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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Grube Steps Aside, McHale Steps Up & Angle Steps Out!

"You're late!"

Those were the first words ET Editor Joe Owens growled as I stumbled into Northampton County brand new council chambers for its reorganization Monday night. I came in at the tail end of the Pledge of Allegiance, which everyone was mindlessly mumbling. I quickly slapped my hand over my heart as I looked for a chair, hoping no one would shoot me for being irreverent to the flag.

It was Owens' fault that I was late in the first place. I had just learned he's running for president and that I'm on his election committee. Actually, he's not running for anything. It's his blog. If it wins, I get to be an intern or something. Owens was at the meeting to hustle a few votes before today's New Hampshire primary.

Wrong state, Joe. And he calls me a crazie??

Before last night's meeting, someone posted this comment on my blog. "McHale, the Republicans' favorite Dem next to Stoffa, will be the new Council Prez. Grube will be VP. The Republicans cut the deal with her majesty in case Stoffa doesn't run for re-election. They want her as the Dem. candidate. This boosts her Name and cements her support against the new Council Dems."

That's how it went, too. "With extreme disappointment," Grube acknowledged that physically, he can no longer keep up with with the job. "No one outside realizes how much time a president puts in."

At that point, Grube nominated Ann McHale to take his place as council president. Her nomination was seconded by Lamont McClure, and Peg Ferraro seconded the second to be on the safe side. McHale was unanimously elected as Northampton County's first female council president. No discussion. McHale smiled, and said, "I accept this with pride." That's a far cry from last year, when she was ignominiously shoved aside as council VP for rookie Diane Neiper.

After her election, McHale nominated Wayne Grube to serve as council VP. That nomination was seconded by Charles Dertinger, and once again, Peg Ferraro seconded the second to give things a little bipartisan flavor. Like McHale, Grube was unanimously elected. Again, not a peep in the way of discussion. Ferraro did quietly tell Wayne, "It's been an honor working with you."

Unless that anonymous commenter is the Amazing Kreskin, this was a done deal. Northampton County Council started off the New Year like they do every year - by ignoring the Sunshine Act. It's a tradition. Maybe they should call it the Sunshine Suggestion.

From what I've been able to piece together, Team Dertinger (Dertinger, McClure & Neiper) wanted Neiper to ascend to the throne. But they've been weakened by the loss of Tony Branco, and have alienated both McHale and Grube over the past year.

Republicans control four votes. They could have blocked any Democratic president unless Dems agreed to select a Republican VP. To their credit, they did not play partisan politics, or stopped once Grube indicated he'd be willing to serve as VP.

Good government triumphs over partisan politics! You don't see that every day.

With her election as council president, McHale now assumes formally the role she's already been serving, at least during meetings, for the past two years. Even though she was deposed as VP last year, Grube still relied heavily on McHale, not Neiper, to make sure meetings ran smoothly. And McHale, unlike any other member of council, can control Angle. He simply adores her. Even as she sticks a knife in him and twists it all around, he just smiles.

But last night, Ron was a bad boy. Grube had stepped aside. McHale had stepped up. But Ron actually stepped out! Incensed by the $642 thousand cost for renovations to council chambers, Angle stepped off the dais and instead fumed in the press box, plopping down right between reporters Sarah Cassi and Joe Nixon.

And during the courtesy of the floor, guess who spoke? Bingo!

After establishing that McHale was off on the cost of renovations by a mere $240 thousand, Angle started blowing oil. "I believe in living in the real world. It's the same damn room. The seats are of lesser quality. This $642 thousand, one of the main reasons was the girls needed more room. Now they have less room. I was measuring with my tape today. ... I intend to sit out here in the real world. Pitiful. Pitiful. Pitiful."

About every five minutes, Ron would stand up and blow yet another gasket. "You see those lights? You could get better lights at Home Depot. You could get a nice house and fill it with furniture for $642 thousand."

According to The Express Times' Sarah Cassi, Angle plans to relocate permanently to the press box. "No word yet on what will happen to his nameplate."

In 2001, after a contentious five hour bond hearing, someone actually chucked Angle's nameplate down the hopper. I'm not making this stuff up. The felon was never apprehended, but every county administrator failed several lie detector tests. Fortunately for Ron, Grube dove in and rescued it at the Easton sewage treatment facility.
Update: For more objective accounts of last night's meeting from reporters who actually got to sit right next to Ron, both The Morning Call and Express Times oblige.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

LMFAO!

Anonymous said...

Sunshine Act, We don't need no stinking Sunshine Act.

Tom Foolery said...

Angle should permantly stay with the members of the press and leave Council meeting to those serious about doing Council's business..

Tom Foolery said...

Permanently..Srry type to fast.
Anyway when is Angle going to figure out that as long as he continues his antics he will get very little support from anyone on council. That in turn makes his reelection a farce. If you can't serve your constituancy well because everyone on council can't stand you and won't support anything you propose because of it then you are essentially useless as an elected official..

Anonymous said...

maybe angle could serve his tenure in the can, with the nameplate.

and Bernie, could you PLEASE stop saying things that portray backroom, one-on-one lobbying as violating the sunshine act. under the current prevailing interpretation of the law, it simply doesn't. hows about "the spirit of the sunshine act" or "good government" or "open government"?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bernie, could you PLEASE stop saying things that portray backroom, one-on-one lobbying as violating the sunshine act.

This was a done deal, and it's as obvious as the very large nose on my face. No discussion. Everything is unanimous. The only reason I didn't blow up completely is because it really does seem to be a tradition to select officers behind the scenes, albeit an illegal tradition. Using the telephone and email for round robins to develop a majority violates the Sunshine Act just as much as an actual back room meeting.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom,

Actually, what amazes me is no one on council but Angle even knew they had spent 50% more on those renovations than was originally intended. Along with Ron's nameplate, $242 thousand got flushed down the toilet just like that.

Ron was a tad melodramatic, I'll grant you, but council should be embarrassed at just pouring all that money down the drain for "improvements" that actually result in less space for the staff.

His reelection is no farce. Every piece of garbage about Angle that exists was thrown at the voters, and they resoundingly returned him to office. If you call that a farce, then you must have something against democracy. We could use one or two more council members as concerned about public spending as Ron.

He made his point, as only Angle can do. And it is a serious point.

I don't subscribe to that "go along to get along" philosophy. That's how you end up with messes like you'll see in Harrisburg.

Anonymous said...

"Using the telephone and email for round robins to develop a majority violates the Sunshine Act just as much as an actual back room meeting."

case citation, please?

and put a sweater on

Bernie O'Hare said...

Whenever an "agency," and that term is defined to include a governing body like county council, takes official action or deliberates, it must do so in the sunshine. Thus, telephone meetings and email exchanges that arrive at decisions behind closed doors, are governed by the Sunshine Act and must occur publicly or not at all.

Deals are cut, and the public is excluded. I'm talking about a round robin among a quorum to decide public policy without the benefit of public imput. This certainly violates the spirit of the Sunshine Act, as someone concedes. I believe it also violates the letter of the law. Every jurisdiction that has construed this issue has found a Sunshine Act violation. I believe there are six jurisdictions that have expressly ruled this way, but don't have citations at my fingertips. I thought I had them on my PC, but I must have stored them somewhere else. I'll look on one of my hard drives tonight. I researched this question two years ago.

No Pa. appellate court has decided this question, at least none to my knowledge. So if you're an anonymous judge, I'm in a world of hurt.

Damn, it's freezing.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully she acts less like a bi@chy monarch and more like a decent leader. She accepted with 'pride' not 'humility' but pride that says it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Without question she is the imperious Ann McHale. But she is usually among council's hardest-working members and does tend to follow through on committments. She can run a meeting. She can handle Ron better than anyone else. If I had to pick a council prez, it would probably be her.

Larry Kisslinger said...

"Using the telephone and email for round robins to develop a majority violates the Sunshine Act just as much as an actual back room meeting."

Bernie, This is one of those times
where we may disagree! I think there is no problem whatsoever with officials, speaking one-on-one with any issue of importance, to determine outcome is perfectly appropriate and not a violation of any law. Any such conversation is protected by our Constitution in my opinion. The public is not entitled to my, or your, personal discussion about anything at all. Sunshine Law is intended to avoid MAJORITY in meeting, conference call or whatever JOINT discussion of any kind to make any kind of final decision regarding public policy is the only violation of the Sunshine Law is my opinion. One-on-one private conversations are necessary to advance any cause or decision in America? Analogy, maybe not a good one, why are Presidential candidates asking many folks one-on-one to vote for them? go figure!
larry@kisslinger.com

Bernie O'Hare said...

One on one is fine. One on one with the intent of building a majority is not. It also depends on who does the talking. If a member of the exec branch lobbies to build a majority, that's one thing. If a council member does the same thing, it's not.

Bernie O'Hare said...

And of course, I could be full of shit!

Tom Foolery said...

I agree with the Kisslinger guy..he makes sense...On Angle, he gets elected because he is always getting press. However, he is not effective on council so what's the point.. I didn't say go along to get along but his methods of making his point are ridiculous.
If he was half way decent at doing his job the renovations would have never been approved in the first place!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom Foolery,

Does this mean that the other council members, who actually approved the renovations, are not half way decent at doing their jobs?

Angle made his point. He was a bit melodramatic, I'll give you that. Perhaps "theatrical" is a better word. They are all actors in their own way.

I think he made a good point in his own inimitable style and was hardly disruptive. He did not reduce council to a circus. There were no shouting matches.

Angle got elected bc the newspaper covers him? Should we ban the press now, too?

Angle's style does make it hard for him to build coalitions. That's a valid criticism.

Tom Foolery said...

Thank you for helping me to make my point. Angle can barely build a coalition beyond himself to get anything done or passed for his constituents. Do his outlandish actions serve some purpose at times? Yes, I'd agree that they do. However, his use to his constituents is severely limited by his actions at the meetings. He is constantly name calling and badgering the other members. If you think this is somehow productive, I beg to differ. The best thing he has going for him is his relationship with Stoffa. However, even that does not make him effective at meetings. I have no personal issues with Mr. Angle, I'm just making a point..

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom,

That part of your criticism is valid. Ron does have a tough time persuading others to join him. But he remains effective bc he opens eyes that would otherwise be shut. And to be honest, he has mellowed over the past few years. He doesn't even carry his drill anyomore.

Anonymous said...

Criticism of Angle is an expected grunt from the Central Committee of Northampton County. After the Committee rearranged its deck chairs in a typical dog-and-pony show that followed a typical inside deal, should anybody be surprised? This is a one party county with a token, albeit entertaining, opposition. The only real controversies are inner-party squabbles among the arrogant rulers.

I wish Wayne Grube good health, but as long as he chooses to serve, he should be ashamed of his casual attitude about overspending my tax dollars by 50% on any of his projects. His calm demeanor and nice words about the improvements belie a troubling indifference to fiscal responsibility. Has he ever worked in the private sector? His attitude makes me suspicious. I know he's an older gentleman, but he's still in the kitchen and he deserves heat for permitting such mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

Angle can be a real ass. His point on the renovations are fair. That was a rediculous amount to spend. The papers who would write a story if the last administration bought paperclips, let it slide too. I give Angle credit for being for the most part consistent on the issue of spending money.
Wayne is a good guy but everyone must know when to hang up the guns and hopefully he does not run for re-election.
All the others voted for this overprice redecoration including 'nice guys finsih last but not nasty dames' McHale.

Anonymous said...

Ron is having a bad year. He asked Peg and Cusick to support him for Vice-President of Council and that both flatly said no. He asked Dowd and he said he might second him if someone else were to nominate him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:48,

In fairness to Grube, he was ill when most of those change orders went through. I'm not defending him, but that's the truth.

These folks can spin things however they wish. And Ron, as we all know, is a very bad boy.

But as usual, he was right about this exorbitant expense from the beginning. Of course, he makes his points in ways that piss everyone off. Tom Foolery is right about that. Even Ron will admit that flaw. But I'll take Angle with that flaw over someone who pays no attention but is polite to everybody.

Anonymous said...

County Council has a well paid "clerk" and that got a big raise and new digs. Did he ever bring up the cost overrun issue in a meeting as part of his report?

Bernie O'Hare said...

County council's clerk, Frank Flisser, is the consummate professional, and I have never heard anything but the highest praise about him from both sides of the bench. Let's not be tacky and leave the staff out of this.

This attempt to blame council's failure on its staff is a new low.

Anonymous said...

This is another self-serving spending of money by everyone who was on council, but not Angle. He is a self-promoting Ass of the first degree but his point is well taken on this.
I love the line about we saved this from 'OUR' contingency fund. Excuse me madam Prez but that would be the taxpayers contingency. If you could save that for paint and wallpaper maybe
stoffa should slash contingency by half in the 2009 budget. I know he won't, doesn't have the moxie but it wiuld be cool to make council vote to put it in.