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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, July 24, 2017

Feds May Be Looking at Multi-Defendant Indictment

As regular readers know, I usually take off on weekends. People may love to read the Sunday newspaper, but my experience is that this blog's readership really plummets between Friday and Monday. But on Friday night, I reported that Allentown Attorney Scott Allinson, also known as Donor No. 4, has emailed his friends to say he expects to be indicted. He predicts that the Grand Jury could charge him as soon as this week. If they do, I expect we are going to see a multi-Defendant indictment and possibly a RICO prosecution with Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski at the center. My guess (and I stress this is just a guess) is that, in addition to Allinson, a local developer will be charged.

I also expect to see Feds wrap up their case in Reading. Vaughn Spencer, Sam Ruchlewicz and Rebecca Acosta are loose ends that likely need to be tied up.

There's little reason to delay. An weekend op-ed by Fed Ed makes quite clear that he's in complete denial. Whether he is guilty or innocent is one thing. But even he has to see that his continued presence in Allentown government has placed it in a stranglehold. Yet he's so arrogant he has scheduled a party at Cedar Beach for his campaign workers. That's the same venue where a swimming pool contract is completely out of control, thanks to him. That's also where Allentown kids play basketball while he removes the hoops.  

If the feds act now, a federal judge could conceivably require Pawlowski's resignation as a condition of bail It could require him to withdraw as a candidate. But after August 14, it will be too late

They have a short window in which to act. Let's hope they do.

Who Will Be Top Dog in Lehigh and NorCo?

I'm gearing up for November's election, and will be creating informational pages on my left sidebar for the Allentown Mayoral, Lehigh and NorCo Executive, Lehigh and NorCo Comm'r and Council, and Allentown City Council races.

In connection with the creation of these pages, I am asking for your help. For each of these races, I'd like to pose up to ten questions for the candidates. For example, I'd like to ask Brown and the Republican incumbents on NorCo Council why they've run away from any of the ethical reforms sought by Hayden Phillips. I could ask many pointed questions like that, but think it's more fair to ask readers to present questions they'd like answered.

For now, let me introduce the top dogs in the Lehigh and NorCo Exec race, and please ask what questions you'd like both candidates to answer in each county. For example, a fair NorCo question might be one that asks the candidates about the new jail that Brown is planning.  

Lehigh County Executive:  chief executive officer and administrative official who executes and enforces all county ordinances and presents the financial plan and budget to County Commissioners  The term of office is four years, with an annual salary of $75,000. Incumbent Tom Muller has decided against seeking re-election.

Phillips Armstrong, Democrat
Facebook - Phillips Armstrong
Webpage - http://www.armstrong4executive.com/ (not live)
Employment - retired educator, Whitehall-Coplay School District
Gov't experience - Whitehall Tp Board of Comm'rs (appointed 2014, elected 2015)
Education - Kutztown University, M.Ed., 1971
Residence - Whitehall Township
Activities: looks like water skis

Brad Osborne, Republican 
Facebook - Brad OsborneOsborne for Executive
Webpage - Osborne for Executive
Employment - retired as Plant Manager, GEO Specialty Chemicals
Gov't Experience -  So. Whitehall Tp Comm'r (2005-2012); Lehigh County Comm'r (2012-present).
Education - University of Virginia, B.S., Chemical Engineering
Residence -  So. Whitehall Tp
Activities: I'll fill you in.

NorCo Executive:  chief executive officer and administrative official who executes and enforces all county ordinances and presents the financial plan and budget to County Council  The term of office is four years, with an annual salary of $85,000.

Lamont McClure, Democrat
Facebook - McClure4Exec
Webpage -http://www.lamontmcclure.com/
Employment - Peter Angelos law offices
Gov't Experience - Appointed to NorCo Council in  2006, elected in 2007 and again in 2011. Served ten years.
Education - Wilkes University, B.A., 1992 and Duquesne University, J.D., 1995
Residence: Bethlehem Township
Activities: Active as a baseball and basketball coach in youth sports

John Brown, Republican (incumbent)
Facebook - John Brown and John Brown, NorCo Executive
Webpage - Could only locate his webpage for state auditor general, http://www.johnbrownforpa.com/
Employment - county executive
Government Experience - Bangor Mayor (2009-2013); NorCo Exec (2014-present)
Education - Notre Dame
Residence: Bangor
Activities: golf

Frank Danyi, RIP

Last Monday, Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to honor Frank Danyi for his 44 years of service as Solicitor to the Township Municipal Authority. Frank also represented the Board at one point in a long and distinguished legal career. President Mike Hudak expressed some regret that Frank was unavailable to be recognized personally, and I assumed he was enjoying himself on the beach, as many do at this time of year. Unfortunately and unknown to me, Frank was dying, and passed away on Saturday.

I remember Frank, both from my days of practicing law and later, as a title searcher. He sent his son Kevin to search titles, but Frank had an active real estate practice and was in the Recorder's office often. He was always a fastidious dresser but was known mostly for his easy humor. He was always full of jokes, and for some reason, liked to hand out stickers to the searchers. He always looked on the bright side of things.

He was always classy, always gentlemanly, and I will miss this happy litigator.  

You can read Frank's obituary here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Prominent Allentown Lawyer Says He's Being Indicted in Fed Ed Case

When word of a federal investigation of political corruption in Allentown first broke over two years ago, it quickly became apparent that The Norris, McLauglin law firm would have a starring role in a summer drama that soon became a mini-series that has drawn nine guilty pleas. Not only are partners identified on the FBI subpoena list, but they have been involved in the Mayor Pawlowski story for the past several years. In a sign that federal prosecutors might finally be wrapping things up, a Norris McLaughlin partner is telling friends that he's going to be indicted.

This target is Scott Allinson, a self proclaimed rainmaker whose firm profile once claimed that he helps businesses "achieve their day-to-day, as well as long-term, business objectives." He has represented the Northampton County Gaming Revenue and Economic Redevelopment Authority, the Northampton County General Purpose Authority, the Northampton County Higher Education Authority, Lehigh’s Economic Advancement Project, Northampton County New Jobs Corporation, Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation, Lehigh Valley Regional Loan Pool, and Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and Northampton County Industrial Development Authority. From those vantage points, he can really help businesses meet their goals. Whether it is the Chrin TIF or some other major project, Allinson was nearly always involved.

Closely connected to political and business consultant Mike(d) Fleck, Allinson helped raise money for various Fed Ed campaigns. Thanks to Fleck, he also represented Ruckus Brewing in their Neuweiler deal.

Allinson appears to be the person identified in federal charging documents as "Donor No. 4." When Fleck told Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski that Donor #4 (believed to be Scott Allinson) had expressed concern about making political contributions, Fed Ed reportedly responded,
"Really! I've given him millions of dollars.. .. Relatively, compared to other law firms, they've given nothing. [Donor #4] for sure will get nothing now. ... You know, f--k them! And I'm not gonna [award work to Donor #4's law partner] or anything. Screw it all!"
Given the use of quotation remarks, this statement from Fed Ed may very well be a transcript from a wire that Fleck was wearing.

Allinson also helped Fleck form Citizens Who Care. That was supposed to be a 501(c)3 charity "for a series oof collective measures aimed at making Lehigh County more prosperous." Fleck and possibly Allinsn misrepresented that contributions were tax deductible. Some of the money raised paid for an inauguration party for Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller. The rest went into Fleck's pocket.

Unlike the nine people who have pleaded guilty this far, Allinson has no intention of going gently into that good night. He intends to fight. He will "rage, rage against the dying of the light."

In an email entitled "challenges ahead," Allinson informed three people he considers "old friends" that "the government has decided to proceed against me. This could occur as early as next week. I am certain of my innocence to bribery or any other crime. The firm is standing by me and is fully supportive. I expect to work here after the charges are filed."

"I am in for the fight of my life and hope to have your continued support."

I believe the next and hopefully last round will be aimed at those who refused to cooperate with the government or who insist on their innocence. So I think Allinson and Fed Ed will be indicted together.

How to Make an Idiot out of Yourself

When it comes to making an idiot out of myself, I'm something of an expert. This blog alone is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But some people are less cognizant of their idiocy. One of them was at Allentown City Council on Wednesday night.

A fellow calling himself Scott Hudson, who refused to state exactly where he lives for privacy reasons, approached the podium to complain that police are mean to him. He had a 360 degree camera attached to his head as he spoke.

Now if this camera also shot out laser beams, I'd give this guy props. But no such luck.

What this guy does is run around at night, with the camera attached to his head, and taunt cops.

He says he's a journalist.

Come to think of it, I run around at night, and taunt public officials. But I have no camera attached to my head.

I'm a blogger.

Keen and His Teaching Gigs

CPT David Collins, who works for NorCo Corrections, has been suspended (with pay) for making "unfounded allegations" about Corrections Director Dan Keen. He first followed his chain of command, going to a Deputy Warden. He was told that Keen would speak with him, but was ignored. So he went to Human Resources Director Amy Trapp. Her response was to suspend him in an attempt to silence a whistleblower exercising his First Amendment rights.

I'm unable to say whether CPT Collins is right about everything, but know he is acting in good faith. I also know his complaints about Keen's outside employment are very well founded.

Let me share what I know with you. In addition to being the Corrections Director, Keen is also a paid instructor with Penn State's Justice and Safety Institute.(JASI).

In September 2015, he was paid $240 to assist JASI with a service presentation. Since I do not have the date of this presentation, I am unable to say whether he was being paid by the County at the same time.

From January 18-20, 2016, Keen taught a First Line Supervision course in Hudson County, NJ. He was paid $600 by JASI as a stipend, and also claimed $660.88 in expenses. January 18 was MLK Day, a holiday in Northampton County. But January 19th and 20th were regular work days and Keen's time card report shows him at work during days when he was actually in New Jersey. He received $402.88 per day from Northampton County for the 19th and 20th while getting paid $200 per day by JASI to teach a course for corrections officers.

This facially appears to be some form of double dipping.

From May 1-5, 2017, Keen was paid $600 by JASI to teach a leadership and command course in the slate belt. This was just two weeks after Controller Steve Barron issued a report recommending that there be stronger controls over outside travel. Keen decided to take one personal day. The remaining days are reported as regular work days.

On June 12-14, 2017, Keen was paid another $600 by JASI to teach first line supervision. He took one personal day, but his time card report shows him at the courthouse and on duty on those other days. This is the course that Keen insisted his lieutenants attend. He took either four or five of them, even though that left CPT Collins short-handed at the jail. These officers had to go to Penn State for a course that Keen could have taught here. The County spent $1800 just for the course, to say nothing of the travel expenses.

It appears that Keen used the authority of his office to recruit these lieutenants and beef up his class size. He benefited financially. In this situation, the prudent practice would be for Keen to use his stipend to reduce the cost of this class to his lieutenants and continue to receive his county pay. That way, no one could accuse him of packing the course so he could get paid. In fact, this practice is followed in other counties

Can anyone say state Ethics Act?

Amazingly, Collins is the one who has been suspended.

In the interest of fairness, I presented Director Keen with this story and asked him to set me straight about any factual error I may have made. He has declined to respond.

My experience with him is that he has a deep sense of personal integrity, but I am troubled by these gigs.

The NorCo Purge

HR Director Amy Trapp has been busy. In addition to suspending CPT David Collins, action has been taken against two other county employees. She suspended Andy Grossman, the County's Mental Health Administrator, just as he was about to embark on a family vacation. I'm sure he's having a god time. She also recently suspended a Human Resources Analyst in Human Services.

NorCo Council Really Is in the Dark

I've been saying it for years, and finally have proof. NorCo Council really is in the dark! Well, at least they were last night. Their meeting was interrupted when a Summer thunderstorm plunged the courthouse into darkness for about the 15,000th time this year.

"I called it!" said Ken Kraft, who previously had predicted there would be a power outage.

Undaunted by the darkness, Council President John Cusick forged ahead at a meeting that was initially attended by only six Council members. Bob Werner and Glenn Geissinger were absent. Matt Deitz did call in after the meeting started. Executive John Brown and Controller Steve Barron were also absent.

It was a good night to play hookie. Little was accomplished. Council made a few appointments to boards that only rarely meet. There were also a number of open space resolutions that support "livable landscapes," whatever the hell they are, and the "scenic wild Delaware River," located in the heart of the rustbelt. Even Hayden Phillips voted yes to the scenic wild Delaware River.

The only real item of business - an ordinance about the county's three booking centers that no one really understands - was tabled. John Brown, who has no intention of funding booking centers outside of Easton, spoke against it at a Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday. And last night, Lehigh Township Supervisor Cindy Miller, Lehigh Tp police chief Scott Fogel and Magisterial District Judge Robert Hawke, the judge who handles the northern tier, all spoke against it, too.

"I'll be brief," said Cindy Miller, and she more or less was true to her word.

"I'll be briefer than Cindy," said Scott Fogel, and then went on for about 20 minutes. In the process of doing so, he dug a hole for himself, and Ken Kraft deftly pushed him in. Like Miller, he disputed Brown's claims that the Lehigh Tp booking center was saving five northern municipalities about $80,000 per year in overtime. Kraft asked him what things were like before the Lehigh Township booking center was in place, and quickly had Fogel admitting that officers would be gone four or five hours, which meant overtime.

Magisterial District Judge Robert Hawke claimed he had permission to speak on this topic from Judge Baratta, who supervises the mini judges. But Hawke is in no position and should be in no position to explain whether fees are collected by the common pleas courts. But he wore a nice suit.

After everyone was thoroughly confused, sponsors Hayden Phillips and Matt Dietz moved to table the matter, and the other five Council members unanimously agreed.

As I left the meeting room, the elevators were out, meaning I would have to rough it and take the steps. My servants were not there to carry me to my estate atop the Army Navy store.

Instead of worrying about me, Administrator Cathy Allen was concerned about some bastard in a wheelchair who was obviously faking it.

I suggested throwing him out the window, and left.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Allentown City Council Tells Feds to Get the Lead (and Fed Ed) Out

By a 5-2 vote, Allentown City Council has this evening adopted a resolution calling on federal authorities to conclude, one way or another, their two-year long investigation of political corruption in Allentown. "We've had this cloud now for two years," said Candida Affa. "We're being held hostage with this."  Daryl Hendricks added that the citizens of Allentown are being deprived of  "open and honest" government. "Remove the cloud hanging over our city, " he said.

The measure was opposed by Julio Guridy and Roger MacLean "Investigations don't always go as fast or as smoothly as you want," said MacLean, a 40-year law enforcement veteran and former police chief. "There's gotta' be reason, and I know it's a good reason, why it is taking so long." Guridy said it would be ignored by federal investigators who will say, ""Who are you guys from the little city of Allentown to tell us what to do?"

Interestingly, no member of the public spoke, either in support of or against the resolution.

The resolution provides that allegations over the past two years "continue to bring the City into disrepute and continue to create a negative work environment making it difficult to effectively conduct city business." It finds that "the length of time and delay of indicting or exonerating Edwin Pawlowski is a disservice to the citizens of Allentown, robbing a majority of residents of any possibility of respectful governance so long as the allegations hang over Mr. Pawlowski."

Copies of this resolution are being provided to the FBI, US Attorney's office and to Judge Juan Sanchez. That will give him something to think about next time the feds attempt to delay a sentencing.

Updated 8:55 pm: This report is based on watching the video of the meeting in progress. I was there in spirit, but not in body.  

Mezzacappa Salutes West Easton

I am remiss. I have failed to update you about Tricia Mezzacappa, aka Constable cRaZy, since she plastered West Easton with Trump signs. As you can see above, she's understandably miffed that West Easton officials are considering a part-time police department. She was hoping she could arrest everyone herself and even bought a uniform.

Gotta' love the implied threat.

She was running for Borough Council, but inexplicably withdrew. If she can't beat 'em, she'll sue 'em. She wants a gazillion dollars in what appears to be a frivolous suit that she's already appealed to Commonwealth Court, before she's even lost.

She's cutting out the middleman.

She's also filed a federal civil rights suit against the Sheriff and Easton Auto Body for a gazillion dollars and has improperly snapped a default judgment against them all for failing to respond to a complaint that was never properly served.

She's represented by Larry the Otter, who has threatened to take county lawyers to the Disciplinary Board over a judgment that he improperly entered in a clear abuse of process.

911 Dispatcher: It's Not the TVs, It's the Morale

My recent story about NorCo 911 operators who watch television on the job sparked a lot of interest, most of it coming from dispatchers who defend the practice. I have also had several conversations with current and former dispatchers. This is what they tell me.

* The problem at the 911 Center is not the TVs, but morale."Morale is awful," one dispatcher tells me.

* The number of dispatchers who work a shift is set by PEMA, and there's no such thing as reducing the staff when activity slows down. At this time of the year, dispatchers are busy. But on winter nights, when it is 17 degrees, the 911 center can sit for hours without getting a call. "What are we supposed to do, stare at a wall?" one former dispatcher asked me.

*  911 Dispatchers could use down time to update CAD. "How is someone from Illinois going to know the address of the Marriott hotel at which he is staying?" one asked me. Another ex-operator told me there are numerous properties like that along Delaware Drive, which winds its way from Williams Tp and north into the slate belt.  An operator was instructed to contact a towing company she know has been out of business for several years.She has suggested that 911 take a proactive approach to businesses moving into the area, making sure the correct addresses are in the CAD. But "the Hall," which is how dispatchers refer to the administration, said it is up to new businesses to notify them. "This is a matter of public safety," I was told. Dispatchers lack the authority to update the CAD on their own,but could probably use down time to come up with numerous suggestions.

* Part of the reason for the poor morale is that the administrators in "the hall" are remote if not invisible. One dispatcher tells me she's never seen most of them. During emergencies, they sometimes walk into the center, but just glare at dispatchers.

* Dispatchers confirm that a quality assurance manager, who was supposed to be checking calls to dispatchers periodically, failed to do so for six years.

* Though most dispatchers are professional and courteous, there are some who are short with callers and even other dispatchers. This includes a 911 supervisor who recently yelled "Just die!" when a police officer's EID went off.    

NorCo News by the Numbers

From the July 19  Personnel and Finance Committee meetings:

50,000 - Northampton County parcels identified by aerial maps as having additions and improvements that need to be assessed. "That's a lot of tax revenue," said Council member Ken Kraft. "We hope so," answered assessment manager Cheryl Johnson.

$1.5 million. - What Northampton County Executive John Brown claims is lost every year in maintaining three booking centers in Easton, Bethlehem and Lehigh Township  He calls it a "drop and go" system that allows police officers who make arrests to resume their patrols right away. He claims it allows for continuity of police coverage, and has saved six northern tier municipalities $80,000 per year in overtime. "We've had zero complaints," he said. "We're down to 15 minutes, literally." Brown wants the Lehigh Tp and Bethlehem booking centers to pay the computer costs.

$40.7 million. - Support payments collected by Domestic Relations in 2016. Most comes through wage attachment, but $1 million is paid directly, at the door. A recent Controller's audit had no findings. "To have no findings is pretty incredible," said Controller Steve Barron, who complimented the office for "very good internal controls."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hyman: Fed Ed Should Be Fired For Absolute Mismanagement

As you may have read in The Morning Call, Allentown City Council is poised to adopt a resolution tonight calling on the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pa to conclude its political corruption investigation of Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, one way or the other. Mayoral candidate Nat Hyman agrees that "it is time for honesty and integrity!" But he has suggested that we should all be focused on Fed Ed's mismanagement. Below is a statement he sent to me last night.

I read today that City Council will be sending a letter to the U.S. Attorney to ask them to expedite the prosecution of Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

I think the danger is to continually focus on Ed's crimes, and the prosecution thereof, and miss the bigger issue as it relates to the City of Allentown. Ed Pawlowski has colossally mismanaged this city. In any other business he would have been fired by now. One need only look back at the past couple of weeks....

We learned that yet another change order was submitted for the cedar beach pool. Ed has now spent $3,400,000 of tax payers' dollars and 3 years repairing one pool and it still isn't finished or open! That is 4% of Allentown's entire annual budget...on one pool. To be clear, that is to repair one pool, not even to build it. Perhaps more disturbing is that 4 out of 5 pools owned by the City of Allentown are closed, so we may be in for millions more when the other pools are to be repaired.

I have reviewed the scope of work involved with this project. As a developer, I can say, without equivocation, that I would have completed this job for under $500,000 and reopened it in a matter of months. As any decent businessperson knows, all that was needed was an iron clad contract and good supervision to ensure that the work was completed on time and on budget. And no one would have been paid unless those 2 things were accomplished.

This was absolute and blatant mismanagement. If anyone worked for me and handled a job in the same manner that Ed has, they would be fired. If anyone worked for any company and handled a job the way Ed has, they would be fired.

Another relatively routine problem arose last week when some kids were making noise on a basketball court and angered the neighbors. Surely a Mayor can handle a problem like this with efficiency. Not our Mayor. He reacted impetuously and bungled this simple problem to the extent that it became enormously contentious, requiring a town-hall meeting.

I would suggest that we put aside the fact that 5 people in Ed's administration pled guilty to felonies and will testify against him and that Ed's own attorney said one would be "foolish" to think that he will not be indicted. Forget that the FBI has Ed on tape offering public services for money and that he was sweeping his office and patting people down for listening devices. And disregard the fact that City operations are at a standstill because he doesn't speak with City Council and the police and fire departments have utter disdain for him.

Let's forget all of those things, and focus on one simple issue....Ed should be fired from his position for absolute mismanagement of our city.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

NorCo's Attempt to Bully David Collins

CPT Collins in his civies. 
On Friday, I told you that CPT David Collins, who supervises 10 lieutenants and is the Prison Rape Elimination Act Compliance Officer, has been suspended. He was walked out of the jail on July 13. For obvious reasons, he's declined to speak with me. He's got enough problems. But based on what I know about him myself, along with what I've heard from others who are familiar with his situation, I can offer a glimpse into what has happened. From where I sit, it appears that the Corrections Director Dan Keen and HR Director Amy Trapp are attempting to bully a man with integrity. They are both going to fall flat on their faces.

Who is David Collins? 

Let me first tell you a little bit about Collins. I got to know him years ago, and respect him as a straight shooter. "I wear the white shirt with double bars," he told me several years ago, when the County made the mistake of going after another jail employee. He was there to testify, but warned the County he would tell the truth if called to testify. They never called him.

He says what means and means what he says.

He's an Easton boy. He graduated from Easton High School, where he played basketball. Though he's a big man who looks like an NFL offensive lineman, he wanted to study and teach the fine arts to children and enrolled at Kutztown University. Life got in the way. His college dreams took a back seat to raising a family, and one of which he's very proud. He has four daughters, one of whom is still in school. He also is a grandfather and worships at Shiloh Baptist Church.

The man who wanted to teach fine maintained his interest in local youth. He was a program director at St. Anthony's Youth Center. He managed some programs at the Easton Area School District while working at jobs to support his family.

President Judge Robert Freedberg saw something he liked in well-spoken Collins, and recommended him for a job with Northampton County at the Juvenile Justice Center. He started working for the County in 2002  In 2009, he transferred to the jail. By 2011, he was a Lieutenant. Just two years later, in 2013, he was promoted to Captain.

He is the jail's first African American captain at a jail that has only one captain. He said his ethnicity makes his job "twice as hard." If he advocates against discrimination, he is accused of being a troublemaker or playing the race card. But if he refuses to back up someone with a bogus complaint, he's called a token.

He walks a fine line. For a big man, he does it well.

In his 15 years with the county, he has never been disciplined for any infraction.  His evaluations have all been off the charts.

And sometimes, at night, he'll teach inmates how to draw.

Collins is a Whistleblower

Collins is actually on paid administrative leave No one has accused him of smuggling in contraband or getting rough with inmates. His suspension relates to what Amy Trapp has called "unfounded allegations" concerning the Department of Corrections. These are complaints that Collins first made to Deputy Warden James Kostura. Most of them focus on Dan Keen's leadership. Though Kostura informed Collins that Keen would meet with him, nothing happened. So Collins went to the HR Director, Amy Trapp.

In 1986, Pennsylvania enacted its own version of the Whistleblower Law. This protects county employees from retaliation for reporting, in good faith, instances of wrongdoing or waste. That appears to be precisely what Collins was doing. Whether he is right or wring is irrelevant. The only question is whether he has acted in good faith. Moreover, Collins kept his complaints in house.

Sanctioning Collins for reporting in good faith about things he thinks are wrong violate the Whistleblower Law. This also violates is First Amendment rights, which he still has no matter what uniform he is wearing.

Collins Allegations are Fact Based

It appears that many of the allegations made by Collins have a factual basis.

- He was assigned to investigate an assault of a female inmate, which ultimately resulted in the suspension (with pay) of a female corrections officer. The materials he obtained and supplied were never turned over to the DA for the prosecution of an inmate who ultimately entered a guilty pleas. Keen also never turned these records over to HR Director Amy Trapp, which probably explains why the corrections officer was suspended with pay and was paid by the county for several months to do nothing. In her time off, the female corrections officer was able to become a tattoo artist.

- Corrections officers are taught a variety of measures to subdue unruly inmates. One of these is called the brachial stun, in which someone uses the spine of his hand to hit another person on the side of the neck from behind. This is meant to stun the victim, bu it can also kill him.One of Collins's complaints, I'm told, is that Keen was using this technique on one of his lieutenants. He snuck up behind him several times to administer this blow, and then laughed. It might be funny to Keen, but not to the Lieutenant being victimized.

- In a meeting this Winter concerning some program, Amy Trapp disparaged a lieutenant who complained about the program, calling him a "pussy." This is unprofessional behavior. (I know for a fact that Trapp has been insulting like this to other county employees).

- Keen is absent for extended periods because he teaches corrections at Penn State. (I question whether he is being paid on the county dime and by PSU). From 6/12-6/15, Keen was teaching a class there He wanted to teach lieutenants and took five of the jail's 10 lieutenants with him. This left Collins with five lieutenants to run the jail. One of them was on restricted duty. (Keen had previously told me that he would be doing all future teaching at the jail). He carted five county employees halfway across the state and put them up at The Radison, at county expense, while he stayed at the more expensive PennStater. He did this knowing that the Controller and I have both raised questions about unnecessary travel.

There are numerous other complaints that Collins may have made, according to staffers. Some may very well be unfounded. All are being made in good faith. Instead of suspending Collins, Keen should have just met with him like an adult. I see no reason why this had to happen.

What Trapp and Keen are doing is trying to scare Collins into submission. They want him to shut up while Keen pushes for a new jail that will double your tax bill and Trapp buys more popcorn machines. The last thing they need is someone talking about waste and wrongdoing.

But if I know Collins, he will stand up to them. He's been suspended for doing his job. He doesn't roll the way they want.

Bethlehem Tp Comm'rs to Fill Jenkins Vacancy on July 31

If you'd like to be called Commissioner and live in Bethlehem Township's third ward, now's your chance. Kim Jenkins, who is only in her second year of elected office, has resigned for personal reasons, effective July 5. At a special meeting on July 31, 6 pm, the four remaining commissioners will choose her successor, but only until the end of the year.

Voters in the third ward will make the ultimate selection in this year's November 7 municipal election. They will choose from among two candidates to be nominated by the Democratic and Republican parties, or may choose a write-in candidate. Whomever is elected will serve for only two years, when Jenkins' term expires.

At their meeting on July 17, President Michael Hudak described the procedure that will be followed to name an interim Commissioner. Under the First Class Township Code, Commissioners have just 30 days to fill a vacancy. Candidates are limited to persons who have resided in the third ward for at least a year. Bethlehem Township just redrew its ward boundaries last September, so it's unclear whether a candidate must be a person who lived in the ward as it exists now or as it was when Jenkins was elected. Interestingly, there was no motion to accept Jenkins' resignation. In some municipalities, boards with a vacancy will delay the acceptance of a resignation to give themselves more time.

Jenkins is a Democrat. In the municipal race four years ago, she defeated Republican Phil Barnard by a scant eight votes.

Because of that vacancy, Commissioners voted unanimously to table an offer from the Housenick Estate to accept $1.3 million for the exterior stabilization of the Archibald Johnston mansion. Hudak and Davis were both leery that the one bid received was nearly $500,000 more than industry professionals had estimated. "What's the harm in doing our due diligence? he asked. At the same time, he warned that the actual cost to renovate the interior of the mansion will be $4-5 million.

While Davis agreed with Hudak to delay this matter for a full board, she stressed the importance of acting quickly. She also stressed that she would oppose the use of taxpayer funds to rehab the mansion.

In other business, Commissioners voted unanimously to seek proposals from five firms for a new parks and open space plan. At the request of resident Dennis Brennan, the board agreed to include the detention pond at the end of Gloucester Drive.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Should NorCo 911 Dispatchers Be Watching TV?

When you call a 911 operator, it's not to find out what movies are playing at the Carmike or Regal.For most of you, it's an emergency. Someone may be experiencing a heart attack. Perhaps you were involved in an accident. Every second counts. But according to several local police officers and 911 dispatchers, there's a real problem. Television, the opiate of the masses, is there to dull the senses of employees who should have no distractions.

Though I've never toured the 911 facility, I'm informed that one or more television screens are there for dispatchers. I could understand seeing one tuned into the local weather channel or a local news station.  But it is instead being used so that dispatchers can watch movies or Phillies games.

I have no quarrel with the dispatchers but do have a problem with supervisors who are allowing this to occur.

"Thy need to go," one police officer told me. "My life is on the line and my dispatcher is watching a movie. I have a real problem with that."

Perhaps they were distracted over the weekend, when a 911 supervisor botched a fire call for Bethlehem, and sent a code red out to the entire county, warning of a problem that was nonexistent.

A-Town Throwdown -They do it for the Love

Hat's off to Randy Atiyeh and Toomey Anderson for putting together another smashing success in this year's A-Town Throwdown, which concluded last night at Cedar Beach Park in Allentown. They were able to move this tournament indoors for the rain on Thursday and Friday, but everything went off without a hitch. What they do is a great service to the community and our area youth.

Many years ago, when my grandson was just a little boy playing in a league with numerous other children on Allentown's south side, I asked Toomey why he does what he does.

"I do it for the love," was his short answer.

He probably would be hard put to remember those words today, but they really registered with me. That's why I would call him and Randy Atiyeh unsung heroes. The same goes for Glenn Klein, who runs the Allentown summer league year after year at Cedar Beach Park.

Ray O'Connell trying out for Central
freshman team
These guys care.

It's about more than basketball

Through all these tournaments, these kids from different schools and circumstances get to know each other. They form bonds. In my day, things were a lot different.

These kids are better than I was at their age. That's why I think there's hope for us.

Now just being a spectator at the Atown Throwdown is something of an ordeal. On Saturday, I watched several games between 1-6 pm, and returned home exhausted as a result of the heat. On Sunday, after we were eliminated, I nearly fell asleep driving home and had to take a nap before writing this story. The heat got to me. You can watch in the shade, but the really good vantage points are in the sun. So that's where I sat, so I could impart my words of wisdom to Central players, which they thankfully ignored.

This kid was cut from Parkland
because he's too short.
Allentown City Council President Ray O'Connell was there both Saturday and Sunday to root for Allen, which did make it to the sweet 16. He also watched nearly every Central game, and tried to have me arrested for being too loud. Council member Daryl Hendricks also braved the heat and stopped by to watch the action and see the Lehigh Valley's future. You might say they're playing politics but you would be wrong. Ray, in particular, comes every year and brings his family. As a former educator, he recognizes the value of this tournament.

One person who you'll never see is Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. He was busy on Saturday opening his campaign headquarters, but the basketball crowd has his number. The damage he has done to himself over the removal of the basketball rims at Andre Reed Park may very well be worse than the glacier known as a political corruption investigation that feds seem intent on stretching out into the next century.

After four days and hundreds of games that first began on Thursday night, Chambersburg won this year's championship in Boys Varsity. The Girls' Varsity crown went to Becahi.

Of 48 teams in boys varsity, the final eight on Sunday included Liberty, Chambersburg, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland, Bensalem, Allentown Central Catholic and Constitution. Although Chambersburg emerged the victor, Northampton made it to the final four. Parkland came in second.

Friday, July 14, 2017

NorCo Jail Supervisor Suspended

David Collins, a captain at Northampton County jail who also serves as the Prison Rape Elimination Act Compliance Officer,  has been suspended. He was walked out of the jail recently. The circumstances of his departure are unclear, but I will be filing a Right-to-Know request. He has declined to return calls, so I am unable to tell you why he was walked out.  

Judge Dally Discusses Problem Solving Courts

Judge Craig Dally
There are currently 106 problem-solving courts in 44 counties, a 300% increase since 2007. Northampton County's Problem Solving Court celebrated its second anniversary in April. Judge Craig Dally updated NorCo Council yesterday on how this approach is working. There are basically two courts. The first is Drug Court, which is available to persons who have already been convicted. The second is Mental Health Court, which is for persons who have been charged with minor crimes in which their mental challenges play an appreciable role.

Drug Court

There are currently 44 participants (76% male and 24% female) in this four-phase program, which lasts from 18-24 months. There have been five graduates. The average age is 29, and the drug choice is heroin. This program is for people who have had repeated treatment attempts and repeated criminal activity. "But for the program, they'd either be in our jail or the state prison," said Judge Dally. He added that the reason there have been only five graduates is because the program has only existed for two years.

That also makes it difficult to determine whether a successful graduate returns to crime, which is called recidivism. Judge Dally conceded he has insufficient data to make any claim about his court. But nationally, he noted that the 1-year recidivism rate of drug court graduates is just 17%,and the two year recidivism rate is only 27%.

Without a drug court, the recidivism rate of a drug offender is 60-80%.

A condition of graduation from drug court is payment if all fines, court costs and restitution. The five graduates have paid over $15,000 in costs, fines and restitution. This compares favorably to many defendants who never pay a penny.

Drug courts also reduce costs of housing at the jail. Based on the per diem cost of an inmate, Judge Dally estimates that Drug Court has saved taxpayers $944,000 thus far.

Judge Dally told Council that, in a drug court, participants are working, going to school and working on their recovery. This court is also a benefit to different county agencies who work together, like Drug and Alcohol. The community saves money because it lowers the tax burden and enables members to work and raise their families, instead of leaning on others. All must be employed. "We're trying to encourage them to be responsible citizens," said the Judge.

Almost all the funding for this court comes from insurance companies, Medicaid and grants. The county does pay for transitional housing.

The drug court meets once every week, and there are usually ten hearings. People in this court are tested twice weekly.

Mental Health Court

Unlike Drug Court, which is for people who have already been convicted, mental health court is diversionary. What this means is that charges are dismissed on successful completion of a program. There must be a direct correlation between mental illness and criminal activity. Also, the District Attorney must recommend he participant.

Thus far, there have been 12 graduates. There are only 10 participants, and seven are men. The average age is 42.

Judge Dally said the courts are also considering a post-conviction court for mentally ill defendants.

Participants usually include persons who assaulted family members or who engage in shoplifting.

According to Judge Dally, this court adds little appreciable cost to the county.

There are also times when participants are both addicted and mentally ill. Judge Dally discussed a person he actually removed from drug court and sent to jail today. He has been in foster care or jail since he was nine years old. "He's been institutionalized his entire life, and we had to institutionalize him,"said Dally. "There's got to be a better way."

Hayden Phillips complained that the state reduced the number of mental hospitals,and then wonder about a mental health problem. "There's no place to go with these people," agreed Judge Dally.

Seth Vaughn asked Judge Dally about establishing a veterans' court. He said it is being considered, but questions whether there is enough of a demand.

Bath Borough Votes Unanimously to Leave CRPD

On Wednesday night, Bath Borough Council voted unanimously to leave Colonial Regional Police Department (CRPD). They did so without knowing whether they will have any police coverage at all, claiming they have 16 months to figure it out.

This decision was reached without conducting a survey of the borough to see if residents really want to lose CRPD. They also failed to discuss whether a spendthrift borough that is nearing its debt limit should even exist.  But that's what I would expect from a borough so insensitive to the public safety of children that it stopped paying for crossing guards. This forced Northampton Area School District to bus the students

On its Facebook page, Bath Borough plastered all kinds of notices concerning its town hall. But it has failed to say a word about its vote to leave CRPD, and even ignored a resident's question about it.

I saw no media coverage of this important decision in any of the usual news outlets  As newspapers shrink, expect to see more of these death blows to public safety

Blogger's Note: I am relying n a third party for this account because I was covering Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board on Wednesday. 

CRPD Accepting Citizen Academy Applications.

Colonial Regional Police Department is accepting applications for its next police academy, which runs from September 6 through November 8. Classes will cover accident investigation, Crimes Code, Use of Force and more. Demonstrations and tours are conducted, including the prison and 911 Center.

You can download an application here. The application cutoff date is is August 23,2017. You can hand deliver, mail or email your application to Lee McGuigan at the CRPD, 248 Brodhead Road, Bethlehem, PA 18017. Her email address is lmcguigan@colonialregionalpd.org .

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Allentown Firefighters Finally Getting Some Attention

Removing rims from basketball courts is just mean. Refusing to service Allentown's fire engines is criminal negligence. After accusing Allentown firefighters of playing politics and denying they had a problem, Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski finally has their attention.

According to the Firefighters Facebook page, Fed Ed has been prodded to take the following steps:
1. The purchase of a Demonstration model Fire Engine. It came with 21,000 miles, NO generator, and is too big to fit in the previous engine's designated bay. Unfortunately that is Reactionary spending. It does help the Crisis but it is a long way from a fix.
2. The contract with the Fleet Maintenance provider limited the amount of vehicles the Fire Department was allowed to have. Since April that number has been eliminated, enabling them to rehab a previously abandoned piece of equipment and place it back into service. Another temporary band aid.
3. For the first time ever the Fire and Police Administrations have been asked to be part of the Request For Proposal committee which dictates what will be in the Fleet Maintenance Contract which expires at the end of the year.
4. One of the new proposals for the future contract is that the mechanics which work on Emergency vehicles for the City will be sent for specialized training (Emergency Vehicle Technician). In the past the Fleet Maintenance Contractor had not been required to have certified Emergency Vehicle Technicians.
5. The most noticeable change since April is the prompt response that we now receive from the maintenance provider when our equipment has an issue. Something that should have been happening all along. Had this service been provided proactively some of the maintenance issues that contributed to the degradation of the City's fire apparatus could have been avoided.
Firefighters continue to advocate a vehicle replacement plan and two new engines over the net two years. As Tony Clauser suggested, "Maybe the mayor needs to start suiting up when the alarms ring."

Bethlehem Zoners Approve 98' High LNG Facility

LNG tank being built in Steelton
By a 4-0 vote, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board granted UGI dimensional variances and a special exception last night for a 98' high, 78' wide liquefied natural gas facility. This tank,which has a 2 million gallon capacity, will be located in Bethlehem at 2470 Ringhoffer Road. That is an 84-acre tract of former Bethlehem Steel land, and is now part of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park.

This decision came at the end of three nights of testimony that first began in May. Allentown Attorney Tim Siegfried represented UGI.  Lower Saucon Township, upon which part of the Ringhoffer Road tract is located, was opposed. Environmental attorney Charles Elliot represented Lower Saucon. Attorney Kevin Kelleher acted as Solicitor to the Board  The members who voted for this project are Gus Loupos, Bill Fitzpatrick, Jim Schantz and Michael Santanasto. A fifth member, Linda Shay Gardner, was unable to participate.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is cryogenically cooled natural gas which is liquefied to reduce the volume for shipping and storage. LNG is primarily methane, but can contain up to 10% ethane and propane. It is stored at a temperature of negative 260 degrees Farenheit.

The location along Ringhoffer Road was attractive to UGI for two reasons. First, it is located near a pipeline that will enable the company to deliver fuel after returning the methane to its gaseous state. Second, the facility would be located in a swale, affording some natural protection.

The 98' high tank is a triple-wall full containment tank. A stainless steel tank will be surrounded by insulation and then a second wall of steel that would be encased in concrete. "It's a big thermos bottle," explained UGI engineer Mike Mara.

The closest home is 662' away, and is vacant. The next two closest homes are 840'and 850' away.

The tank will be filled by 10,000 gallon tankers, each of them weighing over 44,000 pounds, traveling along Hellerotwn, Applebutter and Ringhoffer Roads. About five or six deliveries will be made daily over the course of several months until the tank is full. After that, the only time the tank will be accessed is during extremely cold weather. UGI officials will be widening Ringhoffer Road.

Employees will be on the site during deliveries or when gas is transferred to a pipeline. The rest of the time, the facility will be monitored from a gas control facility located in Reading. That gas control station will be able to detect leaks and dispatch technicians, or remotely shut down the plant.

No other use will be made of this 83-acre tract, which will be both buffered with landscaping and fenced to prevent easy access.

Dr. Ryan Hart, a consultant who assists in the investigation and analyses of fires and explosions, said the likelihood of a major incident is "very remote." In two hours of cross-examination, he placed the chance of a major problem occurring as once every 100 million years. He noted that LNG is heavy and the vapor cloud is not something that will rise up in the sky. He said that instead, it would hug the ground. He also said that LNG is inflammable and needs to mix with air before it becomes explosive.

Lower Saucon resident Virginia Oskin, who lives less than a mile from the proposed tower, said she was there for her family. She wondered whether the tank could ever explode as a result of an incident like a plane being crashed into it. He told her it is "not physically possible for that tank to just explode." It would have to mix with outside air first,and a lot of it,  before it became flammable.

Trenches will surround the tower for spills that may occur during loading or transfer to a pipeline.

Dr. Hart also testified that federal regulations require that if there is an incident, the blast zone must be limited to the property's borders.

Deputy Fire Chief Craig Baer is preparing an emergency action plan for the facility. It is still being formulated.

Arianne Elinich, who lives in Coopersburg about 6.5 miles away, was denied standing. But John Tallarico, who owns an old Bethlehem Steel slag bank and borders the proposed tank, supported the project.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hyman: "Taking down those basketball rims would have been the LAST thing I would have done! "

Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski recently ran headfirst into a buzz saw of public criticism over his decision to remove the basketball rims at Andre Reed Park, located next to Dieruff High School. He was placating campaign supporters who had hosted a house party for him, much as he has rewarded other campaign contributors with lucrative contracts. How would Mayor Nat Hyman, a Georgetown grad who knows a little bit about basketball enthusiasm, respond to this situation?

"To my mind, one of the biggest problems our City has is that 1/3 of our children in Allentown do not graduate from high school. Needless to say, without a high school diploma their prospects for success are dim and some of those who have problems finding employment may become involved in crime/gangs.

"With that in mind,I think it is essential to keep kids engaged in constructive activities, like basketball, 24/7, 365 days a year. That is especially true during the summer when school is not in session. Remember the old maxim "the idle mind is the devil's workshop."

"Taking down those basketball rims would have been the LAST thing I would have done! I would have increased police patrols and/or have the power turned off nightly at a source which could not be turned on and/or erected fencing to ensure that no one drives up to the courts and shines their headlights.

"Next to our youth, our parks are Allentown's greatest treasure. Unfortunately, they have fallen into terrible disrepair. 4 of the 5 swimming pools are not operating!! That is horrible mismanagement. All of our kids should be swimming to escape this long hot summer and they can't. I have already met with several of the people who are responsible for the parks and actively involved with them. Bringing all of our parks back to their former beauty and full operation will be a high priority for me as Mayor. I want to maximize their use by everyone, not lessen it!"

Brown and his Buds

When he was running for state auditor general last year, NorCo Exec John Brown got to know Trump spin Jedi Kellyane Conway.

He also shared a tender moment with Chris Christie, who could share advice about staying on beaches on the public dime while excluding everyone else.

These are things you should know when you vote for Executive in November.

Fed Ed Reverses Course on Basketball Rim Removal

Allentown Mayor "Fed Ed" Pawlowski has reversed course on his ill-considered decision to remove basketball rims from Andre Reed Park. He had taken this action on the basis of complaints from neighbors, but without bothering to discuss the situation with local coaches and community activists who could have told him what he apparently has never learned - Allentown is a basketball town. So starting today. the rims will go back up. But now he wants them locked every night at 8 or 9 pm.

Fed Ed announced his decision during a meeting last night at Dieruff High School. I have linked to The Morning Call's story because I was unable to attend. I was at a basketball game myself. Allentown Central Catholic was expected to win easily. Unfortunately, they played Dieruff High School, and Coach Joe Jarjous' boys played like a team who had been disrespected and were out to prove a point. They did. We had our asses handed to us.

"Hey, we didn't take the rims away," I said to one of the victors, a young man who might be 5'6" and scored about 15 points.

He flashed a smile

In addition to her story, Morning Call reporter Emily Opilo live-tweeted the meeting.

"Pawlowski starts the basketball meeting by telling ... group that this meeting will not devolve into a shouting match."

(All he wants is silence,and damn little of that!)

"Pawlowski says he's not anti-youth or anti-basketball."

(I have attended Allentown basketball games for years at all three high schools, and have never seen him at a game. Not even last year, during Allen's fantastic run.)

"Pawlowski says they've installed boulders to deter people from driving up to the basketball court at night and shining headlights."

(He forgot to mention the bear traps.)

"Woman yells out 'You bought the house, the park was there.' It gets loud in here real fast. Now it's all yelling."
(And these are the people who complain about kids being too loud)

"Woman yells out: 'Mr. Mayor, what are you going to do when other people who live around parks complain?'"
(That's an easy one. It all depends on whether the complainer took Fed Ed's campaign signs, hosted a party or gave him a few bucks for his campaign.)

"League coach says the parks staff won't consistently put up the rims at the park."
(On the bright side, they'll be just as inconsistent about locking them.)

"Andre Reed's mother is here for this discussion. She hasn't spoken yet."
(But halfway through the meeting, the skies opened and she ascended straight to heaven, joining Elijah, Jesus, Muhammad, Harvey Goldstein and the Immaculate Mother of God.)

Janet Keshl: Don't blame the homeowners for moving near parks. Kids are different now, she said. Less respectful.
(Darker, too. Keshl is a Fed Ed toadie).

Woman: I learned how to work, and I learned how to compete. And that started at the park. Don't take away what kids need to develop skills.
(But do kids vote?)

"Woman says she doesn't like how basketball is being equated with crime. Half the room applauds loudly."
(Actually, it's football that should be equated with crime. Or pickleball.)

Pawlowski to woman: "And by the way, you don't even live in the city!" Good portion of this room applauds.
(Fed Ed himself is a Chicago carpetbagger.)

Mayor: "I’m not against basketball. I want your kids to play basketball. I also want to take care of these residents."
(After all, they contributed to him and took his yard signs. What's the over-under on him watching just one basketball game during the A-town Throwdown this weekend?)

The assistant principal of Dieruff asks Pawlowski to listen to input from the school basketball coaches but he hasn't opened the floor.
(Why on earth would he do that? It would only show he had zero interest in their concerns or the kids they mentor.)

Angry east side mom yells while storming out: "It’s way bigger than basketball. We’re going to take our community back, one way or another."
(Hopefully, she will register to vote and show Fed Ed the door, unless he is being housed by federal authorities.)

Resident asks whether they'll lock rims in the winter. Pawlowski says kids don't play in the winter and everyone yells "oh yes they do."
(And this guy is the mayor of a basketball town?)

Coach Jarjous stands next to Pawlowski and says this meeting should have happened before the rims came down. Ballsy.
(People should have been standing up to this bully long before last night, but it's nice to see someone who has his priorities right set Fed Ed straight.)

Thanks to Fed Ed, I can now launch my evil plan to take away all the rims at Dieruff and Allen High Schools. We'll put them in Pawlowski's back yard. ... and blame Emmaus. Nobody likes Emmaus.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sportswriter Cries Foul Over Rim Removal

Morning Call sportswriter Stephen Gross has to have one of the best jobs in the world. He gets paid to cover the Phillies and the Phantoms. But yesterday, he was a columnist who penned one of the finest pieces of journalism (not that I'm any judge) in many years. His story is about Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski's removal of basketball rims from Andre Reed (Irving) Park. It struck a chord with me because when I read it, I knew it came straight from his heart.

Gross' roots are right here in the Lehigh Valley. He graduated from Dieruff High School and Moravian College. For the first 25 years of his life, he was an East Sider who lived near Irving Park. Until he was 19, it was the only park within walking distance.

He explained this Fed Ed folly. "What Pawlowski should do is immediately replace the rims and enforce the laws that are on the books," he writes. That's what I said. That's what blogger Michael Molovisnky said. Gross said it better.

Allentown is a basketball town. Some of you know how important this is to many of that City's kids. I know several living saints who sacrifice their time and money to help young men with nothing else.

One young man is a starter for one of the local teams. He is very gifted. But a few years ago, his father was arrested and jailed for dealing. This young man went into a depression, lost focus and began to think that he must be garbage. He stopped playing and began to hang with the wrong crowd. One man brought him back after being rebuffed a few times.

Another talented young man was homeless last year on the day his team played an exciting playoff game before a crowd of thousands. His mother spent the money intended for rent and was sleeping in a car with his sisters while he couch surfed. Some people and his coach got together and bailed out this kid's mother, although I learned that she herself is a scam artist.

For many of these young men, basketball is all they have. That is their family. For every one who gets some help, there are ten or more who fall by the wayside. I know one young man right now, a person who thrills everyone on the basketball court, who has stopped playing to become a rapper. His father - a good man - had a stroke. I think that has affected him. Everyone is reaching out to him. So far, no luck.

This is no excuse for rowdy behavior or violating park rules. But you don't punish everyone for the actions of a few.    

As an East Sider, Gross understands this. A carpetbagger from Chicago does not.

Commw Court Affirms Judge Dally in P3 Bridge Case

Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer 
A disappointed bidder challenging Northampton County's innovative bridge bundling project was rejected last October by Judge Craig Dally. He ruled Clearwater Construction and Northampton County Bridge Partners, LLC, who failed to win the bid, lacked standing. Yesterday, a three-panel agreed with Judge Dally. This is the first case to construe standing under the Public Private Transportation Partnership Act, known as the P3 Act.

What's involved here is Northampton County's use of a P3 contract to repair or replace 33 structurally deficient bridges, all in one shot. The bridges were conveyed to the county's General Purpose Authority, which then sought bids from one set of experts for the entire $40 million project. This is expected to both save money and create efficiencies.

The contract had been awarded to Kriger Construction, but disappointed bidders Clearwater and NorCo Bridge Partners sued. They contended that Kriger failed to satisfy the prerequisite requirements for a responsible bidder, lacked bridge experience. and used undue influence.

Under Pennsylvania law, a disappointed bidder generally has no standing to sue. This is because he holds no property interest in a lost contract. Judge Dally was asked to interpret the P3 Act to conclude that Clearwater and NorCo Bridge Partners do have standing as a "development entity." But in what seems like a Catch-22, the P3 Act defines a development entity as a party to a P3 contract. I doubt that Kriger would have sued itself, saying it should never have been awarded the bid.

Writing for the Court, Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer noted that, in early drafts of the P3 Act, bidders (called "prospective offerors") could sue. But that language was eliminated. She declined to extend the definition of "development agency" to include disappointed bidders because "we would be essentially rewriting the statutory provision and reinstating the exact language that the General Assembly specifically removed before enactment. This is beyond our authority to do."

Commw Ct Rules Willow Ridge Apartment Complex Shits Like Everyone Else

On their webpage, The Residences at Willow Ridge touts themselves as the utopia of Allen Tp and Northampton. Promising "serene luxury," they claim that their 216 apartments (1BR and 2BR) "have been designed with spacious layouts and sophisticated features" like a gourmet kitchen. Amenities include a saltwater swimming pool, outdoor lounge and sun deck, a 24/7 fitness center, and a beautiful club-house. A 30-acre park surrounds this serene setting. In fact, The Residences think they are so special that they only shit about 1/3 as the rest of us. They feel so strongly that they filed a lawsuit about it, and when Judge Craig Dally had the nerve to rebuff them, they appealed to the Commonwealth Court. Alas, they have lost there as well. Speaking for a three-judge panel in a 16-page Opinion, Judge Michael Wojcik has concluded that there's just as much shit flowing from The Residences as from less-refined developments. Accordingly, he affirmed Judge Dally's ruling that a $654,000 sewer hook-up fee is legit.

During the planning stages, Allen Township decided to charge a flat tapping fee of $3,000 for each unit, whether it was one or two bedrooms. Willow Ridge paid $654,000 for 218 units in 2011, but had second thoughts later when it concluded it was only using about 1/3 of the sewage anticipated. It wanted a $432,000 refund.

In his Opinion, Judge Dally ruled that, under a state statute known as the Municipality Authorities Act, apartments can be treated just like other types of residential housing when determining the capacity required for sanitary sewer service. Though Willow Ridge claimed that it was overcharged, it failed to preserve that issue on appeal and waived it.

So Willow Ridge gets no money back.

You can read the Commonwealth Court's opinion here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Neisser Sentencing Continued Until October 11

Mark Neisser, who has pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery in a federal investigation of political corruption in Allentown and Reading, was supposed to be sentenced today.  At the government's request, that sentencing has been delayed until October 11.  

ATown Throwdown Starts Thursday

Unless Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski removes the rims up on the basketball courts at Cedar Beach Park like he recently did at Andre Reed Park, an exciting weekend of basketball will coincide with this year's Sportsfest. It's the "A-town Throwdown," starting this Thursday (July 13) with tip-offs 5 pm.. The tourney includes 48 boys varsity, 24 boys JV and 30 girls varsity teams. In addition to the local teams, there are entries from Philly, New York and even France.

The tournament itself has tweeted, "A lot of talk this summer about @Becahi_Hawks and @ACCHSboysbball . Who will make it to Sunday? #NoWhereToHide."

I think that qualifies as talking smack, which I love.

Allentown Central Catholic, currently tied with Reading at the top of Summer League at 7-1, is in a pool that includes heavyweights Northeast HS (Philly) and Bensalem. The Vikings will face Palmerton on Thursday night. Under coach Coach Dennis Csensits, they have developed into a tough team that combines a very stingy defense with a balanced offensive attack.

They're not hiding.

Nor is anyone else. This year there is far more parity than ever.

You can see the varsity boys tournament pools here. Click on your team and you'll see their schedule through Saturday.

Note to the tournament directors - just make sure the rims are there or there will be no place for you to hide.

Before Removing Rims, McDonald Mayor Tells Player to Act White

I told you on Friday that Allentown Mayor (for now) Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski has removed all but one rim from the basketball courts at Andre Reed Park to curry favor with a group that supported him in the primary. A few of you were delighted. "Basketball is the sport of inner-city thugs," said one of you. They were also called "hood rats" playing " street thug night basketball." These statements are racist and classist. What this person really wants is a park free of blacks.

It's happening in other communities, including McDonald Borough. Mayor Terry Bennett (no relation to Sam) ordered rims removed from a park, ostensibly because foul language was being used. He was unaware that one of these vulgar basketball players recorded him when he confronted them on the courts. "You're supposed to act like a decent, white kid," is what he said to one of them.

This story was reported by three news sources, but only WPXI published the Mayor's racist comment.

In Ohio, basketball rims have been removed in three communities, including one in which the police chief himself said there was no problem.

This type of municipal conduct caters to fear mongers, but is actually self-defeating. All Fed Ed has done is deprive kids and young adults of an opportunity to do something positive before it gets dark. Then, when they do get in trouble, it will be, "I told you so."

In Allentown's Andre Reed Park, where the rims have been removed, community activist Dennis Pearson has heard a less onerous solution. "The best suggestion I heard in regard to the resolution of Mayor Pawlowski's politically motivated over reaction to a problem existing at Andre Reed Park is place a rim lock on all basketball rims in Andre Reed Park at the hour the park officially closes for active activity for the evening and then take these locks off the next morning when the park officially opens."

Though that sounds reasonable, I doubt it will be implemented. Fed Ed has made a career in Allentown of pitting one group against another. In 2007, it was minority merchants along Hamilton Street, which were actually called a "cancer" during a Business Matters show. While offering lucrative county contracts to crony capitalists in exchange for campaign contributions, Fed Ed ignored the rest of the City. Firefighters have been hampered by ladder trucks and engines that constantly break down, forcing them to rely at times on pickup trucks. Cedar Beach Bool is still closed. And the rims were removed to placate his primary supporters, not because it is in the best interest of the city. Instead of removing basketball rims and screwing Allentown's youth, it is Fed Ed who must be removed.

Nine people have pleaded guilty to political corruption. All have directly implicated him. The US Attorney's office seems to be more interested in head hunting than in doing what is right for the people  They are charging hapless defendants with depriving we the people of our right to honest services, but they themselves are doing far worse by allowing the focus of their investigation to go untouched.    

Friday, July 07, 2017

Fed Ed Removes Basketball Rims at Andre Reed Park

If there's one thing I love more than anything else about Allentown, it's Summer League basketball. Last night, teams played indoors because of threatening weather. I sat next to a New Jersey couple who have been coming for years. They see at least six games every week, and are on a first name basis with many of the players. There's no entrance fee and parking is free, so it's a great melting pot. You can see prominent attorneys like zoning genius Bill Malkames sitting and chatting amiably with a garbageman. Ray O'Connell is there a few days every summer, especially if the Canaries are playing. Pretty young girls flirt with the players between games. It's a wonderful opportunity, not just for the kids, but for the entire community to come out and support their teams in a relaxed atmosphere. And the games? They might actually be better than the ones played during the regular season.

Allentown does have minor league hockey and baseball, and those venues do attract crowds. But it is mostly from out-of-town. Let's face it, inner city people have little interest in hockey. Allentown is primarily a basketball town. It's an exciting game and costs next to nothing. The kids start early, when they are five or six. If there was less transiency, both Allen and Dieruff would be indomitable.

One person I've never seen in the years I've attended Allentown basketball games is Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. He has little, if any, understanding how important this sport is to Allentown youth as well as young adults. If he had a clue, he would never have removed the rims from the outdoor courts at Andre Reed Park, next to Dieruff High School, as reported in The Morning Call. That's where the local high school freshman play as part of the summer league series.

Fed Ed stated he has done so in response to complaints from neighbors across the street. He met with them at a house where one of his political house parties took place. He claimed that “out of the area teenagers and adults” were the real culprits, and that other communities have been plagued by them as well.

I smell a bullshit burger. Palmer Pump Park and Saucon Park had to close because people from New York City were treating those parks and their creeks as day vacation destinations. No creek runs through Andre Reed Park. The teenagers and adults playing there are almost certainly from Allentown or a nearby community, just as kids from Allentown will come to Nazareth to play pickup basketball.

Fed Ed is using the authority of his office to screw kids who like to play basketball, in a basketball town, to placate his campaign supporters. It's what I'd expect from someone who steered contracts to other campaign supporters, as nine people will testify.

These desperadoes apparently parked on the grass to shine their lights on the court when Fed Ed cut the lights.

Now Fed Ed claims police were there, and handed out numerous tickets "to no avail."

I smell another bullshit burger. Police could easily have told these players that the park is closed and they need to go. And if they were handing out tickets, it should be easy to establish that these players are all local.

"My goal is to ultimately move the basketball courts away from the impacted residential areas," Fed Ed declaims. That totally defeats the purpose of having a neighborhood park in the first place. There should be more than a few swing sets.

Dennis Pearson, a community activist who lives near Andre Reed Park, was ignored by Fed Ed when he met with his campaign supporters. Had he spoken to Pearson, he'd know that parking in that neighborhood can be an issue. On Sunday, for example, "there were a large number of swimmers, a drum and bugle band practiced hard for a long time that day taking up much parking space on Andre Reed Way and a youth development tournament enticed many teams to participate ... Unfortunately on this day the fans caused the problem by parking where they were not allowed."

As Pearson observes, "parks are built to be used, but respected... Anybody that lives by a park should know this ... Andre Reed Park is a park which is surrounded on three sides by residential units without much separation between the park and the residential units... These residents have no right to take the park away from kids, but those kids or adults whom abuse their privileges should be denied further privilege."

The rims need to be restored. If people play after hours when the park is closed, cite them.

End of story.

Everyone was there to watch Uncle Drew.