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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Callahan's Sweetheart Deal

At its January 18th meeting, Bethlehem City Council was asked to confirm Mayor John Callahan's reappointment of his brother-in-law, Dino Cantelmi, to the Bethlehem Parking Authority (BPA). But that item was pulled from the agenda at the last minute because City Council member David DiGiacinto had some concerns, and Hizzoner was absent. City Council is meeting again tonight. Callahan will be there. But Cantelmi's reappointment is still missing from the agenda. As a result of what I've learned from a Right-to-Know-Law request, it is very apparent that Callahan recently used the BPA for a sweetheart deal that benefits one of his pals - developer Lou Pektor - at the expense of everyone else. When BPA Executive Director Hector Nemes complained, he was squeezed out. Yesterday was his last day on the job.

In response to a detailed Right-to-Know request, the BPA has provided me with two boxes packed with enough paper to fill the South Mountain forest. Yesterday, I spent a few hours going through them, item by item. I'm only one-third of the way through, and will pick it up again early next week. This is what I've learned.

In 2009, the BPA began considering the purchase of the parking deck behind Main Street Commons. Nothing I've been able to find indicates there was any real need to purchase this deck, which is located only a half block from the BPA's North Street garage. But nearly every item of correspondence from this time period is copied to Mayor Callahan.

At the time, this parking deck was owned by Lou Pektor, and adjoined his Main Street Commons. Pektor secured a state grant of $500,000 to redevelop the former Orr's building, and another $500,000 for the parking deck. Of course, he was grateful. Between 2000 and 2007, Team Pektor invested $75,000 in politicians seeking state office. He also contributed locally to Mayor John Callahan who, like Pektor, is a former wrestler. At the Main Street Commons, Pektor had a padded room built below the Brew Works, where he and Callahan could wrestle with each other. Callahan would later open up his Congressional campaign headquarters in this building.

But as the economy faltered, this urban developer began to struggle himself. In late 2007, he had to give up a 75-acre parcel in Bushkill Township, prime development land. By 2009, Pektor had defaulted on a $1.5 million Sovereign Bank loan.

At this time, the push to buy that parking deck began in earnest, despite a BPA garage located just a stone's throw away. In July, the Dietrick Group, LLC, appraised the value at $1,590,000. But interestingly, this appraisal was based on what the property would be worth after it was renovated, not its "as is" value. An "as is" appraisal would come in November from Moyer Realty Advisors, LLC, a "a regional, full-service appraisal practice specializing in commercial and industrial real estate valuations." That firm appraised the parking deck at just $675,000.

Amazingly, before both appraisals were in, the BPA adopted resolutions in August authorizing an agreement of sale, as well as applications for a $1.7 million loan and $3.5 million RAC grant. The Board was prepared to pay the renovated price for an "as is" property.

Tthe Board went one step further, negotiating a 20-year lease with Pektor under which he'd have control over the 58 parking places on the lower level, as well as 19 surface spots, for a pittance. In essence, the BPA was willing to spend up to $5.2 million for just 56 spaces on the upper level, or $92,857 per parking space.

Review of the closing documents reveal that one notable signature is missing - Executive Director Hector Nemes. It's missing from most of the correspondence, too. He apparently refused to play along in what is obviously a sweetheart deal for Callahan pal Pektor, and is now paying the price for choosing loyalty to the public over loyalty to the Mayor.

On November 2, 2009, BPA's attorneys recorded a deed revealing that they had paid $1,600,000 million for a parking deck worth only $675,000. In addition, the BPA recorded two mortgages to KNBT, one for $1.7 million and the other for $1.55 million. And they also recorded a memorandum of the lease under which Pektor can continue to use over half of the parking deck he no longer owns.

Unfortunately, the sweetheart deal includes includes more that Callahan wrestling buddy Lou Pektor. Pennoni Associates, a major Callahan campaign contributor, was hired to do the concrete renovations at Main Street Commons. That engineering firm is also doing the renovations to Northampton County's parking deck. It's currently somewhere around $600,000 over budget on the $1.7 million bid for that job.

I'll be more sure about Pennoni when I go through the records again, but it appears to be over budget in Bethlehem, too. In November 2009, it submitted a proposal to do the concrete repairs for $517,900. But BPA has already been billed at least $1,108,500. There is also no indication so far that Pennoni was selected from a pool of engineers who were asked for proposals.

Why would the Board, a supposedly independent body, go along with a Nemes' ouster? That's because at least three of them are Callahan cronies.

What I do know is that, when Pennoni had its $7,250 Callahan fundraiser, the person who made the arrangements was BPA Chair Joseph B. Hoffmeier Jr. Another board member, City Council candidate Michael D. Recchiuti, was financed by Callahan in 2009. Callahan filled Recchiuti's coffers with $5,500.

Last, but certainly not least, is Callahan brother-in-law and BPA Vice Chair Dino Cantelmi. Four years ago, on Superbowl Sunday 2007 and just after 1 AM, he was tooling along in his female companion's late model Volvo, driving the wrong way on a one-way street and minding his own business. He slammed right into a Bethlehem police cruiser, severely damaging it. He flipped his Volvo, and sent an injured officer to the hospital.

Sure, Dino had been drinking, Sure, he blew a 0.07 on a notoriously inaccurate field field breathalyzer. But he was never administered field sobriety tests, taken to the DUI center, or ever interviewed by a drug recognition expert. He was instead released after being charged with some summary traffic offenses.

This story eluded the attention of The Express Times and Morning Call, the Lehigh Valley's two local daily newspapers, for nearly four years. Finding it hard to believe that both newspapers would miss a story like this, I suggested a cover-up.

This charge was vehemently denied by Callahan officials, who tried to minimize what had happened. But they sure dragged their feet answering a Right-to-Know request about the incident. It took an appeal to the State Office of Open Records to get the photos you see here.

Yeah, they're independent. And great at parking, too.


Lee said...

Karen Dolan
2:11am on Saturday, January 29, 2011
I just read Ken Kesey's novel "One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest" 30 years after the first time I read it. http://bethlehem.patch.com/articles/toxic-rhetoric-or-failed-mental-health-system


Karen Dolan is Ratched and she is a school teacher and don't get the book at all!!! Wooooooooooow no wonder are kids lost and behind.

The book is about:

1.The struggle between the individual and the system that demands one conform.
2.The battle between male virility and sterility in a matriarchal society.
3.Society has expectations they want you to follow. If you try to break these expectations or challenge them there is usually negative consequences to deal with.

Chief view is dominated by his fear of what he calls the Combine, a huge conglomeration that controls society and forces people into conformity.
The mental patients, all male, are divided into Acutes, who can be cured, and Chronics, who cannot be cured. They are ruled by female Nurse, Ratched a nurse who runs the ward with harsh, mechanical precision. McMurphy is sent there because want to get over. McMurphy is a non conformist not mental. After McMurphy experiences his first Group Meeting, he tells the patients that Nurse Ratched is a ball-cutter. The other patients tell him that there is no defying her, because in their eyes she is an all-powerful force.

McMurphy’s insubordination, however, stimulates the rest of them into rebellion. McMurphy stages a protest by sitting in front of the blank television instead of doing his work, and one by one the other patients join him. Nurse Ratched loses control and screams at them.

See Karen Dolan can't let this happen at the Beth. town hall meetings!!

Witnesses the harsh reality of electroshock therapy and becomes genuinely frightened by the power wielded by the staff.

The cop thing Berine.

The weight of his obligation to the other patients and his fear for his own life begins to wear down his strength and his sanity. Nevertheless, McMurphy arranges a fishing trip for himself and ten other patients. He shows them how to defuse the hostility of the outside world and enables them to feel powerful and masculine as they catch fish. He also arranges for Billy Bibbit to lose his virginity later.

The aides discover the mess the next morning, setting off a series of violent events. When Nurse Ratched finds Billy with Candy, she threatens to tell Billy’s mother. Billy becomes hysterical and commits suicide by cutting his throat. McMurphy attacks Ratched, attempting to strangle her. In retaliation, she has him lobotomized, and he returns to the ward as a vegetable. However, Ratched has lost her tyrannical power over the ward. The patients transfer to other wards or check themselves out of the hospital. Bromden suffocates McMurphy in his bed, enabling him to die with some dignity rather than live as a symbol of Ratched’s power. Bromden, having recovered the immense strength that he had believed lost during his time in the mental ward, escapes from the hospital by McMurphy’s plan of breaking through a window with the hydra. wash basin.

Well were did I get it wrong??? Your on their list to Berine!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's OK, Lee. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Anonymous said...

Ah Lee, you sound like you were there. Or you saw the movie like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, it is taking you WAYYYYYYYYY to long to respond to the BIG news that the election committee changed it's mind.

Your silence is DEAFENING!!!!!!!!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I responded. Try the adult literacy classes somewhere. You might learn how to spell AFSCME.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Who pays the difference between the appraised value and the amount paid for that deck? Can someone research the law and tell me?

Anonymous said...

What about the property now known as One East Broad? Did you check into that?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No. This is a pretty big deal and has me pretty busy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:56, We pay the difference.

Anonymous said...

It's connected.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will be getting to it.

Mickey Boyd said...

Sparknotes, anyone?

Anonymous said...

...and here I thought Allentown had the Valley's worst mayor. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of these guys always with an eye on their next position, their constituents be damned.

The next mayor of Bethlehem will spend his or her entire time in office fixing or undoing the damage from this administration which has zero business sense.

It's hard to run a City when every authority has been completely tapped or out of money itself. The City taxpayers will soon find this out.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MIckey, It's a little complicated, but i am sure you can follow it.

Anonymous said...

This is potentially explosive. The suspicions have been there all along, but they were "whispers". The din is growing. Cunningham & Callahan are cut from the same corrupt cloth. They are political opportunists who are overly ambitious and really don't understand what is written on the side of Liberty High School.

"A man's reach should not exceed his grasp".

Funny, I think they both attended LHS....


Anonymous said...

The quote is Robert Browning, but I changed it for the two clowns.



Alex said...

It sounds like you've got plenty of reading materials on hand.

When you're done, who should this be reported to? Local seems like a waste of time, maybe the District Attorney?

Hope they thank you for doing all the initial legwork on what seems to be a blatant rip-off.