Thursday, February 20, 2014

I'm Pretty Sure Zosky Contract Failed

It reminded me of the good ol' days, back when Northampton County Bulldog Ron Angle was calling just about everyone "a fake, a fraud and a phony." Or when Councilman Charles "Don't call me Charlie" Dertinger wanted to duke it out with the man we now know as the King of Sludge. Since the departure of those two, which came at the request of voters with absolutely no sense of humor, Northampton County's governing body has been no fun at all. They sit up there giving each other phony compliments and forty minute liaison reports while I guzzle coffee to keep awake. But yesterday, when Ken Kraft and Glenn Geissinger went after each other over the $715,200 Deana Zosky contract, I was happy. Unfortunately, no blood was spilled.

Before I get into that, I have to warn you this report is flawed. I am only fluent in English and French.I have to go to language school if I intend to continue covering County Council.  

You see, Executive John Brown speaks very little English, which probably explains why he has been reluctant to answer emails and phone calls. His language is Corporatese. I only understand about half of what he's saying. At yesterday's well-attended Finance Committee hearing, he made what appeared to be a passionate appeal for a no-bid $715,200 business managerial services contract with CPA Deana Zosky.

It was either that or a weather report.

On three occasions, he called Deana a "fresh set of eyes" to look over County finances. He said there was a "sense of urgency" in getting her aboard, that "we're burning cash rapidly" and that her services would be a "first pass attempt to where do we begin to close the gap," or something along those lines.

Council member Ken Kraft, who speaks English, was blunt. "Isn't that what we elected you to do?" he asked. He pointedly observed that we're spending $0.75 million for an opinion. Kraft also dismissed Solicitor Vic Scomillio's opinion that the contract was legal as flawed.

That when it got fun. A perturbed Glenn Geissinger asked Kraft,. "Your law degree comes from where?"

Unfortunately, there were no blows. Maybe next time.

Kraft later pointed out that he went to school for contractual law, damn it. I did send him a text last night, telling him he could borrow my law degree if he wants because I'm not using it.

Brown assured Council that he would accept responsibility for the success of the contract. "I am the one who's accountable," he said in English.

"If I spend a dollar and can save $2, all day long I'll do that," he reasoned, again in English.

Hayden Phillips and, more particularly, Peg Ferraro, were troubled by the fact that Brown looked nowhere beyond Zosky. Though Brown insisted he had to have someone who he trusted implicitly, he was not appointing a cabinet member. He was instead proposing a business consultant who would be working for the entire County, not just him.

"I like to shop," Peg said quite simply, referring to the lack of proposals.

Peg was also a bit put off that Zosky only lasted 23 months at the Allentown School District, yet is being proposed for a four-year contract. Zosky explained that she left because, contrary to what she had been told, she was never given control over a dime of the money needed to effect changes.

Zosky herself is a CPA who speaks fluent Accountantese. I got half of Brown had to say, but didn't understand a word she said, except that it sounded very convincing. She prepared detailed packets showing exactly what she would be doing, although it would take me four years to understand them. She clearly is exceptionally gifted.

Glenn Geissinger, a consultant himself, supported the deal. "We are foolish if we do not give the Executive $800,000 for an opportunity to save millions," he argued. Mat Benol agreed with Geissinger, claiming that we are "bleeding money"

But Scott Parsons responded that Brown would have a new set of eyes if he hired a Finance Director.

Hayden Phillips worried that Zosky might be using her RenewLV connections, where she sat on the board with Brown, to enrich herself.

"Has it parlayed any advantages?" he asked (He speaks Marine. Either that or French. They are very similar).

"Absolutely not," Zosky answered, noting her commitment to RenewLV is based solely in her beliefs in smart growth and urban revitalization.

When the matter was called for a vote of the Finance Committee, only Geissinger supported the contract. The other three members - Hayden Phillips, Bob Werner and Scott Parsons - voted No.

Ken Kraft and Peg Ferraro, nonvoting members, are opposed. Mat Benol supports the measure, and said so. Lamont McClure and Seth Vaughn, who do not sit on this committee, were not present.

Will this be voted on by Council tonight? It appears unlikely.

Based on the concerns raised by Council, I believe they would support a contract that was shorter in duration and that is arrived at by considering several proposals. Zosky need not be the low bid, as Brown seems to think.

On Tuesday, Brown stated during his news conference that he had the five votes he needed for this measure to pass. Based on my own discussion with council members and my ability to count to five, I knew he was wrong. His hubris needlessly embarrassed a qualified candidate, but his idea is a good one and might work if he acknowledges the concerns raised by Council.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amazing how tea party republicans like Giessingr and Benol support this crap. They feel government is evil unless it is funneling tax dollars to well
connected "consultant".

The hypocrisy of the conservative republican never ceases to amaze.

"Hey old person learn to take care of yourself, we have a consultant that needs a million dollars to tell us you are old and frail."

Anonymous said...

Bernie, despite receiving the non-recommendation of the committee, I believe the matter can still be brought before the entire county council on Thursday night. It will just be present as not having been recommended by the committee.

I believe that has been done in the past. I realize it no doubt would go down in flames but there is ample precedent to do that if council so desires a full debate and vote.

In fact Brown could request the full vote.

Anonymous said...


Brown would only embarrass himself further by requesting a vote on something he knows will fail and is not supported by those who elected him or those voting on it.

Anonymous said...

There is no guarantee of savings. None. This is a buyer be aware deal. Didn't Stoffa bring in high priced know it all consultants to show how Gracedale is an albatros and what was the final result? Its still owned by the County and bleeding Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The County can not afford to parade in consultants to do the work the Executive,his Cabinet and the staff ought to be doing!! If this stupid contract is awarded, it will result in a nice report that in know way whatsoever will be implemented in full. Maybe a a piece here or there, but not in its totality. That is just how local government works. Zosky came to that realization by her own admission in Ohare's report!Not one person ever has full control.

C.P.M. said...

Why not hire an internal auditor full time??? Spending $750K for a "consultant" is obscene. There should be unanimous opposition by the council.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't the coutny controller looking into the bleeding of cash
???

Anonymous said...

Yup, the county spoke and voted for a lie. They claim they want less government yet the 2 new fools didn't live up to it. Mr. Philip's, thank you for running a campaign and actually sticking to your promises of good government. Mr. Brown shame on you for lying to every voter by telling us you would be effective in running anything, the only thing you have accomplished so far is to embarrass yourself first with a stupid move and arrogant insistence on CPD then this open ended blunder. When will you hold a press conference introducing your new cabinet instead of sitting in your office staring at spreadsheets. Get to work already it's been two months and four council meetings and the boat is rudderless and the reason is YOU.

Anonymous said...

Gracedale is a financial albatross and continues to lose money. Barron and McClure insisted on spending fund balance to prop it up. That money is gone. Now they try to divert attention to a prison contract or the human service building. Newsflash..corrections and human services are mandated county services, a nursing home isn't. It's time for Peg and the Gracedale Dems to vote for a tax increase to fund this albatross that continues to "bleed money."

Anonymous said...

Ain't it great? All you need to know are the "buzz words", and you too, can get ahead in life without any other knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Another crackerjack opinion from slash and burn Scomillio. The court jester advising the financial wizard. This ship of state is headed for a norovirus outbreak.

The Central Scrutinizer said...

What did he have to say to 1) the comment that that's what we elected him and his vast business experience to do and 2) that that's also what a Finance Director would do?

Or is he just learning that you cannot run government like a business simply because the taxpayers won't support paying salaries commensurate with private sector peers?

The Central Scrutinizer said...

Why not hire an internal auditor full time??? Spending $750K for a "consultant" is obscene. There should be unanimous opposition by the council.

Yes, I don't know this was not pressed more. It would be cheaper, the person would be accountable, and it would provide a job in an economy sorely needing jobs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

We have an internal auditor. It us the controller.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What did he have to say to 1) the comment that that's what we elected him and his vast business experience to do and 2) that that's also what a Finance Director would do? "

1) He said he is doing what we elected him to do by getting fresh eyes.

2) I think he said at one point that this is a bit beyond a typical Finance Director. i do have a tough time following him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

3:11, I would ask the Exec to withdraw the matter before the meeting by letter or email to the clerk of council. I don't think anyone is playing fast and loose, but I'd hate to see Brown execute this bc it was not voted on formally. I'd also hate to see someone embarrassed.

Anonymous said...

8:20
You are right--Obama had one. It was called " change" Look how we're doing with that

Anonymous said...

Benol-Dent drinks no tea, he prefers the establishment kool-aid now. He has turned to the dark side, spouting enough "conservative" rhetoric to fool those not paying attention, but casting his lot with the puppetmasters rather than with those who have only their votes to offer.

-Clem

Anonymous said...

I wish I could get $750K for a part time job, where there's no guarantee of results from my labors.

Anonymous said...

Zosky is not gifted. Lot's of CPA's can't do this kind of work.

She is full of buzzwords and smoke/mirrors.

She didn't achieve much at ASD.

Anonymous said...

I for one am a happy conservative this failed. Brown has other options and far cheaper ones. Now maybe he will turn to them. His option A is done. And Ken what's this we stuff? You voted for Callahan? Just busting on you. We all know Callahan would spend plenty of money. Just differently so I for one, besides having no real choice, will wait and see if Brown steps up. Hopefully he can. He did walk into a real mess. That part is not his fault. I know, he put himself out there. It's like getting married. You figure you can make yours a good one but then maybe your wife or husband has far different ideas. Either work on it or walk away. Brown can't walk away from this relationship. So he must find a way to make it work. He does need time. Sometimes you just need a little humor.

Anonymous said...

Like the way the uber conservative Republican tea party dudes were voting yes to this debacle.

Thanks Republican party for your never ending work on behalf of the no job creators. which entrenched and connected player will you try to give tax money to next.

By the way the last Admisntration slashed the aging Budget, why not consider spending some of that money there.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I voted for the republican ticket to end the madness. I am now concerned about Mr. Brown's complete lack of basic governmental knowledge. I realize the county is not the fed and they do provide all kinds of important services.

I was wondering, you were at the council debates as I was. Who were the guys that had been in county government? I didn't vote for them but they sounded like they were very knowledgeable and if they had not been Democrats I may have voted for them.

Brown needs to swallow his pride an reach out to these guys and possibly see if they would be willing to help put at least for a while.

c said...

At first I was very concerned about Hayden Philips. I'm actually starting to warm up to him a bit...I admire his independence.

Anonymous said...

You have no way of knowing that Callahan would have spent more money. The reason the city cost went up was retirement and medical expenses not his doing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:51, those guys were Jerry Seyfried and Ron Heckman. They are interested in what is best for the county. If Brown thinks he's the first person to notice inefficiencies, he's nuts. He would benefit greatly by talking to those two. I believe john Cusick and Ron Angle could offer invaluable insight, too. Brown might be surprised by some of their ideas.

Anonymous said...

Word on the street is Ron Angle will be the Director of Admisntration.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That explains the body bags shipped up to Council chambers earlier today.

Anonymous said...

THOSE WERE COLOSTOMY BAGS...

Anonymous said...

Bernie, do you get the sense Brown has any clue as to what he wants to do? Or his ideas on how or who he should hire to assist him in a cabinet?

Were you surprised by Benol and Giesinger?

Anonymous said...

It's people like 1:51 that annoy the shit out of me. All they do is pull the straight ticket (whether Ds or Rs) and not do their homework and vote independently or with a mixed ticket. The world isn't just black or white! Extremists would have you think so and point to bogeymen within government. But there are qualified people of different political parties that can contribute to a progressive agenda. When will the voters lose their apathy and start voting with an informed mind? Now we are stuck with what we all deserve, because we didn't vote intelligently.

Anonymous said...

Posts from my laptop don't stick. Another one midday today. No message about the characters not matching. The comment appears and the total changes, and then it disappears, no "comment deleted" marker or other clue as to what happened.

Moderation? Banned? Or, a problem on my end?

-Clem

Bernie O'Hare said...

Clem, No moderation or banned. Maybe your comment went into spam. I will check. Sometimes blogger does that. Sometimes my own comments don't make it. I don't think it's on your end, nut on mine. But it is inadverdent.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your comment was in spam for some reason, Clem. I just dug it out and published it. Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

Cool. But it only ever happens when using my laptop, and virtually every time I've tried on that machine for a long time now. Have to ask my IT pals at work what might be tagging along and getting it flagged.

Thanks for the info.

-Clem

Bernie O'Hare said...

I would not know, Clem. Probably just the NSA monitoring your stuff. no biggie. Pay no attention to that drone outside your window.

Anonymous said...

Ba-Zinga!

-Clem