Monday, January 05, 2015
2014 Year in Review: July Through December
Officer Fred Lahovski, who was fired by a unanimous Nazareth Borough Council in 2012 , is reinstated by an arbitrator, who also awards him 22 months in back pay. To date, Nazareth has failed to pay him. A part-time officer, upset that this blog is criticizing the Chief, asks fellow officers on social media to "light this fucker [yours truly] up." This blog receives information that Trachta and a part-time police officer use "UNB" or "UNIT" to refer on radio to minorities unwanted in the Borough. This same part-time officer is implicated in the 2013 suicide of Timothy Nixon, who shot himself after the officer barged into Nixon's apartment building without first trying to talk him down or take any precautions for public safety. Chief Trachta tells reporters that Nixon was dead when police arrived, but that is contradicted by Upper Nazareth police accounts.
A legal dream team consisting of prominent criminal defense lawyers Phil Lauer, Gary Asteak and Mark Minotti, agree to represent the Sticker Gang. Ridiculous bail conditions that effectively rendered one Sticker Gang member homeless, are relaxed by Judge Emil Giordano. "Is this the case I read about?" he asked. Not a Nazareth cop in sight at the bail hearing.
Former Ass't Norco Solicitor Jill Mancini, let go when John Brown became Executive, sues for civil rights violations in federal court. In her most recent filing, she wants evidence of her romantic relationship with former Solicitor Karl Longenbach excluded.
After six months, Brown names a Sheriff (David Daltymple), Director of Administration (Luis Campos) and Finance Director (Jim Hunter). All three are confirmed.
Lehigh County Commissioners appoint Amanda Holt, a piano teacher who licves with her parents and has no college education, to replace Scott Ott
This blog reports that Easton Community Development specialist Michael Brett, who is employed by the Redevelopment Authority and just happens to be a member of the Zoning Hearing Board, is also a broker with Easton developer Mark Mulligan's VM Development Group. It is later revealed that Brett and Mulligan are partners who purchased two fire-damaged properties, and then received escrowed money from Easton to make repairs. Easton calls back the escrow because what happened is improper. But an angry Mayor Sal Panto lashes out at yours truly. The Express Times, which is trying to convince Mark Mulligan to buy its building, turns its head the other way.
Tea Party stages weekend rally against unaccompanied minors housed at KidsPeace in Salisbury Township. Donning surgical masks, they carry signs saying "Illegal Mestizos are Bringing in Leprosy and Scabies". They also take a prayer break, but never read the words, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me."
About 60 supporters of the Bethlehem Township Athletic Association, more commonly known as the Bulldogs, blitz a Commissioners' meeting after Michael Hudak suggests they be charged to use the fields. Supporters note that they serve 1,600 people a year, but Hudak insists he represents a majority of the Township, and is inundated by calls from people who agree with him.
Traditions of America, a senior living developer owned in part by NIZ developer J.B. Reilly, proposes a gated community along the Green Pond Marsh, which is designated an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. The Save Green Pond Marsh movement is born, and over 100 people attend a Planning Commission meeting to raise concerns about traffic, stormwater and the environment. .
Developer Charles Chrin proposes an 11-screen movie theatre, four-story hotel, convenience store gas station, bank and restaurant at the old V-7 driving range, next to Route 33.
"Holy Crap!" responds Planner Les Walker.
Portland shuts off the water to 17 homes unable to install backflow preventers, at their own expense. It threatened to do it to the Catholic Church as well, until informed that there is no shut off valve.
Judge Joel Slomsky of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rules that a an unusual "dry" or "secondary" drowning case against both Bethlehem Area School District (BASD) and Liberty High School P.E. teacher Carlton Rodgers will move forward. He denies motions for summary judgment to a civil rights filed by Mica Spady, the mother of 15 year-old Juanya Spady He had recently trany Executive Brown. sferred to the school. A non-swimmer, he died shortly after a swimming P.E. class.
Northampton County Council adopts ordinance requiring all cabinet officials to be County residents, but the measure is quickly vetoed by Executive John Brown.
Shiloh Baptist pastor Phil Davis plays race card with Easton Area School Board because they won't allow him to run his own de facto segregated charter school.
Magisterial District Judge Jacqueline Taschner acquits the Sticker Gang of all charges filed over their tiny FT stickers. "Suck it up, cupcake," she tells Nazareth Police chief Thomas Trachta.
Gracedale celebrates its 20th annual family fest.
NorCo Executive John Brown decides to make draconian cuts in health care benefits provided to the 2,200-person County workforce. Overr 200 county workers descend upon County Council to protest these changes. One of them, a 20-year veteran, admitted she has to go to food banks. Employees also complain that staffing shortages are creating undue pressure on the employees as well as public safety concerns at places like the jail. On an open mike, Seth Vaughn is overheard complaining that Lamont McClure is "showing off for his gang."
Under the watchful eyes of Bethlehem Township police, Traditions of America begins digging 39 holes in disputed wetlands at Green Pond Marsh. Save Green Pond requests the state DEP to investigate.
Brown proposes a $330 million budget for 2015 that includes no tax hike, but includes a $20 million line of credit that appears to be contrary to the Home Rule Charter requirement of a balanced budget.
County employees continue their protests at two more meetings in Courtroom #1. Glenn Geissinger goes on talk radio to complain that workers are being encouraged by unions to attend meetings and asks for some "support from the taxpayer." Unions bring an inflatable fat cat before one of the meetings. By a 5-3-1 vote with Seth Vaughn abstaining, Council adopts a resolution asking the Executive to relent in his unilateral reduction of health care benefits.
Brown posts armed deputy sheriffs outside his office to keep council members away from a news conference at which he attacks them. A perturbed Council President Peg Ferraro responds. "[T]o have the Sheriff's Deputies stand - armed Sheriff's Deputies - standing guard at the door between a Council Chamber and the County Executive Chamber, to me, is absolutely appalling and sends completely the wrong message to the elected officials that sit up here on this dais with me."
Brown also blocks the Controller from mass emailing employees and removes a link to a fraud tip hotline, but changes course after being reminded that the Controller is an independently elected official. He also decides to offer gap insurance, free of charge, to County employees to ease the pain of the health care cuts.
Unanimously, Northampton County Council adopts a resolution condemning the Easton commuter tax, and calls on the Executive to challenge it in Court. A similar tax in Scranton is struck down.
For seventh year in a row, Hanover Towsnhip Supervisors proposes a no-tax hike budget.
An investigating Grand Jury finds that Karen Dolan abused her position on Bethlehem City Council. It calls on her to resign her office, and refers conflict of interest findings to the state Ethics Commission for possible criminal sanctions.
State School Performance tests result in failing grades for high schools located in Lehigh Valley cities. Allen High School is the worst performing school, scoring only 50.8%. But Liberty High School fails as well, achieving only a 57% score. Freedom is the only city-based high school with a passing grade.
An informational meeting about the proposed PennEast Pipeline, draws hundreds of interested residents.
Executive John Brown proposes a budget amendment removing the $20 million line of credit considered illegal, but now is proposing to leave the County with a rainy day fund of just $1 million in a County that spends $8-10 million per month. "We need a tax hike, " concludes Hayden Phillips, Council's most conservative member.
Northampton County refuses to produce email exchanges with the const control consultant hired to reduce health care costs. The state Office of Open Records orders the County to produce 141 disputed emails for an in camera review.
State DEP determines that the Green Pond Marsh wetlands are much larger than the 27,000 sq ft conceded by developer Traditions of America. Nearly the entire 8-acres in dispute are determined to be wetlands.
Bethlehem zoners approve a 20-unit apartment building behind Roosevelts 21st, near Moravian College.
Bethlehem Township proposes a no-taxc hike budget for the sixth straight year.
NorCo Council adopts a 2015 budget that includes a one-mill tax hike. Republicans blame the tax hike on Controller Steve Barron. Brown allows the budget to go into effect, but does not sign it
Based on a tip first provided to this paper, NorCo Controller Steve Barron concludes that Executive John Brown and Deputy Director of Administration Cathy Allen improperly claimed about $1,500 in travel expenses.
The number of people who have retired in Northampton County is around 140, almost three times the average annual retirement rate.
Northampton County sues to stop the Easton commuter tax, and is joined in a separate suit filed by Deputy Sheriffs.
Though police and minority communities are at odds throughout the country, Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio joins the NAACP and clergy to pray for justice.
Speaking of justice, former Bethlehem Council member Karen Dolan has moved to Vermont. She now calls herself K. Dierdre Dolan.