Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Following the Money in Bethlehem's Dirty City Council Race

Bethlehem may pride itself on the civility of its City Council, but the race between three Democrats and three Republicans for three seats has been one of the dirtiest I've ever seen. One of my readers once said that Bethlehem is really just another Bangor with lace curtains, and I'm inclined to agree. The pre-election finance reports provide a few clues.

One person has remained above the fray - City Council President Bob Donchez. It's no surprise that he's the biggest fundraiser, too. He picked up $14,971 over this reporting period, giving him $48,356.43, nearly as much as Ron Angle raised for County Council.

One of Donchez' biggest contributors is a long-time friend, DA John Morganelli. An unusually large number of developers also donated to Donchez, from Boyle Ventures ($500) to Dennis Benner ($500). Broughal & DeVito, which represents Bethlehem's Parking Authority, also kicked in $500.

Donchez only spent $14,107.81, leaving him with a very healthy $34,248.62 in his warchest. Gee, with that kind of money, he could run for another office.

Like Mayor.

Willie Reynolds did pretty well, too. He raised $8,265 this reporting period, giving him a total of $17,503.64. Broughal & DeVito gave him $485, and another $485 comes from Martin Tower developer Lew Ronca. There are smaller sums from people like Joe Kelly, Bethlehem's DCED Director, and Callahan brother-in-law Dino Cantelmi.

Reynolds spent $15,463.26, leaving him with $10,305.38 for a last-minute push.

Michael Recchuiti raised $8,825 over this reporting period, giving him a total of $12,713. His contributors include people and outfits like Callahan brother-in-law Dino Cantelmi ($100), Broughal & DeVito ($250), Allentown contractor Lee Butz ($250), Bethlehem DCED Director Joe Kelly ($250), Willie Reynolds ($500), IBEW ($500) developer Dennis Benner ($500), developer Abe Atiyeh ($500) and City Line Construction's Tom Williams ($1,000).

Recchiuti has spent most of his money, and is left with $1,035.27.

Among the three Republicans, Al Bernotas raised the least amount of money. I neglected to record the exact sum, but it wasn't much. Al has actually told some would-be contributors that he doesn't want their money.

He's running on his good looks.

But Tom Carroll will take money from anyone, even if it's LC Party Bossman Wayne Woodman ($1,000). Carroll reported raising $17,738.96 this reporting period, with $3,000 coming from Bob Pfenning, a long-time City Hall watcher. Carroll has spent nearly $10,000 leaving him with $8,495.69 for the remaining days.

Bob Pfenning gave another $3,000 to Tony Simao, who raised $8,325.26 this reporting period, giving him $9,810.34 total. Tea Party activist and Lehigh County watchdog Stan Bialecki donated $500 to Tony as well.

Having spent $7,050.07, Tony has $2,760.27 for the final days of this race.


Anonymous said...

It is almost funny that Bob Donchez keeps raising that kind of money. Bernie, there isn't a chance in Hell a Donchez would lose int the city of Bethlehem.
when you factor in all the different spellings of the name, about 40% of Bethlehem are in the name.

The guy is actually funny. he could put his name on the ballot without raising a nickel and be top vote getter.

By the way the Republicans did a great piece on Wee Willie and Reuneitte on ice. We are awaiting the Reynolds nude gayman mailer that may be coming soon.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I doubt very much that any of the Dem candidates would be stupid enough to do a hit piece like that directly. I'm betting Garvin, so they can distance themselves.

Anonymous said...

about time the people of Bethlehem wise up and put into office some decent, non-corrupt, people who owe no favors to Callahan, unions, developers, and really care about Bethlehem without wanting anything in return. Let the city rise above all the corruption by getting limiting the JC rubber-stampers. Doesn't take a genius to see what the voters should do. Vote for Bernotas (who truly cares about the people of bethlehem) and Simao (he is a smart decent guy and who cares about the dirt the Demos dug up on him - he is a decent guy). The Demos think they are decent, not!!!!!!!

Carol said...

Bangor with lace curtains?!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Carol. Why throw Bangor under the bus?

Anonymous said...

By "decent" do you mean dudes who post naked photos of themselves on the internet?

And no, as much as BOH would like it so, this is not a statement on anyone's sexuality. You'd think posting naked pictures of yourself on the internet would say something about anyone's character. To BOH, it just says you are gay.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Carol and 8:53, The phrase is not intended as a slur on Angle. The phrase is intended to convey the message that Bethlehem is just like any other town, but maintains a veneer or lace curtain in which it pretends it is better.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"And no, as much as BOH would like it so, this is not a statement on anyone's sexuality."

The whole purpose of Walt Garvin's little exercise was to draw attention to the fact that one of the candidates is gay.

That's why Mike Recchiuti, who claims to be the person who discovered this, wanted to do. Here's his explanation.

"These were found using his lehighvalleylive user id (abel1976)
and googling it with keywords (pa, bethlehem, gay, homosexual)."

If lifestlye is irrelevant, why was recchiuti using terms like "gay" and "homosexual" on a Google search?

Anonymous said...

Let's all just pay attention to some naked photos and an openly gay candidate instead of the real issues.

Don't look behind that to see the record debt and all of the illegal money trasfers. You "dumb voters" should just spend the rest of your time looking for the naked photos. Don't read the audit, whatever you do!

Yours truly,


Anonymous said...

Receiving money from developers and a firm representing the Parking Authority is staying above the fray? This is just one more of the same ugliness from the team of Democrats that run the city. Funny also that Willy R. takes money from those same developers and then sends money off to Mikey R. Guess he had to since people took notice of how much money Callahan had directly given to him in the last reporting period. Willy R. also wants to be mayor btw.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Do you think Donchez is influenced by those contributions? When I first started blogging, I would agree with you. But now I see it more as a a recognition by these people that Donchez is the guy they are going to have to deal with in the future.

I'd love to see our campaign finance laws reformed, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

There's another way of looking at this. The more money a candidate can raise, the more likely it is that he is viewed as a serious candidate.

I still like to know where that money is coming from. People who get lots of money from developers tend to vote for developers, etc. But it legal and when you come down to it, what person s NOT a special interest.

Bob Pfenning contributd heavily to Carroll and Simao. Although I know Bob and know he soent his money where he thought it would do the most good, is he not a special interest? Aren't we all?

Anonymous said...

No surprise Carroll took money from Woodman. Just goes to show what kind of agenda he really has.

Surprised you have not written about why Carroll was fired from the NorCo DAs office...racist remarks to a co-worker?

Bernie O'Hare said...

So far as I know, Tom resigned, after which he received a glowing letter of recommendation from John Morganelli, his boss. These late accusations, made anonymously, prove again just how dirty this race has become.

Anonymous said...

Who would win in a Donchez, Cunningham, Dolan mayoral race?

Anonymous said...

If lifestlye is irrelevant, why was recchiuti using terms like "gay" and "homosexual" on a Google search?

It may be relevant to the dude who found them but to voters pulling the lever, it speaks volumes about the character of the candidate.

Anonymous said...

J.C. - You know we can worry about issues AND not elect candidates of low moral character. It IS possible.

Anonymous said...

"The whole purpose of Walt Garvin's little exercise was to draw attention to the fact that one of the candidates is gay"

so, the anthony weiner scandal was relevent because it highlighted that he was... hetero?

face it- the pictures are indicative of monumentally, historicalaly, indeed, Biblically poor judgment by ANY candidate. you are just so lathered up to get at the Callahan slate, you're willing to overlook it.

Anonymous said...

From what I heard, the money to the Republicans from Pfenning is a loan...not a donation. It is smoke and mirrors.

Anonymous said...

So...under what circumstances did Recchiuti leave the law firm that he was working for? Let's have that conversation. Has he ever answered that question?

And Reynolds is one of the few substitute teachers that was not let go because they have no teaching certificate. He must be special. And why did he leave Samuelson's office?

See? Lots of questions that have never been answered.

Anonymous said...

You are forgetting the fact that Simao was NAKED on the internet. That is the story. Don't you think Simao did internet queries on Rechiuti?

Anonymous said...

I have some hude pictures of O'Hare if anyone is interested.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:38 -

That still doesn't answer the other questions. So they don't bear asking?

Anonymous said...

"Don't you think Simao did internet queries on Rechiuti?"

So, you're saying you have naked photos of Recchiuti?

Are you sure it's not Dom Deluise?

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem overspent 2008 budget by $2.7 million

Bethlehem audit of 2009 budget shows $8.5 million shortfall

Bethlehem finishes last year with a $14.2 million deficit (2010)

The most recent:

- The 2010 draft audit details Bethlehem's tight cash flow as it put off paying bills, borrowed from accounts meant for other things and once took out a bank loan to make ends meet.

As Reichert said in a meeting, "It's not like anyone is going to jail over this!"

- The Administration took out a $1 million short term loan on September 14, 2010, without getting City Council's authorization as required by the Third Class City Code. It was then repaid within a few weeks with $3000.00 in interest costs. The loan was taken out in anticipation of the host fees from the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem of nearly $8.8 million.

Reynolds as the Chair of the Finance Committee didn't even scold the Administration when he found out about this happening on his watch.

- The Administration failed to make a $4.87 million pension payment, adding $449,000 in interest costs. The payments have since been made.

Reynolds stated that the casino money was really intended for costs such as benefits and raises. Guess he didn't read the audit.

- The Administration transferred $790,000.00 of a restricted Community Block Grant for general expenses, paying it back earlier this year.
- Charlie Dent alerts authorities about Bethlehem's federal funds misuse

- The Administration used $3.17 million in earned income tax, some of it meant for other taxing bodies such as the Bethlehem Area School District, to pay expenses. The city still owes $615,000.00 to other governments.
- Hanover Lawsuit: Give us the money

- Used $2.7 million in restricted funds from the 911 fund to pay unallowable costs.

The three Democrats want to keep the 911 center in the hands of the Mayor. Like Simao said this is just another account for the Administration to steal money out of.

Reynolds said, "We didn't know about this, when we found out we reacted. That's what government does!"

Government should not be reactive, it should always be proactive. As such you have failed in your duties as the Chair of the Finance Committee.

Callahan failed to deliver property tax reform that was supposed to come with casinos.

Reynolds said, "The casino money was always intended to go toward the impact the casino would have, not property tax reform. Police and fire got their raises with that casino money."

That's not what the residents were told over and over by the Mayor before the casino moved in. Typical Callahan yes man, making up lies and blaming the police and firemen for a broken promise.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for recapping the Tea Party talking points from today's mailer delivery Tony or Tom... Hope you cut and paste... That would take a ton of time to write out all over again!

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem seems great to me. All this hand wringing from slate belters is funny.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:05 your just outright being dishonest. The host fee was always I repeat ALWAYS intended for the city to meet the new burden of a casino. Only after all other needs are met and debt paid down, then the city tax will be reduced. It was a major talking point that people love to misquote.

Talk to the State and School district about reform the tax.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Joe.

Anonymous said...

Seamus, that's Willy's talking point but far from reality. BTW, immediately after the election, the administration is coming for the money in the Casino overage lockbox and guess how that vote will come out. Let’s look at the truth rather than the political spin of Willy R. $9 million in host fee money this year. $24 million in additional borrowing at a cost of over $40 million with debt service added to the existing debt, $18 million in deficits in the last 3 years, $1 million in a loan taken out against the law, EIT money put into the general fund with a law suit pending filed by Hanover Twp., Federal Grant money put into the General Fund illegally. Failure to make the first payroll of the year and questionable shifting of money to solve that problem. Let's not forget the $17 million in borrowing from this year was to cover $14 million in unpaid bills. Oh, and the 5.3% tax increase. Seamus, are you going to support that being eliminated in the 2012 budget? Yes, there is more, let's not forget the $6 million was for projects like a new EMS facility and a firepumper. It is now November 2011 and still no EMS facility and no firepumper. And Willy R. states in the debates that he doesn’t support the closing of the fire station. Yet, he made no such statement of opposition during the City Council committee meeting. You can change the story all you like, the promise to the citizens was always, bring in the casino and you will get property tax relief. Not only do we have no such relief, under your watch we have fewer police, fewer firefighters, increased fees and a 5.3% tax increase.

Anonymous said...

Yeah but he has a hot girlfriend.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

Look, the "hot girlfriend" comment is funny since Willie once said it. But that's no excuse for a vicious personal attack on his girlfriend, who is not running for anything and does not need to be the subject of anonymous cowardly slurs. Knock it off. If you think it helps your cause, you're wrong.

Anonymous said...

I think it's hilarious that people think I'm Joe. Since I appreciate his intelligence and logical thought process I will take it as a compliment.

Anyone who says the host fee was supposed to be returned to offset taxes is really confused. Go back, read the articles...or go back to the congressional race talking points. it's just not true.

And about the EMS building, doing what is smart with the people’s money is the most important thing. The administration did not want to raise taxes for this....council did. At least the money is separate and cannot be used for anything else.



Anonymous said...

OK Joe.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say that Seamus is likely Willy R. himself if it isn't Joe. He is someone right in the middle of the thug Democrat crew in the so-called Callahan wing of the Democrat party.

Anonymous said...

I'm just angry they didn't jump me into the gang you often talk about.


Anonymous said...

You are obviously an angry person... angry, mean-spirited and a mouth piece for misinformation.

Anonymous said...

He's Joe Kelly.