About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, November 12, 2015

NorCo Safety Committee Wanted Crosswalk Enhanced, Not Removed

Two weekends ago, NorCo workers painted over a crosswalk from the courthouse to parking lots located on the other side of the street. This was there to provide some measure of safety to employees and the public.Executive John Brown admitted during a council meeting that he gave the order, but told Ken Kraft he was merely following a recommendation of the Safety Committee. I now have some of the email exchanges and know that the Safety Committee is blameless, and made no such recommendation.  The crosswalk removal is a direct result of a recommendation of the Panto Parking Police, despite Mayor Sal Panto's protests to the contrary. Rather than spend a dime on public and employee safety, Brown has taken steps that will ironically ensure the County is exposed to even more liability if someone is unfortunate enough to be struck by a vehicle in that crosswalk

"We had a recommendation from the Safety Committee" were the exact works used by Brown. "They reviewed the information for several weeks and concluded that, in order to minimize liability for the County and our employees, eliminating that crosswalk would be the most prudent action."

The Safety Committee, incidentally, is a collection of county workers from various departments.It is steered by outside cost control consultant Chris Rothwell of the infamous C3 Group that guarantees to "boost your bottom line."

Though Brown tried to pin this on the Safety Committee, Director of Administration Luis Campos previously had told me this decision was prompted by an email from the Easton Police Department. I asked him for a copy of the email, which he never produced. I asked Easton Mayor Sal Panto for a copy when he came on this blog to cast stones. He never produced it, either.

I spoke with a member of this Safety Committee on Tuesday. Agent 99 and I grilled him until he cracked. He provided me with a copy of the email that Campos and Panto refused to provide. He also told me that the Safety Committee made no recommendation to remove the crosswalk. It does not even take votes. It was actually seeking ways to make the crosswalk safer.

Kinda' like what I'd expect from a Safety Committee.

This all started with an email from Roger Pulcini, a member of the Safety Committee to Lt. Matt Lohenitz of the Panto Parking Police. He is one of the judge, jury and executioner combinations in Easton's "civil" money-grabbing parking ticket scheme that had to be revised after concerns raised by DA John Morganelli. .

Pulcini explained that it is a "very dangerous crosswalk" in which one county worker was struck by a car. She is permanently disabled. "Just last week three employees almost got hit by a fast moving car in this area even with signs up of crosswalk ahead they fly right through the area." Pulcini suggested flashing lights. "I am most concerned of the older residents who visit the Court House for business and cannot jump out of the way quickly."

He was asking for help.

Lt. Lohenitz, who apparently is a traffic engineer and a judge in addition to being a member of the Panto Parking Police, waxed on about the "challenges and requirements of a mid block crosswalk." He then recommended that pedestrians be directed to use the crosswalks at the intersections of 7th and Washington and Union and Washington, with absolutely no regard for the safety of pedestrians that would be forced to cross where Wolf St dumps out onto Washington at a dangerous angle.

The Panto Parking Police advised against continued use of the crosswalk,which he claims is legally unenforceable. He warned that the County would need to comply with ADA requirements and do a traffic study, although in another part of his missive, he states that such a study was done. Then he throws in this kicker. "I would not recommend using that crosswalk sign [in] that area. By placing that sign there, the county, in my opinion then assumes liability for what may happen there since it is not a legal crosswalk."

Lohenitz fails to state when he got his P.E. license or who elected him judge.

But all Brown had to see was some cop's assertion that the County is assuming liability for what happens inside a crosswalk. That was enough to persuade him.

"I have to look at the liability,." he told Lamont McClure, although he was unable to say whether there is any legal representation on the Safety Committee (There is not). Then he complained about cost, stating it would be "quite expensive" to create a compliant crosswalk.

Had Brown bothered to present any of this to a lawyer before he had acted, he would have learned that removing the pedestrian sign and painting over a crosswalk that he knows is being used is negligence per se. Whether the County assumed liability before is a matter of debate, but there is no question now that the County will be held responsible for any injuries that occur in that crosswalk.

Brown has also opened up the door to punitive damages. He made clear at the meeting that his is concerned about cost, not safety. In fact, his so-called Safety Committee is being run by a cost cutting bean counter.

He is being penny wise and pound foolish, a trait that has marked most of his administration. Unfortunately, County Council has no authority to compel Brown to do the right thing. The only place where this kind of incompetence can be remedied is at the polls.


Anonymous said...

This is typical of the Brown administration. Do what they want when they want, either in ignorance or intentionally, and then when called on it make up excuses and false statements to cover their tracks. We can't get rid of Brownie too soon.

Anonymous said...

Move everything to Gracedale except the Courts and the jail. It`s becoming a ghetto area anyway.

Anonymous said...

The Lt is absolutely correct. You must have legal sources, Bernie. Why not contact one of them rather than belittle the Easton police?

Anonymous said...

Since when is a paid consultant in charge of an employee safety committee? That used to be the responsibility of the Deputy Director of Administration. It is in her job description. Guess she is too busy doing everyone else's job.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The Lieutenant is absolutely wrong. First, he has no business giving legal advice as to liability or engineering advice. He is neither. He does have a right to say it is an unenforceable crosswalk, but that is all. Second, his recommendation makes an already unsafe situation even worse. He needs to remember he is there to protect and to serve, not get people killed as they try to cross the street.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"That used to be the responsibility of the Deputy Director of Administration. It is in her job description. Guess she is too busy doing everyone else's job."

Oh she's involved, too. Her name is on the email list of members.

Anonymous said...

This clown needs to be removed from office.

Anonymous said...

Allen is involved only to the extent that Rothwell, the consultant must report to her. He runs the committee and is not even a county employee. The C3 contract needs to be audited. Barron should be on this.

Anonymous said...

Why are you always going on about this consultant. When Stoffa was in he had his pal, a consultant inv9olved in everything.

Anonymous said...

2:51 Stoffa haters gotta' hate. Ken Mohr was a consultant for several complex construction projects, including the Wayne Grube Park, the old courthouse renovations and the Human Services building. He probably saved the county more than he cost by assuring that those projects were completed on time and under budget. He was meticulous with his record keeping and billing. His fees were far more reasonable than the clowns from C3, who seem to have their sticky fingers involved in everything. They need to be audited, especially to investigate their level of influence in selecting the county's health plans and workers' comp TPA. There may be cronyism there that goes beyond C3 into the office of the county executive.

Anonymous said...

Love the photo. It reminds of "I am the walrus," when I think of people too lazy to walk to the end of the block and cross at the corner as our parents taught us when we were five.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Are you reminded of that when it impacts frail senior citizens as well?

Anonymous said...

Actually, the design of the rotunda being situate on Seventh and Washington impacts senior citizens more than anything, but that's crying over spilled milk. Hell, I'm sure in the 1860's, people were bitching about climbing the steps in front of the original courthouse. It's always something, in the course of arriving to "justice".