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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NorCo Controller: Exec and Appointee Abused Mileage, Meal Allowance

Updated 11:10 am:

Northampton County Executive John Brown has unilaterally imposed significant reductions in the health plans offered to the County workforce. He's told them he'd like to eliminate other benefits as well. If he can get away with it, he'll keep their wages flat, too. Helping Brown is Deputy Director of Administration, Cathy Allen. He brought her with him from Bangor, and she has has taken the Brown line in union negotiations. But while demanding that employees make do with less, they're squeezing every nickel out of the county they can.

Both of them are padding their mileage and meals, according to a report that Controller Steve Barron has just released. Allen has charged taxpayers in some instances for her daily commute. She even billed taxpayers for food at two local eateries. Brown charged for his mileage from his home in Bangor to Bethlehem's Celtic Classic parade.

I first heard about this from a worker yesterday. I filed a Right-to-Know and also alerted Barron. As Controller, he has a bit more power than a bottom-feeding blogger, and does not have to wait over a month for a Right to Know Request. He has the authority to review County spending, and can review whether payments are proper.

Take a gander at Allegheny County, for example. There, the Controller recently accused the Executive  of abusing his mileage, just as being done here. The Exec dismissed the whole thing as "petty." But he returned his county car and repaid $42,700.

Barron believes that Brown and Allen combined have squandered only about $1,500 in taxpayer money. But he believes the issue is important. He told me that if the Exec and one of his appointees decide to seek travel expenses for their daily commutes, it won't be long before every employee starts to do so. Also, is it right that Allen can eat ham and eggs at Perkins at our expense, while county employees stand in line at the food bank?

Brown's expenses. - The reports obtained by Barron reveal that Brown only sought reimbursements from January through April. During this time, he charged for a 4-mile round trip to the West Easton Treatment Center. He would charge for his entire trip from Bangor by making a pit stop at a diner or Gracedale. He even charged for commutes when hew had meetings at nearby places like State Theatre or even Gracedale. He charged taxpayers for a visit with his publicist, a trip to a Pennsylvania Society event and the Bethlehem parade I mentioned.

"Clearly, waving in a parade serves no county business purpose and is more about political self-promotion," is Barron's assessment of Brown's mileage claim to attend a parade in Bethlehem. On February 28, he claimed travel expenses from Bangor to the 248 Diner, and from there to County Council. There was no Country Council meetuing that date. 

Allen's expenses. - Allen has submitted expense reports through at least September. Her gimmick is to stop at Gracedale or Human Services on her way to the courthouse, and then bill taxpayers for her entire trip. Employees are strictly forbidden from charging meals to the County unless more than 50 miles away. But she did so twice in June, and from local eateries. Most of her expense claims appear to be an abuse.

Former Executive John Stoffa stated yesterday that he never sought reimbursement for mileage, except for the annual County Commissioners' Conference. District Attorney John Morganelli, who is often pulled from his bed at 3 am to travel to homicide investigations, never charges for mileage except for the annual prosecutors' conference. He won't even allow his part-time assistants to charge mileage when they attend a preliminary hearing.

Here's Barron's report:

Please note I have requested that John Brown reimburse the county $528.64 in mileage and the Assistant Director of Administration $1,006.85 in mileage and meals.

Mr. Brown has been reimbursed $963.16 in mileage since the beginning of the year. Several of the trips are questionable. He even billed 35 miles in round trip from Bangor to Bethlehem to be in the Celtic Classic Parade. I and I'm sure the taxpayers of the county would not consider waving and marching in a parade a valid county business expense.

As for Ms. Allen she has been paid $2,273.60 in mileage and charged several trips from her home and back to county facilities. Mileage to and from home is not allowed under county policy or IRS regulations. Customary mileage of a commute is never allowed. I gave Ms. Allen the benefit of the doubt that she began working on those days at Gracedale or the Human Service Building and therefore allowed the remaining mileage unless she left and went home from a location which happened on several occasions as well.

Of the money already mentioned $54.91 has been added in for meals at Tic-Toc Diner and Perkins. Meals are only reimbursed if an employee is a longer distance from the courthouse. In audits I have been critical of the Sheriff's Department for meals at Lutz's so I must be here as well to remain consistent with previous audits and policies of the county.

This information was brought out by a county employee who noticed the mileage being registered to and from home. This prompted my investigation. I have acted on employee tips in the past when Human Service Staff under Ross Marcus and the Stoffa administration purchased $100.00 in art for the new Human Service Building. That money was reimbursed and I would hope this administration sets the example and reimburses the county for this misuse of taxpayers money as well.

Director of Administration Luis Campos has responded to these accusations.

"The Administration budgets for travel and expense reimbursements. At times meetings can be held at off County Office locations. The County’s policy for travel and expense reimbursement is in line with IRS and auditor’s guidelines. If there is an inadvertent error, practice is to correct the expense appropriately."

I saw Campos in an elevator this morning, and he said he'd get me whatever I needed. I told him he could start by complying with my RTK, filed yesterday, seeking the following: "This request relates to County Executive John Brown and Ass't Dir. of Administration Cathy Allen. Please provide a record of all mileage, travel, lodging and meal expenses claimed by and paid to each of these employees during calendar year 2014. The mileage log and any other records for reimbursement are requested. In addition, the payroll line item reflecting payment of these expenses in each pay period is requested."

72 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow set the example and the others will follow. What a bloody mess. I thought every department was asked to budget 10 per cent less than last year.

Anonymous said...

That is absolutely outrageous and dispicible. Allen has the reputation of being a mean spirited, self-serving, ruthless individual. Rules don't matter for her or her boss. They think the county is their own crooked business and that expense a counts are meant to be abused. Allen should be fired for this egregious act and be forced to pay back her illegal mileage charges. Bravo to Barron for uncovering this fraud.

Anonymous said...

Bernie uncovered it.

Anonymous said...

I had high hopes for this administration. Now my only hope is that we all survive it. It's a scary thing when Stevie looks like "the smart one". Ugh!

Anonymous said...

Nothing is really surprising about Brownie at this point, nor this Cathy Allen person he attempted to shoehorn into a position she was in no way qualified to hold. But she made it into a position she also isn't qualified to hold but isn't quite as important. 3 more years of hell unless we can impeach this clod.

Anonymous said...

Bravo to the employee who reported it, to Mr. Barron and to Bernie. His entire crew are should be tossed out. What a bum!

Anonymous said...

How much time did Barron von Footinmouth steal when he lied about being a full time controller while teaching a class at NCC?

Barron has no ethical standing. He's a documented time thief. He's lied repeatedly and cannot be trusted in any matter.

I read about it on some blog:

http://lehighvalleyramblings.blogspot.com/2013/10/full-time-controller-sneaks-out-of.html

http://lehighvalleyramblings.blogspot.com/2013/10/barron-failed-to-disclose-teaching-job.html

http://lehighvalleyramblings.blogspot.com/2013/10/rumor-mill-barron-quits-teaching-job.html

Anonymous said...

grasping at straws but at least you've found another woman to beat up

Anonymous said...

Do two wrongs make a right? John Brown steals time by showing up to for work. He is worthless......

Anonymous said...

Allen needs to be released from her position. The taxpayers also need to demand that there be a legal avenue to rid of a county executive in the HRC. To not have such is un American.

Rules and rules and everyone needs to follow them.

Big difference if someone makes a single mistake like the art work than if they have done something for over 10 months straight!

Anonymous said...

I've read detailed accounts on this blog for years about what special brand of dishonest asshole Steve Barron is. Why should he be believed now?

Anonymous said...

Allen needs to be released from her position.

Agreed. County Council has the opportunity to make a stand by offering an amendment to defund the position.

Anonymous said...

John Brownpants is a known thief. In Bangor he got $7,500.00 to go to "leadership training" as mayor. At the same time firing long time employees in the police dept and boro office.

You have read about Brownie illegally firing police chief Kerrigan? Brown and Allen also forced out long time secretary Lynn Martocci. She got a buy out (payoff?), and they replaced her with Nancy Jones.

This is a pattern of abuse which should be viewed as a whole. A grand jury should hear this stuff Mr DA!

Anonymous said...

And someone should ask Ms Allen when she is going to fix her front porch roof. It fell off months ago and looks like crap! Isn't there a zoning law about that? hypocrites and scofflaws, the bunch from bangor LOL

Anonymous said...

6:30 AM
Northampton County Home Rule Charter

Article VIII Personnel Section 812. Penalty for Violation of Charter

Any officer or employee who knowingly and willfully violates any of the provisions of this Charter shall be dismissed from his office or employment.

Anonymous said...

Were these reimbursements before or after her big raise?

Anonymous said...

Apple doesn't fall far from the tree or roll away. Where did Allen work and for whom before landing at county? She learned very well over the years.

Anonymous said...

This is Steve's job. Is he a perfect person? No he isn't. Are you a perfect person? I'm sure the same applies. Wrong doing is what it is no matter who does it or who finds it or who addresses it. Get over it and be real.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Agreed. County Council has the opportunity to make a stand by offering an amendment to defund the position"

I would be very leery of a harsh remedy like that, if the administration recognizes its error and reimburses. My guess, based on the corporate babble from Campos, is that they will fail to see their own hypocrisy. If she is Brown's exempt employee, I would fund the position at $1.

Anonymous said...

Kerrigan and the former sec. were never paid off. Where do you get that crap from? Stop lying and try to be factual for a change. Neither was paid a cent of shut up money. File a RTK and then come back here and tell the truth. Call these people and ask them what happened and stop accusing the boro of wrong doing. Just stop it.

Anonymous said...

Check for delinquent taxes while your at it Bernie. Was a problem in the past and may still be a problem with her. Just saying..

Bernie O'Hare said...

"How much time did Barron von Footinmouth steal when he lied about being a full time controller while teaching a class at NCC?"

I broke that story and in fact received an award for it. Whether it is Barron or Cathy Allen or John Brown, wrong is wrong and right is right. I will point to possible abuses, no matter where they occur.

Barron ended up resigning his job as a teacher, so he paid a price in lost wages. I caught him fairly early, and don't believe he was ever paid.

Allen and Brown have been caught early. If Allen thinks she is entitled to charge for commutes from Bangor, or to charge meals here locally to the County, Council should defund her position. If she agrees she made an error and reimburses the County, I think that is fair.

Anonymous said...

this administration is a classy bunch.....puke....cough.

Anonymous said...

Brown and Allen should be judged on what they are doing right now. They left Bangor behind and also Mrs. Jones and Hunter. Bangor will survive just fine..thank you, so leave the boro out of the current situation.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Allen and Mr. Brown are poor excuses for administrators.

Again and again, we see in multiple media sources, the horrible decisions and abuse of power from these two "professional managers." And it did not start at the county level. They started wreaking havoc in Bangor long ago.

Despite the fact that I am a member of the GOP, I refused to vote for Brown in the primaries. He was running unopposed, but I could not allow my conscience to give him my vote. In the general election, I still refused to vote for him as he had clearly established himself as a buffoon.

I am losing faith in the Republican leadership in Northampton County as they pushed him upon the voters. I suspect that they assumed that they were not able to field a candidate who was capable of beating Calahan, so they threw him in as cannon fodder. Despite his incompetence, he fooled enough voters to win. I'm sure that the county GOP bosses were pleasantly surprised at the end result.

I suspect that because he is a role model for idiots, the County GOP leadership is cringing at their decision. The sooner he is out of office, the better off we will all be.

Is there any possibility of Toronto crackhead Mayor Rob Ford becoming a US citizen and running for County Executive? I think that he would be an improvement.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd love Rob Ford here.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when..your words..cannon fodder.. wins. Worst case scenario emerges and chaos ensues. This wasn't supposed to happen but the voters turned their backs o Johnny Casino for whatever reasons.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I've read detailed accounts on this blog for years about what special brand of dishonest asshole Steve Barron is. Why should he be believed now? "

It's not a matter of believing Barron. The records are what they are. The taxpayers should not be paying for John Brown's trips to the cushy Pennsylvania Society, which is where Governor wannabes go. They at least have the good sense to use their campaign finances.

Anonymous said...

this has been a horrible year for the county.Employees are shafted while the rich elite have their cake. Whatever have to "shared sacrifice"? In today's world it's only sacrifice when someone else has to do it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"3 more years of hell unless we can impeach this clod."

Though the HRC contains recall provisions, it is trumped by the Pa Constitution.

"The relevant provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution are Article II, Section 7 (relating to ineligibility by criminal conviction of an infamous crime),4 Article VI, Section 6 (relating to officers
liable to impeachment for misbehavior in office), and Article VI, Section 7 (relating to removal of civil officers for conviction of an infamous crime, misbehavior in office, or reasonable cause). These provide the exclusive methods for removing elected officials, including elected local officials, thereby nullifying contrary statutory provisions. In conformity with the Constitution, a court is authorized to remove an elected official
upon his or her conviction of an infamous crime."

http://www.lgc.state.pa.us/deskbook06/Issues_Governance_08_Removal_from_Office.pdf

Anonymous said...

Brown is a slate belt stooge but these charges are ticky-tack. Still, keep it up, because if he wants to screw over the rank and file, he deserves all the blowback he gets.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" In today's world it's only sacrifice when someone else has to do it."

This is what especially troubles me. At the same time that Brown and Allen tell the workers to tighten their belts, they are going for a second helping.

Anonymous said...

It's hypocrisy at it's finest. Do as I say..not as I do! What a load of corporate BS ethics.

Anonymous said...

I can not believe this.

Matt Miles said...

When you want your government run like a business, this is what you get. Fiscal Consertive practices only mater to the peons and underlings, no the Executive and CEO.

Anonymous said...

Brown's exempt position is his Executive Secretary, just like much of the other Cabinet member's exempt positions are the Executive Secretaries. Ms. Allen's position should be defunded, much the same way, Brown is not filling other positions throughout the County. If he expects 10% cuts throughout, then start with Ms. Allen's position in County Administration. County Council could do this if they wanted to, but I doubt that they have the hutzpuh.

Anonymous said...

Same shit; different flies. Brown and Allen are crooked. Barron is a well known liar and time thief. Reibman's ethical oil slick is still in the building. Callahan was as dirty as they come. Angle's a career-long mess of slippery politician with a dose of antisemitism. Peg Ferraro overspends on a bid in order to get re-election votes. Dolan is supposedly blowing town ahead of the authorities. Nazareth. Period. The EASD board ran afoul of a grand jury. Panto, in bed with slippery developers, made punk statements to non-Easton workers that they should move to his filthy, violent shithole to avoid his drug-addict-like tax grab. It never ends. Brown's and Allen's sins are relatively venial, but they're also typical of all politicians' hubris.

Anonymous said...

Brown and his surrogate wife Allen are a disgrace! She wears the pants and the str**on!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:53, Unfortunatelty, you make some good points.

Anonymous said...

"Brown's exempt position is his Executive Secretary, just like much of the other Cabinet member's exempt positions are the Executive Secretaries. Ms. Allen's position should be defunded"

Allen is Campos's exempt.

Anonymous said...

He can't get rid of Allen because she is the "wizard" behind the curtain. They are committing fraud, pure and simple. Allen works for Administration which is responsible for enforcing county policy. And she violates it. Where is Campos in this? Doesn't he sign her expense accounts? Maybe he is claiming mileage from home as well. Why did the county's disbursement division allow this payment to be made? Where are the checks and balances that county travel reimbursement policies are being followed? I will bet that Brown will claim Allen's headquarters are her home. He will praise the hours she works at home at "no cost" to the county. Blah-blah-blah. All a smokescreen to hide fraudulent activity that rises to the level of her dismissal. And for that matter Brown himself should be recalled/impeached for being a party to it. This is just the tip of the iceberg. This administration has broken the rules with impunity since day one.

Anonymous said...

11:53 Not "venial" when you take into consideration the $7,500 he stole from Bangor for going out to his alma mater for a "leadership class". This is a pattern of abuse.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry his "publicist" will take care of it or he can raid the reserves to cover it.

Anonymous said...

I worked for a company that when a pay cut needed to happen, the CEO and his Administration, took a larger percentage cut than he had the employees take. Brown should be doing the same of he had a heart for the employees!!!!

Anonymous said...

Allen is already overpaid. She is not even qualified for the position!. Her position should be cut from the budget or the salary should be cut at least 10%. And she should be forced to return illegal mileage and meal reimbursement.

Anonymous said...

Shortell/Express-times now reporting this story..quotes from Campos now..

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Where is Campos in this? Doesn't he sign her expense accounts? Maybe he is claiming mileage from home as well. "

The accounts were approved by Brown.

"Why did the county's disbursement division allow this payment to be made?"

These are now paid directly by payroll. They had to follow the Executive's direction.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable ...These people have some nerve...They seriously need to go! they are crooks !

Anonymous said...

Should. Be. Fired.

Anonymous said...

Spin doctor Campos was quoted in the Shortell article with this- "We conduct meetings frequently at diner's and other outside County office venues. The County's policy for travel and expense reimbursement is in line with IRS and auditor's guidelines. If there is an inadvertent error, practice is to correct the expense appropriately," Does not matter if the diner/restaurant expense was for a meeting. If it was local, it does not qualify for reimbursement under county policy. "Inadvertent error" is code for "we got caught." These knuckleheads knew exactly what they were doing. They tried to cheat on their mileage to make some extra dough. Not only should they return they money, they should apologize and Allen, who flagarantly used her office to defraud public money, should resign or be fired.

Anonymous said...

Someone should check Mr. Campos's expense account. He is probably doing the same exact thing. Yea, they all budget for it. Really, how much? What county business are they doing? She is a secretary. Must be taking notes at Perkins? What the hell does a parade have to do with the county. PLEASE!! How could anyone call this a mistake.

Anonymous said...

oh it was no mistake ...they just think the people who work for county are stupid fools and didn't plan on getting caught with their hands in the TAXPAYERS TILL !

Anonymous said...

"At the same time that Brown and Allen tell the workers to tighten their belts, they are going for a second helping"

This.

Anonymous said...

Allen learned all her tricks from Marino Saveri. Allen taught Brown everything she knows about getting over. Hand to mouth..

Anonymous said...

There has never been anything like this before. Here and there maybe an isolated incident but this is amazing.

In the past most Executives and even cabinet members did not take mileage except for conferences far out of town.

Anonymous said...

"Brown and Allen should be judged on what they are doing right now."

Brown is - his work sucks toe jamb. Allen - who knows? Last we heard she was working on the super secret gap insurance for 3 months.

There is no transparency here at all.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Mileage becomes 'fish bait'. This means to me,possible farther reaching INTEGRITY issues in the scope. Then you can bet mileage is deducted on income tax time as business mileage. -----INTEGRITY-- THAT'S ALL i ASK OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES AND SUBS.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Someone should check Mr. Campos's expense account."

I had specific information about Brown and Allen only. It probably would be a good idea to review all cabinet officials and Council members.

Anonymous said...

"The County's policy for travel and expense reimbursement is in line with IRS and auditor's guidelines. If there is an inadvertent error, practice is to correct the expense appropriately,"

This guy is worth every penny the taxpayers are paying. If she is under Mr. Campos he signs her time sheet. He should know the rules. Who cares if they were meeting at a diner. And why can't they use the court house to meet. His response is BS. JB's response was BS when the Moring Call asked for a comment. The whole administration is overpaid. Fire them all and split the money between the staff that do WORK for the county.

Peter J.Cochran said...

ALLEN -would have to had be licensed in property and casualty in Pennsylvania to deal with the insurance issue legally.The Commissioner's office would have a record if she was licensed.

Anonymous said...

12:16

Allen is NOT Campos' exempt. His exempt is his Executive Secretary. Allen's position is at the whim of County Council, whether they feel the position is necessary or not.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure she has the credentials to deal with the issues she is chasing at county. She worked a long time in the insurance field.

Anonymous said...

The worst part of this escapade is the public trust and integrity which has be breeched. Judgement is a third factor... poor as it may be. A bunch of sociopaths ?

Anonymous said...

If you want a good laugh, read the article on the attached link. He was correct in March, there used to be a stable work force. OMG I wonder who wrote that speech? He should have read the speech a little better because there was a time when the workers would have been happy to help.



http://www.lvb.com/article/20140312/LVB01/140319917/New-Northampton-County-executive-touts-importance-of-employees

JoAnn Kennedy said...

the DA will do nothing... he's too busy being on TV talking about AG Kane and eyeballing her position as she get skewered. Bernie, I applaud you for uncovering the stench in Northampton County and reporting it too !!

JoAnn Kennedy said...

you need not wait read the PA Constitution -- their office can be made VOID

Anonymous said...

"Allen is NOT Campos' exempt. His exempt is his Executive Secretary. Allen's position is at the whim of County Council, whether they feel the position is necessary or not."

Allen IS Campos exempt, unless something changed. Under Brackbill, one of the Exec secretaries was made career service, and Allen's position (held then, obviously, by someone else) was exempt.

Anonymous said...

Now we see why Barron set up his own fraud hotline. Can you imagine what would have happened if this was reported over the regular fraud hotline? The complaint would have been reported to the administration! The foxes guarding the hen house. Although Barron has earned the reputation of being a partisan, political hack, he is on the right track here. This is a clear-cut, fraudulent abuse of public funds and needs to be investigated thoroughly by the controller's office.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Barron got this from me, not the fraud hotline. But I get your drift.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I'm not surprised. The sheriff's constantly use county vehicles to travel to lunch rather than use their own vehicles. Is this wrong?? I would say yes but no one seems to care. This is just one of many violations that take place that county tax payers should be made aware of.

Bernie O'Hare said...

There is nothing wrong or improper about Sheriffs, who serve papers all day and transport prisoners, stopping for lunch. No one would expect them to return to the courthouse and then go out on their private cars. Now that would be inefficient.

Anonymous said...

Bernie said "There is nothing wrong or improper about Sheriffs, who serve papers all day and transport prisoners, stopping for lunch. No one would expect them to return to the courthouse and then go out on their private cars. Now that would be inefficient.
Yes, I agree for those out in the field. However those who are stationed at the courthouse shouldn't use the county vehicles to go out to lunch only to return to the courthouse. I think that needs to be addressed.