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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Saturday, January 31, 2015

GOP State Committee Endorses Giordano For Superior Court

The Republican State Committee has endorsed Northampton County's very own Emil Giordano for a seat on the state Superior Court.  So far as I know, no one will challenge that choice at the polls, and Judge Giordano is virtually assured the Republican nomination. Lehigh County Judge Doug Reichley, a former state representative, considered making a run of it, but withdrew.

Barron's Got Company in NorCo Controller Race

As expected, Northampton County Controller Steve Barron on Friday announced that he is seeking re-election to the post he has held for two terms. He calls himself a "check over the County Executive." But that's one check that Executive John Brown would like to remove. Sources at this weekend's State Committee in Harrisburg tell me that the GOP has recruited Pam Colton to challenge Barron,

Who the hell is she? She's the Bangor Area School Board president who voted to hire an ousted Superintendent for the same amount of money she was getting when she got canned.

Government by consultant.

Sound familiar?

Colton did do a stint as RenewLV's Executive Director. That's a Lehigh Valley Partnership entity set up by the Lehigh Valley's wealthiest business magnates. Its the Urban Growth Regime, disguised as a grass roots group. She did not last long. Some say she was fired. Others claim the group just ran out of money. But that's where she probably got to know John Brown. He was installed on their Board around the same time she was there.

Before being a pretend liberal, Colton worked as analyst for the Open Source Center.

Though he's no accountant, Barron is a certified fraud examiner. As such, he is qualified to be a lead auditor.

Colton is not. She appears to have less education and experience in accounting than Barron.

But she does believe in government by consultant.

DiGiacinto - "God's Gift to Us For 61 Years"

Bethlehem City Controller David DiGiacinto, the fiscal watchdog who died unexpectedly on January 26, was laid to rest on Saturday. Funeral services were conducted by Father Abraham Ha at St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church at a mass attended by over 300 people.

A reading from Ecclesiastes told mourners there is a time for everything, "a time to be born, and a time to die." In his sermon, Father Ha praised DiGiacinto, not as a City official, but as a "husband, a father, a son and a friend. God's child." Recalling DiGiacionto's extensive collection of hats and T-shirts, Father Ha joked that DiGiacinto could "wear one a day and never do laundry." On a more somber note, the priest called him a "wonderful gift that God shared with us for 61 years."

Bethlehem's former City Council President, J. Michael Schweder, delivered a brief eulogy. "He refused to go along just to get along," Schweder observed. "He didn't follow the course, but he stayed the course," he concluded.

DiGiacinto, a graduate of both Liberty High School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served with distinction as an Air Force pilot for six years. After resigning his commission in 1981, he spent 18 years at Pfizer, where he held various positions in sales and management. At the time of his death he was Chairman and CEO of Axiom Power.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Jail Supervisor Denied Counsel at Termination Hearing

From what other corrections officers tell me, Lieutenant Jason Rosati should have his termination hearing soon, if it has not already occurred. He was suspended without pay for enforcing the military discipline that is imperative at a jail. Unfortunately for him, he went by the book with a favorite of Deputy Director of Administration Cathy Allen. she was written up for coming to work with a dress shirt that was not buttoned at the top, a choker necklace and wearing makeup that is inappropriate in a jail setting. But her write-up was overturned, and jail officials have told Lt. Rosati they intend to fire him.

Lt. Rosati has retained Counsel, but Corrections Director Daniel Keen has reportedly refused to allow him to be represented. This means that Keen either intends to exonerate Rosati for what we all recognize is bullshit, or that he does not know what he is doing.

How to Snag a Disciplinary Complaint

According to a Morning Call account, Attorney Donald Corriere spent at least $50,000 owed to Randi Ratushny after her mother passed away. What I find interesting is what happened to Randi Ratushny's money.

She, along with her sister, are the two people who complained to the Disciplinary Board and got the ball rolling.

She passed away in 2012, leaving a will that left everything to her sister, Robin Thomas. But Ratushny's boyfriend stepped forward with a new will, claiming that he was the rightful heir. This Will was executed just two months after the first one, and Michael Corriere testified that Ratushny really intended to devise her estate to her boyfriend. Judges bought this argument, on both the County and Superior Court level.

That estate was worth $87,836.40. But $61,752.13 was gobbled up in administrative fees that included
  • a $5,000 payment made by Don Corriere to his malpractice insurance carrier for the deductible in a malpractice claim made by Ratushny.
  • $24,822.50 in ligitation fees to Don Corriere.
  • $5,832 to Michael Corriere as the Estate attorney.
There is no suggestion that any of this money was spent improperly. But a disappointed heir who sees her sister's life's savings spent on legal and administrative costs might have an ax to grind.

Northampton County Races Update

NorCo Liberty Bell
Since I last updated you on this year's County races, there have been a few changes. let me fill you in.

Controller: Republicans have found a candidate from the northern part of the County to go after Controller Steve Barron, but she has not announced. Neither, for that matter, has Barron.

Judge: It's still a three-way including Abe Kassis, Sam Murray and Vic Scomillio. Judges Anthony beltrami and Paula Roscioli should have no trouble in their retention campaigns.

District Attorney: John Morganelli, a conservative Democrat who is tough on crime, is someone who is just as popular at a tea party meeting as at a union hall. He  will likely see no opposition.   

District One: Bethlehem, Freemansburg, Hellertown and Hanover. Incumbent Ken Kraft has already announced his intention to seek re-election on this heavily Democratic district. Though Republicans claim to have someone in the wings, his or her identity is still a state secret.

District Two: Easton, Forks, Glendon, West Easton, Wilson, Palmer, Stockertown and Tatamy. Though this is thought to be a Democratic district, that really only applies to Easton and the small boroughs around it. The other areas are mostly Republican. But Democrat Bob Werner hasalrady announced his intention to seek re-election.  It's unclear whether Mike Dowd is running, but republicans will try to capture this district.

District Three: Nazareth, North Catty, Northampton, Allen Tp, Bethlehem Tp, East Allen Tp, Lower Nazareth Tp, Lower Saucon Tp and Williams Tp. This district has become much more Republican since the last census. Incumbent Lamont McClure, who suffered a recent unexpected family loss, is taking some time off. Democrats who live in this District include Gerald "Jerry" Seyfried and John Stoffa, both of whom are former county Executives.  Jerry has already ruled out running, while the always-unpredictable Stoffa keeps his own counsel. Republican Mickey Thompson has announced, and inside word is the former Council president John Cusick intends to announce soon.

District Four: The Slate Belt and northern tier, this is Republican country. Incumbent Scott Parsons has announced his intention to seek re-election. Two Republicans - Nazareth School Board Prez Lorin Bradley and tea party darling Matt Dietz - have announced.

Bradley, who has quite an extensive resume, is being pushed by Glenn Geissinger. Hayden Phillips is behind the Dietz campaign.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Treasurer Rob McCord Says So Long

You can read his resignation here.

Ethical Charges Against Former DA Don Corriere

The Morning Call has reported that former District Attorney Donald Corriere is under an ethical cloud, having been accused by the Disciplinary Board of misusing client resources. It's a a 51-page Complaint, to which Corriere has filed an Answer denying all wrongdoing.

I've been aware of this matter for several days,but dd not want to write about it without the Complaint and Answer. I called Don yesterday. He is under the impression that he's unable to discuss the matter, So was I. Not so, says the Disciplinary Board. Once he files his Answer, the matter is public.

I learned this two days ago, when I first found out about the complaint. I called there and spoke to an Elaine Bixler.

"Your name sounds familiar," Bixler told me.

Uh oh.

I was suspended in '85, and Bixler told me she's been with the Disciplinary Board since the '70s.

Once I get copies of the Complaint and Answer, I will post them here.

Corriere is a former Northampton County Commissioner and has long been involved in local Democratic politics.  He's a former District Attorney who was unseated in by a little-known Bethlehem Attorney named John Morganelli.

In all his years as DA, Morganelli tells me he has never had a complaint about Corriere.

When I practiced law, I acted unethically and disgraced my profession and family. In my case, my misconduct occurred because I thought i could do anything when I was drinking, even if it was just a small amount. It's not how much, but what it does to you.

I know numerous other lawyers over th years who have had problems with alcohol, drugs or both. It does not excuse the misbehavior, but explains it.

The fact that Corriere has been charged with misconduct does not mean he is guilty of anything.

Bethlehem ZHB Toss Enforcement Notice Against Elias Market

Alex Karam is not just Joseph Kray's lawyer, but a customer, too.
Like the recent snowstorm that never was, the January 28 meeting of Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board bore all the signs of a very long night. Elias Market, located at 3131 Linden Street, was on the agenda. Though a Zoning Hearing Board decision allowing an expansion had been affirmed by three different courts, opponents sought and obtained an enforcement notice that would essentially require the busy store to remove its asphalt parking lot. At one side of the room sat lead opponent Al Bernotas and his friends. Earlier that day, he had had supplied a 48-page presentation to the Board that appeared to be an attempt to relitigate matters already decided against him. On the other side sat the proud Elias family with engineer drawings, ready to relitigate matters already decided in their favor. But it was not to be. Instead of lasting hours, the hearing was over in minutes. It seemed to end in favor of Elias again, although this is the case that just won't go away.

The reason for this short hearing? Two words. Joe Piperato. A lawyer, he represents the Elias family. He pointed out that the enforcement notice issued to Elias wasn't worth the paper it was written on, except he didn't use those words. He said it was void ab initio because it never informed Elias of its appeal rights, something required by both state law and the Zoning Ordinance. Solicitor Terry Faul told the Board that Piperato was correct, and just like that, the enforcement notice was dismissed, 5 to zip.

As Elias foes and supporters filed out of town hall, Bernotas sat there, in stunned silence. He was still there as three other cases were heard. He may still be there.

Whether this is finally the end remains to be seen. But Elias Partner George Azar was relieved. "The less I'm here, the better," he whispered on his way out.

With the main event out of the way, zoners tackled the undercard.

As her two daughters looked on with angelic smiles in the audience, Virginia Fowler received the Board's unanimous blessings for a dimensional variance that would allow a greenhouse at her property at 53 E. Market Street,. Attorney Mike Deschler argued that the 2% variance was so slight as to be immaterial. But he didn't use those words. He instead called it a classic de minimis variance.

Attorney Alex Karam, representing computer guru Joseph Kray, persuaded zoners to grant a special exception that would permit him to operate a computer sales and service shop in what had been a law office at 1022 Main Street. "I know he'll be an asset to the city of Bethlehem, Karam assured the board,adding that he is not just his lawyer, but a customer, too.

"Are you employed by him?" joked Zoning Hearing Board Chair Gus Loupos.

Lucy Lennon, acting as the realtor for Darey Hamm, also sought a special exception that would substiute a dog -grooming business for what had been a doctor's office at 1809 Columbine Avenue, right across the street from Notre Dame Church and Elementary School. She called it a "low impact" business that would be operated by a mother-daughter team, a "good fit for that neighborhood. Michael Santanasto and Linda Shay Gardner, both of whom are attorneys, agreed that lennon makes a good case, but suggested she seek a use variance instead of a special exception. So her appeal was continued so she can re-post the property.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why Driver Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants Is a Bad Idea

Last year, tax-happy Sal Panto got his rubber stamps on Easton City Council to go along with a resolution calling for drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants. he never bothered to consult with law enforcement,  Had he bothered to call, Northampton County DA John Morganelli would have warned Panto that his proposal is "misguided and dangerous," and would make Easton a magnet for foreign criminals.

So what happens in states that allow undocumented immigrants to seek driver licenses?

Fraud, according to a study by the Federation of Immigration Reform.

Vermont - illegal aliens in new York were paying $2,000 to have someone take the test.

New Mexico - as much as 75% of the applications are bogus. Criminal charges were brought against a group from New York in 2011. They ran  ads in New York, limited to Chinatown newspapers, offering New Mexico driver license. Chinese immigrants from New York paid $1,500 for New Mexico licenses.

Tennessee - had to repeal a law that granted license to undocumented aliens because of excess fraudulent residence documents.

California - 64% of 46,200 undocumented immigrants failed when they took the test.

A Blog For the NorCo Jail?

Ken Kraft chairs Northampton County Council's busy Personnel Committee. He also acts as their liaison at the jail. He's pretty unhappy about the games being played there, both with the understaffing as well as the favoritism being shown to a corrections officer who happens to be Cathy Allen's snitch,.As I told you last week, Allen made sure that a lieutenant got suspended without pay for writing up a corrections officer who showed up for work out-of-uniform and who ignored him.

"They fire the guy who wrote her up. and put her back and reinstate her again, " he complained, while Peg Ferraro tried to change the subject. Having none of it, Kraft stated "[t]here's things going on in this County that need to be known, and need to be brought to the surface, and they need to be addressed.

That might happen. Someone is working on a blog to "discuss issues related to the Northampton County Jail. We welcome your input, and would like to address current and past problems inside the walls of the prison. We will address union issues, employee concerns and inmate complaints."

It might be a flash in the pan.

Or it might be the real deal.

Time will tell.

We're No. 1 - Do You Tip Jersey Gas Attendant?

Pennsylvania now has the distinction of having the most expensive gas in the country, according to The Patriot News.

Most everyone I know from Bethlehem township east will cross the river into Jersey to fill their tanks. Prices there are $1.92, which is a lot lower than the $2.26 charged at Pa. pumps.

I still buy my gas in Pa because I always thought you should tip the gas attendant a dollar in Jersey to fill your tank. If i have to do that, i might as well buy here. But my friends are telling me I'm wrong.

If you buy gas in Jersey, do you tip the guy or gal who fills your tank?

Allen Nearly Scores 100 Points Against Becahi Boys' Basketball

In the waning moments of a basketball game, the team that is head usually tries to pass the basketball back and forth to keep the other side from getting the ball and scoring. But last night, the roles were reversed. Bethlehem Catholic's Golden Hawks, down by a ton, frantically passed the ball back and forth to keep the William Allen Canaries from scoring their 100th point. They succeeded in holding Allen to 98 in a lopsided loss to one of the Lehigh Valley's better teams.

I may be mistaken, but think no Lehigh Valley team has scored 100 points in a game this season.

Beca is having a tough season. But they should be around .500 next year. In two years, they will be scary.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Eastern Pa. Weather Authority: "We Blew the Call"

At this time yesterday, Eastern Pa. Weather Authority was predicting a blanket of 9-14" of snow by this time today. I am delighted to report they got it wrong. Here's their explanation.
We blew the call, and everyone blew it - and amending or lowering your original call is not nailing it either. No one got this right, plain and simple. It reminds us of the March 5-7th, 2001 epic fail "blizzard" that never was - very eerily similar. Everything looked great through early this evening, and then everything took an abrupt turn for the worse. So although we put countless hours of time and effort into this one, we failed. Yes we got and will get snow, but nowhere close to the epic amounts that up until today looked to be spot on. So this is our "man-up" post. It wasn't hyped, it wasn't sensationalized. It was the right call from a physics and forecasting standpoint, but in the end, mother nature humbled us. It is our first large scale blown call by our staff of meteorologists for our coverage area this year, and this one stings a lot. And will continue to sting until the next one we're sure.
I don't know about you, but i'll take this kind of failure. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. As Matt Dees asks, "Why complain about a blizzard that didn't happen?"

Updated 1:46 pm. Lehigh Valley With Love published a story entitled "Can We Finally Stop Saying How Great The Eastern PA Weather Authority Is Now?" But blogger George Wacker decided to redact portions "solely on professional courtesy."

This is the first time I ever heard a blogger refer to himself as a professional.

He snidely adds, "[W]e have the original saved if they decide to take the shitty route." But he's already beaten them to it.

Seth Vaughn: "Retirements Happen"

So does shit.

Last year, there was a record number of 139 retirements in Northampton County. To put this in perspective, that's 2 1/2 times the normal retirement rate. Obviously, something is rotten in the State of Northampton County.

But just as Horatio told Marcellus, Seth Vaughn is saying, "God will direct it."

As employees jump off the S.S. Northampton County, Vaughn is in la la land, re-arranging the deck chairs. Here's some of what he had to say at last Thursday's Council meeting.
"Retirements happen. Whether it happens a lot now or next year, there's really no way of predicting that. To sit there and try to pin it on the Executive by saying, 'Well, the Executive's policies are causing all these retirements,' I think is biased and I don't think it's objective.  ... There's really no way of telling whether these retirements happened at one time or not. ... These people are looking for good replacements. There's a process here."
Translated, Horatio Vaughn is still carrying water for John Brown, as other GOP Council members distance themselves from him. Then he lashed out at Controller Steve Barron, stating again that there's a resolution calling on him to resign.

Lamont McClure refuted Vaughn's claims of politics as usual.
"That's always what you fall back on. ... It's not Lamont McClure. I'm bringing this to your attention because you are the governing body of Northampton County. ... It's the President Judge of Northampton County. It's the Administrator of the Courts of Northampton County. It's the District Attorney of Northampton County. It's the independently elected - I know you have problems with him - Controller of Northampton County, who came here to tell you there are huge issues ... . And yes, I do think there was a substantive act that the County Executive took to force all these retirements, and that was the change in health insurance."

Brown's HR Chief Approved By NorCo Council

Tracie Barnes
After running through a gauntlet of questions in two separate hearings, Tracie Barnes has been confirmed as Northampton County's new Human Resources Director. By a vote of 8-1-1, with Bob Werner voting No and Glenn Geissinger voting "Present," County Council approved this last-minute nomination at a starting salary of $88,100 at their . Executive John Brown, who was absent from the January 22 meeting, had only provided three days notice of his choice,

Barnes has 21 years of human relations experience in municipal government, both at the County and City levels. Her weakness, and one she readily admitted, is that she has no experience negotiating with unions.

"I expect you might get some," observed Lamont McClure, advising her to "buy a heavy coat."

Though she had already answered McClure, Mat Benol asked her the same question about unions, to which she provided the same answer.

Glenn Geissinger stated he was "greatly concerned" whether Barnes would be up to the challenge of a 2,200-person workforce, most of whom are represented by 11 different unions. She responded that she would provide a "fresh set of eyes" and "neutrality."

"I want to take the time I spent in school and give it back to the community where I work," she argued.

Though he's normally the contrarian, McClure told Geissinger that Barnes is the most qualified person to date that Brown has nominated to his cabinet, with the possible exception of Sheriff David Dalrymple, a former Major in the New Jersey State Police.  He described Barnes as someone who is moving up in her career. He added that, unlike some of Brown's other cabinet choices, "this one has actual experience in governing."

The reason Werner voted No, he later explained, is the short notice of the nomination provided to Council. "Council needs to be appraised of things sooner," he observed, noting that nominations come in at the last minute.

In a signal that Republicans on Council are beginning to distance themselves from the Executive, Republicans Hayden Phillips and Glenn Geissinger agreed with Werner.  "I'm going to vote No to any nomination that comes to County Council that does not go to the Personnel Committee.," he vowed.

After some discussion, Werner stated he would draft an ordinance.

Monday, January 26, 2015

PSP Raid Shows Connection Between Nazareth Officials and Illegal Gambling

If nothing else, last week's Pennsylvania State Police raid on four Nazareth Area social clubs makes one thing very clear - the connection between illegal gambling and local government officials is extremely disturbing. At the time of the Stickergate arrests, Police Chief Thomas Trachta boasted, "We enforce all the laws and if you break the law, there is a pretty good chance you will be arrested," But Chief Trachta has turned his head the other way at clubs that routinely violate gambling laws. Trachta's boss, Mayor Carl Strye, has been the responsible officer for a social club that has had more than its fair share of legal entanglements.

An online database maintained by the state LCB reveals the following about these Nazareth-area social clubs. .

Holy Family - fined $600 in 1995 and $700 in 2013 for sales to nonmembers and gambling machines. The machines are reportedly out of Holy Family for good,

Vigilance Fire - fined seven times over the years for gambling machines and sales to nonmembers. It has received fines of $1,000, $1,000, $100, $400, $400 and $600. Its license was also suspended once. During most of this time period, Carl Strye was the responsible officer. He is now Nazareth's Mayor.

A Borough Mayor's only real role is to supervise the police department. But when that Mayor just happens to be the responsible officer at a Nazareth club cited seven times for illegal gambling, he makes the police department look like participants who are turning their heads the other way.

Do officers find themselves suspended because they ask questions about possible Crimes Code violations going on inside these clubs? Has Chief Trachta - and I am no fan - been shackled with a "Deputy" Chief  for asking too many questions? Never mind that the Deputy Chief's police certification has expired and he's running around with a badass glock and no authority to arrest anyone.

Except maybe me.

At the Vig, the PSP noticed that there's a discrepancy between the actual amount money on hand and the money that's supposed to be there. They followed a Vig worker named Larry home and confronted him, telling him to fork over all of the money or they would get a search warrant for his home. This Larry went into his home, came out and gave agents an unknown sum of money. But he bragged to too many people about keeping an envelope of money on his person. One of those people told me.

Now if club members are taking money home, or carrying it around on their person, this suggests a pattern of skimming to me. Are gambling proceeds really benefiting the club? Or are they paying for snowmobiles.

The lack of internal controls is appalling.

Much more bothersome than the actual gambling.

Harold V. Knecht American Legion Post - fined seven times since 2000 for falsifying records, training records, sales to nonmembers, gambling and serving visibly intoxicated patrons. Fines go from $250 to $2,600. Long time Borough Council member Larry Stoudt is a bartender at this club, although he has no position of authority. He was charged himself when he asked police to check out a club applicant whom he suspected was being an undercover state trooper. She was. She was working under cover. Charged with obstruction, Larry was placed on ARD.

In Stoudt's defense, let me say I consider him very honest. He would never try to benefit personally from an illegal activity. I've seen him devote countless hours of service to Nazareth. But he did use his official position on Council to ask for something improper.

Nazareth Jacksonian Club - fined eight times for gambling devices and misleading records. Fines extend from $300 to $1,500, This club is where NorCo Dems have often made endorsements in County races. Its license was suspended once.

Nazareth VFW - fined six times for deceptive records and gambling devices. There has been one suspension. I'm getting reports that this outfit was hit in the raid as well, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Hecktown Volunteer fire Co. - fined five times for gambling devices. The biggest fine imposed is $600.

East Lawn Volunteer Fire Co. - no record of fines before last week, which has led to lots of grumbling by other Nazareth social clubs. The President of this club is a former Upper Nazareth Supervisor.

Updated 8:15 am: The Express Times has details from some of the clubs.

No Treats For A-Treat

Allentown's Renaissance is seeing the loss of another local business, A-Treat, with 97 jobs. Corporate welfare, in the form of  LERTAs, TIFs, KOZs, CRIZs and NIZs, are handed out like candy to developers like J.B. Reilly. After all, they are known for their hefty campaign contributions. But a business that simply tries to deliver an inexpensive product is ignored.

This business is located in State Rep. Michael Schlossberg's district. Maybe he can let company representatives attend his blogging boot camp for free.

Updated 8:10 am: :Michael Molovinsky's Allentown's Make Believe Economy is a sobering dose of reality that casts a spotlight on the faux Renaissance.

Chances Good There's a Snow Emergency Where You Live

You can check for it at WFMZ-TV 69's Stomcenter before your car is towed. i received notice from Hanover Township that their snow emergency starts at 6 am Monday. Lower Nazareth starts at midnight. Nazareth's emergency starts at 2 pm. You can park in the Borough Park or the South Green Street parking lot until the emergency is lifted. Eastern Pa. Weather Authority is calling for 9-14", with areas to the east of Allentown getting more. 

If you shovel snow, exercise caution. Take plenty of breaks. Hire a servant and don't pay him. This is when people experience heart attacks. I have no heart so I have no cause for concern. 

Bethlehem Area School Directors to Vote On "Fair Share" Agreement Tonight

When Bethlehem's School Directors meet this evening, one of the agenda items listed is a 3-year collective bargaining agreement with the teachers' union. Though the agreement itself is absent, one of the items included is what is known as a "fair share" clause. This requires theschool district to withhold union dues from the salaries of all teachers and other professionals within a bargaining unit, regardless whether they are members. School Board President Michael Faccinetto explains that all the other collective bargaining agreements contain such a clause. Seventy per cent of all teacher contracts contain this kind of clause.

This is a controversial issue nationwide. One the one hand, why should a union be required to provide representation to someone who won't pay dues? But why should teachers be forced to contribute to unions who take their money to support candidates that individual teachers oppose? I have no answer. If anything, I would tend to side with the union on this issue.

What I do know is that good government requires transparency. It appears to me that no notice has been given to the public concerning this clause. This issue deserves more scrutiny.

Clarification: By law, union dues paid by nonmembers may not be used for campaign contributions.

Atiyeh-Connected Attorney Seeks NorCo Council Seat

Attorney Mickey Thompson, age 41, has announced he's running for the District Council seat being vacated by Democrat Lamont McClure at the end of this year. Thompson, a Republican, may have company. Former Council President John Cusick, another Republican, is reportedly mulling a run as well.

Thompson, who lives in Bethlehem Township with his two sons, is the Chief Operating Officer at Saucon Valley Manor, Whitehall Manor and Pennsylvania Venture Capital, Inc. These are all Abe Atiyeh ventures.

Thompson also led the drive in West Easton for Atiyeh's treatment and work release center. Council approved a lease for that facility by a 8-0 vote in 2012.

Because of his connection to Atyeh, Thompson would be disqualified from participating in the discussion or voting on any Atiyeh matter. But his sympathies lie with what he calls entrepreneurs. "I understand that economic development starts from the budding entrepreneur at the local level, not at the County or the State," he states. "In order to turn the economy around and bring jobs to Northampton County we need to provide more support to these entrepreneurs at the County level."

One thing beyond dispute is that Thompson would bring a wealth of knowledge about nursing home facilities. He states,
“In 2011, the voters of Northampton County affirmed the obligation to provide care for our elderly citizens. I believe that my experience with the operation of these facilities will be invaluable in managing and supporting the care of the residents, while at the same time maintaining the costs for the sustainability of Gracedale."
A Moravian College and Syracuse University College of Law grad, Thompson has practiced law in the Lehigh Valley since 1999. For nearly all of that time, he was Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor.

This is Thompson's second stab at elected office. He ran against Michael Hudak in 2013 for Bethlehem Township Commissioner. He lost that race, 385-315.

Mickey is also a coach and council member at Bethlehem's Northwest Youth Athletic Association, where John Callahan played as a young man. He's also an Assistant Scoutmaster at Troop 318 in Bethlehem, PA.

His greatest achievements are his two well-mannered and very pleasant sons, whom I have met at several public meetings.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

RIP, Bethlehem City Controller Dave DiGiacinto

Bethlehem City Controller Dave DiGiacinto died unexpectedly this morning, according to The Morning Call. He had been a member of City Council since 2009, but the job he really wanted was Controller. He lost his first try for that office, but finally won the job in the 2013 elections.

As a Council member, Dave was often a thorn in the side of the John Callahan administration, but his constructive criticism probably made Callahan a better mayor.

He made the Christmas City a better place.

He was a person who could be relied upon to tell you what is going on. His friends will miss him very much. The City of Bethlehem will miss him even more. Here's what some are saying.

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez: "Today the City of Bethlehem lost a true gentleman in the unexpected passing of City Controller Dave DiGiacinto. Dave was a friend who served the city with distinction and integrity. He will be remembered for his love of Bethlehem but his love for his family was truly amazing. Our sympathies go out to his mother Mrs. DiGiacinto, Kelly, and Luke. Bethlehem is a better place because of Dave DiGiacinto."

Beth. DCED Director Alicia Karner: "Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead, Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves, Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves." quoting W.H. Auden

Bethlehem activist Lucy Lennon: "A gentleman and a good friend. The city of Bethlehem lost someone special today."

I know Dave spent part of the day on Saturday, shoveling his driveway. Folks, if you lack servants like me, and have to shovel snow yourself, please be careful. Take plenty of breaks. Do not overdo it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

PSP Raids Three Nazareth-Area Social Clubs - Seize Cash & Machines

SGT Michael Carroll, who heads the Pennsylvania State Police's Liquor Control Enforcement Bureau in Allentown, has confirmed a raid at three Nazareth area social clubs on Wednesday afternoon. The Hecktown Volunteer Fire Co. Social Club (Rte. 191), Vigilance Hose (Nazareth) and East Lawn Social Club were apparently hit simultaneously. Law enforcement officials seized gambling machines located at all three establishments. They also seized cash from some of the establishments.

Poker machines are illegal in Pennsylvania if they offer payouts to the customers using them. Although often regarded as a victimless offense, gambling addicts will spend their entire paychecks on a poker machine. Those machines are usually provided by someone with ties to organized crime. Some social clubs will rig their machines to suck money away from some patrons while steering cash to others. But perhaps the biggest problem is skimming. Machine operators often get quite wealthy by pocketing a large percentage of the money used for gambling.

In small boroughs, many of the elected officials are also machine operators or officers in these social clubs. In Nazareth, for example, Mayor Carl Strye was until recently the President of Nazareth Vigilance Hose Vo. No. 1. Its social club was hit by the raid. There is no evidence he had any direct involvement in the poker machines. But it is highly likely he was at the very least aware of their use.

SGT Carroll stated that there are no charges at this point, "but there are charges pending." He indicated that agents determine whether there are liquor control enforcement violations, which are ultimately decided by the Liquor Control Board. But he added that, in some instances, there are Crimes Code violations.

Informed sources state that agents followed one steward to his home, where they found and seized money. SGT Carroll refused to confirm or deny that report.

NorCo Exec John Brown Nominates Cathy Allen to Replace Vic Scomillio

As most of you know, Vic Scomillio has stepped down as Northampton County Solicitor to distance himself from Executive John Brown. In a memo released late last night, Brown has named Vic's successor - Cathy Allen. "I wish I had ten of her," he writes. Though Allen has no law degree, Brown is confident that a Republican-controlled Council will grant his wish. "Why not?" he asks."They already approved a voice over artist as Director of Community and Economic Development."

Brown and public relations consultant Kim Plyler were absent from last night's council meeting. They were apparently at Staples, making copies.

(Psst! I'll tell you what really happened tomorrow. I'm busy letting air out of footballs right now.)


Sam Murray: "He Deserves to Be a Judge"

Sam Murray asks security to remove me from his campaign announcement. 
Unlike real reporters, I hate writing under pressure. But I'm under a lot right now. Tammy warned me last night that I better do a good job with this write-up. I usually laugh with scorn when someone says something like that to me. But Tammy is no politico. She's Sam Murray's legal secretary. I have no fear of politicians. But you don't piss off a legal secretary. or there will be hell to pay. So I hope this is acceptable, Tammy.

It was a Who's Who of lawyers, elected officials and family friends, both Republican and Democrat, who descended upon Riverview Country Club last night. A throng of at least 170 heard Easton attorney Sam Murray announce his candidacy for the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. I was there, too. I crashed it.

I told the receptionist that my name is Jerry Seyfried..

"He's already here, sir,"

"Did I say Seyfried? I meant Stoffa. John Stoffa. I have dyslexia."

She gave me the look most people reserve for craZies, but let me pass.

I was in.

I've known Sam since he first started practicing law in 1983. Like many lawyers, he's smart and is unafraid of work. But what sets him apart, both a lawyer and as a person, is that he always has the time to listen, and I mean really listen, to people. He will hear what you say. This is what will set him apart as a judge, too. Good judges, I have noticed, are excellent listeners.

Audience applauds when Wheeler tases me. 
Sam's a product of Easton. His father was a steelworker and mom a sewing machine operator. A blue collar family. He grew up with troublemakers like Easton City Council member Ken Brown and fellow Attorney Bib Nitschke. He's a graduate of Moravian College and Seton Hall University School of Law. He has spent the past thirty years helping people. Some of his clients have been wealthy. Others have been poor. But I personally have seen him give the same attention to therm all.

The courts saw something they like. In 2003, Sam was appointed a Child Custody Master and Juvenile Court Judicial Hearing Officer. For those of you who are outside the legal arena, Masters and hearing officers stand in the place of a judge, and their recommendations are nearly always accepted.

So Sam already knows what it is like to make a tough call.

"I will always protect and defend the Constitution," Murray stated last night. He added that the most important right in a courtroom is due process.
The reception room was decorated with pretty blondes and Murray yard signs
Though Sam stopped there, let me connect the dots. The Brown administration and Solicitor Vic Scomillio, who is also running for judge, have done a poor job protecting the constitutional right to due process, i.e. notice and an opportunity to be heard.  Vic fired a County employee without affording her due process. And just this week, the Brown administration's failure to prepare criminal trial notices very nearly resulted in the cancellation of criminal court.

Nobody disputes Vic's personal integrity or his legal acumen. But his stint with Brown has killed any hope he has to be a judge, at least for now. His chariot is driving headlong into the Red Sea, but a wall of water is collapsing around his judicial race.

Sam will be resigning his seat as a Juvenile Court Hearing Officer. The Courts require this from any judicial employee. Murray not only agrees with this principle, but adds that any County employee who runs for judge should resign. Let me connect the dots again. Sam is referring to Abe Kassis, an Assistant District Attorney who is also running for judge and who has kept his County job.

Sam has always believed in community service. He has coached girls' basketball, and managed the 2002 Lehigh Little League team that won a state championship and participated in the World Series.

My grandson was in awe when he met Sam and his son Joseph one Sunday.

At the reception, I sat with the bad crowd. Constables Charles Hentz and Lance Wheeler, along with former Chief Probation Officer Mark Mazziotti, kept wary eyes on me. They know I'm slippery. I still managed to eat all of the hummus, mushrooms and bruschetta. When they finally kicked me out, I left for a County Council meeting with a garlic breath so strong that they were forced to go into Executive Session.

There was no shortage of local heavyweights at this shindig, from former NorCo Executive Jerry Seyfried to former State Rep. Rich Grucela. Prominent Republicans like Ray DeRaymond and Bill Murphy were there. Bethlehem and Easton Mayors Bob Donchez and Sal Panto offered statements of support.

But the person who put it best was Mark Mazziotti. "He's the first guy I ever met who actually deserved to be a judge," stated the former Probation Officer. He should know.

NorCo Workhorse Scott Parsons to Seek Second Council Term

The Northampton County Workhorse
He's a Democrat in a Republican district. Two Republicans have already announced they intend to take it from him. But they never ran into a workhorse before. Scott Parsons, whose unprecedented 97% attendance rating makes him the Northampton County Workhorse, announced last night that he's seeking re-election.

A blue collar quarry worker, Parsons has much more in common with Slate Belt and northern tier residents than his Republican opponents. In addition to his work ethic, he has been a moderating influence on the partisans that have divided Council.

He put it quite simply. "My commitment to the people of District 4 and Northampton County is something I take seriously, as my record shows."

What he does not mention so much is his commitment to youth sports. Like me, he is an athletic supporter. He has even brought student athletes to Council meetings to give them commendations for their often-overlooked successes.

Scott's campaign headquarters are at Detzi's Tavern. I've been barred again, but it's only a 60-day suspension.

Magisterial District Judge Tidd Seeking Re-Election

Magisterial District Judge David W Tidd, whose district includes Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township,has already told The Express Times that he's seeking re-election. I bumped into him at last night's Sam Murray for Judge announcement. I promised to leave him alone if he would send me his announcement. True to his word, he did. But I lied.  I will probably bug him down the road. It's what I do. His announcement is below.

I am pleased to announce my candidacy for re-election as Magisterial District Judge for District 03-2-04 covering Hellertown and Lower Saucon. For the past 5 years since my election in 2009, it has been my honor and privilege to faithfully and expertly serve the citizens of our community.

The choice of Magisterial District Judge is an important one with significant impact on all of us. Not only is the District Court where traffic and landlord-tenant cases are heard, but where bail is set and preliminary hearings held in serious criminal matters such as theft and homicide.

As current Magisterial District Judge and licensed attorney in practice for 15 years, my extensive legal experience in civil and criminal matters, integrity and desire to ensure fair and impartial resolutions make me uniquely qualified to continue as your Magisterial District Judge. These same qualifications make the difference between criminals being punished and being released back into our community.

I desire to continue as District Judge to maintain the reputation of my Court for decisions grounded in sound legal reasoning and for providing outstanding service outside the courtroom through knowledgeable, well-trained staff. The Court is also known for bringing a balance to the just aims of law enforcement and the individual rights of defendants as required by our State and Federal Constitutions. Additionally, I have, with the help of of my staff and officials of Northampton County Court Administration, brought my Court in compliance with standards set by the State of Pennsylvania. In its most recent audit, the State recognized my Court's fiscal accuracy and adherence to proper procedure; I desire to see this compliance continue long into the future.

These past 5 years have seen great change for my wife Vera and I with the birth of our two children, Caroline, now 4, and John William, 23 months. One thing that will not change is my dedication to the people of the Saucon Valley through my service to them as their Magisterial District Judge.​

Two LV Judges Ponder State Superior Court Races

Two Lehigh Valley jurists are currently pondering a run at the State Superior Court. They are Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano, who is serving his second ten-year term; and Lehigh County Judge Doug Reichley, first elected in 2011. Both are Republicans.

Between the two of them, Judge Giordano is by far the more experienced on the bench, while Reichley's ten terms as a State Rep. might give him better connections with State Committee members.

I know and like them both. But to me, this is a no-brainer. Judge Giordano, both of whose parents came here from Italy with little more than the shirts on their backs, is very much unlike your typical judge. Most of them tend to think they've become gods, but Judge Giordano has never assumed any of the airs you sometimes see in others. He has the courage to say he does not know the answer to everything. At the same time, as is the tradition in Northampton County, he shows great respect to all people who come before him, This is a trait he no doubt learned from his parents.

He shows this same respect out of the courtroom as well. His has been a life of service. He particularly excels at coaching. One of his players was my grandson, who adores him.

I have no desire to slam Reichley, whom I consider a man of conviction and courage. Either would be excellent. But I prefer the judge with a heart.

We already have Judge Jack Panella sitting on the Superior Court, but I'd like Lehigh Valley judges occupy all fifteen seats.

LWV to Host "Running For Local Office Workshop" in February

Thinking of running for local office this year? Circulating a petition to get on the ballot begins Tuesday, February 17. 
To many, running for local office can be a daunting task. In order to assist the candidate through this complex process, the League of Women Voters of Lehigh and Northampton Counties will be conducting their 8th biennial “Running for Local Office Workshop”.
It is scheduled for SaturdayFebruary 21, 2015, from 8 AM to 12:30 PM at the Gates Center, Alumni Hall Building, at Northampton Community College, 3835 Green Pond Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
This workshop is designed to give someone thinking of running for local office, or working on a campaign, an understanding of how to qualify and run. Lehigh Valley Offices up for election in 2015 are:
·         County Office
·         Mayor (Easton and Whitehall)
·         City Council
·         Borough Council
·         Township Supervisor
·         Township Commissioner
·         School Director
·         Magisterial District Judge

This “How To” workshop will give individuals an opportunity to learn:
·         How to Start, organize, and manage a campaign
·         How to Do the legal paperwork
·         How to Work with a committee
·         How to Work with the press
·         What techniques have worked successfully for others
·         A whole lot more.

Come take advantage of our experts, and this unique opportunity to start your campaign off on the right foot.
Essential information, designed specifically for candidates in the Lehigh Valley, will be included in a workbook that you will take home with you. A fee of $45 will be charged to cover the cost of materials.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote political responsibility through active and informed participation of citizens.
Additional information and the application form are included on the Workshop flier attached, and can be obtained at the League website http://www.lwvlv.org/, or by contacting Ken Mohr at 610-282-1921 or KMohr@MohrMR.com.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Portland's Former Mayor, Billie Golden, Facing Harsh Penalty Over Junk Yard

This is a story about what Bob Cartwright insists is the Cancun of Northamptom County - Portland. Before you start trashing it, remember, you live downstream. It's a fascinating little borough. There may only be 579 people, but there are at least that many stories about its colorful residents. One of them was Fred Angle, Ron Angle's dad. He was in his prime a Yankees minor league baseball player who grew so strong from working on the railroad that he could walk the tracks with one tie on each shoulder. Another was cRaZy George. He was given that name because of his penchant for jumping off a footbridge crossing the Delaware River. He charged $1 a jump, and took a header even if the river was mostly dry. This story is about Billie Golden, a former Portland Mayor and Council member.

Back when Ron had his own radio show, Billie was one of his regular callers. He was always pleasant - a trusting and live and let live kind of guy. He has authored a book, but the person who was going to publish it for him seems to have disappeared after taking his money. Nobody is after that guy. Instead, it's Billie who's in hot water. He's facing a million years in the electric chair over a junk yard at his property.

I've never seen it. Then again, neither has Billie. He's blind as a bat. But his neighbors have. Sometimes, they sometimes get upset and complain. Other times, they help clean things up.

This junk yard, if you want to call it that, exists because that is where his two sons store things until they have enough to go to a scrap metal yard. A little slow, this is how they make a living. They walk along the sides of roads, collecting cans or scrap metal that no one wants.

One of these brothers loves to go to church. Doesn't matter what kind. Families sometimes pick him up and take him along. They say he lights up God's house with his smile.

Sometimes, these fellows make mistakes. They will take metal they think is being tossed. They once took radiators that were outside of Duckloe's Furniture Store. The radiators were sitting right where the garbage is placed, and the brothers mistakenly assumed this was garbage. Billie tells me that it was an honest mistake.

For those of you looking for a second career, Billie assures me that the state of Pennsylvania allows you to take anything that is left for the garbage man.

Once this garbage reaches a certain point, Billie gets cited. He's facing charges right now for operating a dump. He tells me that he's been found guilty, and is awaiting sentence.

A rumor began circulating earlier this week that authorities are so worked up that Golden is facing a major fine and possible jail time. but that makes no sense. A verdict and sentence must be announced immediately after a summary trial. If Billie was previously found guilty, and the court delayed the sentence for whatever reason, it is unable to impose any sentence now.

I asked Ron Angle, who is friends with Billie, to find out what is going on. He told me he's been muzzled by court order, just like Kathleen Kane. But he still has a great defense for blind Billie. "Just tell the judge you threw your garbage and it missed the can," he advised.

DA John Morganelli would like to see an Elder Abuse Task Force established. What is happening to Billie demonstrates clearly why this is needed.  Ageism is the one acceptable form of discrimination. Billie lost already lost money to some con artist. Hios property might be a mess, but this is a problem that could be addressed by the County's Department of Aging.

I hope he gets a break,and will be following this story.

NorCo Spent $49,000 Defending Mancini Civil Rights Case in 2014

On Friday, a federal jury found that Northampton County violated the procedural due process rights of Jill Mancini. She's a former assistant County Solicitor, and was its sole full-time lawyer. She learned she was losing her job just two days before Christmas, when newly appointed Solicitor Vic Scomillio phoned her from his car. She pursued a claim before the Personnel Appeals Board (the result there was a 2-2 tie) and filed a civil rights lawsuit.

For liability claims, Northampton County participates in a risk pool including numerous Counties, administered by PCoRP. That insurer hired Thomas Thomas and Hafer to defend the Mancini claim. The County must pay a $50,000 deductible before insurance kicks in.

In 2014, the County paid Thomas Thomas and Hafer $49,000 to defend the Mancini claim. Insurance will likely cover remaining attorney fees, the $94,000 verdict and Mancini's attorney fees. This will easily exceed the amount of the verdict.

This will no doubt have an adverse impact on the insurance premium for liability.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Brown Staff Cuts Hampers DA Attempts to Notify Defendanta of Trial

Though Northampton County Executive John Brown denies there's a hiring freeze, he's not replacing people as they leave. One of the departments affected by this is the County's printing department, where John Niski worked for many years. He's the man who prepared County stationary and envelopes with the correct return addresses. But like many others, he has retired. His position is vacant. Now his absence is hurting the District Attorney's office and the rights of criminal Defendants facing trial. That's because the office has run out of envelopes containing the return address and other postal information necessary to prove that notice of trial was delivered. Secretaries in the District Attorney's office have been forced to hand-stamp envelopes for criminal trial notices.

District Attorney John Morganelli, who was made aware of this problem this morning, fired off this email to Executive Brown.
I was just informed that due to your decisions not to replace people in the printing department, the District Attorney’s Office is without sufficient envelopes with the proper return address information to mail thousands of notices to criminal defendants and victims for the upcoming criminal court.

With the retirement of John Nisi, there is no one to perform his printing duties. Our plain white envelopes were ordered by him who printed the District Attorney Office required information on the return address part of the envelope to comply with postal regulations. My staff is literally trying to hand stamp thousands of individual blank envelopes to attempt to meet our obligations. We have no ability to individually hand stamp envelopes, and then place each in a typewriter to add the required language not contained on the stamp. This is going to crash the criminal justice system in Northampton County and result in public harm. Quite frankly, this is unprecedented and unacceptable. I cannot stand by and watch you create a mess here. I have informed President Judge Baratta and he is prepared to issue a court order at my request ordering your administration to supply us with our needs immediately.

John Morganelli
Director of Administration Luis Campos came down to the DA's office, and offered to help stamp envelopes.

Brown Nominates Traci Barnes as New Human Resources Chief

Norco Exec John Brown has nominated Traci Barnes as the County's new Human Resources Director. He is proposing a salary of $80,113. I'll provide more details as they become available.

Schlossberg To Teach Blogging Class On Taxpayer Dime

As a State Representative, Mike Schlossberg is paid a salary of $84,012. Last year, he also received approximately $18,000 in per diems and mileage expenses. These extras are about $1,000 more than the per capita income of an Allentown resident. if you put it all together, he is paid about $102,000.

For that kind of money, I think we are all entitled to a State Representative who is not moonlighting in the middle of the work week, doing something else. But Schlossberg is doing his best to pick up a few bucks here and there as a "social media consultant."

Maybe he should send his resume to NorCo Exec John Brown. He loves consultants.

Anyhoo, Schlossberg is playing hookey on Thursday, February 12. I'm not sure if the state house is in session that day. If it is, Schlossberg better recruit someone to do some ghost voting for him. He's been hired by the Chamber of Commerce to teach the Nazareth Business Council "Blogging Boot Camp". Naturally, the class will be in Bethlehem.

While there, Schlossberg will also shill his book, "Tweets and Consequences." It's selling for just $10.49.

Must be a real page turner.

Here's what I think. Professor Schlossberg should pay Pennsylvania $279.45 for a day in which he has chosen to enrich himself instead of do his job.

Mancini Celebrates Win at Detzi's - Leaves No Tip

Jill Mancini was just awarded $94,000 in lost wages on Friday. According to a federal jury, her civil rights were violated when incoming Northampton County Solicitor Vic Scomillio fired her as an Assistant just two days before Christmas. Rather than letting her know in person, he did it over the phone, from his car. I thought that was tacky, especially from a judicial candidate. But Mancini is pretty tacky herself. She proved that last night.

She and Karl Longenbach (her boyfriend and former boss) dropped in at Detzi's Tavern in Wind Gap to celebrate. Naturally, they bumped into Scott Parsons, a Detzi's regular. The three of them ponied up to the bar.

While they dined, Mancini ripped into Brown and Scomillio. She's become bitter.

When their $67 bill came, they paid it. Then they left. Though Mancini was just awarded $94,000, neither she nor Longenbach could be bothered to tip the person who served them.

Maybe they forgot.

12:45 pm Explanation From Barfly: I have received a telephone call from someone who claims he was at the Tavern last night and knows what happened. I'll call him Barfly. He claims that the tab was picked up by a third party, sitting at one of the tables. Longenbach and Mancini left no tip, but the Good Samaritan left money for a tip and paid for their meal and drinks as well.

Lehigh Valley Tea Party Becoming Political

Up until now, the Lehigh Valley Tea Party has been mostly an educational group. Though it took stands on issues like immigration, it refused to endorse candidates for office. But that's about to change. As a result of recent changes to its by-laws, it will now work "to help Constitutionalists get elected, and to help remove those who fail to keep their oath to the Constitution."

It likens its role to the unions. "[P]olitical power comes from controlling a block of voters, or a block of money, and preferably both. This is exactly what makes unions powerful. All politicians understand that most union members vote based on who the union itself openly supports or opposes. So they control that block of voters, either real or perceived. Unions also receive huge amounts of money. Much of this goes to buying political ads, for or against a candidate."

Whether this group raises money or is effective will be seen in the municipal races this race.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tea Party Declares Open Season on Bethlehem Tp Parks Gun Ban

This Spring, Bethlehem Township's municipal parks will be a place for the local Athletic Association, known as the Bulldogs,to host baseball, softball and soccer games. But it will also be a place to sport a 454 Raging Bull revolver. Resident Glenn Krier, who is with the Second Amendment Committee of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party, warned Commissioners that "[y]ou'll probably see people walking through the parks, carrying firearms."

Krier, who came unarmed to the Commissioners' meeting because he didn't want to "antagonize anybody." stated that a Township Ordinance banning guns in parks is pre-empted by state law. The state has the sole authority to regulate guns. Under a new law, groups like the NRA or even the tea party can sue municipalities with illegal gun bans. Thus far, nearly two dozen municipalities have repealed gun bans in municipal parks. Locally, Bethlehem has repealed its gun ban, and Allentown is expected to do so on Wednesday.

Guns in parks. What could possibly go wrong?

Bethlehem Tp Monthly Reports - December Highlights

Once every month, department heads provide a monthly report to Bethlehem Township Commissioners. They provide a perspective from the people who actually do the work. Here are some December highlights:

Township Manager - Melissa Shafer reports that, thanks to a new phone system, a live person will answer every phone call to the Township. She is currently working on a 5-year financial plan, which should be available for review soon. Finally, a four-way stop sign at Chester Avenue and Santee Road, sought by numerous residents will be installed on January 21. A traffic study concluded that it could be justified.

Police - Police were kept very busy in December by counterfeit currency at Southmont mall, credit card fraud at Valley Restaurant and a drug task force bust that yielded drugs, guns, a vehicle and $10,000 in cash. Officers made 24 misdemeanor and felony arrests. They investigated 74 accidents involving 142 vehicles and 11 injuries. They issued 102 traffic citations, 70 warnings and 40 parking tickets. There were 6 summary offense cases and 5 DUIs.

Public Works - Leaf collection lasted through December as a result of snowstorms.There were216 visits to the yard waste recycling center.

Finance - The Township received 99% of all real estate taxes budgeted and 98% of all community center fees. As a pleasant surprise, the Township received 281% of what it had budgeted for construction fees. Actual revenues and expenditures matched at $18.9 million.

Messing With Cathy Allen's Snitch Can Get You Fired

Jason Rosati is a hard ass. Maybe it's the five years he spent as a Seabee, which included Desert Storm. Maybe it's the military crew cut, or his erect posture. But he learned early to value military discipline in over 20 years of corrections at Northampton County's jail. It has served him well, too. He worked his way up through the ranks to become a Lieutenant. He knows the importance of order at a place like a jail, which can spin out of control in a heartbeat. But earlier this month, this combat vet received a certified mail notice from the County. They intend to fire him. He's been suspended, and without pay. His terrible offense? Writing up Cathy Allen's snitch.

For those of you who don't know, Cathy Allen is supposed to be a Deputy Director of Administration. Prior to last year, she had no county experience at all. She was a high school grad who ran a two-person office. Under Brown, she's basically the Acting Executive. She runs Gracedale, Human Relations and has stuck her nose into jail operations.

I have been told she's conducting an investigation there. She pulled somewhere around 80 files and took them from the jail to the Executive's office. She began poring over old disciplinary reports, and get this, actually wanted to re-open some old files and discipline employees a second time for the same infraction.

She apparently never heard of this little thing called res judicata, or another little thing called double jeopardy. That's in the Constitution, right after due process, another principle that has eluded County officials.

When a missing pill cutter at the jail resulted in a lockdown, it is Cathy Allen who had to give the go ahead to lift it on Saturday.

Allen has a snitch at the jail, She's a corrections officer named Kim Yedlosky. She drew the attention of Secret Service agents in 2010 when she joined a loud tea party protest against Vice President Joe Biden. According to an Express Times account,
She was yelling across the street to Secret Service agents by the front door of the restaurant: "Here, do you want my wallet? Do you want my blood?" she screamed. She pointed to the rooftop of Blue and hollered, "Look, there's a sniper. Hi Mr. Sniper." One agent moved closer, watching her, but didn't cross the street. "Don't worry," she said to a reporter, referring to the agent,"he's just adding to my file."
Another protester, Elissa Sherman, 47, of Bethlehem Township, Pa., came over and told Yedlosky to calm down, and she did.
Good fun.

It may never have dawned on Allen, but Yedlosky has a real disciplinary problem at the jail. She's a feree spirit who has been written up multiple times for defying uniform policy, and has been suspended several times as a result. When it became known that she is Allen's snitch, Rosati was warned to back off and not write her up unless it is approved by another administrator.

Empowered by the Brown administration, Yedlosky has reportedly approached guards and threatened to turn them in unless they give her dirt on other prison workers, especially if it's Rosati. Unlike her, they refuse to be snitches.

Rosati, in the meantime, continued to insist that corrections officers working under him are dressed appropriately. Yedlosky came to work recently with her top shirt button left open, exposing a V-neck T-shirt and a choker necklace. Those may not be worn while on duty. Rosati told Yedlosky to button her blouse and she ignored him. She later claimed the button was broken, although she said nothing to her supervisor. As a result, Rosati wrote up the incident. Pursuant to previous instruction, he forwarded the matter to a Captain for approval, and he got it.

But the write-up was killed by Allen, and now Rosati has been notified he is being fired.

Unlike union workers, Rosati's sole source of protection is the career service guidelines. Human Resources still does not know whether he has a right to an attorney, and no date has been set for his hearing.

In the meantime, staffing at the jail is about 35 corrections officers short in a top heavy administration that includes a Director, warden, three deputy wardens, a prime care administrator and a caption, none of whom punch a clock.

Daniel Keen, the new Director, is just getting his feet wet. This ridiculous action against Rosati might be a good place for him to start.

I reached out to Rosati to discuss this matter. He declined. He's in enough trouble. But other sources at the jail have confirmed this story with me.

RumorMill: Scomillio to Resign as NorCo Solicitor

At Northampton County Executive John Brown's Christmas party last year, Solicitor Vic Scomillio reportedly told guests that he would be resigning his job with the County. I have asked him to confirm or deny this rumor, and will let you know when I know.

A Scomillio resignation might be an attempt to distance himself from Brown's disastrous first year in office. There have been mass retirements, brought on by unnecessary staffing shortages and Brown's unilateral decision to reduce health benefits. Scomillio defended sole-bid consultant contracts of questionable legality, and went along with budget for this year that is balanced by an illegal $20 million line of credit.

Scomillio's decision to fire an Assistant County Solicitor, over the phone from his car and just two days before Christmas, has just resulted in a $94,000 verdict against the County. A jury determined this employee's constitutional rights were violated. This has to hurt Scomillio's chances in a judicial race, at least among those who believe in following the Constitution.

Democrat Abe Kassis, an Assistant District Attorney, has already announced his intention to run. Another Democrat, Juvenile Court Master Sam Murray, is reportedly weighing his options as well.  

Barron: Row Office Staff Shortages Create Embezzlement Risk

On Friday, President Judge Stephen Baratta warned Executive John Brown that it's time to start hiring people in the beleaguered Civil and Criminal Divisions. When the public does not know what is happening in a given case for six or more weeks after a filing, it's safe to say that access to the courts is being denied.  Court Administrator is worried that a major error is inevitable, and this could end up costing the County millions. Now Controller Steve Barron has joined the chorus of complaints that first began on this blog last year. He's added a new concern - embezzlement.

Human nature is such that, no matter what controls are in place, people are going to steal. But it's far more likely when there's lower staffing levels.  The County becomes vulnerable to an employee who might think he or she can get away with it. Also, it will become far more difficult to collect the fines and costs owed,

You can read Barron's memo here.

Northampton County Council Republicans currently have some sort of motion to have barron drawn and quartered. Seth Vaughn, Mat Benol and Hyaden Phillips, none of whom have particularly good attendance records. want barron put to death because he's a youth referee.

In the meantime. they've done nothing to address critical staffing shortages at the jail, row offices, Gracedale and in Human Services.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Scomillio Fired Mancini While He Was Driving

NorCo Solicitor Vic Scomillio told Ass't Solicitor Jill Mancini that he was firing her during a cell phone conversation just two days before Christmas. He was driving at the time. On Friday, a jury awarded Mancini $94,000 in damages. Attorney fees will be much higher, and she is entitled to them because her constitutional rights were violate. 

On Saturday. John Brown's propaganda machine attempted to spin this loss as a victory. Kim Plyler of Sahl Comminications issued a news release that she later denied was a news release, in which she glossed over the fact that a jury had found that the County denied an emplyer her constitutional rights. She failed to note that there was a damages award of $94,000, and provided a "statement" by Brown lackey Luis Campos. In this statement, Campos states he can't give a statement. 

Below are some excerpts from Mancini's deposition concerning her termination. Scomillio does not exactly look like judicial material. He lacked the common courtesy to speak to her in person. He chose instead to call her from his car.


And a violation of procedural due process. 

He also appears to have ignored emails concerning this decision.

As a career service employee, Mancini did file a grievance and had a hearing before the Personnel Appeals Board. The decision there was a 2-2 tie.

The County used an outside law firm to represent it in this matter. I have filed a RTK to determine how much money the county has wasted.

Here's an excerpt of the Mancini deposition.
Q. On December 23rd when Victor Scomillio called you about the elimination of the full-time positions, you were -- at that point you were already aware that that was being proposed, isn't that correct?

A. I was aware, yes.

Q. It was not a shock to you when he told you that his proposal was to eliminate the full-time positions in the solicitor's office?

A. I would say it wasn't a surprise but that was a shock.

Q. What do you recall as to your conversation with Mr. Scomillio?

A. I recall our conversation opened with congratulations to Mr. Scomillio for his appointment, his presentment appointment. He told me that the positions -- that as of January 7 he was eliminating -- the -- the part-timers were gone and he was eliminating the positions, and then the full-timers would be gone and I would be unemployed as of January 7th. So there were -- Victor was on his cell phone in his car. It was very difficult to hear, very difficult to have this kind of conversation. But essentially what happened was at that point when he said to me, I am going to eliminate the positions as of January 7th, you won't be employed, it was clear to me there was a problem with understanding the law. So I decided to ask him, to appeal to humanity. It was two days before Christmas. And there's no time to look for a job. And there was no expectation that I would have to until a few days before he called me. So I asked him if we could delay the end date. And he told me that was not his call. And so I asked him if he would like me to call John Brown or contact him and make that request. And I don't exactly recall what he did say.

Then the next question was, well, how will you eliminate my position because I am a career service -- eliminate -- fire me, there's no just cause, and I am a career service person. And he said, no, you are a career exempt person. I said, no, that is a pay scale. It has nothing to do with protected status. He told me to look at the resolution that created my job and I told him I have. It says nothing about my status, which means I am a career service status. Because unless a resolution says exempt, the position is a career service. Pay grade career exempt has nothing to do with protected status.

Q. Is that what you told him in your conversation or --

A. I did. That's what we discussed. Then there was some discussion about that. And then I said, well, in any case, how can you release me because the position exists? And he said, I am going to eliminate it. I said, well, you can't because that's council's job. So he said he would make a request to council. And I said, well, you will only be -- you are not -- that was another thing too was, how can you make this decision because you are not employed by the county at this time? You are presumptively employed but not yet. So I asked him, you would make that request two days after you have been appointed and approved by council? And there wasn't much discussion about that. Then I said, look, it's just too difficult to have this conversation over the telephone. Why -- when will you be in the office next? And Victor told me, I won't be in the office. And I said, okay, how about if I write you a memo and also make the request for a delayed end date, termination date? And he said, okay. I said, do you have an e-mail? He said, fax me the memo. I said, do you have the fax number? He said, call my secretary. I said, okay, goodbye. And that was it. But I will add this, there was never -- it is a misstatement to say that the reason that I was not offered a part-time position had anything to do with my attitude, because there was never any indication that I was going to be offered a part-time position, either by John Brown at the time he spoke to Karl -- his statement to Karl was that I was not going to be there. And the first thing out of Victor's mouth was, we are eliminating the positions and you will be terminated, effective January 7th.

Q. Did you ever prepare a memo for Mr. Scomillio?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. It was clear to me that the decision to eliminate and terminate the full-time assistant solicitors had very little to do with what it was alleged to have to do with; i.e., it was in my mind inconsistent with the law, number one; and number two, was inconsistent with any practical advantage that could be served to the office. So obviously there was another agenda. Why would I invest my time and energy into a useless exercise?

Q. Have you had any discussions with Mr. Scomillio as far as the reasons why he was eliminating the full-time positions?

A. I e-mailed him on two separate occasions and asked for an explanation as to the law and as to any other considerations concerning his decision to eliminate the positions. He never responded to either one.

Q. And do you recall when you sent him the e-mails?

A. Prior to the time that I left. Prior to the 24th of January. As a matter of fact, I think my final request to him was just after he sent the e-mail from the council meeting notifying Mike Alpago, the other full-time assistant, and me that council had approved the elimination of the positions. I sent an e-mail asking him, just as a matter of respect and consideration for somebody who has worked here and worked this hard, would you please be so kind as to give me a legal basis for your -- the authority to do what you are doing and also to give me a description of why you want to do it?