In their January meeting, one attended by Brown, the Gaming Board unanimously appointed Karen Collis, a County economic development analyst, to the role. Brown had no comment at the time, even though Chairman Jay Finnigan specifically asked him for his input.
"We all took a vote," noted Board member David Heintzelman. "I'd like to keep things the way they are." He went on to tell Donaher that Brown's letter sounded political. "I'm pleased with what we have. ... We voted once on this and now we're going to rescind her job?" Donaher argued that she was a "direct line to the county Executive" and went on to suggest that, like some other authorities, the Gaming Board should have named Collis as an "interim" executive director. She advised that Collis would remain as an analyst .
But Board member David Willard rejected Donaher's admonishment, noting that Executive Brown was in the audience when they voted on an Executive Director in January, "and did not interject at that point that this request would be coming to us. It only came late last week. It puts everybody in kind of a difficult position."
By voice vote, Board members unanimously rejected Brown's request to replace Collis with Donaher. Brown was not at the meeting.
According to Treasurer Tom Nolan, the Gaming Board is sitting on top of $870,036.44 in uncommitted funds, as well as $56.72 in restricted funds. In 2013, Sands Casino paid $1,730,272.78 to the Board. Of that sum, $1,287,000 was distributed.
The Gaming Board then went on to consider grant requests from municipalities impacted by gambling.
Hellertown: Police Chief Robert Shupp has requested $213,155.03 to fund the cost of two police officers, the same request it has made for the last three years. "We feel that the impact is best handled by officers on the street," advised the Chief.
Northampton County: Court Administrator Jill Cicero is requesting $10,000 for interpreter fees. Last year, the County paid $34,000 in interpreter fees.
Northampton County: Drug and Alcohol Administrator Tiffany Rossanese is seeking $184,000 for gambling addiction treatment. "We're seeing an increase in the need for transitional housing," she explained. In addition, over 1,000 inmates were treated in jail concerning gambling addiction. She indicates that many of the people treated also have drug and alcohol addictions.
Lower Saucon: Police Chief Guy Lesser is requesting $29,342 for a police vehicle and $90,482 for the cost of an officer.
Bethlehem: EMS Director Gordon Smith is seeking $128,883, to remount an ambulance onto a new chassis. He explained that Bethlehem has a fleet of seven ambulance, five of which are in use on a daily basis. In addition, Bethlehem is paid by Sands to provide standby services at the Event Center. Smith told Board members that Bethlehem charges $95 per hour for standby services, but it costs the City $131 per hour. He indicated that an ambulance is needed, even though it loses money. "We're losing money doing standby, but in the interest of public safety, we need to be there," he explained.
Bethlehem: Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Director Alicia Karner, along with Artsquest's Jeff Parks, is requesting $75,000 for a sign program directing tourists to different attractions. She noted that 8 million people visit South Bethlehem annually, and that is one of the positive impacts of gambling. Jeff Parks added that, on his daily walks, the most common question he is asked is, "Where is the Sands casino?"
Freemansburg Borough Manager agreed with Parks, stating one of her staff members has made up a little map to the sands for lost tourists. "Give 'em two free Musikfest tickets," Finnigan joked.
Parks added that, with the advent of a Bass Pro shop coming to Bethlehem, the Christmas City will soon surpass Lancaster County as the third largest tourist destination in the state. "As such, we have an obligation to provide a decent way-finding system," he observed.
Karner was the Gaming Board's Executive Director before her departure, and Board member David Heintzelman told her it was nice to see her back. "And asking for 75,000 bucks," wisecracked Finnigan.
Freemansburg: Police Chief Todd Pantuso is seeking $103,723 to replace two aging police cruisers with mechanical issues. Freemansburg has 12 police officers with a fleet of four cars.
Bethlehem Township: Police Captain Gregory J. Gottschall is seeking $99,181 for two police cruisers. In addition, they are seeking $7,049 for a polygraph. The Township has also requested $550,000 for a fire truck, but no one from the fire department was present.
Brown Letter to Gaming Board Chair Jay Finnigan