Thursday, June 03, 2010

A-town's Ethics Board Lets the Sun Shine

High noon yesterday. Hot as hell outside. People getting nasty on the roads. And of course, they're shooting each other in Allentown again. I was there. Nobody plugged me, even though I was inside City Hall. It was pretty cool despite all the hot air regularly generated by a government building. I stopped by to offer words of encouragement in the gunfight between Allentown City Council VP Michael Donovan and hate blogger Bill Villa.

Villa had Donovan up before the Ethics Board on some pretty serious charges. I'll tell you about them in a bit. Villa brought his lawyer, who must live with him, and confidently strutted around, snapping pictures of everyone in the hallway.

Donovan had to be encouraged to see some people rally to his banner in the middle of a workday. Dr. Bob Romanchek, Allentown's GOP chair, was there to support a Democrat. So was LVPoliblogger Chris Casey and downtown activist Alfonso Todd. Even my best friend from grade school, who shall remain nameless, was there. He met Donovan a few years ago and was impressed. Morning Call mini-celeb Bill White, sniffing a possible column, dropped by as well.

Of course they'll all pay a price. Villa snapped pictures of every one of them. He's already referred to Dr. Romancheck as a "spooky GOP RightWingNut," Alfonso as a "shameless blog publicity whore and community disorganizer", and columnist White as an "O'Hare shit-lover."

Donovan sat quietly, by himself, at the end of a very long conference table. He looked forlorn, almost bewildered. He's from Maine. People must be nicer there after eating all those damn lobsters. But he really has done a horrible thing. It's far worse than shooting someone.

Here's his dirty little secret. He's a God-damn blogger.

Nobody likes bloggers.

Let's face it, we're all bottom feeders who thrive on the misery of others. We actually make reporters look good. They used to be called bottom feeders who thrive on the misery of others, but now they're getting laid off, so everyone feels sorry for them and dumps on us. Shit rolls downhill, they say.

Donovan has something else going against him, too.

He's a God-damn politician.

Nobody likes politicians, even if they are college professors with tenure.

So hate blogger Bill Villa decided to bring Donovan up on ethics charges because of his blog. He regularly hijacked Michael's older blog to post derogatory remarks, taunts and links back to his own blog. Typical troll stuff. You've seen it here, although I delete it. No matter what the topic, Donovan was regularly ridiculed, although I was the usual target. Villa even took shots at Donovan's wife and son. When Donovan posted a heartfelt entry about the untimely passing of his own little girl, Villa sneered. Donovan rarely deleted the hate.

Villa got a taste of his own medicine when Donovan posted a blog entitled, A Tale of Two Cities, suggesting that Bethlehem and Allentown cooperate, instead of compete, against each other. Villa immediately began hijacking Donovan's blog with his usual impersonations and hateful attacks. In one of them, using the pseudonym "Freedom Fighter," he states, "Let's empty both barrels," containing a link to Allentown City Council.

That actually brought police to City Council's March 17th meeting. Villa stayed away from that one. Some bloggers, including me, challenged the taunts being made by Villa, teasing and chiding him. One anonymous comment was over the top, and was quickly deleted by Donovan.

Tired of the constant hijacking, Donovan finally started a new blog, giving himself greater control over the comments being posted.

That drove Villa, who just lost an outlet for all his hate, over the edge. He responded with a 3,000-page ethics complaint against Donovan, killing a forest or two to claim that Donovan was somehow using his city council position, on his blog, to enhance his prestige or for personal benefit. Of course, that's nonsense. Donovan uses his blog to promote transparency and accountability, but no good deed goes unpunished.

Board members quickly dismissed Villa's complaint yesterday. But before doing so, they entertained public comment.

That's when Villa's mouthpiece, who at one time was a bottom-feeding reporter and now is a bottom-feeding lawyer, objected to any comments from anyone who live outside the limits of the City Without Limits. He was trying to silence Chris Casey and yours truly. We both intended to speak on Donovan's behalf.

Nobody likes lawyers, especially lawyers who were at one time bottom-feeding reporters. They might even be as bad as bloggers.

This legal eagle read a portion of the Sunshine Act, which gives residents an absolute right to speak at most public meetings. But he only read a portion, or disingenuously misrepresented the law, take your pick.

Chuck Fonzone, the Solicitor for the Board, correctly told this divorce lawyer that nothing in the Sunshine Act bars nonresidents from public comment. And more importantly, the Sunshine Act extends the right of public comment to "taxpayers" as well. And let's face it, we're all paying for Allentown. All I have to do is plug a nickel in a meter and I'm paying a form of tax. So I was preparing to make a legal argument of my own when the Board unanimously decided to listen to anyone who wanted to speak. Three-minute limit. The only person they did not want to hear from was Donovan. Villa spoke, incidentally, and rambled on for six minutes, twice the allotted time.

Even the guys and gals in the land of midnight payraises recognize that "secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society."

That's why the Ethics Board made the right call in allowing the public to speak. They also made the right decision to dismiss the Complaint in a public meeting, instead of behind closed doors. It makes Villa look even more ridiculous when he claims the Board "hisses, then slithers away."

The only hissing and slithering I saw came from him and his mouthpiece. His lawyer tried, and failed, to stop Casey and Moi from speaking. Villa, as you've seen yourself in a video posted here, shouted at Donovan when he tried to speak. Finally, Villa actually claimed he had "back channel" discussions with the Board. I know he even threatened to come to their home, uninvited and unannounced, over the last holiday weekend. He's all for back room, ex parte, conversations.

Maybe it's time for Villa to write his memoirs.

He's done.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

here is my fear. Even though Donovan was found innocent, one of Pawlowski's clowns running for city council is probably going to do a mailer that says something like "Donovan was charge with Ethics Violations." Sunshine is good. But sunshine could hurt the innocent in this matter.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Very good point, and one I failed to consiider.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
Thank you for attending this meeting and reporting. We wanted you to know that last night our Governor told the world on national TV that Pennsylvanians do not care about ethics in government. He repeated the statement at least twice during an interview related to the alleged Sestak/WH job offer. You may wish to write about his comment in an upcoming blog. But then again, maybe not, since Pennsylvanians do not care about ethics in government anyway.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
This essay is horrible to read.
To see Mr. Donovan terrorized like this and be able to do nothing.

Anonymous said...

Would someone mind telling us who the man with the papers is?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:56,

I owed it to Donovan to be there. Few elected officials are as transparent as he, and to me, that's more important than any difference I may have with him on city issues.

It was high praise that Dr. Bobn Romancheck, the chair of the A-town GOP, was there and spoke. He could have just sat back and laughed, but he apparently thinks it is more important to speak up for people with integrity, regardless of political affiliation.

It's safe to say that most elected officials take ethics pretty seriously. Annually, they are required to complete an ethics statement available for public inspection. A statewide ethics comm'n has gone after some local pols in Upper Macuingie.

So I think Rendell is dead wrong. I think it's pols in Harrisburg who don't care about ethics, and Rendell is one of them, undortunately.

In A-town, the process was misused by Villa, just to tarnish Donovan. Although his complaint was comletely frivolous and dismissed without a hearing,

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Would someone mind telling us who the man with the papers is?"

I'm sorry. The man with the papers and his mouth wide open is Bill Villa, pretending to be Perry Mason.

Anonymous said...

"We hate some persons because we do not know them; and we will not know them because we hate them."

Charles Caleb Colton (1780 - 1832)

VOR

Anonymous said...

Breinigsville at 7:33 AM June 03, 2010
I saw Cheesesteak "Fat Eddie" Rendell on Hannity last night. His schtick is that "the people" of Pennsylvania aren't interested in this story at all. They're more concerned with all the other things going on in the world. Ha! I'm sure that's what he'd LIKE to have the rest of the country believe. He's as slimy as they come. We, "the people" of Pennsylvania, are sure as h*ll interested in the underhanded, dishonest, politics-as-usual goings on of these politocos. And we're also interested in seeing these thugs charged with the appropriate crimes. They WILL be found guilty as charged.

Courtesy: The Morning Call

Anonymous said...

Hope the state's Republican Committee creates an open letter folks can sign that will be sent to the Governor and the local papers indicating how many state residents do care about ethics in government and elsewhere!

monkey momma said...

Donovan will have no problem rebutting any accusation of ethics violations. However, if voters are too dumb to recognize the facts here, I have a suspicion that Donovan will be just fine if he doesn't get re-elected to Council or any other political office. I wouldn't blame him if this whole episode turned him off of the public life for good.

Hopefully, however, Donovan will continue his good work for the city. We need someone with his compassion and brain cells at the helm of this poor city. To be terrorized by a local lunatic is unfortunate, but I hope it does not deter Donovan from continuing his important work for Allentown.

I was impressed that Donovan had so many supporters attend yesterday's meeting. It shows a lot of character for all of you to go in person to defend Donovan.

My only remaining concern on this matter is Donovan's personal safety. Now that the ethics inquiry is over, what will V do next? To me, he appears deranged and certainly disconnected from reality. I only hope he refrains from acting criminally. I wish the Councilman luck on his endeavors, and I hope this represents the end of this whole affair.

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

The real story here is not Villa or Donovan.

The real story is what role did Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski play in encouraging Villa to file this frivilous complaint?

That issue needs to be investigated and pursued.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:13,

I wonder about that, too, and have a video of a portion of Villa's remarks, in which his claims became very political, instead of ethical. I'll run that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Monkey Momma,

Again, I wanted to tell you how much Donovan appreciated your kind words and your willingness to out yourself and offer to come to yesterday's hearing. But we are both glad you remain anonymous. Villa would go after you with a vengeance.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Bernie -

The real story here is not Villa or Donovan.

The real story is what role did Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski play in encouraging Villa to file this frivilous complaint?

That issue needs to be investigated and pursued.

9:13 AM

We agree! This calls for an Independent Investigation. It cannot be managed by city hall
where jobs and security are online.

Anonymous said...

monkey momma said...
Donovan will have no problem rebutting any accusation of ethics violations. However, if voters are too dumb to recognize the facts here, I have a suspicion that Donovan will be just fine if he doesn't get re-elected to Council or any other political office. I wouldn't blame him if this whole episode turned him off of the public life for good.

Monkey Momma may be right on target with her comments as earlier this week a national political leader stated Joe Sestak is receiving such good press for his willingness to be forthright that it may overshadow all Pat Toomey tries to do. Look at the front pages of newspapers across the county, not to mention the huge Internet boost Sestak is receiving. He's everywhere, and without spending a political campaign cent.

Sanctifying Grace said...

Two words: DOUBLE W!O!W!

Anonymous said...

I hope the City has some kind of a hearing fee to recover the costs the City incurred through this silly waste of time hearing. Otherwise we should all be pissed at Villa for squandering City financial resources to settle personal scores.

Anonymous said...

The hope and change crowd don't like bloggers either:

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/how_not_to_save_news_2g7IgzaZNuwuZU80CVcQ7M

Anonymous said...

I hope that this Villa guy doesn't attack Dr. Bob, who's a sincerely good person. It'll be a shame if Dr. Bob is now subjected to personal torment from an unstable person because he was man enough to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

There must be more to this story. Mr. Villa is an aggrieved parent with an opinion. I don't understand all the anger and hate aimed at him. Even Alex who plans on being a priest is chiming in.

There definitely more to the story of the Villa issue and I hope that one day we get to hear the entire story. It is easy to condemn but it is important to understand.

Sanctifying Grace said...

Here comes the persecution...

Pray for me!

Peace be with you, ~~Alex+

Anonymous said...

Villa is a sick twisted man who honors the memory of his daughter by tormenting others.

eckville press said...

Villa,

On behalf of the citizens of Allentown, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you once and for all, for all the time, money, and resources you exhausted to prove without a reasonable doubt, that not only is the previous said councilmans ethics over and above what is normally eckpected of and elected official, but you are also NUTZ!!!

Again, thank you for allowing me to take your picture.

Eckville Press 2

William Villa O

Good Day!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sanctifying Grace said...

Free will stinks, sometimes. I can only help those who want help. And what would someone want with an "angry priest" anyways?

Do you need any help? Yes or No? You can start first be identifying yourself, so I know how to address you, sir or madam.

"Get behind me satan!"

Peace be with you, ~~Alex+

Anonymous said...

Donovan's an nut job. Cedar Crest can due much better; I really wonder
about their hiring practices.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Cedar Crest can due much better"

I sure hope you're not a graduate.

Anonymous said...

VILE VILLA=NUT JOB

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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