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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, December 15, 2017

Brown Does Go Out On a High Note After All

John Brown
Last night, Northampton County Council met for the last time this year. For four of them (Mat Benol, Glenn Geissinger, Hayden Phillips and Seth Vaughn) it was their last meeting, at least for now. As Council President John Cusick observed, "There are second acts in government." 

Seven of the nine Council members were there. Bob Werner, who is dealing with a family illness, was absent. Seth Vaughn, hardly known for his attendance, was also absent.

One of you said that Northampton County Exec John Brown had left for a long vacation, and we'd never see him again. But he was there, along with Administrator Cathy Allen and a few of his cabinet officials.

I was deeply concerned that Brown was intent on mischief. Just a week before, he asked Council to cut taxes a mill, which would throw his budget out of balance and require deficit spending. I had also discovered that, contrary to what he said on the campaign trail, he did meet secretly with Upper Nazareth Township officials on March 27 to pitch a jail at Gracedale. I was certain he would veto the budget, millage rate ordinance, or both.

But he didn't.

Ken Kraft had a broken nose
Earlier that day, Brown signed both the budget and millage rate ordinance. "The 2018 budget is balanced and balanced on its own revenue. We did not need to use any of the general revenue funds to balance the budget."

Going all the way back to 1982, Brown said this was the first time that the County has seen a budget that involved no deficit spending. When he came into office four years ago, he had to spend $19 million in cash reserves to balance the budget, but spent his time in office looking for operating efficiencies. He thanked his "team," as he likes to call his cabinet, and wished the new Council good luck.

Later that night, Solicitor Ryan Durkin complimented Brown's integrity and organizational skills. "You had a  hell of an Executive here," he said. 

At this meeting, departing Council members were presented with plaques thanking them for their dedicated public service, guidance and wisdom. ironically "dedicated" public servant Seth Vaughn was playing hooky so his plaque will be mailed.

Phillips, who is unfairly beating himself up over his loss, said he would "treasure" his four years.

Geissinger admitted to "mistakes along the way," which I've been all to happy to point out. He claimed to have learned, but after the meeting was over, he was already planning for his next election - challenging Lamont McClure for County Exec.

Benol claimed everyone is his friend and apparently even gave his decalogue to Ken Kraft, but I missed it because at this point, I was throwing up while these politicians all pretended to like each other

Ken Kraft came closest to the truth when he told fellow Council members, "You made my life a living hell."

Cusick thanked everyone and hinted a little that he'll be out as Council president next year. Ken Kraft is reportedly taking his place at the helm of County Council.

Kraft came to the meeting with a broken nose. His wife was seen earlier, running from the building and laughing. 

State Theatre's Denise Smith
In an indication that Council Solicitor Phil Lauer is getting fired, Council presented him with the "dedicated public service, guidance and wisdom" plaque. Lauer said that when he first came on board, he knew very little about County government. Now that he's finally figured it out, he's getting kicked out.

Lauer will likely be replaced by Bethlehem Attorney Chris Spadoni, so hide the $800 popcorn machine.

In other business, Council hired the Haviland Hughes law firm to pursue litigation against opioid manufacturers. I will have a more detailed story about this next week. I will be speaking to Lehigh County attorney Bill Platt, who is a member of that firm.

Finally, as it does every year, Council dipped unto its contingency fund for three worthy entities that were unable to make timely applications for grant awards.

* The State Theatre's Denise Smith asked for and got $20,000 to help the State update its ticketing system so that patrons can print out tickets online. "She's a money pit, but she's absolutely gorgeous," she said in reference to the State, not Executive Director Shelly Brown.

* "Because of a Dog" got a $5,000 grant for a kennel in Bethlehem to hold stray dogs. Because Bethlehem has no kennel, police officers lose time on patrol while taking dogs to temporary shelters.

* Stephens Place, a halfway house for nonviolent but addicted adult males who are reintegrating from prison to society, received $5,000.

DaVinci's Lin Erickson was also hovering at the meeting with her hand out again, but received no money last night.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

God, how many times does the State Theater come to the trough to feed? With the money they are paying Brown and top people, give the taxpayers a break. Stop with handouts to the 1%.

Fire the incompetants said...

Good bye to non-transparent John Brown & company. Anybody could of turned the economic dynamics around on the worker's backs. Unfilled vacancies, massive increases in medical co-pays, and arrogant Directors who thought the worker's were just fodder to be dealt with was the legacy of John Brown & crew. Go back to private industry were they are waiting for you and your keen eye for efficiencies and corporate do nothing language.

Anonymous said...

Incompetents often misspell incompetants (sic). We really need to improve our education system and better screen candidates for county employment - from executives to those who waste their days on blogs.

Anonymous said...

Wait, so the County hired a Law firm in order to sue Drug companies over opioids? Look I get it, the Opioid epidemic is a problem, a very serious problem but spending tons of tax payer dollars to bring up a frivolous lawsuit against companies that have unlimited funds seems like a very big waste of money and effort on the County's part. I'm sure there are better ways than paying lawyers court fees for what seems like a losing battle. There is better ways for the County to use that money in the fight against the epidemic.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:21, It is on a contingent fee. The county gets 2/3 of any recovery.

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:27, In addition to the misspelled name you use, there is no such thing as "could of." It is "could have."

Anonymous said...

God Bless John Brown!

Anonymous said...

OFF TOPIC! But......

I will be tuning into the CCHS - Liberty basketball game tonite on RCN at 7pm (if not postponed). I hope the cameras scan the crowd to see Nazareth's Savior or, perhaps, see that Savior argue or get ejected by a referee. Make it interesting!

Good luck to your grandson.

Anonymous said...

Phillips and Geissinger will vie for county executive. Benol will run for sate senate and Vaughn will run for county council again.

They will ride on the momentum of Pres. Trump's re-election in 2020.

Anonymous said...

It's time to stop giving money to the State Theatre. Shelly Brown is getting over 150,000 a year and others are getting big salaries. What do these people do all day?
Enough already.

Anonymous said...

Good riddance to Brown and his Blundering Herd of overpaid cronies.

Anonymous said...

A true man of God!

Anonymous said...

Is it trus Phillips is going to be on the Board Of Directors at KidsPeace?

Anonymous said...

Reibman = F- (because Z- isn't a actual grade)
Stoffa = B-
Brown = B-
McClure so far, with F- guy on transition team = D- (gets failure notice)

Fire the incompetants said...

@7:52 am. Incompetents was spelled incorrectly to show the outgoing council how incompetent they were. It seems that you are either a clear part of this incompetent brood, or a die hard fan of their governance. No matter what, you show the ignorance of good government and should stay away of blogs that support transparency, fairness to the employees and cronyism. Because of your covert support for the soon departed is obvious!

Anonymous said...

Why would we fund a theatre when Brown gets 150K plus benefits? That builidng funded by thw working man in the county is for the elite and those that can afford. everytime Skimmer Shelley comes for a buck give it to a homeless or food shelter for folks that need it-

Anonymous said...

I see the Reibman hater is back on board. Brown and Stoffa a B-, now that is funny!

Anonymous said...

BO here's a question, when is Browns last day Dec 31 or when McClure takes the oath?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Brown is de facto Exec until McCkuretakes tgevoath in early January.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it the pink slips have been handed out. Trapp, Keen and Colon are saying their goodbyes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe Trapp should have been fired when she refused to apologize for the comment that her husband posted here, if it was not Trapp herself, disparaging county workers. That is simply inexcusable. I am also bothered by her inability to account for gift cards. She was Brown's biggest liability, after Cathy Allen. Dan Keeen is a warden, andlike all wardens, he wants a new jail. Brown and Council, both of whom were totally inexperienced, failed to ask the hard questions and just assumed he was right about everything. Yes, there are problems at the jail. But a new jail at $180 million, built at Gracedale, is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

I’m sure Trapp will be just fine. With her qualifications and experience she won’t be unemployed long if she doesn’t already have a job waiting for her now. The fact that McClure dismissed her knowing of those qualifications and experience along with the high praise she got from MOST employees, council members and members of McClures own transition team just shows how inept he is. Chopping off his nose to spite his face. Bernie doesn’t like her anymore because she stopped smiling at him and patting him on his greasy head.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd say that Trapp's approval rating is around 10% inside the courthouse. She is despised and for good reason. As for McClure's transition team, do you refer to Steve Barron, to whom you denied access to the county's own records? Or is it Ken Kraft, bc you hired his wife and were playing both sides? Or is it Jerry, with whom you broke multiple appointments?

I feel bad about some cabinet officials, although there is no way McClure could ever trust them. I have no sympathy for you. You even tried to play both sides with McClure, bashing Brown behind his back. I admit you had me fooled at first. You never had Jerry fooled. Or McClure.

Anonymous said...

AS for the State Theatre, we know that Shelly Brown is being paid over 150K, what about the other employees at the State Theatre. How much are they being paid?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The 990 only lists those paidober $100k. That is only Shelly Brown.

Anonymous said...

7:43. There should be full disclosure. At my church, the budget was just posted and everyone's salary and benefit received is listed. There are many events at the State where Shelly doesn't even introduce the show. So sad that she disses them like that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have never found her salary excessive. Sorry. She takes less than 5% of the revenue. Other nonprofit bosses take mach larger percentages. As for more disclosure, you have not said who you are. Why not post your name and address here, along with every penny you make? While you are at it, do it for every member of your household? If you demand transparency without being transparent yourself, aren't you a phony?

Anonymous said...

Sure makes sense to me