains! At yesterday's Finance Committee meeting, a cocky court administrator was pointing fingers everywhere except at himself or the judges.
When Committee Chair Ron Angle, joined by three other members of Council, reminded Onembo about his earlier promises, Onembo did a nice little jig. First, he tried to deny what he said on three separate occasions, although he's no St. Peter. Then Onembo tried being indignant. "Get with reality!" "To point a finger at anybody is unfair." Finally, he blamed Council, telling them that they could have checked progress anytime they wanted. Yeah, right!