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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, April 17, 2017

NorCo's 500-Page RTK Response Still Incomplete

On Friday, I received a 500-page response to a Right-to-Know request in Northampton County. This is pursuant to recent state law designed to make records more accessible to the public. One of you had these questions. "[H]ow would you know if you got all the expense reports and p-card use? i believe you will get all of them but what if some were hidden?" Well, that's what has happened. Though the law provides sanctions for refusals to disclose made in bad faith, I think what happened here is just an honest mistake.

In my Right-to-Know, I asked for the following:
"1) All expense reports submitted by HR Director Amy Trapp since the date of her hire, including the approval or disapproval. 2) All P-Card purchases made by Amy Trapp since the date of her hire. 3) All purchases made for the HR Department from 11/15/16 to present for furniture, TVs, radios, cell phones, paintings and office decorations 4) All expense reports submitted by Executive John Brown from 2015 through present. 5) All expense reports submitted by every cabinet level official, whether approved or disapproved, from 2015 to present. 6) All expense reports submitted by Council members commencing in 2014 to present. (Scanned copies are acceptable)."
Though these informational requests must be answered in five business days, most governments respond to even the most routine records requests with an automatic 30-day extension. Then, despite a presumption in the law itself that all records are public, government officials will look for a reason to say No. All too often, the Right-to-Know has become the Right-Not-to-Know.

I've criticized Northampton County and Executive John Brown for their complete lack of transparency, so they apparently went all out to respond within the required five days. But in the process, mistakes were made.

I asked for expense reports by all Council members and cabinet officials, but some are missing, including expense reports from former Administrator Luis Campos. I know he incurred expenses and is referred to in other expense reports. No expense reports have been provided for Fiscal Director Jim Hunter or Council members Bob Werner, Glenn Geissinger, Seth Vaughn and Mat Benol. The County needs to confirm no such records exist or produce them.

Also, I know that over $4,000 was spent for furniture in Human Relations almost as soon as Amy Trapp was named Director there, but only a few have been supplied.

I have asked Attorney O'Donnell to comply with his Right to Know and produce the records that I know exist. W are currently in the appeal period, so I will be forced to appeal this refusal unless they are produced.


Anonymous said...

You must have a lot of free time on your hands. How much is it costing taxpayers for the manpower and work for your latest witch-hunt?

Anonymous said...

John Brown, Cathy Allen and Amy Trapp=No transparency. Are you surprised? But you should be applauded for this costly endeavor!

Anonymous said...

@ 5:13am- how much does it cost the taxpayers for the "witch"- your word- to ride around on a hover board, shop for unneeded furniture, sponsor lunches against policy and send her staff to unnecessary, yet luxuriously located training sessions?

This woman is a disgrace and so are her counterparts. They bend the rules when it suits them and screw everyone else. Where is council on this? Why havent they at a minimum called her out on the "entitled" comment?

Anonymous said...

"You must have a lot of free time on your hands. How much is it costing taxpayers for the manpower and work for your latest witch-hunt?"

5:13 AM: Free time? This is first rate investigative journalism, you were up at 5:00 am to read! The question you should be asking is how much it is costing the tax payers to send this department head to junkets all over the east coast for 40 working days in 2 years.

Anonymous said...

any person who has the authority to spend the taxpayer's dime should be able to defend such purchases.
if they are abusing such trust they deserve to hear about it from the taxpayers.
given the record of abuses mentioned so far--if anything more oversight is needed not less.

Anonymous said...

Why not show the pattern of govt employees who waste and spend tax dollars and further your RTK in Beth Twp? You seem to cover their meetings regularly and might see some low hanging fruit worth investigating.

Bernie O'Hare said...

One scandal at a time. What I'm investigating now is worth investigating.