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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, March 03, 2014

No-Bid Consultant Contracts Appears to Be Illegal

According to Valley 610, Northampton County Council member Ken Kraft has challenged the legality of two consultant contracts recently awarded by Executive John Brown. He points to two, but there's actually three of them: an $84,000 public relations consultancy with Kim Plyler; a $24,000 personnel consultant (Integrity Personnel) and a $20,000 capital projects review from Donna Taggart. Pursuant to a Right-to-Know request, I obtained and posted copies of all three contracts.

Before I get into the Administrative Code, let me give you some background on these consultants.

Integrity Personnel's owner, Kevin Flemming, is a friend, business associate and perhaps even a client of Attorney Scott "I love the NIZ" Allinson. Funny thing. I heard that Allinson represents Deana Zosky, too. This is something I can't confirm.

Attorney-client privilege, you know.

Donna Taggart seems to have connections everywhere. She did a lot of work, still may, for the Greater Easton Development Partnership. Dick McAteer has his fingers in that piece of pie. We know his connection to Brown and the Lehigh Valley Partnership.

Taggart also threatened me with libel many years ago, over something that another blogger had written.

Kim Plyler was actually a communications specialist with the ill-fated Callahan for Congress run. How did she get connected to Brown? Real political irony there. She and Donna Taggart share the same office on East Third Street.

Though I'm letting Kraft use my law degree, I'm mostly interested in what lawyers familiar with municipal law think about these contracts. I've spoken to three of them, and it appears that my law degree is in good hands. Kraft is right.

1. Brown lacks authority to spend money for these contracts. - Without a budget amendment, Brown has no authority to spend money for contracts that were never funded by Council. He does not have the power, under the Home Rule Charter, to transfer money appropriated for other purposes. They control the purse strings.

2. Brown skipped the procurement office. - The Administrative Code, in order to prevent awarding political favors, centralizes contract awards through the procurement office (Sec. 13.04). With some enumerated exceptions that have no application here, these contracts must be awarded through the procurement office, not the Executive.

3. Professional service contracts require competitive negotiation. -  The Administrative Code requires competitive bidding, even for professional services contracts (Sec.13.09). According to one legal expert, this means there must be public notice (advertising); a Request for Proposals (RFPs); opening of the proposals by the Procurement Officer; and an award to the person whose proposal is determined in writing to be the most advantageous to the County, taking into consideration price and the evaluation factors set forth in the Request for Proposals. "The procedure must be followed to avoid the awarding of contracts at the whim of the Executive, which appears to be what happened here."

4. Brown awarded no-bid contracts without explaining why competitive bidding is impractical. -The consultant contracts that Brown executed appear to be professional services contracts that should have gone the competitive bidding route. But let's assume they're not. The Administrative Code does allow no-bid contracts in some circumstances, but the Executive must issue an Executive Order before he executes the contract, stating why he was unable to use competitive negotiation. He also must clear it with Council. (Sec. 13.07(b)).  There is no evidence that happened.

Solicitor Vic Scomillio seems to think that this provision of the Administrative Code only applies to the acquisition of County property, as he explained to a Council Committee not long ago. He seems to be thinking real estate. But if he reads the Code a little more closely, he'll see that "services" like a consultant contract are included in the term "County property.:"  For example, Section 13.04 (a), which centralizes these contracts in the procurement office, provides they apply to "services, printing and purchasing of other County property." (Emphasis is mine).

5. The Administrative Code has Teeth. - Section 13.21 provides that if Brown intentionally or knowing violates the purchasing provisions of the Administration Code, he can be personally surcharged for any damages caused to the County. In other words, he can be forced to pay the cost of those contracts himself. In addition, he would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

I believe these contracts are illegal. I have no doubt that Brown, when executing these political favors, had no idea that he was breaking the law. But now that he has been put on notice, he needs to suspend these contracts.


Anonymous said...

Poor John Brown. Someone handed him the keys to the county and he doesn't know what the hell to do./

Thank you republicans, job well done.

Anonymous said...

Brown is way out of his league. I knew the county would end up with buyers remorse but this way faster than even i imagined. This guys makes Callahan look like Churchhill.

Anonymous said...

Scomilio is lost without the favoritism he received from Morganelli to make him look good in the eyes of his clients. He was always a good old boy and never a competent attorney.

Anonymous said...

Dont blame Brown on the Republicans. Blame Brown on the Democrats and Callahan. For some reason Democrats didnt feel the need to get out and vote. Numbers at the pols were extremely lower than usual, respecially Democrat numbers.

Loced the Scomilio reference. Spot on.

Anonymous said...

"Dont blame Brown on the Republicans"

What!! They voted for him. Republicans don't spilt tickets, they only vote Republican or not at all. It is the Hannity Code.

Sadly we got a bullshoit executive and a clueless group of clowns on county council. Nice job you old baggers you!

Maybe Giesinger and Benol can find another million dollar sweetheart deal to vote for.

Anonymous said...

Our new republican county government is more liberal than Stoffa and his crowd. Didn't think that was possible.

Anonymous said...

There are many more D's in this county so yes the D's did help to elect Brown. Do you really think the R's could do it alone???? You can attack and be emotional but those are the facts. I know facts are a funny thing. People hated Callahan and I am still happy we are not dealing with him. He is smart enough to get what he wants under some legality. Brown is not and his solicitor should be fired. Or whoever is his legal council.When he gets it and he will we won't have a slick executor. Sorry but for some that is worse.....well I'm not really sorry for you. You lost get over it. John Brown needs to clean house again....if they, his advisors are ignorant then they can't be of any use to him.

Anonymous said...

Legal advise is like the weather..wait a while and you will get an opinion you like. I'm not buying what Kraft is selling but will let more educated people sort it out. JB needs to get it right and then council will follow his lead. Still treading water but he has the ability to lead by example. Lots of work remains..

Anonymous said...

Typical hit piece from sour grapes sore loser who lost his "in" and his ability to mass illegally obtained information from the former disgrace John Stoffa.

Surely, your re-bound emotional vigilantism aimed at John Brown, stems from you being cut off from all the goodies and gossip that flowed daily from the mouth of former Stoffa cronies.

Wake up, stop being so childish, liebelous, and downright wrong. Whats good for the goose is never good for the gander when you're not getting your arse powdered with attention, instant info, and confidential records.

The County is now in the hands of a professional, and after 3 months on the job, you want him recalled. Your hypocrisy is loud and clear, idiot.

Anonymous said...

Scomillio stock drops another 200 points. Poor first quarter results. Arrogance and ignorance = tax payer losses by any measure.

Anonymous said...

if by professional you mean a consultant junkie. Brown was "hired" to do a job based on his professed business experience which we never got any specifics on. He had no record at all and the county, and yes enough angry suppossed Ds who had an axe to grind,against Callahan, voted for him. Now we get what we deserve. Incompetancy!

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13 you can try to blame Bernie on John Brown screw ups but what about the MCall and Express. Are they just driving Bernies agenda too? Maybe it is a big conspiracy involving the liberal media controlled by OHare. They are all basically hitting Brown for the same thing.

Anonymous said...

The Morning Call and Express-Times are obvious anti-conservative media outlets that hide the truth, twist facts, sensationalize non issue stories , to suit their extreme liberal agendas.

They are on Board with O'Hare, who at any given moment, swings from tea party conservative, to extreme liberal, based upon who is giving him the attention he craves so much, and never received as a child.

For O'Hare, its all about attention seeking, for the media, its a democratic, left wing socialist nation, who will spin stories irresponsibly, with no regard for facts or truth at all. Circulation going, going, gone.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is one of my haters, who chooses to attack me instead of respond to the argument. As I understand it, the MC and ET are being called liberal rags while I've got no convictions at all.

Here's the problem. If the papers are losing circulation bc they are too liberal, then why would I as an attention seeking whore make an argument incorrectly characterized by the anonymous coward as liberal? That makes no sense, but
these idiots never do. They just roll around on the floor, foaming at the mouth.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Legal advise is like the weather..wait a while and you will get an opinion you like. I'm not buying what Kraft is selling but will let more educated people sort it out. JB needs to get it right and then council will follow his lead. Still treading water but he has the ability to lead by example. Lots of work remains.."'

Just what are you smoking? Seriously! Two months have come and gone and he has failed to exhibit any leadership at all. Instead he proposed a cabinet position he had to pull bc it created a conflict of interest, followed by a ridiculous no-bid contract fir something that should be done by a finance director. Now he thumbs his nose at both the HRC and Admin Code with no-bid contracts for another JB, i.e. JB Reilly.

As for legal advise changing with the weather, this depends on the lawyer. The good ones don't blow with the wind. I have opinions from three legal scholars on county law. They all agree. These contracts violated the Admin. Code.One adds that they violate the Admin. Code and HRC.

Vic Scomillio is a good lawyer and was a good pick for Solicitor. i don't quarrel with that. But he is reading the procurement sections of the Admin. Code improperly,in my view. He has no previous experience at any kind of county law, and is going to get some things wrong at first.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Typical hit piece from sour grapes sore loser who lost his 'in' and his ability to mass illegally obtained information from the former disgrace John Stoffa."

Rather than arguing with what i said, this anonymous commenter prefers to attack me. Let's assume it's just sour grapes, so where is the substantive argument? I have not seen one. Not one.

Incidentally, Brown is the elected Executive and i want him to succeed, not for his sake, but for the sake of the County. We all lose when he fails to follow the law.

Anonymous said...

I believe Bernie was late to the show on these contracts. Samantha Marcus had this a day before the Express and Bernie. So this is not a hit piece by O'Hare.

For once the Call scooped the blogger.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Samantha Marcus had this a day before the Express and Bernie. So this is not a hit piece by O'Hare."

She did. I decided to get the opinions of legal experts before posting.

Anonymous said...

Sour grapes O'Hare, whose blog was once similar to the giant BP oil spill , that polluted the gulf with toxic material , has been plugged, and shut down, effectively, by a professional executive , elected by the citizens .

You are not the County Exec O'Hare, and you dont prioritize what is done, how its done, and when its done. Get used to it. The Stoffa cronyism, and mouth spilling gossip has ended.

there is a new professional in town. I hope this Executive finds out who, in the last administration, gave out (without recourse) confidential records, confidential personnel information, and scores of other news "feeds" that were not eligible for public disclosure. When and if he does, those persons should all be fired on the spot.

Oil spill plugged and stopped. Move on with your miserable existence.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The above comment is anonymous, but obviously comes from Tricia Mezzacappa. I'm sure John Brown is thrilled to have someone in his corner who has twice been convicted of harassment for death threats and cyber bullying.

In case you haven't noticed, Brown's missteps have been blog fodder for numerous posts, editorials and Bill White columns. He has failed to lead a council that is dominated by his own party. His first two months in office have been a disaster, and the final proof of that is that he has the backing of a whack job like you.

Don Moore said...

Yes, looks like a missive from TM. Hard to believe she has the gall to call someone else's existence "miserable", OR to criticize their blog. "Sour grapes" is one of her expressions - maybe she eats them, and this accounts for her demeanor.

Nothing in her post questions your analysis. Keep up the great work, Bernie.

Anonymous said...

Well here's Obama 5 years in the top job and he has yet to be a leader. 2 months is nothing....

Bernie O'Hare said...

I agree it's too soon to make an assessment. Brown's first two months are marked by failure, so he has nowhere to go but up.

Anonymous said...

Brown is a train wreck waiting to happen!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Poor Bernie. The new Republicasn don't feed him his daily Stoffa dose of county gossip and he is angry. Pretty soon he will be telling us McClure and Kraft are wonderful county officials.

Hypocritical fun!

Anonymous said...

Brown will be judged on where we end up and later in his term. It just may be that his beginning is forgotten by everyone except the haters. One thing I learned about the left. What they call you or accuse you of is really what they are and who they are. Much like a cheating spouse who accuses the one who doesn't cheat. Or the lying girlfriend who then thinks of course her boyfriend lies. Or the flirt who accuses her husband of being one. We got it....we know you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

My disdain for McClure, or his for me, has nothing to do with being right or wrong. In your world, if you dislike someone, you must oppose everything that person does, and that is just nonsense.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't believe anyone here has accused Brown of being a cheating spouse or a lying girlfriend. During the election, there were many who laid that charge at Callahan. By your logic, they were the cheaters.

Anonymous said...

The point was not about Brown. It's about the hateful left who do all of the name calling and labeling. I was explaining that they are what they speak.....I used the comparisons to show that. They call teabaggers(label) hateful (accusation) because they are describing themselves. And so on.

Anonymous said...

Black is white, left is right, up is down, top is bottom. Yes teabaggers we got it...we know you.

Haha, now that is funny!

Anonymous said...

Let's look at the teabaggers versus the left who pitched all of those tents.
One side stayed for days in tents harassing the local stores, stinking, crapping on police cars, doing many drugs, have numerous sex partners even rape, needed extra police and left a freakin mess. Mostly singles and some sort of couples or threesomes.
The other side who all work spent a day or 2, their days off, left no mess and needed not one extra policeman. The only problem was a physical one that a union thug created. These were adults, couples and families.
The first is against the 1% because they are jealous of these who work 2 or 3 jobs to get ahead and care to educate themselves. Their life decisions are mostly better and they want to make life better for their children. They don't blame their parents and then proceed to screw up their own kids. Good enough is good enough. It's family and spouse first not me first. Responsibility is on the person not society.
Other then this the 1% is both parties and richer now then before. So who are they really against? It's okay if the left has the money but not the right? This is why no one fair minded can have any patience for them. Not to mention everything else.
So yes please consider me a teabagger. They will toast with their tea and you tent people can well, do whatever it is YOU need to do for yourself. Which is pretty much what u do all of the time.

Anonymous said...

John Brownpants has set some type of record? Only in politics for 5 years, and yet he has become both the worst mayor in Bangor history, and the worst executive in Northampton history.

JB desrves some type of award, or turkey!

Anonymous said...

8:14. Thanks for the Hanity sound bites. Do you have any thoughts of your own that you can type?