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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pay to Play, Landfill Style

IESI Corporation is the owner of the Bethlehem Landfill located in Lower Saucon Township. But how much longer it can stay there is unclear. At the rate things are going,  it will reach capacity sometime next year. If the state grants permission to stack garbage on top of 29 acres at its 201-acre site, it can remain operational for another six years. But what then? IESI has purchased 83 acres on the western side of its property, and wants to use 58 acres for garbage. Its problem?  Zoning. That would have to change from residential to light industrial, and the current Council is no hurry to grant this wish. In an effort to get a more complaint Council, IESI has inserted itself in the electoral process in a big way. In the primary race alone, the corporation has spent $40,000 to get what it wants.

Three Council seats are up this year. Two are held by Priscilla deLeon and Dave Willard, Democrats who have tended to be anti-landfill. The third Council seat is held by Republican Tom Maxfield, who has generally been supportive. If deLeon and Willard can be knocked off by a slate of pro-landfill Council members, IESI would be that much closer to an expansion.

Before the primary election, the landfill contributed a total of $40,000 to a political action committee (PAC) calling itself Responsible Solutions for Pennsylvania. The PAC supported a slate consisting of Maxfield and two other pro-landfill Republicans, Bill Ross and Sandra Yerger.. This money funded robo calls, live calls, five mail pieces and the creation of a web page that is no longer active. It also paid somewhere around $13,000 for a Philadelphia law firm  (Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell and Hippel) that took care of filing the pre- and post-primary election reports.

Under Pennsylvania's campaign finance laws, corporate contributions are illegal. But these lawyers assured District Attorney John Morganelli that the usual ban on corporate contributions fell by the wayside because the contributions are "independent expenditures."

The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizen's United prevents any restriction on independent political spending. .

When the dust had settled on the primary, two of the three members of this slate had won. Sandra Yerger had 468 votes, and Maxfield garnered 441 votes. But Bill Ross, the third member of this slate only attracted 345 votes and lost out to Republican Donna Louder, who is anti landfill.

IESI spent $31.90 for every vote cast in support of the pro-landfill candidates.

deLeon (487 votes) and Willard (382 votes) captured the Democratic nod, along with Gary Gorman.(323 votes).

Now new campaign signs are out, paid for by Responsible Solutions for Pennsylvania, promoting the Yerger and Maxfield pro-landfill team. deLeon, Willard and Louder have formed their own bipartisan anti-landfill team. deleon and Willard decided against teaming up with Democrat Gorman because his wife is the Township's Finance Director.

Will the landfill buy this election? Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Doing some more digging, the Chairman of Responsible Solutions for Pennsylvania is David Spirk, who also serves as Chairman of Lower Saucon's Parks & Recreation Board.

The PAC’s treasurer is Craig Kologie, who is a member of the Lower Saucon Township Planning Commission.

Anonymous said...

Gary W. Gorman writes:

As part of my platform, I am been running an independent, grass-roots campaign, and have not accepted any outside contributions, despite offers- and will continue to do so. Like Senator Bernie Sanders, I don't believe one (anyone) should be able to "buy" an election and I do not support PAC's. That being said, I will be posting more on this subject in the near future.

My three major platform issues are:

1) Preserving and protecting our rural and open space community, through controlled growth and compliance with the Township's comprehensive organization plan.

2) Protecting our quality of life services through Economic Development is vital to help offset the cost, and to help stabilize, strengthen and protect these crucial services which include our police department, fire companies and other emergency services.

3) Transparency is essential. I will be open and assessable to our residents to answer questions, provide feedback to help resolve issues.

Anonymous said...

I live in Bethlehem Township, nowhere near the landfill (maybe that's why our taxes are going up 37%?), and received IESI's political mail piece last week. It didn't mention specific candidates, but it's message was basically to "pay attention" to the upcoming Lower Saucon election and consider each candidate's position on the landfill expansion.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:19, They are going to need a landfill expansion just for all the mail they are going to send out. Nice to see how well corporate America does at targeting its mail.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Doing some more digging, the Chairman of Responsible Solutions for Pennsylvania is David Spirk, who also serves as Chairman of Lower Saucon's Parks & Recreation Board.

The PAC’s treasurer is Craig Kologie, who is a member of the Lower Saucon Township Planning Commission."

Spirk is also a land developer. Maxfield and Yerger are nearly 100% funded by just one donor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Gary Gorman, Your wife is employed by the Township as its Finance Director. I really don't think it's a good idea for you to be seeking any kind of elected role there under those circumstances. Sorry. In your three major platform issues, you don't say how you come down on the biggest issue facing Lower Saucon, which is the landfill expansion. Its negatives are obvious, but the positive is $2 million per year in the Township coffers. If you want to be transparent, you need to be transparent. Also, it's "accessible," not "assessable." Hopefully, you have not sent out any mail misusing that word.

Anonymous said...

Gary W. Gorman replies:

BOH: I understand your position about my wife being a Township Employee. However, Donna Louder's husband is also a Township Employee, yet her constituents and her Bi-partisan anti-landfill team do not seem to object to the semblance of a conflict. Councilman David Willard (whom I support) organized an Economic Development Team to, among other things, evaluate and weigh the pros and cons of the landfill expansion. The EDT recommended to expand it, yet Councilman Willard did not go along with their recommendation, which again, he organized for comprehensive feedback. Also as commentator 9:19am writes above, Bethlehem Township is currently proposing a 37% tax increase. I fear that our Township will be forced into this position (and perhaps an even greater tax increase) without the continued monies generated from the landfill. And, as I stated in my 2nd platform issue, without Economic Development, which generates continued revenue flow to our Township, we won't have the financial means to fund out quality of life services.

Moreover, during Township Council Meetings, anti-landfill residents have not only said that they oppose the rezoning and/or expansion of the landfill, but their goal is to completely shut it down. Donna Louder, in particular, has said this specifically. Attempting to do this would be a very cumbersome legal and costly quagmire for Lower Saucon Township. Trying to run a company out of business, which has operated in our Township for over 60+ years and employs many hard working laborers, is short-sighted and a colossal waste of taxpayer money. And, many landfill opponents have stated during meetings that they favor raising taxes. As a resident of Lower Saucon Township, I believe that I must look out for the best interest of all taxpayers and not just a special-interest group.

P.S. Thank you, Bernie, for correcting my misuse of accessible. I'm a social worker not a polished politician.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) If Donna Louder's husband is a policy maker like your wife, I would have a problem with her candidacy, too. I looked at the webpage and see no Louders in any position of authority. If I am mistaken, correct me. Your wife is the Finance Director, which is an important role in Township government. For that reason, I could not support you.

2) Many polished politicians make the same kinds of spelling errors you just did. I corrected you before you send off what seems like a pre-prepared speech.

3) You claim not to be a polished politician, but are evading a simple question. Do you or don't you support the landfill expansion? It seems that you do, and voters should know that so they can decide whether you're the person they want in there. I don't live there and ordinarily would have no position. But what bothers me is that the landfill is trying to buy this election, and is spending a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

Pay for Play, Landfill Style!

Interesting perspective. Keep digging Bernie! Spirk and Kologie have been strong supporters of rezoning Applebutter Road to let IESI expand the landfill. Spirk and Kologie are also intimately involved with the housing development at the Silver Creek Country Club that requires a text amendment to the existing zoning code. Both are members of Silver Creek Country Club and Spirk is the builder/developer for the Silver Creek Country Club project.

The township council and administration have become too dependent of landfill revenue. They should have been using the time to bring other businesses to Lower Saucon Township. Instead, we have been spending money on open space, parks, and recreation. Mr. Maxfield, in the past, has supported the rezoning on Applebutter Road so IESI could expand to the West. At the same time, Mr. Maxfield was instrumental in acquiring over 220 acres of land immediately adjacent to his home and a cost of $2,500,000 to the taxpayers. Why is it okay to protect over 220 acres near his home, but okay to permit IESI to expand the landfill closer to the residents on Applebutter Road and Steel City.

Both Maxfield and Yerger are environmentalists and IESI is counting on them to permit them to rezone Applebutter Road so IESI can expand. What is wrong with this picture.

Here’s a thought! The open space tax is set to expire next year. How about the taxpayers decide to redirect their tax dollars away from open space and direct it towards the revenue that will be lost by the closing of the landfill. There would be no tax increase and we would no longer be preserving open space around the homes of Maxfield, Yerger, and Kern. Go to the township website and check out where all the open space is located and where the council members reside.

Anonymous said...

IESI keeps telling the Residents of Lower Saucon Township that their property taxes will increase without the expansion of landfill is misleading. Only the township tax will increase, the county and school district are impacted because they do not rely on income from IESI.

Anonymous said...

IESI keeps telling the Residents of Lower Saucon Township that their property taxes will increase without the expansion of landfill is misleading. Only the township tax will increase, the county and school district are NOT impacted because they do not rely on income from IESI.

Anonymous said...

There is a issue like this in the subterainian bowels of hell of allentowns saleale toxic chemical dump beneath Newillers Brewery¿!($ Who and what allentown entity collected the dumping fees incured to dump in the cavernous waste tunnel to the lehigh river¿!($ We all know allentowns king was in on the ABLE deal¿!($
patent pending

Anonymous said...

Bernie. Great Article. I am sure these council members poop their pants when you show up to council meetings. Everyone knows your heart is with Bethlehem Twp right now but if you dig a little deeper into Lower Saucon Townships business you may be surprised what you find. Look at the open space money used to protect land around council members homes (like 12:44 stated) and who is the only homestead to have a beautiful taxpayer funded privacy fence along the Rails to Trails walking path that no other taxpaying resident has. It is also funny how Mr Maxfield and company had so many signs along landfill owned land on Applebutter Road during the primary. Who actually is in control of the township? Taxpayers representatives or landfill representatives? BTW I support open space to benefit all residents not just a few council people.

Anonymous said...

The Lower Saucon Township Council Budget meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 28, 2015 starting at 6:00 p.m. at Town Hall, 3700 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Residents who want the truth about how much the landfill actually contributes to the budget should come to the meeting and ask questions about how the administrative team developed the budget, what steps they took to reduce cost over the prior year, how they plan to deal with the continue slide in revenue from the landfill. The current township manager retires on December 31, 2015. This is his last budget. Do they start with a blank sheet of paper a develop the budget or do they increase line items by percentages based on statistics? How hard is the township administrative staff working for the Council and the RESIDENTS?

Anonymous said...

Lower Saucon Township Council Candidate Sandra Yerger is the Associate Director of Development for the Heritage Conservancy. At the Conservancy, she has managed all aspects of member relations for Heritage Conservancy including planning, organizing and implementing special events, fundraising, educational programming and volunteer activities for seven years. She is currently responsible for much of the Conservancy’s development of community outreach programs that target both private citizens as well as businesses and corporations.

The Heritage Conservancy also provides services to Lower Saucon Township. Isn’t this a conflict of interest because Yerger also sits on the Lower Saucon Township Planning Commission and Environmental Advisory Council (She was also a past member of the Lower Saucon Township Council).

Why hasn't she taken a position on the support she has received from IESI and Responsible Solutions PA PAC? She was quiet in the primary election, will she be quiet in the primary election?

Anonymous said...


Dig back through old LST council meeting minutes. You will see that Allentown sent radioactive material from their new hockey arena to the IESI landfill site and it took over a year to get it removed. It was only removed when the residents found out and applied pressure to the township administration.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you on Gary Gorman. He claims he not a polished politician, which he isn't, but he's sure trying to act like it. His "platform" is typical for a politician. A lot of words but no substance. From his replies it sounds like he's already been bought by IESI plus it would only make his wife's job easier. Also, I see he never responded to your question about Louder's husband. As you stated, if he is not a policy maker it makes a huge difference.

I just hope Lower Saucon find's someone intelligent to fill the township manager position.

Bernie O'Hare said...

There certainly is a wealth of information here that needs to be looked at. These so-called environmentalists seem more like con artists. Amazing. As for Louder, I did some checking and learned that her husband is a cop, not a policy maker like Gorman's wife.

I have no opinion on the landfill expansion. I do niot live in the Twp and believe those who do are in a better position to make that decision than I. But i do have a problem when any one person or corporation tries to buy an election. That is clearly what is happening here. Thanks to Citizens United, it is completely legal.

Anonymous said...

As of today, IESI set-up it own support for Maxfield and Yerger. This reporting period they spent another $55,100.00 to help get Maxfield and Yerger elected. Between the primary and general election IESI has spent over $100,000 to get Maxfield and Yerger elected. If this isn't pay for play, I don't know what is. Still no comments from Maxfield or Yerger.

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

Gorman still has not responded to your question on his position on the landfill. His wife has already stated her public support for the expansion of landfill. It makes her job a lot easier.

Anonymous said...

How does one remove radio active materials that have leeched into the subterainian water tables, this is not even to mention the direct dumping of hazardous materials into waterways¿!($ This all while the Home Rule Law is intact on the same old yet nue nue nue ReNue developable properties claiming a different Z twist with the creation of the Brown Hole diversionary elected seat compensated¿!($

Damm the political pot of fermented blue juice downtown has a stence cloud covering beoned the city limits¿!($ The snake oil salsmen of allentons political agenda must keep selling the same old sack o shit¿!($

patent pending

Anonymous said...

Part I

At last night's budget meeting, the Lower Saucon Township residents learned that the IESI PA Bethlehem Landfill Corporation's contribution to the the 2016 township budget is only 16% of total revenue and there will be NO TAX INCREASE! However, that has not stopped IESI PA Bethlehem Landfill Corporation from filling the residents' mailboxes with false and misleading information about Priscilla deLeon, David Willard, and Donna Louder.

Residents who support Tom Maxfield on Election Day should have been at the Budget Meeting to observe his latest performance before the residents. For the first time in years, Maxfield recommend take a look at the Consulting Fees in the budget and see where they could be tightened up. He was particularly interested in cutting the landfill engineer from the budget! If he is successful, that would eliminated the township's watchdog at the landfill. However, his final performance was the best! When resident Gene Boyer questioned him about why he suddenly changed his position on making budget cuts, he got up and left the room (check the audio of the meeting - Maxfield's performance begins at 158:00)

Anonymous said...

Part II

Check out this letter to the editor of the Morning Call for Karen Samuels:

Vote Maxfield, Yerger in L. Saucon

Through the leadership of Tom Maxfield and Sandra Yerger, Lower Saucon Township residents have enjoyed low property taxes, smart responsible growth of development and the preservation of open space. We need these good, proven managers to be re-elected as they have the best interests in mind for all the residents of the township.

Be aware that there is a team of three candidates, running for election to council, who represent a small reactionary group of residents. We don't need the headaches (higher taxes, angry outbursts and mud slinging) that these three will surely bring if elected. By voting for Maxfield and Yerger, we can continue to afford and enjoy living in our beautiful rural township.

Karen Samuels
Lower Saucon Township

Hmmmm. Looks like the "BLUEBLOODS" of Saucon Valley Road don't care about their fellow residents on the other side of the township. They don't see it or smell it, so they do care. Kind of let them "eat cake" attitude. Don't take any money out of my pockets, but they don't care that the pay an Open Space Fund tax that preserve over 200 acres of land surrounding Maxfield's home at a cost of over $2,000,000 to the taxpayer. Has Karen Samuels ever attended a Lower Saucon Township Council Meeting.

Anonymous said...

Part III

As for Maxfield's behavior, here is what was in an article in the Valley Voice about how Tom Maxfield treats residents.

By Paul Bealer
Editor, The Valley Voice
August 2, 2013

Township Council meeting, when the group met July 24.
Steel City resident Gene Boyer had the floor during public
comment. He decided to update council on his recent visit to Town
Hall, where Boyer said he studied township budgets dating back to
1998, and township audit reports.

He seemed focused on the bottom line and income from the
township’s host tipping fee agreement with IESI Landfill.
After about five minutes, Council Vice President Tom Maxfield
cut Boyer off with a comment he, council President Glenn Kern and
Township Manager Jack Cahalan often ask Boyer at public meetings:
“What’s your point?” Boyer asked Maxfield to bare with him
a bit longer.

Handling the president’s gavel in Kern’s absence, Maxfield
obliged to hear a bit more history, his bearded face getting a bit red
in frustration as the history lesson continued. Maxfield cut Boyer
off again and told him to “come in and talk to the people who work
on the budget every day.”

Boyer tried to continue getting to his point and he was cut off

Anonymous said...

Part IV

several more times by the frustrated man behind the gavel. Apparently
Boyer wanted to discuss financial impacts of landfill revenue.
Maxfield said several times he did not want to have a discussion on
the matter without the township finance director’s figures and facts
before him. “We’re here to conduct business. We’re not here to
answer a million questions. We’re not here to teach school,” Catholic
school teacher Maxfield chirped.

Fair enough, but his backlash did not end there.
pulpit, tossing insults Boyer’s way. “I get the feeling
from you that you’re digging for some kind of dirt,”
Maxfield snorted at Boyer. Some audience members sat stunned
that the township taxpayer was verbally assailed by the council vice

Maxfield has done this occasionally toward residents during hot
discussions on landfill issues. But this night he went over the line
in public meeting decorum.

After a little back and forth banter between Boyer and Maxfield,
Boyer yielded his seat at the public microphone and was headed
back to his seat. “I feel like that teacher that gets that one student
who asks that same damn question day after day,” flustered
Maxfield said to the crowd of township taxpayers.

Councilwoman Priscilla deLeon twice told Maxfield she wanted
to hear Boyer out. “You shouldn’t feel intimidated to speak to
council,” she told audience members.

Anonymous said...

Part V

“I don’t want to sit here and listen to this,” Maxfield retorted.
Councilman Dave Willard chimed in, “We need to create an
atmosphere where you can come here and say what you feel.”
Maxfield sniped, “It goes both ways.”

Maxfield also ranted at two more taxpayers that stood up to
defend Boyer’s right to speak. “I’m just tired,” he said before resting
his head in his hand and quieting down.

There were no apologies from flustered Maxfield at the rest of the
public portion of the meeting.

remembered that he was once in Boyer’s seat: a taxpaying
resident concerned about the township’s future. Once
a township resident goes to the other side of the council dais, they
must answer to more than 10,000 other residents and set aside their
own agendas. They should respect concerns and opinions, and not
try to squash public input— whether they want to hear it or not.
Section 710.1 of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act requires local
agencies to provide an opportunity for public comment at all public
meetings. Lower Saucon Township Council has always been good
about yielding the floor to residents and hearing them out.
In covering Lower Saucon Council meetings for nearly 15 years,
I can’t count all the times council allowed the public to have the
floor, unimpeded, to share their concerns about happenings in the
township. There were many and most of that time council members,
including Maxfield, have been cordial in allowing two or three or
four hours of public comments.

That is rare among municipal boards, and many have passed
rules limiting public comment. But Lower Saucon has not, so Boyer
and others have the right to speak to their council representatives.
should not be heightened by a township representative
exhibiting poor attitude and intimidation toward residents.
At a time when more Lower Saucon residents are attending
meetings regularly, and getting involved in local government,
snippy attitude by a council member creates a chilling effect on
public discourse.

Maxfield needs to remember where he sat before he was elected
and appointed to his council, planning commission and environmental
advisory council seats. If remembering that does not act as
a lesson in public meeting decorum, at re-election time voters with
a long memory may just give him a hard lesson.

Then he may have his Wednesday nights free to get some rest.

And by the way, YERGER AND GORMAN (the candidate) didn't have time to attend last night's budget meeting!

ILiveinSC said...

You, sir, make sense. I have asked repeatedly for a solution should they force the landfill to close, to date, I have received no answers! DeLeon has voted against almost anything that would bring revenue into this township. How will they make up for the 2 million loss??? And please don't insult my intelligence by saying that money is not part of the budget, therefore not important. My other question is, where do we go with our garbage?? Chrin has no room and seeking expansions also. Would we be shipping it out of state? What will that cost??? Like I said ... no answers to those questions. I stopped going to the meetings because of the hostility from some of the neighbors that are anti landfill. This issue is not JUST about Steel City and I feel our officials have to do what is best for everyone in the township! Good luck Mr. Gorman!