The Nowroski hire
What really rankled Panto was my Friday post about incoming Codes Director Stephen Nowroski. The City refused to identify him, but had Council rubber-stamp a significant pay hike for the position to a starting salary of $87,000, with absolutely no disclosure of who was getting the job. When I blew the whistle and identified Nowroski as someone who had been investigated twice - once for using code as a retaliatory measure and once for issuing permits without inspections - Panto went beserk.
These are the unvarnished facts. They are not pretty, and the City should have been up front and transparent about what it wanted to do. Panto attempted to muzzle me, but now The Express Times has published the story as well, and in a way that reflects poorly on the new hire that Panto wanted so badly to keep under wraps. Now he can explain what he's doing to people who are outside his circle of cronies and sycophants. This pretty much blew up in his face.
It could very well be that Nowroski will prove to be a great addition to Easton. But he starts with a strike against him, not because of me, but because Panto refused to be transparent.
To some extent, there's cronyism and favoritism everywhere. But it's embedded in Easton. You need look no further than people like the Vulcanos. On the school board and city council, they both have abused their positions One even used his influence to get his daughter a teaching job for which she was unqualified.
City Council members are paid an ungodly $9,371 salary, plus health benefits. That's about 50% more than in Allentown.
Don't forget, this is a City where the The Holy Cross Society deposed some poor high school junior as the Queen of some goofy Summer festival and gave her crown to a Panto niece.
Favoritism in business
The favoritism extends into businesses, too. In 2013, Easton rushed an assessment reduction for developer Mark Mulligan at the Wolf Building, even though the building was subsequently granted KOZ status and is essentially exempt from all but federal income taxes. Permit fees for a trendy Cheeburger Cheeburger restaurant at one of Mulligan's properties were reduced. This developer and an Easton Redevelopment employee who also acts as a realtor for Mulligan nearly got away with the escrow money for two burned properties. They were stopped only because I blew the whistle.
While playing favorites for some, others are treated like second class citizens. Developer Abe Atiyeh, for example, was denied an assessment appeal on the same day that Easton pitched one for Mulligan. He also has claimed, and in a federal lawsuit, that he was targeted by Easton code enforcement officials.
So what does Panto do? Hire someone who was investigated for using code enforcement to retaliate against people outside his inner circle. Brilliant.
Favoritism in Parking Tickets
This favoritism even extends into Panto's extrajudicial parking enforcement. People outside his inner circle are being denied due process by a greedy Mayor who counts on those tickets as an extra source of revenue. Even on Sundays. He might as well send one of his goons around with the collection basket. I know people who won't go downtown at night any more, not for fear of the criminals, but the Panto Parking Police. This situation is made worse by the "who you know" culture of favoritism that exists. As a result of several Right-to-Know requests, I was able to establish, pretty conclusively, that many had large numbers of tickets avoided.
Despite the plain evidence of Easton's own data, which show that a privileged few are getting parking ticket breaks, he attacks me because I have failed to provide "one example of a ticket that I fixed or voided."
That's pretty hard to do when Easton has destroyed all records of the names of the those whose tickets were expunged..
He then goes on to say that criticisms of "city employees are off limits." He adds that his new codes director underwent an intensive background check in which it was discovered that another employee was the culprit playing favorites.
Of course, that's bullshit. Sal is just repeating what this guy said in his interview, No municipality, with the possible exception of Easton, would be so stupid as to release an intenal investigation.
Who are Sal's Sycophants?
Many rallied to Sal's war cry on Friday night. Without question, some are true believers who believe Easton is a better place now than it was when Panto took office. And it is. But there are just as many who want me silenced because my Super Powers piss them off.
Here's a few.
Melissa Miller, who writes, "He is a bully and everyone knows it," is one of the most extreme members of the Republican Action Team, aka Tea Party, and is NorCo Council member Seth Vaughn's significant other. I have been critical of her vulgarities and her husband on Council.
Lisa Pawlowski, Allentown's very own Lady MacBeth, tells Facebook readers I get "paid every time someone opens his blog. So every click is a win for him. Controversy means more money for him. So folks, if you support your mayor, don't ever read Bernie's blog. Make a statement by cutting into his income." Lisa must think I'm as money hungry as she and her husband. I don't make a dime blogging.
Jon Geeting is a failed Lehigh Valley blogger who claims that reading my blog "always makes me feel like being in a dirty gas station bathroom" He is jealous, and needs to grow up.
Billy Kounoupis of Billy's Downtown Diner fame calls me an ass, which is a step up from what I'm usually called. He waves the pom poms, but doesn't bother telling anyone that he's working on a deal right now for a third Billy's Downtown Diner in Easton, at the new LANTA terminal. When this guy was appointed to the Bethlehem Parking Authority, the first thing he did was attempt to have a ticket fixed. He'll be right at home in Panto Paradise.
Joseph H Capozzolo, Bangor's Mayor after winning by one vote, writes, "Consider the source." That source exposed him as an opportunist when he ran for the state senate seat, taking just enough votes away from Scott Parsons to guarantee a Scavello victory. I also criticized Joe for defacing someone's campaign signs, which is a pretty low thing to do.
Thomas Lutes came out in support of Hizzoner. He should because he had five parking tickets voided in 2014.
Heidi Stecker Markow refers to me as an "evil blogger" and chastised me for using a sentence containing the word Jesus. As a victim rights advocate, she went overboard and was calling news conferences to complain about the DA and judges, and I took her to task as a nut job.
I stand by every word I've written about Panto and his Posse. They better head over to The Express Times comment board because the people commenting there are less understanding.
Panto was unsuccessful in muzzling me because The Express Times covered my story. But what happens in a few years when there are no dailies. I criticize them incessantly, but without them, our democracy dies. It will be too easy for someone in power to marginalize and muzzle contrary voices.