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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Norco Dem Chair Joe Long Promotes Government in the Dark

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingJoe Long, who chairs Northampton County's Democratic Party, is rated among the worst by PoliticsPa. "Joe Long has become a curse!" I agree. His basic problem? He's one of those who prefers smoke-filled back rooms to an open and accessible government. You can see this in his actions as Norco Dem Chair and as chair of the Bethlehem Housing Authority. He prefers Democrats to democrats.

His own reelection as local party chair is questionable. He was elected by committeemen chosen in the last primary. But his election occurred five days before certificates of election were actually mailed to the elected committeemen. And some elected committeemen were thus denied the opportunity to cast a vote for someone else. He was not democratically elected.

Long was part of the back-room deal that resulted in the appointment of Democrats Lamont McClure and Tony Branco to Northampton County Council, a violation of the state's Sunshine Act.

When I challenged Wally G, aka Walter Garvin, on a WGPA talk radio show over his dual involvement as Democratic area chair and local elections commission chair, it was Joe Long who immediately called the show to proclaim it's perfectly OK for a partisan party officer to head an elections commission. Garvin has since resigned his party positions.

And now, thanks to The Morning Call, we know that the Bethlehem Housing Authority is planning a private meeting tomorrow with Congressman Charlie Dent, a "clear violation" of the Sunshine Act in the view of both a media lawyer and the Authority's own solicitor. An email that BHA Commissioner Larry Kisslinger has sent to a large audience reveals Long as a chronic Sunshine Act offender.

In Kisslinger's own words,

"Chairman Long insisted that 'all' BHA commissioners shall be at the meeting with Congressman Dent, thereby, violating the Sunshine Law, in my opinion. Chairman Long in concert with BHA Executive Director Clara Kendy, has had many similar meetings in the past, repeatedly, ignoring my advice to the contrary....ie. audit reports, budget discussions, and the like. Regarding all said meetings, I have no idea if Chairman Long, and/or BHA Executive Director Clara Kendy ever sought the advice of our BHA Solicitor while doing so...but if he or she did so...and was approved by Solicitor....was wrong advice, in my strong opinion...as I always advised Chairman Long & others to no avail...he is Chairman and we all must listen, is all we are advised by Mr Long."

Kisslinger's email is a violation of a Long policy that bars other commission members from discussing their jobs without first getting his clearance. "Chairman Long ... declares that "any and all" communications from me and any other Commissioners "MUST FIRST CLEAR" any and all communications with him, and/or, our Executive Director, BEFORE any Commisssioner can ever communicate anything to anybody on the planet."
I'd like to know how many junkets Joe Long has taken as BHA chair at taxpayer expense. Long represents everything that is wrong, not with Democrats, but all politicians. He stands for government behind closed doors, and that's where democracy dies. According to the BHA website, commissioners serve at the will of the Mayor. If this is really so, it's time for Mayor Callahan to get rid of this troublemaker. Local Dems should dump him, too.

Update: Dent Refuses to Be Part of Sunshine Act Violation

Late this afternoon, Congressman Dent's office contacted yours truly to let us all know that Charlie Dent will gladly meet with executive director Clara Kendy, the only person he was scheduled to meet with in the first place. He won't be meeting Long or any other BHA commissioners. Dent has made the right call. He had every right to assume that a public board follows the law, and in any event, had no idea that the entire BHA was descending upon him. After reading that the entire BHA plans to appear, Dent has made clear he refuses to be a willing participant in a Sunshine Act violation.

I wonder if Joe Long can borrow some signs from the Dent Nine.

Free the Long Five!


LSTresidentPIA said...

Good work Bernie, pressure like this is what is needed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Merci mademoiselle, and congrats on your LTE published by the ET this morining. Good for you!

Anonymous said...

So Dent gets a free pass on meeting with the Commission's ED behind closed doors?

That's what gets me. I'm not sure where the obligation to do everything in public view ends in your view, Bernie... but in this case, it's entirely possible that Dent was trying to do an end-run around Democratic commissioners, including a Democratic commission chair. Would that be OK?

LVDem said...

When the BHA board meets it needs to do so in public view, especially when its chair requests everybody's presense. Public view isn't a huge burden unless you have something you don't want to say in public.

I'll give Dent credit for recognizing that this was a bad scenario. If he had gone along for the ride, I would be the first attack him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To Anon 8:27, Under the Sunshine Act, it is entirely permissible for the exec director to meet with Congressman Dent. She is not an "agency" as that term is defined by the Sunshine Act. But a quorum of the Bethlehem Housing Authority is such an "agency." When they meet, they must do so publicly and advertise the meeting. If they wanted to schedule a public meeting with Dent, there would be no problem.
I'll acknowledge that I'm insane and can understand you having difficulty accepting my word. But consider this. These are not just my views. They are shared by a media lawyer and BHA's owen solicitor.

The obligation to do everything in public never ends when a public agency is involved, except under those limited circumstances when an executive session is called to discuss labor, real estate, personnel or litigation.

Now you suggest Dent may have been trying to avoid meeting with BHA commissioners because they are Democrats? As LVDem told you, if Dent had gone ahead and met with these sneaks in the shadows, he'd be the first to slam Dent. And I wouldn't be too far behind.

And incidentally, I just came back from the debate betwen Dent and Deringer in the slate belt. Dent devoured Dertinger. It wasn't pretty. I don't think he's afraid of Democrats, and I certainly don't think he's afraid of Joe Long.

Free the Long losers!

No you can't blame Dent for the foolishness of our local Dem chair. He apparently has no undertanding of the Sunshine Act or more likely, just chooses to ignore it. According to the Kisslinger email, he routinely meets in private with the BHA or a quorum. That has to stop. And Long has to go. He's not interested in good government, and gives other local Dems a bad name.

Thanks for your comment.