Thursday, June 10, 2010

Judge Franciosa Concedes "Serious Ambiguity" In Dual Office Law


According to some of you, the law is very clear. Northampton County Council Prez Ron Angle's decision to serve on Bangor's School Board violates the Home Rule Charter. The nerve of that guy, thinking he can represent the people who elect him. Never mind that Leonard Zito, before he morphed into a judge with magical powers and a black robe, concluded there is no conflict when a municipal official serves on County Council. He was only an insignificant lawyer back in those dark days, notes DA John Morganelli, himself an insignificant lawyer with his eyes on Zito's judgeship.

Ironically, there's one person who does not think the law is very clear at all. During a hearing yesterday afternoon, he complained of a "serious ambiguity" in the HRC provision that may (or may not) prohibit Council members from holding other elected offices. That person is Senior Judge Michael Franciosa, whose confusing, 21-page, opinion was the reason why everybody was in Court yesterday.

Judge Franciosa actually sided with Morganelli last Friday, and gave Angle just ten days to "cure" his violation, i.e. resign from the school board, or lose his seat on County Council. That was "very generous" of him, claimed DA Morganelli. But Brian Monahan, representing Angle, is demanding a stay, arguing that the Order is crafted in a way that renders Angle's appeal rights meaningless. He's right, too. There is simply no way that you could coax a Supreme Court Justice to hear this matter before Monday, when Franciosa's ticking time bomb explodes. They're too damn busy appearing at high school commencements this time of year, putting their robes to good use.

In fact, it is something of a miracle that Angle was able to get a hearing before Senior Judge Fanciosa as soon as yesterday. Originally, his hearing had been scheduled for Friday, just one day before he'd automatically lose his County Council seat. Angle was being boxed in.

During yesterday's hearing, Brian Monahan was allowed to introduce testimony from Council Clerk Frank Flisser and the Bulldog himself. Morganelli, who previously claimed to be interested in nothing more than upholding the law, fought vigorously against allowing Council's Clerk to make very clear that our DA has been a tad selective in his enforcement of this dual office prohibition. Flisser testified to two recent instances in which a borough Councilman and borough Mayor were allowed to serve on Council. They, like Morganelli, are Democrats. Flisser also testified that their positions on other bodies presented no conflicts.

Flissser also mentioned then Council Solicitor Leonard Zito's written opinion, determining that the dual office prohibition had no application to officials who accepted no salary. "I'd be surprised if they [the Supreme Court] considered that document as having any precedential value," huffed Franciosa to cheers from DA Morganelli. And he's right, too. That opinion has no precedential value. But then again, neither does Franciosa's. Outside of Northampton County, it's meaningless until the state Supremes sing about it themselves.

Monahan also called the Bulldog to establish that ousting Angle from Council would cause "irreparable injury." According to Angle, "The citizens of Region 4 would lose the strongest voice they ever had." Of course, Angle is boasting. But does anyone, even Angle's enemies, deny that he has been the Slate Belt's strongest voice in County government?

Angle also testified that no conflict has risen as a result of his holding a seat on Bangor's School Board, but he would recuse himself if anything like that ever cropped up. "If it happened, I would step down, even from the deliberations," he said.

Morganelli wisely declined an opportunity to cross-examine Angle. He instead argued that the citizens of Northampton County who voted for the HRC are being overlooked, but that assumes they interpret the dual office prohibiton exactly like him.

Morganelli then made an incredibly foolish and very undemocratic argument. He actually suggested that the Court direct Council that Angle's seat remain vacant until the Supreme Court rules on Angle's appeal. Yes, the same man trying to strip Angle of his office is all for denying due process to the remaining members of Council, stripping them of the right to have nine members and, best of all, disenfranchising Slate Belt voters.

Whoopee!

Without commenting on Morganelli's strained argument, Franciosa gave Angle a gift on appeal. In the judge's own words, the dual office prohibition has a "serious ambiguity," and "there's an argument that can be made the other way." Franciosa went on to state that he used canons of statutory interpretation, instead of traditional grammar, to resolve this uncertainty. Well, if that's so, he has a problem on appeal. According to those canons, ambiguities are resolved in favor of the party against whom they are being enforced. It's kinda' like baseball. The tie always goes to the runner.

Add to that canon the quaint little idea that voters, not judges or DAs, should decide elections.

My guess is that Angle gets some form of stay and that, on appeal, he wins.

Monahan did a nifty little job of making a record, drawing out Morganelli's true colors, and getting Judge Franciosa to make a statement that virtually guarantees at least one winning argument.

Update 5:15 PM: When I left the Courthouse to attend a meeting in Bethlehem at 3:20 PM, the last thing I did was check to see if Judge Franciosa had entered a ruling on Angle's stay request. Nothing had come in.

The Morning Call is now reporting that Franciosa has denied the stay and barred him from participating on Council while simultaneously claiming that the official forfeiture is stayed.

Huh? Talk about ambiguous.

Franciosa also orders County Council, which never was a part of this action, to keep the seat open, effectively abrogating the very Home Rule Charter he was asked to interpret.

Amazing.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Yes I deny that.

Richard from the Slate Belt

Anonymous said...

Angle is a buffoon who lives for self-promotion. It is a shame he had to drag Frank Flisser into his tangled web. His wife and son have already been thrown into his black hole.

One thing is true and that is the Northampton County Home Rule Charter was poorl written. It already has had some serious inconsistencies with state law. This may be another one.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to understand Morganelli's bitter vendetta. Better men move on with their lives, however. Angle ought to run for DA. He'd win easily.

Anonymous said...

And, he appears to have better legal instincts than Morganelli.

Anonymous said...

didn't carol cuono once hold angle's seat? she was an able, sincere, and strong represenative of district 4.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Carol was at large.

Anonymous said...

Lets see, the law says that Mr. Angle may serve on one or the other board. The Judge upholds this law. What's the problem? You would think that Mr. Angle would abdide by the law and do the right thing. No, he grand stands and continues his violation. All this is doing is wasting MINE and others tax dollars. If Mr. Angle doesn't like the law, then get it changed. Sounds simple to me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Let's see, the Judge himself said the law is not clear at all, so there goes that claim. Do you honestly think Angle would thumb his nose at the plain letter of the law? No, he as following the advice of several lawyers, one of whom now sits on the bench.

Now I realize all the Angle haters will flock together to say the law this is just nonsense, bit this is because they hate Angle, not bc of the law. The law itself is murky.

And when things get ambiguous, they should be resolved in the case of the person adversely impacted.

The tie goes to the runner.

You want to forget that because you hate Angle, not because of the law.

Anonymous said...

Carol Cuono was a Glenn Riebman puppet.

Anonymous said...

Don't these guys have anything better to do?

Anonymous said...

Morning Bernie, I just read your column, I do enjoy them even if I disagree with a subject, I resigned as Mayor when I became a county council member so as to avoid just what is going on now, as for my being a Reibman puppet, my foremost thought in representing the county was the Juvenile Center, the county prison expansion and the 911 center. It is so easy to Monday morning quarterback if one has not served in public office with all the encompassing problems, facts and legalities.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused, why did Morganelli suggest that the Dist. 4 council position remain unfilled during the appeal? Seems to me, that is no solution for the disenfranchised voters. They would still be denied their right to a voice on council.

It makes me wonder why the DA is so determined to get Angle out of there (even if only for a while). What is coming up that Morganelli doesn’t want Angle to vote on?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:12 says “All this is doing is wasting MINE and others tax dollars. If Mr. Angle doesn't like the law, then get it changed. Sounds simple to me.”

If you think this is all a waste of tax dollars then take it up with Morganelli who filed this suit against Angle but did not object when other Council members held two offices.

As for getting the law changed - by challenging this lawsuit Angle is working toward changing or at least clarifying the laws regarding holding two offices in NC.

Kevin said...

Carol Cuono did did such a great job as a County Councilwoman that Bangor voters elected a political neophyte as mayor rather than her after her County Council term expired.

Anonymous said...

Kevin has excellent memory.

Anonymous said...

On Wednesday Angle looked 10 years younger than Thursday's post. This issue is really getting to him.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
Permission to change topic. Would you consider writing about this solar panel vs. Nazareth Schools issue that we're reading about?
One person said it will take 20 years to recoop the initial investment. It would be interesting to find out if this is accurate.

Anonymous said...

And Morganelli wants to be a judge?

Har Har HAR dee Har Har!

Chris Casey said...

I don't hate Ron Angle, I disagree with some of his positions and some of his tactics.
My concern here is that this electoral conundrum has existed for several years, and those in legislative position to remedy it have not.
Now we are going to get legislating from the bench, and I am not keen on that.


For one second, can we drop charges about Maorganelli's and/or Angle's motivations and simply examine the issue:
The intent of the HRC is to prevent the conflict of interest that could take place should one person attempt to serve two masters in the community government.
The possibilities for corruption are obvious. I am not saying that Ron Angle , Tony Branco, or even Joe Cappozollo were or are corrupt, I'm only saying the intent of the HRC was to prevent this kind of conflict.

Anonymous said...

If Morganelli wanted to be a judge, he would have ran last year. He surely would have beat Koury, and would have given both Zito and Dally a run for their money.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have to point out here that I know, respect and admire Carol Cuomo very much. True, she was part of the Council that approved the controversial $111 million bond, but my imression is that Carol voted for it because she believed in it, not bc she is a Reibman flunkie.

There are too few women in public office, and Carol looked at things differently in a male-dmonated atmosphere.

She and Angle are political foes, but on her last council meeting, Ron brought her a nice bouquet.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Chris, There ae numerous Anglephobes out there, and hey latched on to this as a way to condemn Ron, just as they are doing with the Will. Of course, they are almost all anonymous.

Franciosa took some of the wind out of their sails. What they had been saying is so clear is actually ambuguous, and this from the Judge who decided this matter.

The notion that Angle is just thumbing his nose at the rule of law is laughable. Before deciding to seek a seat on a school board, and who wants to sit on a school board, Angle sought out the opinions of several attorneys, including the solicitors of both county council and the school board. He also spoke to other attorneys. Some felt he could not do it, but did not feel strongly enough to seek his ouster.

The only person who took that course is Morganelli, and this is after he ignored the very same putative violation by the very same person 10 years ago.

Of course, reasonable people can have different views, and I could see a lawsuit to make certain what is uncertain. But the refusal to agree to a stay s just plain petty. And the notion that the seat remain vacant is illegal.

Clearly, the prohibition is intended to prevent conflicts. That's very laudable. But when does a school distict have a conflict with county legislators. I've never seen an ezample. I suppose t might be possible, but Angle has agreed to step down from any matter involving the school board.

No, this is targeted litigation. John is carrying water for Lamont McClure and is trying to weaken Angle. But his behavior yesterday did the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Ron Angle absolutely knew when he ran for the Bangor School Board that this was going to be an issue and he surely knew there was a very good chance that he would be challenged. While he could not know exactly how that challenge would play out, let's assume he gave some thought to how it might play out after the election.

Maybe that challenge played out as he thought, but I doubt it. His words and actions indicate he never thought that his Council seat would be in jepardy. Mr. Morganelli is just doing what lawyers do ... playing whatever card he has to play. I'm no fan of Morganelli, but he has played this quite well.

Clearly it is Mr. Angle who has put the representation of the 4th District being placed in jepordy. He did not have to run for the school board position, he chose to. Don't blame Morganelli because the challenge did not play out how Angle envisioned.

Full Disclosure: I think both these guys are schmucks.

Anonymous said...

The end of trail is actually fairly intelligent discourse. However a correction should be noted to avoid your assuredly unintentional distortion of history. Morganelli did not "ignore" the same putative violation by the same person 10 years ago. Rather, he granted consent to the Council to file the same type of suit filed most recently by him. The suit was based on a legal opinion (which happened to reach Franciosa's conclusion regarding the meaning of the Charter language)that he could not hold both offices. I guess that opinion was inadvertently omitted at the victim mitigation hearing yesterday.
Angle objected and insisted that the DA should have filed the suit. Is there even the slightest bit of irony there? I guess the bias in Morganelli has yet to fully gestate at time. Angle got his out of county judge and then resigned before a decision could be rendered. He first said I will resign if you appoint my wife. (Now there is a true democratic impulse at work). Then he agreed to resign but even turned that into a controversy by saying there was no date specified for his resignation so he would resign when it suited him. A bit imperious eh?

Please start examining the Supreme Court Justices to determine if they are capable of rendering an unbiased decision.

The school district, the county and the world will survive without this self centered, boorish, mean spirited man who craves what he apparently never received as a child, attention.

While some of the points you make are well taken, you seem to suspend your critical faculties when it comes to the obvious about this man. He is a bully who demeans, intimidates and rants when he doesn't get his way.

Anon by choice!! said...

"they are almost all anonymous"

When will you realize and admit that it is anons that keep this blog going?

All you do is bitch about anons, but the reality is if it weren't for anons you would not have your platform.

If it is that big of an issue for you then make people sign in. Or are you afraid your little blog world will die out?

Stop complaining or change it!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have never objected to anonymous comments. Many of them are valuable. What I do object to are the ignorant anonymous personal attacks from cowards like you. I'll bitch about that and I will delete them at my discretion.

Anon Coward said...

"cowards like you"

Why the name calling? Talk about personal attacks. You hide behind your computer and spew your propaganda. You are no better than anyone else. In fact some would say you are far worse for some of the things you have done, and continue to do.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll repeat that people who use anonymity to make their petty personal attacks are cowards. hen I say something, I identify myself. But people like you are cowards and get no respect from me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Morganelli did not "ignore" the same putative violation by the same person 10 years ago. Rather, he granted consent to the Council to file the same type of suit filed most recently by him."

That's true. And in conversations I had with him at the time, he told me his involvement would be a waste of prosecutorial resources.

Now that Council is under R control, he's changed his mind.

The only bullying I see is coming from his end.

Anonymous said...

"Now that Council is under R control, he's changed his mind."

That's b/c the R's aren't willing to push the subject b/c they will be left with Cusick as the leader and Ferraro as the VP (or Dowd). they don't like "RINO's", remember.

But that aside, the whole matter was dropped 10 years ago when Angle resigned the school board. It's really that simple. That council is willing to let this matter ride now and force somebody else to take action speaks to me volumes about their integrity. I will say the same about the lack of challenge of Branco's dual role. If anything Angle showed a terrible ability to judge rightly that Branco was in violation of the HRC.

Angle is going to have to resign from the School Board or he is going to get teh boot from county council. no appeals court is going to stay the matter.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, not in one day. He's been boxed in. And this afternoon, Court Administrator James Onembo told Angle, "You're cunning. You'll figure it out."

He had it figured out. Morganelli is playing games and Francisoa should never have decided this case.

Anonymous said...

Judge Francisoa did an outstanding job on this case. It could not have been handled any better.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm sure Brian Monahan agrees because Franciosa's conduct over the last two days practically guarantees a reversal.

Anonymous said...

Morganeli is impervious in Northampton county and the Republicans don't even try. He has more power and donors than Joe Long could ever hope for. Why the Hell would he care about what Joe Long wants or carry Long's laundry, you knucklehead you. Depending on the day you claim Joe Long is either impotent which he is or he has the most powerful Democratic pol in the Lehigh Valley groveling at his feet.

Come on Ohare your fiction is worse then a romantic novel.

Angle and Morganeli are very similar politicians as they both do anything they can to get their names in the paper. Your preaching about Angle's love for the common man is laughable. He loves the common mans land, his house and anything of value he can swindle from his widow but the common man, not so much.

Trying to tie Morganelis actions to some Joe Long alliance is crazy even for you. The only pols out there that kiss the Joe Long ring are the ones that want something, like Dertinger, Barron and McClure, since they all want to make a living off the public dime. Your delusions get scarier all the time


Veritas

Anonymous said...

What is scary about this whole thing is that the person who decided the fate of Angle, the people didn't even vote him into office. He's a Senior Judge. They're immune from the public's assent to their office. The practice of utilizing Senior Judges hearing a case should have some checks and balances from citizens. At least with regular Judges, the citizens are asked whether to keep them around or not every 10 years. You can't remove a Senior Judge. That's scary.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Veritas, it is clear to me that Morganelli's motivations are both political and personal. He holds Angle responsible for Severson's sins. And Angle is interfering with what used to be a Democratic stranglehold on the People's Repuiblic of Northampton County. Joe Long had a lot to do with the local party not endorsing Stoffa and with the selection of two council members. It's a fair inference that Democrat Morganellli is adiding and abetting the Long Dems.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I can see the possible Severson connection since he and Morganelli were close. In fact it was my understanding that at one time the only way Severson would handle a Dem campaign was if Morganelli asked. But that was a long time ago.

Speaking of Long, I still think it is a stretch to find a connection between Long and Morganeli other than their massive ego's.

Morganeli has power and Long only pretends to have power.

Maybe the Severson and McClure relationship is involved but I just don't see Long or even the Democratic Party as a factor. Morganeli has been known for coming and going from the Party as his mood suited him.

I still believe you have two incredibly large heads that are hard to fit under one roof. Morganeli and Angle the best show in town.

Veritas

Anonymous said...

Wait? A judged silenced District 4's voice?

Maybe if a judge took away District 4's representation, maybe District 4 shouldn't have to pay taxes!!!!

Anonymous said...

Everyone in Bangor is on welfare anyway.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 4:05 is stating what the LongDem faction really thinks of the slate belt.

Anonymous said...

We are not all on welfare. Some of us are on unemployment compensation. So we will collect our govt issued checks, pay our taxes to the county and not have a voice in Easton. This SUCKS! I will not vote for any of these clowns again. The whole bunch is a stain on the underwear of humanity. D's and R's included, they dont care.

danthemann

Anonymous said...

We are not all on welfare. Some of us are on unemployment compensation. So we will collect our govt issued checks, pay our taxes to the county and not have a voice in Easton. This SUCKS! I will not vote for any of these clowns again. The whole bunch is a stain on the underwear of humanity. D's and R's included, they dont care.

danthemann

Anonymous said...

Someone get that man a salad!