On October 6, during a Northampton County Council meeting, Ron Angle announced that landfill magnate Charles Chrin would make a $2 million contribution for farmland preservation, with the money coming from lot sales at Chrin's planned industrial park. Angle had been unleashed by Council two weeks earlier, during an executive session. His mission was to squeeze Chrin and see what he was willing to give in exchange for a favorable TIF at his development, which will gobble up 689 acres of farmland. Chrin's generosity, according to Executive John Stoffa, will enable the County to preserve 650 acres of farmland. That will go a long way to negate the loss of greenspace caused by Chrin's development.
It was a good deal that benefits us all. Like him or not, it was realized largely as a result of Angle's own efforts. But with the notable exceptions of Mike Dowd and Barb Thierry, the rest of Council were unwilling to acknowledge his achievement. That's understandable, I suppose. Democrats Ann McHale and Lamont McClure, two of Angle's biggest political opponents on Council, would have no reason to acknowledge his success, no matter how good it was for the County. The rest of them simply dislike the guy.
The person who really put me off? Council member Tom Dietrich. He is one of the Council members who agreed to send Angle on this mission. Maybe he was disappointed that Angle actually succeeded. Whatever his motive, in the middle of this meeting (1:06:00) and during Angle's announcement, he acted like a 5th grader. He scribbled and passed a handwritten note to Ann McHale, with which she could be heard agreeing.
"Anything you could share with us, Mr. Deitrich?" asked Angle.
"No. That was between he and I," answered McHale, as Dietrich hid behind her skirt. Just like the anonymous cowards who post vile attacks here, Dietrich lacked the courage to own his own words.
Amazingly, for doing exactly what he was directed to do, Dietrich accused Angle in that note of bribery, according to the account of someone who saw it.
The very next day, I filed a Right-to-Know request for the note or a reasonable facsimile. Dietrich knows what he wrote and shared in the middle of a public meeting, and should be required to produce it. If he accused a fellow Council member of bribery during the middle of a public meeting, that's something the public has a right to know, too.
Not surprisingly, Dietrich refused to produce the note. Dietrich the candidate was all about transparency, but Dietrich the elected official is all about secrecy. He dispatched Council Solicitor Phil Lauer to claim (1) the note does not exist; (2) if it does, it is not a public record; and (3) if it is a public record, it's exempt.
On Wednesday, the Office of Open Records (2011-1406_OHare-Northampton_County.pdf) ordered Dietrich to produce the note. He's got 30 days, and should not try complaining that his dog ate it.