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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ballot Challenge Filed in Bethlehem Township Comm'r Race

Paul Weiss
Last year, when Bethlehem Township developer Abe Atiyeh was concerned about a looming 837-unit housing development in Bethlehem Township, he hired Mark Malkames to file a land use appeal. But instead of suing himself, Atiyeh persuaded commodities broker Raymond Russin to take the point as lead plaintiff. Now Russin is running for Township Commissioner against Paul Weiss as Atiyeh attempts to take control of the Board. But that campaign might be short-lived. On Friday, Attorney Brian Monahan filed a challenge to Russin's nomination petition, seeking to have him tossed off the ballot.

Under Pennsylvania law, a "statement of financial interests" must be filed with the nomination petition, both in the electionsa office and with the governing body. According to Monahan's complaint, Russin failed to file his statement of financial interests with the governing body, which in this case is Bethlehem Township.

Elections officials tell me that Russin was advised to do so at the time he filed his nomination petition.

This is the same mistake L. Jack Bradt made in 1997, when he attempted to run for Northampton County Council. He filed his statement of financial interests with the County Council Clerk, but was a day late and a dollar short. Judge Jack Panella called this lapse a "fatal defect", sustaining a challenge filed by none other than Ron Angle.

Monahan represents Suzanne Robertson, a Democrat who obviously supports Weiss.

Weiss is also facing a challenge by Republican Pat Breslin, who is also reported to be running at Atiyeh's urging.

Atiyeh's Chief Operating Officer, Mickey Thompson, is running against Mike Hudak in the other Commissioner's race up for grabs in Bethlehem Township this year.

Atiyeh is also backing Northampton County Executive candidate Lamont McClure, not because he's a good candidate, but to spite Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, who is also running for Executive. Atiyeh has fared poorly in numerous zoning appeals in the Christmas City.


Anonymous said...

Here's what I do not understand, what is the big deal? If the deadline is extended to file it on Monday, who cares? Do those few days really make that big of a deal? Why are people so picky on these issues, but on something major they blubber, get amnesia, and look the other way?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I can tell you that the Election Code is construed liberally to allow ballot access and that technical defects are overlooked.. But the courts will not veer from precatory language. The law requires that the statement of financial interests SHALL be filed with the governing body. It is not MAY or SHOULD. So this failure has been considered a fatal defect in the past.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, what's that old saying?

If you can't beat 'em...

Anonymous said...

Guys like Panto file sloppy paperwork late - hat tip, as you called him on it in this space - and this is problematic? What gives?

Anonymous said...

abe is backing lamont?

no surprise, but...

how do the pro-lamont whackadoodles who hate everything associated with you and or john stoffa reconcile this?

abe backed stoffa...now abe backs lamont. does that make lamont now evil, or abe good?

Anonymous said...

Most people are dumb in one way or another but the residents of Bethlehem Twp are not stupid.

If Abe thinks he can stack the deck: ___________________________________ fill in the blank!

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the voters aren't stupid and re-elect a man who cost the tax payers $850k by not doing any due diligence and handing over a check to a couple of com artists.

If I was Weiss, I'd be worried too.

Anonymous said...

Russin is actually a pretty cool dude involved in the youth sports of the area. Too bad he got sucked in as a Atiyeh shill. Anyone serious about running for office would have a conviction of their own and make sure all details are covered.

Anonymous said...

Pussy move.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Guys like Panto file sloppy paperwork late - hat tip, as you called him on it in this space - and this is problematic? What gives?"

There is a big difference between a missing address on a finance report, and a failure to file something required to make it onto the ballot.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"abe backed stoffa...now abe backs lamont. does that make lamont now evil, or abe good?"

Abe is a good guy who has helped many people. He has given lots of people second chances. But many people are turned off by his development plans. I personally am not, but I'd say he might be the most despised person n Bethlehem right now.

I am not particularly troubled by his support of Lamont McClure. But in BT, he really does appear to be trying to pack the board.

Lighthouse said...

I do not know all of the challengers, but of those I do, they seem like nice folks. So, my concerns for Bethlehem Township are not personal, per se. Indeed, outside of the development world, Abe himself can be very generous with his money and be quite personable. I have heard a number of folks speak well of him. Of course these are all folks who have not stood in his way, and so his generosity seems to blind them somewhat to the other Abe that local governments know.

However, the fact that his COO, Thompson, has supposedly moved into the 13th st home, and Breslin into the Easton Avenue home, is so blatant that one really has to be willingly deceived not to see what is going on. Both of these properties were acquired by Atiyeh as "investment" properties, used during his attempts to gain standing in his challenges against Pektor's plans on Easton Ave and Madison Farms on Freemansburg ave. He then punted to Russin who actually does reside somewhat near one of these developments (though only the two of them may really know who financed the challenge). Now Misters Breslin and Thompson happen to "live" in them.

It is strangely ironic how Mr. Atiyeh appeared to almost enjoy the battle with neighbors near his proposed Dewberry treatment center, or Township prison, but is so concerned about "all this crazy development"in the Township now. Perception is only when he doesn't control all the "crazy development" does he want to protect anyone from it. Personally, I think planned (aka, Zoned) development is a positive in expanding the local tax base, and improving community QOL. Over the years, I have even periodically agreed with press accounts of points Abe--or his better spoken lawyers--have made. I guess I could respect him more, however, if he were at least consistent about development.

Perhaps Bethlehem Township should change its informal motto of "live, work, play" to "ovem lupo commitere" (to set a wolf to guard the sheep).

gruntled said...

Don't the instructions say that you have ~10 days after filing the petition to file with the governing body?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Guntled, The statement of financial interests must be filed with the governing body on or before the date that the petitions themselves are due for filing with the registrar.

Anonymous said...

It figures that incumbents like Panto and his ilk file sloppy and late paperwork all the time. He defended it here like you had a hell of a nerve bringing it up. Incumbents slant the field to keep outsiders out and protect themselves on the inside. Just as wide latitude is granted to ensure voter participation so should the process for enabling challengers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Sal did not defend it here like I had some nerve bringing it up. He acknowledged the technical defect in a finance report and corrected it. He did attempt to minimize the error, but it really was no bog deal so lon as it was corrected.

In this case, a statement of financial interests must be filed with the governing body on or before the date the petitions are due. Mr. Russin was actually so advised by the elections office, but chose not to do so. Maybe he thinks the rules don't apply to commodity brokers.

This has been successfully challenged in other cases. If you say we should wink at this, you open the door to election fraud.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Mr.Panto has nothing to do with Bethlehem Twp.why bring his forms up at all? AND- let me add that SOME people only care about getting their way for the cash. Right? Mr. Weiss is a very honest and straight forward. Although I have never met him,I already know He is personally generous and possess the highest amount of personal integrity. You are all fortunate out there to have such a man help make decisions in your township.

Anonymous said...

Abe backs whoever can put money in his pocket. Stoffa has put a lot of money in Abe's pocket, so Abe was very, very helpful to Stoffa. Now I guess McClure will help
Abe. What difference does it make. Look at Callahans gang of developer boys, they are salavating over how they will divide up the county for contracts.

Yum, youm, eat em up!

Peter J. Cochran said...

Bernie, I am a taxpayer here in this county.I am of a Jeffersonian type. I would HANG dirty politicians
from a bridge of their venue that say's with a sign around their neck "I cheated the tax payer" And the contractor too.This would help end some of our problems here.

eckville press said...

Financial interests statement
violation.--Any person who violates the provisions of section 1104 (relating to statement of financial interests required to be filed) commits a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of not more than $1,000 or to imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Eck, That applies to knowing violations, not innocent mistakes. But it is important.

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eckville press said...

Candidate's Affidavit.
Sworn to and subscribed before me.
Ignorance is the admittance of guilt.
A candidate should take responsibility for their own faults.
Try again next time and chalk this year as a learning experience.

Eckville Press