Friday, May 11, 2007

Norco's Three Mini-Judge Races: Follow the Money

After spending most of the last two days discussing the mudslinging in Easton's mini-judge contest, you might think that's the only race. Actually, Northampton County will be electing three new mini-judges this Fall in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Easton. In this post, I'll lay out the finances for each candidate so you can follow the money.

What is a mini-judge? I've talked about this before, but it's worth repeating. "District Justices have jurisdiction over minor criminal offenses, traffic offenses, landlord/tenant matters and other civil actions where the amount claimed does not exceed $8000.00. In misdemeanor and felony cases, District Justices have jurisdiction to issue arrest and search warrants, hold preliminary arraignments and preliminary hearings and set bail. They also have authority to perform marriages, handle protection from abuse matters and issue subpoenas. They also may impose summary punishments for criminal contempt." I have the record for most overtime parking tickets in Nazareth, so I know the office very well. Although the annual salary for this position is $74,566, most magistrates consider themselves part-time workers.

Easton. This seat consists of Williams Township, Glendon Borough and Easton's south side. Brian Monahan, a lawyer; Cindy Greene, a designer; and Dan Corpora, Easton councilman, are the contestants.

Monahan. - Between March 1 and April 30, Brian raised $14,500 and spent about $5,700. There are no small under $50 contributions, and his list of contributors is a who's who of local lawyers. I counted twenty-seven, from all over the area. These lawyers could be trying to buy influence. I believe it's a mistake for judicial candidates to accept money from attorneys who may appear before them. Others will argue this just indicates Monahan has the respect of his fellow attorneys. I report. You decide.

Corpora. - Between January 1 and April 30, Corpora raised only $550. With what he already had in his treasury, his warchest was barely $1,600. Most of his money comes from small contributions of $50 0r less. Corpora has not been certified for the position of district judge.

Greene. - On Monday, when I checked finance reports, Greens's reports had not yet been filed. She told me yesterday that has since filed her report late and that she had raised about $1,900, most of which is self-funded. Like Corpora, she is uncertified. Of the three candidates, she is the only one unable to follow finance campaign laws, but she is also a relative newcomer.

Bethlehem. Like Easton, this race over the Marvine-Pembroke area of Bethlehem is a three-way dogfight. Patricia Romig-Passaro, daughter of retired District Judge Liz Romig, faces social services worker Juan Cruz and Attorney Gil Negrete.

Romig-Passaro. - Between January 29 and April 27, Romig-Passaro raised $8,055, and spent $7,482. Nearly $5,500 of her money comes from small contributions of $50 or less. Three Bethlehem lawyers have contributed to her campaign. Romig is certified for the district judge position.

Juan "Johnny" Cruz. - Between January 28 and April 30, Cruz raised $3,030 and spent $2,503.72. Over one-third of his money comes from small contributions of $50 or less. He did inadvertently accept a corporate contribution, a violation of campaign finance laws. This money has been returned. I'm unaware whether Cruz is certified, and will update this post if anyone can tell me.

Gil Negrete. - Gil raised $3,500 and kicked in another $7,500 out of his own pocket. Like Monahan, he relies heavily on contributions from lawyers who are likely to appear before him. You can decide for yourself whether these attorneys are trying to buy influence or are trying to improve the judicial system.

Nazareth. Five mini-judge wannabes are eyeing Nazareth's magisterial district, which includes Nazareth, Bath and Stockertown boroughs, as well as Upper Nazareth and East Allen Townships. The contestants? Bangor lawyer Yvonne Falcone, Colonial Region police detective Gary Hammer, Norco prison boss Todd Buskirk, Upper Nazareth top cop Alan Siegfried and deputy sheriff John Capobianco.

Falcone. - Between January 1 and April 30, Falcone raised just $1,200 but spent $8,665.39. She's in the hole. Surprisingly, there were only a few contributions from attorneys. Falcone had previously told me she did not want to accept money from attorneys who appear before her regularly, and she appears to have kept her word. She did purchase an address list of the local bar, but appears to be content without accepting lawyers' money.

Hammer. - In a simple and honest report, Gary tells us he raised no money and spent $1,085 out of his own pocket for signs and handouts. Unfortunately, Hammer is the only candidate uncertified for the position of district judge in the Nazareth race.

Buskirk. - Between February 13 and April 30, Todd raised $6,690 and spent $4,568. Nazareth landlord Ray Orwig and his family have kicked in $480, but Buskirk previously told me Orwig's landlord cases won't be heard in his court. Twelve local attorneys contributed to his campaign, but they appear to be mostly attorneys who worked with Buskirk at the county.

Capobianco. - Between January 24 and April 30, Cap raised $10,631.05, and spent $9,484. Half of this money comes from his own pocket. His sister also gave him $1,000. He also raised $1,125 in small contributions of $50 or less.

Siegfried. - Chief Siegfried told me his integrity is very important to him. I now believe him. The $5,472 reported in his campaign treasury came right out of his own pocket.
Update:Juan "Johnny" Cruz, a Bethlehem magisterial candidate, has been certified once. He needs to be recertified.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

It's refreshing to see three of the candidates in the Nazareth/Bath race are apparently mostly self-funded.

I also did a bit of digging on the finance reports. Did you happen to see the PAC donation to Todd Buskirk from Joe Brennan (Todd previously gave money to his campaign)? So both Todd and Cap have connections to elected political figures. Referencing an earlier post elsewhere, where's the judicial independence there?

Also, Todd has listed a contribution from a union? Another big no-no!

I for one don't care when a judicial candidate uses a word like "integrity" - it's like someone telling me they're honest. So when any of them use it, it means nothing to me. Watching politics has left me with a bad taste - but I'm a cynic.

I look at experience and I look at records. I checked into Falcone's ethics record - CLEAN. I verified her law degree and license. I verified Summa Cum Laude from Moravian College (in Psychology no less - so she probably knows how to read people well - an important trait for a judge). I verified that she was a former law clerk. She checks out well.

The other candidates have all had good years of service as enforcers of our law and justice system, but I feel a judge should know the law. I met Falcone only briefly, but what I heard was someone who has that common sense and down-to-earth attitude you always mention.

In the end, I believe we have some good candidates in the area - something you don't always find. I waited until finance reports were filed and the voter guide was available to make my decision.

In my book, only one candidate stands head and shoulders above the rest at best serving our district - YVONNE FALCONE.

Anonymous said...

I too read the finance reports. Didn't Alan Siegfried pay himself back from campaign funds? Also, Falcone's only debt is to herself,correct? Am I reading that right? She gave her campaign the money as a loan and is self-funded. Again, more citizens should go and read the reports. They are open to the public and voter registration will give them to you. I only read the Nazareth ones as that's where I live but citizens of each district should get involved and read.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:53,

I don't believe Siegfried paid himself back from campaign funds.

Anonymous said...

It's concerning when you see prospective judges taking so many contributions from local lawyers...

How fair will those individuals ever be?

Good research Bernie

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:03,

You're a concerned citizen who just did a bit of your own digging? Really??

You verified Falcone's ethics record? That's strange, because the Disciplinary Board won't release that kind of info.

You also verified the Moravian record, too, and the suuma cum lousy?

Who the hell do you think you're kidding? You're obviously in Falcone's camp, and might even be the candidate herself.

Usually the only people who check finance reports, other than reporters, are the candidates themselves. And the voter registration office requires ordinary citizens like me to register at the office when we decide to look for this stuff. How much do you want to bet I'll learn the only ordinary citizen from Nazareth area who's registered there is me?

I'll be making yet another trip to the voter office to see what citizens from Nazareth stopped by the voter registration office to look at expense reports When I see there are none, won't it be safe to conclude you are Falcone herself or her husband? I expect to see these disparaging remarks about other candidates condemned by the candidate.

I don't really mind you puffing Falcone, but the way you disparage the other candidates, all of them good men, is distasteful. It is unjudicial, too. Hammer, Siegfried, Buskirk and Cap are all good candidates. I've said before I intend to support Cap, but I really have been impressed by them all. I'd be happy with any of them.

If this backbaiting is coming from Falcone, I'd have to say all of them are fine but her. I expect to see Yvonne disavow these distasteful and phony remarks from a suppsed concerned citizen.

Yes, I saw the PAC contributions to Buskirk from Joe Brennan's campaign and a union PAC. They are small amounts, not really worth mentioning except to slam him. Why is this a big no no?? $200 out of $6,690, or under three per cent of his warchest, comes in the form of a completely legal donation from a union PAC. That buys influence? get real. You're just looking for dirt. Shame on you. Are judicial candidates supposed to be anti-union?

And Cap's brother in law is Craig Dally. I don't undertand why you hold that against him? Should he shoot him? Would that make it better?

And when we get to Falcone's great legal excperience and how well she knows the law, did you verify how many cases she filed in 2007? 2006? 2005? Unlike her ethics record, that is a matter of public record, and I've checked into it. I'd stop disparaging the poor legal background of the other candidates. There's really not much difference.

It's unfortunate that one candidate, or someone in her camp, would use this fairly neutral report about campaign finance as a platform to lash out at the other candidates with garbage.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:39,

These lawyers could be buying influence or may just be interested in a better judicial system. My own view is it's wrong.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
I said it before "ain't anon's great"? They can try to influence others without using their good name. Why not stick up for your thoughts by using your name? I don't consider anon comments, same as unsigned literature...goes in garbage. FYI, Rep. Brennan was a NC Councilman where he got to know and like Todd Buskirk, and vice-versa is why they contributed to each other! Also, I see no problem whatsoever if a "few" lawyers contribute to anyone but I do if "scores" of lawyers do so. Nobody has that many friends, let alone lawyers. Vote Buskirk up your way and I'll vote Romig-Passaro down here in lowly Bethlehem. Thanks for your research and comments. www.kisslinger.com

Bernie O'Hare said...

Larry!

I've said it before. I'll say it again. You're a good man.

I allow people to comment anonymously. That's my call. I do it because some people can't reveal their identity. If you run a small mom 'n pop shop, sharing your opinion could lose you business. So I allow anonymous comments because their opinions are very useful and I learn a lot from them.

I would not have minded an anonymnous comment that praised Falcone. That would be fine by me. But someone came on here anonymously and pretended to have checked into her ethics record, college record and finance reports. What a crock! It's either the candidate herself or someone in her camp. But even that would be fine with me.

But this person had to slam others unfairly and anonymously. That's low.

I've sent an email to Falcone asking her to condemn these disparaging remarks. I hope that happens. That will mean it's just someone in her camp who is just a little too overeager.

Anonymous said...

Cruz was certified several years ago, when he ran for the seat before. He plans to get recertified this summer when the test is offered again.

Great job reporting Bernie!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks, I'll update my post.

Anonymous said...

I would like to correct the statement that most of my $1900 has been self funded. ALL has been out of my own pocket. Until I win the primary, I feel it should be driven from within. I have spent numerous hours going door to door and this is priceless. South Side, Williams, W. Easton and Glendon have numerous terrific people and have all been friendly to me. Thank you for having this blogspot. I took a short break from the trail to read.
Cindy Greene

Bernie O'Hare said...

I stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
THIS IS YVONNE FALCONE. Received your email and as I said at the candidate's forum, I knew you'd come back to say nasty things about me. I'm a good person and my record speaks for itself. What do you want me to denounce? My ethics record is flawless--never a claim against me in 12 yrs. Was that accessed by the anonymous individual? I have no way of knowing. Bernie, I also don't know who the anonymous individuals posting are. I just read your blog and as you might imagine, I have lots of supporters as do all the candidates. I also see they accessed your ethics record too so there must be some public access. Am I to denounce my educational achievements? I graduated from Moravian College ranked 10/365 with a 3.88 GPA. Since you attended Moravian, I am sure you recognize this scholastic achievement. I cannot denounce a good scholastic record. I was also ranked 5/118 at Pen Argyl High School. Academically and in legal qualifications/experience, I far surpass my opponents. Please cite all statistics from every Federal, county, state and district judge office in which I filed over the past few years. I love how you want to measure legal experience by case filings. Some of the most seasoned attorneys in our county never step a day in court. It is the legal background and knowledge of the law which sets them apart. However, I am present in all the various courts of our commonwealth and thus, my legal experience sets me apart from any other candidate. Bernie, I have not spoken unkind words about any of the candidates and neither has any of my supporters to my knowledge. I believe that every one of the candidates is a fine person and I think the voters will make the distinction on qualifications. I don't need to run a campaign in a dark manner. I am a capable, honest and qualified candidate. Winning this election will be on my own
merit and hard work. I have dedicated the last five months to this campaign because I believe I can make a difference and offer the community a District Judge with experience. With the support of the electorate, I will be able to offer my qualifications, skills and dedication to our local community. Please know that I continue to work hard on my campaign so I probably will not be able to communicate in great detail on the blog. If you need comment from me, please email me.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
It's Yvonne Falcone one last time. I realized I didn't address campaign finance reports. Read the blog and what you had to say about the reports and the comments. I didn't pick up the reports but they sound uneventful to me! For the record, I did loan the money to my campaign so that appears like an outstanding debt but it's my own money in the campaign. Seems like anonymous was confused by that. I cannot believe any close supporter or family member of mine would be making these comments and I assure you that I would not. Again, I'm a very moral, honest and straight-forward individual. It is these additional qualities which will serve our community well as district judge. BUT, enough about me, back on the campaign trail..... Yvonne

Bernie O'Hare said...

as I said at the candidate's forum, I knew you'd come back to say nasty things about me.

Then it sounds like you prejudged me. Not very judicial now, is it? The truth is that I was highly complimentary to you and all the others until you decided, just this morning, to go dark, with a nasty attack against other candidates based on bullshit. Until that 6:03 AM post, I had nothing but nice things to say about you, as you can see my looking at my blog.

As a lawyer, I'm sure you know there's no way that someone can check your ethics records and determine you're "clean." That's baloney. Those records are private. But you or a proxy made that false point, masquerading as a concerned citizen. And when I point that out as the falsehood it is, you bring up my own very public (and old) ethics record. Once again, not very judicial. And it tells me you are willing to attack others in spite of your protests to the contrary.

There is just no way that someone off the street will know all those personal details about you unless they are part of your family, your close campaign supporters, or YOU.

As far as legal qualifications are concerned, I wasn't going to make that an issue at all until you decided this morning, either on your own or through a proxy, to trash everyone else. And I still haven't made it an issue. I've written no post listing the types of cases you file in NC. I had no intention of mentioning it until your campaign slamming the others. Buskirk didn't deserve that, and I'm saying this as a Cap supporter. Why can't you? Until you publicly condemn the guttersniping, I'm laying the blame at your doorstep. Please stop slamming the others.

Anonymous said...

Christ, O'hare, can't you go one day without tweaking somebody's nose?

Anonymous said...

I am home for lunch from the campaign trail and the mail was just dropped. We received another mudslinging 8 x 11 mailing against Brian Monahan. This time it is white with large black lettering. This is the 2nd we received. The permit number is also number #172. This must certainly be a democratic mailing permit since Corpora's mailer also used this number.

Whoever this is that dislikes Monahan could also be hurting Dan and myself. I heard Monahan sent out a damage control letter I do not know what is says since I did not receive but hope it does not imply that I had something to do with any of this.

I hope someone gets to the bottom of this before election day. I have put my heart and soul into my campaign along with my feet.
I am going to call Monahan myself on this one. This is terrible and turns people off to politics.
I am going to also contact the local paper.

Cindy Greene

Anonymous said...

Cindy,

Your response sounds as if you're trying to pin these mailings on Corpora simply because he's also used that permit number. That's misleading and not fair. Cut the crap and stop trying to take advantage of the situation.

As was stated previously, these mailings were not endorsed by the Democratic party. Pat Vulcano did not authorize them and neither did Dan Corpora. Your inferences that they did puts you in the same league as the anonymous sender.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Cindy,

Dirty campaigns are run this way. Someone will misappropriate the bulk mailing permit and use it for nefarious purposes. The political consultant in question, who is actually a staunch Republican, has done this before. I've asked the DA to look into this, and we won't know anything until after the election.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 2:10,

In a word, no.

Anonymous said...

It's 4 months later. Bernie, you said you did the research and looked into the who's who of donors for candidate Monahan's campaign.

I think we'd all be interested in seeing the list of who contributed, as it is public information, is it not?

I'm seeing more signs out on lawns and businesses in his own township. Something tells me that many of these folks, mainly the businesses, are just a little too timid to 'just say no', when the guy has some clout as township solicitor. As far as businesses are concerned, I've always felt it's just POOR business sense to slap a candidate's campaign sign on the front of your store. You're just bound to piss off about 50% of your clientele somewhere along the line.

And all this for what? Subtle inuendo about what 'might be done' for you, or even possibly how things might go more easily with that next permit you might need or the next zoning approval for that next business update, addition or sign? The tongues are wagging about this stuff. It's ugly, but it's real.

Meanwhile, donors - even IF they're attorneys - should be on the up and up, RIGHT?

Let's see the list, Bernie.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dude,

Last time I checked the campaign finance there were 27 lawyers who contributed to Monahan's campaign. His post 30 was pretty much unremarkable. His next report is not yet due.

Are you saying you would like to see all 27 lawyers listed? Are you saying you'd like to see all donors listed? I'm not sure what you are asking, and I don't have the notes handy right now. Let me know what you're looking for more specifically.