Now Senator Browne, along with State Rep. Jennifer Mann and Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski, is one of the Unholy Trinity recommending nine NIZ Board nominees to the Queen City Council on Wednesday night. Amazingly, Mann has recommended herself, too.
Now, I could forgive Browne for sincerely believing, as some do, that the best way to revitalize our urban cores is by corporate welfare, whether it's an outright grant, a KOZ or a NIZ. Never mind that it's always failed. But what's more problematic is that it appears that Senator Browne might be a little more interest in revitalizing his own financial core than that of any city.
A few short months after this NIZ became law, Senator Browne's wife suddenly became a registered lobbyist. I complained about it, and so did Rick Orloski, who was running against Browne at the time.
Now this is completely legal. Senator Jeanette Reibman's husband, Nathan, was a lawyer and lobbyist. So was State Rep Karen Ritter's husband. But the practice of a husband and wife, teaming up as legislator and lobbyist, stinks to high heaven. As Orloski noted at the time,
"Pat and Heather Browne have injected something new into Lehigh Valley politics, namely, the husband and wife team working in the Capitol with Pat Browne receiving public monies and Heather Browne receiving private monies to advance private agendas. Senators are supposed to serve the public good, not private agendas. Maybe the ideal solution is for Pat Browne to relinquish his public position and join his wife's lobbyist firm."Voters, if they even knew what the hell was going on, thought otherwise and returned Browne to office.
According to Heather Browne's registration statement, last updated through 12/31/10, she's with Pugliese Associates, where her "expertise" in "government relations" and "business development" is lauded.
Guess who Pugliese welcomed as new clients in November?
J.B. Reilly's East Penn Realty and Joe Topper's Lehigh Gas. Reilly just happens to be the main private resource behind the NIZ, and Topper's Lehigh Gas is one of its first tenants.
All very cozy, isn't it?
Now this fails every ethical test - the Red Faced Test, the Laugh Test and my "It's Not Only Unethical - even for lobbyists where the bar is very low - But Also Probably Illegal" Test.
Now she could deny, I suppose, that Reilly and Topper are her clients. But since she runs the Allentown office for Pugliese and they are Allentown clients, that's gonna' be a hard sell.
Incidentally, Pugliese is located at 702 Hamilton Street. Why does that matter? It's where State Senator Pat Browne and Joe Topper are both located, with J. B. Reilly as their landlord. Now all we need is NIZ Board nominee Nelson Diaz as property manager of the building. That would be so cool.
Updated 11:50 PM: In fairness to State Senator Browne, I have asked for his response to this blog. I felt the story needed to be told now.