Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dent: Raise Age Requirement to Buy Semi-Automatics Like AR-15

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Representative Charlie Dent (PA-15) has announced his co-sponsorship of legislation raising the age requirement for those seeking to purchase semiautomatic rifles, such as AR-15s, from 18 to 21 years of age. This bipartisan bill is being led by Representatives Anthony G. Brown (MD-4) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8).

 

“I am pleased to join my Pennsylvania colleague to support common sense policy that would raise the legal age to purchase semiautomatic rifles to 21, the same age for pistols,” said Dent. “This bipartisan legislation would be an important first step in response to the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Congress must come together in the wake of such a tragedy and work to find solutions that will help to keep our students, teachers, and schools safe from gun violence,” Dent added.

 

Currently, gun-buyers are prohibited from purchasing handguns prior to their 21st birthday, but that is not the case with semiautomatic centerfire rifles that can accept magazines of five rounds or greater. It also provides an exemption for active duty military and full time law enforcement personnel.

 

In addition, Dent recently signed a letter circulated by Representative Leonard Lance (NJ-7) calling on House Speaker Ryan to bring a “Fix NICS” bill to the floor to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of our nation’s firearm background check system.

 

“Guaranteeing that complete and accurate information is entered into the National Instant Check System (NICS) is also a commonsense item that Congress should address quickly,” Dent concluded

The Fed Ed Trial - What's Next?

I've been around long enough to know that anything can happen in a horse race or jury trial. Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski has chosen to roll the dice and is hoping that the same lies that have kept him in office for so long will allow him to remain King of Allentown. 

Because the government bears the burden of proof, the United States Attorney will have an opportunity to rebut the defense closing arguments yesterday. After that, Judge Juan R. Sánchez will deliver his closing instructions to the jury. He will inform them that both Edwin Pawlowski and Scott Allinson are presumed innocent, and can only be found guilty if the jury unanimously agrees that there is proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendants did what has been charged. He will define the elements of each offense charged and provide some general guidelines to follow in weighing the evidence. Then the case goes to the jury, the ultimate finders of fact.

A friend has ask me to discuss the following possibilities.
Like,
1) GUILTY on a majority of the counts! Then, what might happen next (e.g. appeals, and possible timeframe of such appeals). How long could this drag out? Another 2 years??

2) GUILTY on the few of the counts (like, the lying counts only)! Then what...possible public sympathy/judicial mercy because he "just told a few fibs"?

3) INNOCENT on all counts! Then, what are the possibilities of ANY further action against him? Or is it "case closed" nothing-to-see-here, go home everybody.

4) HUNG JURY. Forgive me, I'm not very legally endowed. Does that mean NOBODY CAN COME TO A UNANIMOUS AGREEMENT ON ANY OF THE COUNTS? Then, is this outcome the same as stated in #3 above? What are possible legal follow-ups to THAT outcome?

5) Does an appeal need to be "presented" for EACH COUNT that he might be found guilty of? What I'm getting at is IF HE IS FOUND GUILTY OF 13 COUNTS, he'd have to appeal each one individually, right?

6) So the more counts that he might be found guilty of, the more ONEROUS (and expensive, I imagine) his appeal process becomes, yes? Do lawyer's charge by the APPEAL? Or is this stuff "a package deal"?
Here's what I can tell you.

There are two Defendants in this case, Scott Allinson and Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. If the jury has agreed to convict or acquit one, but is still deliberating as to the other, it can return with a verdict applying to the Defendant about which it has agreed. .

If unable to reach unanimous agreement on all counts, the jury may return a verdict on those counts to which it has agreed.

If unable to reach unanimous agreement about some or all of the counts, the judge can declare a mistrial as to those counts. After that, it will be up to the United States to decide whether to retry the Defendant on those counts.

No jury can declare a Defendant innocent.Only God can do that.A jury can only declare a Defendant "not guilty," which means the prosecution failed in its burden. If a jury returns with a "not guilty" verdict as to some or all of the counts, the case is over. Double jeopardy precludes a new prosecution. 

Every single one of the 54 charges against Fed Ed are felonies and crimens falsi, that is, crimes involving some form of deceit. A guilty verdict on just one count means that Fed Ed will eventually be removed from office.There will be little public or judicial sympathy for a convicted liar.

Sentencing will likely occur within two or three months of the verdict in order to allow the probation office to prepare a presentence report and review the sentencing guidelines. Sentencing us when a conviction formally occurs. This is when Fed Ed would be removed from office. It is possible that he could remain in office for several months after the verdict. That's why the US Attorney will almost certainly demand a resignation, once a verdict is reached, as a condition of bail.

An appeal may be filed after sentence is imposed. There is no need for a separate appeal on each count. Because this is a five week trial involving hundreds of exhibits, an appeal would be ridiculously expensive and would very likely take several years. We would pay for it because Fed Ed will declare he is unable to foot the bill.

Whether it is a few counts or the whole shebang, fed Ed is looking at a double digit sentence. In addition to betraying the public trust, he tried to con everyone in a jury trial. While no defendant can be penalized for exercising the right to a jury trial, they can pay the proce for refusing to accept responsibility.

NorCo General Purpose Authority Cancels March Meeting

Northampton County's beleaguered General Purpose Authority (GPA) is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, March 6, at 8:15 am. But it's been cancelled. At the last County Council meeting, two new members were appointed to the board though GPA Solicitor John Lushis insists that his board, and not County Council, "shall" be making at least one of these appointments. I've also told you that the GPA Chair has billed the County $11,950 last year to check on a third-party engineer hired to check on the P3 bridge builder. And Lushis has billed and been paid $810,000 over the past two years. At the risk of setting off the Lushis meter once more, I wrote to ask why this meeting was cancelled.

Is it because the GPA refuses to recognize incoming board members? Are they going to court?

I have heard nothing from Lushis, but began to ask around and learned that it is common to cancel a scheduled meeting unless there are action items to consider.

I am still waiting for complete replies to my Right-to-Know request.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

He's Baaaaack



Miked Fleck, who never was called as a witness in the political corruption case against Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, is back in the area. He reportedly spent the past few years in Georgia and Texas. He will be sentenced May 10.

The Queen of the Courtroom

Hope that's not a burner phone. 
From both news accounts and riveting tweets by Emily Opilo and Jamie Stover ,most of us know that Allentown Mayor (for now) Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski fared poorly yesterday when he was cross-examined in his trial for political corruption.he was caught in sever allies and improbable statements. His  "I wasn't correctly telling the truth" is sure to join the lexicon of statements to be avoided at any trial. It also goes a long way to sealing his fate. But I want to tell another story about that case during a happier time for Fed Ed and his family, when he was under direct examination by his own lawyer.

I was in the courtroom that day, and got the last available seat in a corner of the courtroom. I didn't mind.The acoustics are pretty god and I could hear everything and see most of it. Fed Ed's wife Lisa, along with her mother, had a front row seat. This is as it should be for any family member. What surprised me was what happened during a break.

Lady MacBeth, as I like to call her, came to the rear of the courtroom where I was sitting, and proceeded to open a closet door while pretending she was sorry to make me move. "I don't want you to accuse me of snarling at you like you did the first time we met, " she said.

"I have never written a word about you that is untrue," I answered her.

Then, while her husband is on trial for political corruption, she began to argue with me, but with a smile.

"You should consider yourself lucky that you're not facing charges yourself," I told her.

"Well, I never," she huffed, but with a smile. I believe she also told me to have a nice day as she pranced back to her pew in the front.

Hubris.

Just a few months before the federal raid at her home, Lisa Pawlowski told Facebook readers that I get "paid every time someone opens his blog. So every click is a win for him. Controversy means more money for him. So folks, if you support your mayor, don't ever read Bernie's blog. Make a statement by cutting into his income."

Lisa must think I'm as money hungry as she and her husband. I don't make a dime blogging. Some of us really do believe in public service.

HS Boys' Hoops: ACCHS to Face Bangor in District XI 5A Finale

Morning Call Senior sportswriter Keith Groller covered four 6A playoff basketball games at two different locations on Saturday. Tonight he was right back in the thick of things, covering a 5A semifinal between Allentown Central Catholic and Pottsville High School. In addition to his excellent recap of Central's 57-41 Monday night win over this always tough team from coal cracker country,  I recommend you check out his tweets, which invariably include video highlights .

The 5A Final is set for Thursday night, 7 pm, at Pleasant Valley High School against Bangor. The Slaters had been playing minus Ben Holland, but he's back. They qualified for the finals on Monday night by demolishing Blue Mountain, 73-57.

When the Slaters and Vikings meet on Thursday night, it will bring back memories for Coach Bron Holland. According to Groller, Holland was one of the Slater Superstars who knocked off the Vikings by two in a game played at. Stabler.

Central knows it will have its hands full on Thursday night fighting off  Tony Jones, Ben Holland  and Big Bernard Davis. Though both teams are now going into the state tournament, they both want to go in as District XI Champs.

There can only be one.   

Box Score

ACCHS - 57, Pottsville - 41

Central Catholic - 13-26-46-57
Pottsville - 12-20-33-41

Pottsville (41)

Kevin Schenk: 3 FG, 2 3FG, 1/2 FTs - 13
Mason Barnes: 2 FG, 1 3 FG, 1/2 FT -  8
Eli Wood: 1 FG, 0/4 FT - 2
Aiden Stanton: 1 3FG, 1/2 FT - 4
Ian Renninger: 4 FG, 3/3 FT - 11
Ryan Kondrak: 1 3 FG - 3
JR Hanner: 0/2 FT - 0

Central Catholic (57)

Jay Vaughan: 3/4 FG, 3/5 3FG, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals - 15
Keeshawn Kellman: 3/3 FG, 1 rebounds, 2 blocks
Jordan McChristian: 2/4 FG, 3/7 3FG, 2 assists, 2 rebound, 1 steal - 13
Dat Lambert: 1/2 FG, 2/3 3FG, 2/3 FTs, 2 steals, 3 assists, 5 rebounds - 10
Nick Filchner: 1/4 3FG, 1/1 FG, 3 assists, 1 steak. - 5.
Chad Kratzer: 1/1 3FG, 1/1FG, 3/4 FTs, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Kevin Kern: 0/1 FT, 1 rebound

McClure To Give State of Norco Address on Friday at Historic Hotel Bethlehem

Lamont McClure on Inauguration Day
WHO: County Executive Lamont McClure
WHAT: State of Northampton County Address
WHERE: Historic Bethlehem Hotel; 437 Main Street, Bethlehem, PA
WHEN: Friday, March 2, 2018; 8:00-9:30am

NorCo Executive Lamont McClure will give his State of Northampton County address in the Grand Ballroom of the Historic Bethlehem Hotel on Friday, March 2nd. This free event includes breakfast, will run from 8:00 – 9:30am, and is hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. Sponsors include the Workforce Board of the Lehigh Valley and ABE Airport.

The meet-and-greet mixer and networking event is open to the media and the public, but registration is required for anyone planning to attend.

This is my annual chance to ruin Bruce Haines' profit margin at the Hotel Bethlehem, where he is a managing partner. .

Sign up at:
http://lehighvalley.org/events/2018-state-northampton-county/

The program portion, which includes McClure’s speech, will begin at 8:30.

McClure began his first term as County Executive this year after being sworn into office on January 2nd.

Ben Hedrick, who complained about a previous meet 'n greet charging $10, is probably ecstatic to see what an impact he has had already!

Monday, February 26, 2018

And the Fallen Angels Just Laugh

Yesterday, as he does every Sunday, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski posted an "inspirational quote" on his Facebook page After all, he is a very holy man. He went to Moody Bible College. He's married to a very holy woman who also attended Moody Bible College and cured homelessness in Allentown.

And the fallen angels just laugh.

The man who has prayer meetings at city hall, and who beats his breast as well as any Sadducee, made sure he checked under the stalls of bathrooms so that no one could hear him conduct criminal business. He could look the jury in the eye and piously deny any wrongdoing, while simultaneously telling his Myrmidons, "You can’t get indicted for anything except for the s--- you say out loud, so don’t say s--- out loud.”

And the fallen angels just laugh.

The man who proclaimed he had no influence over the Zoning Hearing Board or the Parking Authority and who spoke with the jury as though he was a guest in their living room, has also posted comments on his Facebook page asking us all to "be kind" to one another. Yet this is the same holy man who nearly assaulted former Human Relations Commissioner Eugene McDuffie back in May. McDuffie was backing someone other than Fed Ed in the Mayoral race. He has used these same bully tactics against Council members Cynthia Mota and Candida Affa, and amazingly, may have assaulted Mota last week right before he took the stand.

And the fallen angels just laugh.

On Friday, I learned from a Syrian business owner why that community really supported Fed Ed. His opponent was a Jew. Fed Ed played on their anti-Semitism.

And the fallen angels just laugh.

He claims to be shocked, just shocked, to learn that city contracts were going to campaign contributors. But that's precisely why two fallen angels, Mike Fleck and Sam Ruchlewicz, worked for him. He told them they "need to insulate me from all this crap." They were his fall guys.

And the fallen angels just laugh.

Last time I was in the courtroom, I saw Pawlowski supporters and detractors. I'm also sure that Lucifer and the fallen angels were there, too, quietly laughing.

In Dante's Inferno, barratry (political graft) is considered even worse than simony (stealing the collection plate) because it has such a negative impact on society. That's certainly true in Allentown, both in the government and the community. Trust for elected officials is gone. Business is stalled.

And the fallen angels just laugh.

Fed Ed's cross-examination resumes today. He did pretty badly on Thursday. He's already been forced to concede he lied to the FBI about a cyber attack. Worse, he got caught in a lie about Fleck and Ruchlewicz being there to insulate him.

Blogger's note: Apologies to Ray Wylie Hubbard.

McClure's Meet 'n Greet Leads to GOP Complaint

Ben does have a halo going for him. 
The Express Times has failed to cover a NorCo Council committee meeting for years. A freelancer covers county government only when something being promoted by the urban growth regime, like the DaVinci Center in Easton, is on the agenda. Even its high school sports coverage, which used to be its strength, has all but disappeared. So I was a bit surprised to see a rare letter to the editor criticizing NorCo government and Executive Lamont McClure on Saturday. It's of course accompanied by the lousiest picture editors could find of the Exec.

I'm happy to see it. Even though the information is flawed and I disagree with the political part of it, this is very necessary in a democracy. A newspaper that fails to inform the citizenry has no reason to exist.

But the information is flawed. The newspaper, largely because it no longer follows county politics or government, was played.

Ben Hedrick, a very nice gentleman who attends nearly every Council meeting, sees McClure all the time. He is also a GOP Commiteeman. He did not go to the meet and greet to talk to McClure, which he already knows he can do anytime he wants. He went there precisely so he could write the letter that got published.

The newspaper should have told you that Ben is a GOP Commiteeman, but no longer has knowledge of county government or politics.

I contacted McClure about this matter. He tells me this was a Chamber of Commerce event, and neither he nor his campaign benefited in any way.  I agree that Chambers of Commerce need to stop charging for "meets and greets" when they involve elected officials, but they sometimes do.

McClure saw Ben was on his way out as the Exec was on his way in. He also saw Ben get into a parked car that was waiting for him. This leads me to wonder whether Ben went there, hoping to be chucked, so he could make points with county Republicans. And he did. Links to his letter are making the rounds among my GOP friends on Facebook.

The reality here is that McClure, who prides himself on transparency, is on his way to becoming the County's most transparent Exec. I actually receive this thing now called a "press release," that tells me about what's going on. Since his election, department heads are far more willing to speak. They had been muzzled by former Executive John Brown, especially in Human Services. In fact, Brown's penchant for secrecy is 90% of the reason why there is such suspicion about the General Purpose Authority and his P3 bridge project.

Under Brown's tenure, past online election results disappeared, along with prior Council minutes. McClure has been able to restore election results back to 2008

I agree with Ben that these events should be free. But instead of attacking the source of the problem - the Chamber of Commerce - Ben attacked "this new administration."

Funny how he never had a word to say about Brown's complete lack of transparency.

Naughty, naughty, Ben. I commend you on playing the Express Times, but that no longer means anything.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Did Fed Ed Assault Allentown City Council Woman?

Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski is not only on trial for political corruption, but is currently on the stand, undergoing cross-examination. I've told you his fatal flaw is his hubris, his belief that he can do whatever he wants with impunity. That attitude has been unhelpful to him on the stand. And amazingly, during a time when he should be on his best behavior, he bullied Allentown City Councilperson Cynthia Mota.

On Tuesday night, Allentown City Council voted to delay the nominations of Tom Muller and Dan McCarthy to managing Director and Solicitor, respectively. These are two excellent choices, so I could understand some frustration at the delay.

Fed Ed confronted Council member Cynthia Mota and began screaming at her. He also may have slapped her arm, accidentally or intentionally, while he was yelling.

Mota has declined to a request that she tell me what happened. Several people who witnessed the incident are unwilling to go on record, which is what enables bullies like Fed Ed.

Council President Roger MacLean, the City's former police chief, confirms that there "was some sort of confrontation." From what he's determined, Fed Ed's hand went in a downward motion as he spoke to Mota and it struck her arm. This could have been an accident or an assault.

"According to my information his hand did make contact with her arm along with a raised voice," MacLean told me. "No matter what this behavior is completely unacceptable by the mayor."

This incident fails to appear in the report of the stringer who covered this meeting. That might be because he worked for Fed Ed's campaign.

John Brown Running For GOP State Committee

At a recent meeting of Northampton County Republicans, former Executive John Brown announced he is running for the State GOP Committee.

Morganelli Proposes Common Sense Approach to Gun Violence

John Morganelli may be a candidate for Congress, but he's also Pennsylvania's most senior District Attorney. He sees first hand what guns can do. The most recent mass shooting of students at a Florida has prompted him to once again propose the reintroduction of legislation he advocate back in the 1990s. It's part of a nine-step common sense agenda that he wants the law enforcement community to consider and advocate in Harrisburg and, if necessary, in Washington. He is also requesting that immediate steps be taken in Northampton County to reduce gun violence.

Morganellli's nine-step common sense plan to reduce gun violence.

1) Pass "The parents responsible Gun Ownership Act." - This would require gun owners to secure their firearms if they live with minors, violent criminals or the mentally ill. He noted that one of every three firearms is loaded and unsecured, and that most kids know where their parents keep their guns.

2) Ban Bump Stocks, which make it easy to turn a semi-automatic weapon into one that fires continuously.

3) Require background checks on all sales of long guns.

4) Ban assault weapons to general public.

5) Expand background checks to firearms sales at gun shows and online.

6) Ban firearms to anyone on a terror watch list.

7) Require that lost or stolen guns be reported.

8) Enter mental health records into national databases for background checks.

9) "Red Flag" laws that allow family members or police to petition judges to remove guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

"A majority of people want a balanced approach," he explained. "They want o know what can be done to make our schools and communities more secure; they want to know what can be done to assure that the mentally disturbed and children do not possess firearms; and they want to know what strategies can be employed to reduce death by gunfire. They also want to know that the law will punish criminals and those individuals who have demonstrated they are incapable of owning and operating firearms responsibly. And they want to know this can all be done without trampling in the Second Amendment."

In addition to consideration of this common-sense agenda, Morganelli is requesting the community to help in the following:

1) A law enforcement security review of every school, including emergency plans like active shooter drills.

2) A law enforcement identification and investigation of every school threat.

3) An appeal to parents and children to report all threats of violence.

4) An appeal to gun owners to secure firearms in homes.

Werner Hates Politics, Unless He is the Source

Bob Werner, right, is good at digging
holes for himself. 
Although Northampton County Council has a 6-3 Democratic majority, it's beginning to appear that it's more like a 5-4 edge. Reason? Bob Werner? He thinks she should be County Exec. He announced he was running at a Democratic party picnic during the summer before election year. Then he got cold feet when Lamont McClure decided to give it a go. Now, from his perch on Council, he is attempting to sabotage McClure.

Werner was the original proponent of bridge bundling in Northampton County. His theory was to work on several bridges withe similar designs at the same time. This both reduces costs and ensures public safety. In fact, that's exactly what Executive John Stoffa did in his bridge bond.

Then came Executive John Brown, who eventually decided on a public private partnership (P3) to address county bridges. This is bridge bundling on steroids. Under Brown's P3, 33 county bridges were conveyed to the county's General Purpose Authority (GPA) temporarily. The GPA then entered into an agreement to repair or replace these bridges with private contractor Kriger Construction, who agreed to arrange for the financing on its own. The County then makes semi-annual payments to Kriger over a period of about 15 years, paying for the work with 2.5% interest.

This might turn out to be a great idea. It might also turn out to be a bad idea. It's too soon to say. The one certainty is that ay attempt to back out of the current arrangement would be very costly to Northampton County. Ken Kraft, a union agent who is involved in numerous construction projects, had issues with Kriger's qualifications. He may be right. He may be wrong. John Brown and the GPA, instead of being forthcoming, reacted to Kraft's complaints by shrouding everything in secrecy. This included a blatant Sunshine Act violation and excessive legal bills.

Because Werner was already a bridge advocate, and thinks he should be County Executive, he's down with PPP. In fact, he was at the ribbon cutting ceremony for a bridge that was supposed to insure Brown's re-election. He was now a Brown supporter. Even when it became increasingly apparent that John Brown had secret plans for a jail at Gracedale, he dismissed them as political.

So are the concerns about the lack of transparency and excessive legal bills at GPA.

When Lamont McClure proposed Frank Pintabone to fill an unexpired term on the GPA and give himself an ally on that board, Werner voted No. Now he may have been concerned that Pintabone would challenge him in the next Council race. But he also voted No to the appointment of Paul Anthony on the GPA. When asked to explain his No vote, he said his reasons were "personal."

He also joined two Republicans in supporting Republican Hayden Phillips as Interim Controller to fill the vacancy created by Democrat Steve Barron. Though the people had voted for a Democrat, he wanted a Republican. When that attempt failed, he voted against Bucky Szulborski as Controller.

Now he is attempting to sabotage Szulborski. He has requested legal opinions and wants a Council Inquisition into whether Szulborski is in violation of the Home Rule Charter's proscription on being "actively involved" in outside employment.

During his confirmation hearing, Szuloborski said that he is a realtor who does very little work, and intends to pursue that on a limited scale on nights and weekends. In other works, he is not actively involved in another business. Though Werner sat there, he raised no red flag or concerns. Now that Szulborski has been confirmed, he is raising this red herring.

Werner condemned the claim that Brown had secret plans for a new jail at Gracedale as political, although we now know that's exactly what he planned. And now he is doing precisely what he said was so distasteful. He's getting political, raising a bullshit issue that he could have brought up when Szlborski was being confirmed.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fed Ed Had No Idea He Was Surrounded by Criminals

I took a powder and attended Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski's political corruption trial in Allentown yesterday. The first time I was there, I had to amputate a few frost Ed bitten toes at the end of the day. Yesterday, I suffered heat stroke. The courtroom was also a lot more crowded than the first time I was there. I had to settle for the last seat left. We were packed in like sardines because defense lawyer Jack McMahon has rolled the dice and called Fed Ed himself to the stand. Supporters and friends of his wife were sprinkled throughout the room. She was in the front row, sitting next to her mother. Joyce Marin, the City's former DCED Director, also sat with Fed Ed's wife. Local attorneys dropped by to see defense lawyer Jack McMahon perform, and he lived up to his billing. Some of Fed Ed's critics and victims were also in the audience. I expect that McMahon will continue his direct examination all day Thursday, which will give his client a three-day breather before cross-examination. After that, it's closing arguments, jury instructions and verdict. I expect to see Fed Ed convicted on a substantial number of counts. Though the case against Allinson is weaker, he is a lawyer and nobody likes lawyers. Also, he's been splashed by some of the mud coming up from the case against Fed Ed.

The Morning Call's Peter Hall and Emily Opilo have provided excellent play-by-play on pay-to-play. Peter is quite familiar with the court system while Opilo understands the inner workings of Allentown, so they have provided superior coverage.

Judge Juan R. Sánchez continues to run a very tight ship, and has been sparring quite a bit with McMahon. At one point, while McMahon was slightly confused about a defense exhibit he wanted to introduce, he noticed a juror drinking water and asked, "Anyone else need water? Now's a good time." Then he turned to McMahon and joked, "Not you."

McMahon has been masterful. I do think he turns jurors off when he plays the same tapes over and over and then goes through them, sentence by sentence. But his defense is one of obfuscation. He is attracting attention away frommore damning evidence by focusig in statements that fFd Ed made when he began to suspect he was being recorded.

The United States is represented by Anthony Wzorek and Michelle Morgan. Wzorek sporadically objected to McMahon's more absurd questions, but the prosecutors kept a mostly low profile. And why not? The more that Fed Ed speaks, the more ammo they will have when it's their turn.

Fed Ed's defense is that he he had no idea the city was being sold under his nose. He flatly denied that he had directed his finance Director Garret Strathearn, to rig the bids for a delinquent property tax contract. Though he traveled to New York with Ranmzi Haddad and shook him down for money repeatedly, he had no idea that Ramzi expected something in return. He was shocked when Ramzi showed him a text message claiming that the purchase of the Banko building had been lined up. He insisted that he played no role in fixing a bid for LED lights throughout the city.

So he had no idea that Fleck, Ruchlewicz, Francis Dougherty and Garrett Strathearn were fleecing city taxpayers.

His tone on the stand was friendly and conversational. It's the same way he often acted in his four mayoral campaigns. As he grew more relaxed in his testimony, he began volunteering information. At one point, he finished a sentence with "blah, blah, blah, blah."

When Wzoek objected, Fed Ed began to laugh at him. And that is his fatal flaw - hubris. He will stop being friendly and conversational once the hard questions start coming. And that's when the jury will see the real Fed Ed. Today he could ride around the walls of the federal courthouse. But his blissfully unaware that a Trojan arrowisheaded his way.

He thinks he's doing great. I think he's digging a hole.

Villanova Game Good Fix For Basketball Addict

OK, so you usually count on one or more stories from me, starting at midnight. Not today. I was at the Fed Ed trial, and while there, a prestigious local attorney invited me to join him for Villanova Men's Basketball at Wells Fargo Center. He only had to ask once.

While waiting for districts to begin, I've been suffering from basketball withdrawal, so this was the perfect fix.

Instead of starting the seniors, which is what most high schools do, Wildcats Coach Jay Wright worked them in the closing two minutes.

What was really nice for these guys is that two of them managed to sink threes.

My only regret is that my grandson was unable to be there.

Schoolwork. He'll be pretty busy himself, starting Monday.

By the way, Villanova's starting line-up is back.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Suffer the Little Children

Whether you support more gun control or think we all should walk around with bazookas, decent people of all persuasions were deeply saddened by the latest mass shooting at a school in Parkland, FL. If high school students who saw their classmates die before their eyes wanted to speak out, good people who may disagree with them would let them go. They are victims. Unfortunately, as he's demonstrated too many times, Authoritarian Donald Trump is far from decent. His myrmidons are even worse.

First, Trump tweeted that the shooter's classmates knew he was a headcase and should have reported him. The implication, of course, is that what happened was their fault. After this incredibly insensitive statement, he doubled down and slammed rank-and-file FBI agents who by their own admission failed to follow upon on either one or two complaints.

Gateway Pundit
suggested that one of these students had ben coached and that his dad is - gasp! - one of those dirty FBI agents. By the end of the day, these kids were being vilified as "actors" and "plants."

These ugly attacks demonstrate, as much as any mass shooting or assault rifle, that we have become quite a hateful society.

How Lushis Law Firm Got Paid

On Monday, I told you that NorCo General Purpose Authority (GPA) Chair Shawn Langen has billed Northampton County $11,950 for his review of a third party engineer who is already reviewing work being done on 33 county bridges through a public private partnership agreement with Kriger Construction. Because Langen waited until the end of last year to submit his invoices all at once, they ended on Executive Lamont McClure's desk. He's weighing his options. On Tuesday, I told you that GPA Solicitor John Lushis and his law firm, Norris McLaughlin and Morris, have already earned $813,000 for their legal work over the past two years. It is highly unusual to pay any board member, except for the Revenue Appeals Board. But the real problem is the excessive fees being charged by Lushis, which have been paid. How did this happen?

Gambling. Executive John Brown took $500,000 in table games revenue and slid it over to the Corrections Budget. From there, he created a "special legal services" line item, and that's what he was using to write checks to the GPA  From there, they went to Lushis. That's how he was able to do this without Council or the Controller catching on.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lushis Law Firm Made $813,000 With NorCo GPA in 2016 and 2017


Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. Attorney John Lushis and his law firm, Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus should take note. One of his former partners, Scott Allinson, is on trial in Allentown right now for being too much of a pig. The crimes charged are conspiracy and bribery, but the real sin is greed. Allinson was one of the Norris McLaughlin rainmakers, a schmoozer who knew that solicitorships on local government boards helped clients like Charles Chrin make real money. It is Allinson who pushed for Norris McLaughlin on the General Purpose Authority (GPA) as well as the Gaming Board. But instead of just being pigs, the firm is a hog. Although I still am waiting for a complete answer to my request for legal bills from that firm over the past two years, I can tell you now that Lushis and his firm billed Northampton County $783,039.30 over the past two years. In addition, that firm is allowed to collect fees when outfits like St. Luke's or Lehigh University float a bond. In December 2017, Lushis charged $30,000 for a St. Luke's bond. Overall, Lushis and his firm have made at least $813,039.30 from their affiliation with the GPA in 2016 and 2017.

In addition to his regular work for the GPA, Lushis was working on the side for former Executive John Brown as some sort of secret Solicitor. Though he was still sending in bills through the GPA, these were for "special legal services." When I confronted Lushis about this at February's GPA meeting, he denied it. But GPA Chair Shawn Langen had previously told me that's exactly what happened. And I now have the bills.

Under the county's administrative code, an Executive who wants to engage someone for professional services is required to follow certain procedures. Those were completely ignored. He is required to notify Council and the Controller. That never happened, either. His use of Lushis was an end-run around Council.

Section 13.21 of the Administrative Code provides,
"No elected or appointed official or employee of the County shall intentionally or knowingly circumvent the provisions of this Article. Further, that any such elected or appointed official or employee of the County of Northampton who shall intentionally and/or knowingly violate this Article shall be subject to surcharge to the extent of the damage shown to be thereby sustained by the County of Northampton,shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon a conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to imprisonment of not more than one year or pay a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. Any contract entered into in violation of the within article shall not be binding upon the County of Northampton."
This was a serious transgression.

What are these "special legal services?"

Lushis was helping lay the groundwork for a jail at Gracedale in Upper Nazareth. You know, the one Brown eventually pledged never to build.

His bills tell quite the story.

On February 8, Lushis charged for participation in a two-hour meeting with Brown and Upper Nazareth Solicitor Gary Asteak. He and his firm also spent that month researching the application of zoning laws and also drafted legislation to enable the jail to be built as a P3 (public-private partnership) project.

In March, Lushis met with Senator Pat Browne to discuss legislation that would enable the jail to be built as a P3 project, and started lining up banks like American, First Northern, PNC and Embassy Bank as possible lenders. His firm drafted a zoning ordinance amendment for Upper Nazareth Tp. They researched whether the Upper Nazareth Zoning Ordinance is exclusionary. They also studied whether "essential government services" like a jail trumps local zoning.

Finally, March 27 arrived, the day of Brown's backroom meeting with Upper Nazareth Supervisors.

Lushis billed the county for ten hours that day. Other members of the Norris, McLaughlin  billed for another 13 hours

And the County paid for this meeting about which no one in the community knew anything.

In April and May, Senator Pat Browne was lobbied to enact legislation in which local zoning laws could be trumped for projects like a jail .

In July, Lushis was still preparing talking points about a jail at Gracedale. He and his firm also billed $2,730.00 for a 3.9 hour long "strategy telephone conference" based on a review of a 2008 entry in this very blog, in which different jail options were presented. That's the meeting in which Ron Angle, then Finance Chair, asked, "The reality here is, who the hell wants a new prison?"

John Lushis and John Brown.

Around late July, as public word of a jail at Gracedale began to spread, Lushis began looking at West Easton and Bethlehem (Applebutter Rd), too.

As summer wound to an end, Gracedale as a jail was beginning to blow up in Brown's face. The jail research began to wane. But in October, the County was charged $$3,390 to register six copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office for P3 licenses and agreements. These were registered in the name of the Norris, McLaughlin law firm, but we paid for it.

After Brown lost the election, that was the end of the "special legal services."

But there was fear that incoming Executive Lamont McClure might attempt to torpedo the P3 project under which 33 bridges are being repaired or replaced. McClure has no such intention, but they had no idea what he might do. He might end the gravy train for Lushis and Langen. So just as Lushis provided "special legal services" for John Brown, Northampton County Solicitor Ryan Durkin provided special legal services for the GPA. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Monday, February 19, 2018

GPA Chair Billed NorCo $11,950 to Check Work Done By Third Party Engineer

John Brown and Shawn Langen (right)
pose by "Bridge Closed" sign. Great
optics for the P3 Bridge repair project.   
Is the Northampton County General Purpose Authority (GPA) a runaway train, a shadow government operating behind the scenes to enable an Executive to do an end-run around Council? Though Chair Shawn Langen adamantly denies this is what is going on, it now appears that former Executive John Brown was using this authority to promote projects he knew that Council, the County's elected governing body, would question. Like a new jail at Gracedale. Or his own re-election.

The GPA has stonewalled several right-to-know requests, but has begun providing partial responses. The layers of this onion have begun to peel away. It is now clear that Brown was using the GPA as a conduit for capital projects, and without regard to the wishes of Council or the best interests of the County.

Through the GPA, he hired the same controversial PR firm that had been challenged in two lawsuits. At the suggestion of Solicitor John Lushic, the GPA authorized Chair Shawn Langen to begin billing the County, even though this highly unusual arrangement was never authorized by Council. Brown used GPA solicitor John Lushis to provide legal advice on matters having nothing to do with the GPA, like how to skirt Upper Nazareth's zoning ordinance. Through the GPA, Brown paid Lushis an obscene amount of money.

While using GPA Solicitor to advise him on matters having nothing to do with the GPA, Brown had then County Solicitor Ryan Durkin advise the GPA on the myriad of suits it could file against the County should the incoming administration decide to back out of a public-private partnership agreement for the repair or replacement of 33 bridges.

What is the GPA anyway?

It was first established by Northampton County Council on May 6, 1999, pursuant to the Municipality Authorities Act. It initially served as a conduit for former Executive Glenn Reibman's controversial $111 million multi-purpose bond. Over the years, it has been a conduit for the issuance of both taxable and tax exempt bonds to help finance public and private projects, mostly with hospitals and universities. It also administers the NorCo Loan and Development Fund and the Community Investment Partnership Program Revolving Loan Fund. But it may exercise any powers authorized by the Municipality Authorities Act. In 2016, became the lead agency involved in a plan to refurbish or replace 33 county-owned bridges at a cost of $38 million, with the work being done by Kriger Construction. The lack of transparency surrounding this project, which might actually be very beneficial to the County, is when the problems began.

Two people largely responsible. The first is Executive John Brown, who never understood that county government is much different than a corporate boardroom. The second person at fault is GPA Solicitor John Lushis, who has been funneling large bills to the county through the GPA. He is a member of the Norris McLaughlin law firm. Another member of that firm, Scott Allinson, is currently on trial in Allentown for political corruption. He was also billing the GPA through that firm.

Brown is gone, but Lushis is still giving legal advice to the GPA.

In his report to County Council on February 15, Executive Lamont McClure summed things up.
"It's my view that GPA historically was an authority that provided a wonderful service for St. Luke's, Lafayette, Lehigh, whoever needed to run large bond issues, and the GPA did that for them. I think they got a little bit away from their mission. But with that said, we've isolated what the problem is. I think we're going to over time deal with that problem. I think it's one problem, and I think it will be taken care of in the near term.

"I'll give you an example. In the P3 process [this refers to a deal to rehab or replace 33 county bridges], the Solicitor prepared documents for the contracts that were executed, and then copyrighted them. So all this stuff is paid for by public money, and the Solicitor's law firm has the copyrights.

"So I think we've gotten a little bit beyond the GPA's mission. It's a thing that will not be corrected overnight, but it will get corrected."
He started by appointing Paul Anthony and Frank Pintabone to the GPA. Peg Ferraro, herself a member of that Board, voted No to Pintabone

Today, I'm going to share the bills that Shawn Langen has  provided to the County. From what I'm told, they remain unpaid. Langen made the mistake of submitting his bills at the end of the year, as John Brown was going out the door.

When he was designated in January 2017 as the GPA person who would be checking the work done by a third party engineer that is already checking the work done on the bridge project, Langen said "It's our project," said Langen. "My fear is that if somebody is not watching the third party engineer, I don't want anything to slip through the cracks." Langen added that his costs "would be fully reimbursed by the County," and Lushis said there would be a letter agreement with the County authorizing the payment of $200 per hour.

Whether that agreement actually exists is unknown.

Northampton County Council approved no such agreement. Council member Peg Ferraro, who sits on GPA, was MIA when this appointment was made.

Though Langen has told me that the enabling legislation requires review by someone from outside the county, no one gave that as a reason for hiring him. 

This came at a fortuitous time for Langen, whose employment with Arcadia Development had ended.

Between February and December, Langen charged the County $11,950 for "P3 oversight." This oversight consisted of lengthy meeting with Lushis, review of Lushis bills and even for time spent delivering papers. He charged for letters to Lower Mount Bethel residents, something that really should come from their elected representatives or county workers.

Langen told me he's willing to donate this money to the Third Street Alliance, but only made this pledge after it was learned that he was charging the County.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you how much Lushis has charged the County over the past two years. It makes the Langen bill look like a pittance and is not even complete.

Below are links to each invoice submitted by Langen. I'm a great believer in participatory journalism, and am laying it all out there 

https://www.scribd.com/document/371807636/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Feb-March-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371807796/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-April-May-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371807898/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-June-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371807963/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Jul-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808047/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Aug-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808154/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Sep-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808269/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Oct-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808619/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Nov-2017-part-1

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808721/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Dec-2017

Friday, February 16, 2018

NorCo Paid $3,390 For Lushis Firm Copyrights at GPA

Earlier this week, I told you that Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA) Solicitor John Lushis is the attorney who represents Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA) incredibly copyrighting six agreements he's prepared for the GPA. According to the U.S. Copyright office, These documents were all registered on 10/5/17 under the following copyright numbers: TX0008456750; TX0008456708; TX0008456702; TX0008456704; TX0008456707; and TX0008456700.

Lushis has made these documents the property of the law firm Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus.

I now have the bills that Lushis's firm submitted to the County in 2016 and 2017.

I'll be reporting on them this Monday, but thought you'd like to know that Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus.actually charged the county for the cost of registering these copyrights.

According to invoice #10797926, the county was billed $3,390 to file six copyright applications on 10/5/17.

A copyright application costs between $35-55 

Oh yeah, this story is copyrighted, so watch out! ©

NorCo Council Revokes $10 Million DaVinci Grant

By a 7-2 vote, NorCo Council voted last night to revoke a $10 million grant of hotel taxes to the DaVinci Science Center proposed in Easton. The ordinance passed by a lame duck Council in December would have shackled the County with annual payments of $250,000 over the next 40 years.

Earlier in the evening, when Human Services administrators complained about shortfalls in state funding for mental health, John Cusick complained that the state was more interested in subsidizing bug farms. And when the DaVinci Center came up for a vote, e added that the plan was completely changed six weeks after the grant was approved. He suggested that DaVinci Executive Director Lin Erickson had not been forthright, and reminded everyone that he failed to tell Council about a competing aquarium being considered in Monroe County.

Erickson herself was absent. Her continued presence at Council meetings and repetitive pitches were beginning to annoy some council members.

Instead of Erickson, Council heard from Easton Mayor Sal Panto and DaVinci trustee Jane Ervin. They both seemed to recognize that the grant was going to be pulled but asked council to keep an open mind when a new pitch for funding is made at a March 1 committee meeting.

"Be bold, think big," urged Ervin.

"Exercise caution, fiscal prudence," countered Cusick.

"I'm not going to hostage the county for 40 years," said Lori Vargo Heffner.But she added that neither she nor anyone on Council is anti-Easton and is willing to listen to the March 1 proposal. Ron Heckman said that if it were up to him, he'd move county offices downtown.

Even Bob Werner, who represents Easton on Council, said that a grant that goes on for 40 years is too much. But he still voted against revoking the ordinance. Peg Ferraro, who also voted No to revocation, was most concerned that this year's $250,000 go into DaVinci's coffers.

That depends on what Council approves.

Bucky Szulborski Appointed NorCo Controller

Richard "Bucky" Szulborski, who served on Bethlehem City Council for 12 years before voluntarily stepping down in 1995, was appointed  NorCo Controller last night in a 6-2-1 vote by County Council. Steve Barron resigned in January after being confirmed as Fiscal Affairs Director.

Voting for Szuloborski were Ken Kraft, Ron Heckman, Tara Zrinski, Bill McGee, Lori Vargo Heffner and Peg Ferraro. Voting  No were John Cusick and Bob Werner. Matt Dietz abstained.

Cusick, a Republican had urged Council to vote for Hayden Phillips. But other than Matt Dietz, he was unable to attract any support. Cusick, Dietz and Phillips are all Republicans.

Szulborski is a Democrat.

Dietz abstained in the vote for Szulborski, primarily because he said he would have liked to have heard from all three candidates. One of those candidates was at last night's meeting and asked to speak, but he made his request after courtesy of the floor was over.

Though Werner never explained his No vote,it may be the result of an apparent Sunshine Act violation on January 31, when the Personnel Committee met to review the applications without advertising. Council President Ken Kraft took responsibility for this error at Wednesday's Personnel Committee, where the applications were reviewed again in public, and the public was afforded two opportunities to speak.     

Szulborski has an extensive record of community service to various organizations, including Camelot for Children, the Catholic Youth Organization, the Sun Inn Preservation Association, the Bethlehem Recreation Commission, the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission and the Bethlehem Area Public Library Board.

Szulborski told Council that he does engage in real estate sales on a part-time basis on evenings and weekends. He said he has no interest in running for the job when his term expires in two years.

After Jerry Seyfried had imparted his pearls of wisdom to Council (see below), Szulborski told me that you if you cut the edges off of pills, you remove the side effects.

It's County Executive Night in NorCo!


They say that if two former county executives touch each other, the universe as we know it will cease to exist. But that did not happen last night when. by strange coincidence, three former county executives and current Executive Lamont McClure converged in NorCo Council's meeting room. From left to right, they include current Exec Lamont McClure, former NorCo Exec Glenn Reibman, former NorCo Exec Gerald E. "Jerry" Seyfried, and former Lehigh County Executive Jane Ervin.

McClure was smart enough to tap two former Executives very familiar with Northampton County, to serve on different boards. Glenn, looking trim and fit as always, was unanimously confirmed to the Airport Authority. Jerry, who made sure everyone knew he was sporting an Eagles' jacket, was unanimously appointed to the retirement (pension) board. Jane Ervin, looking beautiful as always, was at Council to make a pitch for the DaVinci Science Center.


Seyfried, who was sporting a $19 oilskin outback hat in a poor imitation of me, decided to impart some pearls of wisdom to the new County Council that he's gleaned in his 70 plus years of existence on Planet Earth."Never ever take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time."

Good to know.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

NorCo Parents Want Voting Out of Schools

Korry Franke
Tonight, Northampton County Council is expected to vote on five members of the Elections Commission. Executive Lamont McClure has nominated Democrats Kathy Fox, Deb Hunter and George Treisner as well as Republicans Mary Diggs and Maude Hornik to serve for two-year terms. A group of citizens want the Elections Commission to stop conducting elections at local schools, and were at last night's Personnel Committee to insist that Elections Commissioners pledge to move polling places out of schools as a condition of their appointment. They are especially concerned about voting at the Butz Elementary School in Bushkill Township, and are circulating an online petition that has already garnered 1,792 signatures. Though McClure has tweeted that he supports moving the polling place at this school, he has declined to insist that Commissioners make such a promise. 

Korry Franke was upset that McClure failed to explain in detail the criteria he used to choose commissioners. "The most important criteria we used was hope," tweeted McClure. "The hope that these volunteers would agree to accept the appointment and serve."

Franke called this answer "unacceptable and irresponsible." He called on Council to require nominees to state whether they agree that voting at schools creates an additional risk to children. He wants them to agree to use schools as an election site only if there is no acceptable alternative. Finally, he wants Commissioners to agree to move voting from Butz Elementary because the Bushkill Volunteer Fire Co. has agreed to make its facility available. Franke said that McClure should be relying on more than mere hope. "Otherwise, we're left to wonder whether these selections might have been made, perhaps,out of personal or party loyalty," he said in a prepared statement. He added that "the outdated practice of using schools as polling places needs to end."

McClure made no attempt to defend himself. So let me. As I told Franke at the meeting, he needs to read the Home Rule Charter. If he did, he'd know that Executive McClure has very little discretion with these nominations. The Executive receives three names from the party that gets the greatest number of votes, and two names from the party having the second highest vote total. He can make his own nominations only if the party chairs refuse to provide him with a list. It is completely political because that is what the Charter provides.

I happen to believe the Charter is wrong, and this is one of the many reasons why I advocated a home rule charter study. But we're stuck with it.

One of the names that McClure received, Maude Hornick, happens to be the sister of GOP county chair Lee Snover. I am sure she was selected precisely because of her party loyalty. Another nominee, George Treisner, is a long-time Dem Committeeman. It's all about party loyalty.

Though it's hard for a politician to ignore a petition signed by 1700 people, I see nothing wrong with voting at a public school. I see no public safety issues and in 2007, a Northampton County Court ruled that a school district must make its facilities available for voting.

HS Hoops: Beca v. Central Holy War Looms on Friday Night

I never expected this, but come Friday night, there will be a Holy War between Bethlehem Catholic and Allentown Central Catholic. Not just the boys' teams. Not just the girls' teams. Both teams. On the first Friday of Lent, no less. In a double header, The Vikettes will face the Hawkettes at Bethlehem's Liberty gym for the East Penn Conference championship at 6 pm. The Vikings and Hawks will follow at 8 pm.

Both Vikettes and Vikings won their semifinal battles on Wednesday night at Liberty. The Vikettes defeated Freedom, 49-32, while the Central boys squeaked by East Stroudsburg South's Cavaliers, 54-51.

There was nothing cavalier about the way East Stroudsburg South played. They are in many ways a mirror image of Central, relying on a fierce defense and guard-oriented offense. Central Point Guard Jay Vaughan was held to just three points in the first half, but managed to break free and score another 11 in the second. He led the team in scoring with 14. He also had 5 assists and 4 rebounds.

Keyshawn "the beast" Kellman is who saved Central. He scored 5 field goals from inside the paint, and grabbed 12 rebounds. Jordan McChristian, Nick Filchner and Chad Kratzer added 7 points apiece.

The person who was bottled up through the night was the team's leading scorer, Dat Lambert. He was guarded the way he likes to guard others and simply was unable to get open. He took just one shot in the first half, and missed. He had just one field goal during limited action in the second half. But as the game was drawing to a close and the Cavaliers threatened, he was put back in action and sealed the victory for the Vikings by going 6-6 in free throws. He ended the night with 8.

These games had to be a welcome relief for the Vaughan family. Daughter Emily and sons Sam and Jay all play for Central. Most of the games were at the same time, meaning they had to divide them up. Anne and Jeff finally had a chance to watch sons and daughter play in back-to-back games.

They will have the same opportunity on Friday night.

Pope Benedict is picking Becahi to win, but Pope Francis is saying Central-2 over the Hawks. Neither is speaking ex cathedra, so you never know.

The Morning Call's Keith Groller has an excellent recap that includes a great interview with Keeshawn Kellman.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Correction: NorCo Corrections Officer's Death NOT Flu Related

Earlier today, I scared the hell out of a few county employees, including the Executive, when I reported that the flu had claimed the life of a 29 year old corrections officer. But I was mistaken. It turns out that this officer's death, while tragic, had nothing to do with the flu. I apologize for getting it wrong.

I first began receiving reports about this fatality early in the week in the form of anonymous comments posted here. Then today, I was approached by a local attorney who provided me with a copy of a memo that Court administrator Jermaine Greene provided to the entire court, reporting on the death as flu-related  Greene added that a second officer was on life support with flu-related symptoms.

In addition to publishing a story, I emailed administrators at the jail asking that they inform the public as soon as possible as this is a matter of public health.

Less than an hour later, Executive Lamont McClure contacted me to say that, though an officer had passed away, it had nothing to do with the flu. Nor is a second corrections officer on life support as a result of the flu

The officer who passed away is Thomas Michael LeBeau Jr., 29, of Bethlehem Twp. He is a Bloomsburg University graduate.

McClure declined to provide additional details concerning the death.

Though this flu season has been virulent, it has killed no corrections officer.

I apologize again for getting it wrong.

Corrected 10:19 pm.

McClure Nominates Pintabone, Anthony to Embattled GPA

Executive Lamont McClure has nominated two people to serve on Northampton County's embattled General Purpose Authority (GPA).

Paul Anthony, a Bethlehem resident and business manager at IBEW Local 375, has been nominated as a successor to Helene Whitaker, who served on the board for five years. Whitaker asked McClure to remove her from consideration. If conformed, Anthony will serve until 12/31/22.

Frank Pintabone, an Easton landscaper who served as President on Easton's often contentious school board, will fill the vacancy created by the sudden resignation of Neal Koplin and serve until the end of 2019.

GPA Solicitor John Lushis has huffed that the GPA, and only the GPA, can appoint someone to a mid-term vacancy. He relies on a provision in the Municipal Authorities Act under which the authority, and not the municipal governing body, "shall" name someone to the unexpired term.

So they shall. McClure wants them to name Pintabone. Although the imperative "shall" is used in the statute, that is usually construed as permissive and not mandatory unless a contrary intention is manifest. No such contrary intention is manifest. Under the Lushis interpretation, the entire board could resign mid-term, and no one would have the authority to appoint replacements. It's an absurd interpretation. In this case, the best resolution is that the GPA "shall" appoint the choice recommended by Norco Council.

I don't know whether Lushis copyrighted his legal advice.

The other five members of the GPA are Shawn Langen, Mike Dowd, Peg Ferraro, Mark Schiavone and Shawn Donahue.

Fearraro's term expires 12/31/20, but she may be there illegally. She was a member of the governing body that appointed her. Though the law may have changed,the courts at one time frowned on Council members appointing themselves to authorities. The state Supreme Court once said that "there is ‘a virtual unanimity of opinion’ among all reasonable men that it is against public policy for a public official to appoint himself to another public office within his gift ... ."

John Cusick has usually opposed the appointment of Council members and Executives to these boards.

Glenn Reibman Proposed For Airport Authority

Executive Lamont McClure has nominated one of his predecessors, Glenn Reibman, to serve on the airport authority. Reibman was NorCo Executive for two terms. If confirmed by Council, he will serve for the next five years. He will replace Anne Baum, a Capital Blue Cross exec and one of the Lehigh Valley's most prominent women in business. 

Fed Ed Just Convicted Himself

Those of you following the Fed Ed trial know that the U.S. Attorney has rested, and without calling Mike Fleck. I consider that a mistake, but it might be harmless error. FBI agents today played their taped interview with Fed Ed, in which he told numerous very obvious lies. His fatal flaw? Hubris. This Chicago transplant underestimated the FBI and guaranteed his own conviction. You can read Emily Opilo's tweets to see the hole he's dug for himself. If he does testify in his own defense, as his attorney promised, he's going to be torn apart with his taped display of arrogance. There's even a possibility that the feds will call Fleck in rebuttal.

This case is over.

Goin' Off the Deep End

I went off the deep end Tuesday. I had a really good breakfast at Angelo's, an excellent Easton eatery, with a good friend. I had my usual delicious lunch at the courthouse, followed by a taco dinner at Nazareth's Rice 'n Beans, including a side dish of rice 'n beans and lime soda. Then, I had a peanut butter pie from Bethlehem's Vegan Treats as a desert.

That's going off the deep end for me.

Then there's the case of a North Catty man who was going to step out with his wife. But he decided instead to grab a bat that happened to be laying around and beat his wife's brains in.

"I went off the deep end," was his explanation.

His notion of going off the deep end and mine are two different things.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

GPA Lawyer Copyrighted Work Done for NorCo

John Lushis is the attorney who represents Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA). He's the guy who permitted that board to meet in the back room at their very first meeting this year, smack dab in front of County Executive Lamont McClure and Council President Ken Kraft. He actually had the temerity to defend this illegal action when I confronted him. He's the one who has been dragging his feet in responding to my right-to-know requests for his legal bills.

Guess what?

He's been copyrighting the agreements he's prepared for the GPA. According to the U.S. Copyright office, he's copyrighted six documents that he prepared, either as an agent of the GPA or as some sort of super secret stealth Solicitor to former Executive John Brown. These include a Public-Private Partnership Agreement (original and final), P3 Project Administration Agreement (original and final) and P3 License Agreement (original and final). These documents were all registered on 10/5/17 under the following copyright numbers: TX0008456750; TX0008456708; TX0008456702; TX0008456704; TX0008456707; and TX0008456700.

Instead of registering these documents with the GPA or Northampton County, who paid for them, Lushis has made these documents the property of the law firm Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus.

Another attorney who worked at that firm, Scott Allinson, is currently on trial in Allentown for political corruption. 

Lushis obviously intends to benefit financially from the work he did for Northampton County. This would be in addition to the money he was paid as a supposed public servant.

Under the law, work done by an officer or employee of the federal government, when done as part of that person's official duties, is considered to be in the public domain. Though it's possible for state and local government to seek copyrights, public policy prevents their application to "edicts of government." This includes judicial opinions, administrative rulings, legislative enactments, public ordinances and similar official legal documents that have the force of law. (Compendium 313.6(C)(2)).

It's questionable whether these documents are subject to copyright. But assuming that they are, the protected party should be Northampton County, not some law firm in Allentown.

I'm still waiting for the Lushis bills.Maybe they've been copyrighted, too.

Oh yeah, this story is copyrighted, so watch out! ©

15th Congressional District Endorsements Pile Up

Congressional candidate Susan Wild received some publicity yesterday that I'm sure she'd prefer to avoid. She testified for the government in the federal prosecution of Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. She's Allentown's former Solicitor, and handled herself with integrity, but there are those who will blast her as well, usually anonymously.

But she's received a flurry of endorsements that include former Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller and the following current or former members of Allentown City Council: Courtney Robinson, Candida Affa, and Cynthia Mota, Ray O’Connell and David McGuire. She also has the endorsement of the Bobsey twins, State Reps. Pete Schweyer and Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg.

Congressional candidate Greg Edwards is supported by Bethlehem City Council member Olga Negron, Common Defense and several left-wing PACs from out of the area.

I am unaware of any endorsements for candidates Bill Leiner or Dave Weidman.

I told you yesterday about the Lehigh Valley Labor Council's endorsement of John Morganelli for Congress. Business agent Ken Kraft pointed out to me the labor Council is actually a collection of the following trade unions: Insulators and Asbestos Local 23; Boilermakers Local 13 Bricklayers; Tilesetters and Cement Masons Local 5; Cement Masons and Plasterers Local 592; Electricians IBEW Local 102; Electricians IBEW Local 375; Elevator Constructors Local 84; Glaziers, Architectural Metal Workers Local 252 DC 21; Heavy and Highway Laborers Local 158; Ironworkers Local 36; Laborers Local 1174; Millwrights Local 1906; Painters Local 1269 DC 21; Plumbers Local 690; Road Sprinkler Fitters Local 669; Roofers and Waterproofers Local 30; Sheet Metal Workers Local 19; Steamfitters Local 420; and Teamsters Local 773.

As for the Republicans, I have no idea what is going on at this moment. I would think that Ryan MacKenzie will have a tough time against Oluympic medalist Marty Nothstein. This might explain why his campaign office sent me a juvenile hit piece aimed at Nothstein. That's something I'd expect from Justin Simmons. Dean Browning was hoping to stand out in a large field of candidates. I think his chances have faded. 

Should Nazareth School Director Step Down?

Should Nazareth School Director Linda McDonald resign? Should a court be asked to remove her? These are questions currently being considered by Nazareth parents who are upset that recently elected school director Linda Director Linda McDonald may have been improperly elected.

McDonald has served on the sometimes contentious school board before, and in various capacities. She's been president and VP . But she resigned, effective January 11, 2016. She told the Board she was moving to Massachusetts at the end of 2015.

At the time of her resignation, she was employed at Essroc as a development analyst. Essroc does have a plant in Massachusetts.

According to an anonymous letter I received over the weekend, McDonald registered to vote in Massachusetts and even voted there in the November 2016 election.

Recently, McDonald found a new job with Air Products as a business support coordinator. Her LinkedIn page indicates she started there in July 2017.

In October 2017, she purchased a home in Upper Nazareth at Westminster Way.  In November 2017, she waged a write-in campaign for school director and won.

But did she reside in the school district for a full year before her election?

Section 322 of the Public School Code provides that a school director must be a citizen, at least 18 years old, of good moral character, and a resident of the school district for at least one year prior to the date of election or appointment. It is questionable whether McDonald meets this residency requirement.

According to my information, she has attended no meetings since her election, but she will be brought in as needed by some of the more senior directors who are unconcerned about whether she was lawfully elected so long as she votes with them.

I have reached out to McDonald but have heard nothing.

The appropriate way to remove McDonald from office is by quo warranto. Only the District Attorney or his designee has such authority.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Boys' Hoops: Allentown Advances to Semi-Final in EPC Tournament

Morning Call senior sports writer Keith Groller is a lucky man. He was at this year's Super Bowl, and had a series of great stories that made me feel like I was there. But he's #alwayswatching. He somehow managed to keep on eye on things here. Tonight, he covered the EPC quarter final between Northampton and Allentown Central Catholic, which was played at Rockne Hall. His excellent story is here, and I am supplementing it with a box score.

It didn't hit me until about an hour after the game was over that I had just watched my grandson play his last game at Rockne Hall.The team will go on to play in the EPC tournament semifinal on Wednesday. Then there will be districts and possibly even states. But this was the last time that Dat, Jay Vaughan, Jordan McChristian, Dennis Csentsis and Keeshawn Kellman played together at Rockne. Kevin Kern, who injured his ankle earlier in the season, was cleared today and suited up. It was too early for him to play, but it was nice to see him ready to go. These guys are selfless, something that is increasingly rare in high school basketball. But it works.

Having said that, I want to congratulate Northampton's coaching staff, for what its worth. In their last game of the season,one of their players committed a technical foul. The coaches could have played him against Central. No rule prevented it. But the coaches decided  to make the player sit out the game.

In the opening prayer at Central home games, we are reminded that the gym is really a classroom where good sportsmanship is taught.

Northampton's coaches would rather teach a young man a lesson than win a game.

That's class.

On Wednesday, Allentown Central Catholic will face East Stroudsburg South while Bethlehem Catholic will take on the Allen Canaries. At this point, the team is tentatively scheduled to play at Liberty High Schoolat 7:30 pm, following the girls' game.

Box Score

ACCHS - 64, Northampton - 48

Northampton -6-9-19-48
Central Catholic -18-20-15-64

Northampton (48)

Donte Rodriguez: 3  3FGs - 9
Aiden Ellwood: 4FGs, 4 3FGs, 0/2 FTs  - 20
Cory Weisenberger: 1 FGs, 1 3FG, - 5
Zachary Gula: 2 3FG - 6
Michael Torres: 4 FGs, - 8

Central Catholic (64)

Jay Vaughan: 2/4 3FG, 2/4 FG, 2 steals, 10 assists, 4 rebounds - 10
Keeshawn Kellman: 6/8 FGs, 1/3 FTs, 8 rebounds, 1 block -12
Jordan McChristian: 3/4 3FGs, 1/1 FG, 3/4 FTs, 1 assists, 3 rebounds - 14
Dat Lambert: 3/6 3FG, 2/5 FGs, 5/5 FTs, 1 steal, 2 rebound - 18
Nick Filchner: 3/5 3FG, 0/1 FG, 5 assists, 32 rebounds.- 9.

Blogger's Note: You can see scores from other local schools on my left sidebar. 

GPA Continues to Stall RTK Seeking Lawyer Bills

Former NorCo Exec Bill Brackbill once likened government authorities to "runaway trains." They may start off in the right direction, but there is always a danger that they will go off track. That seems to be the case at the Northampton County General Purpose Authority (GPA). It started off the new year with a Sunshine Act violation. It paid an unknown sum (believed to be $60,000-70,000) to the very public relations firm that former Executive John Brown was using to promote himself, oblivious to the public outrage and lawsuits. Last year, without the knowledge or assent of NorCo Council, it voted to pay $200 per hour to Board Chair Shawn Langen so he could review engineering work done for a bridge project. Solicitor John Lushis may have been doing side work for Executive John Brown and passing the bills through the GPA. He wagged his finger in the  face of the County Administrator following a meeting last week. And now, Lushis is dragging his feet on a Right-to-Know request for information from GPA, including Lushis's bills.

I submitted two Right-to-Know requests in January, asking for the Lushis bills, the public relations bills, and all correspondence concerning the jail, especially at Gracedale  After playing some games about my requests, Lushis agreed to respond to me by February 15. That would be this week.

But late Friday, Lushis sent me an email telling me he wanted another extension until April 15 because there were 3,000 documents. This stall tactic is being used in the forlorn hope that I will lose interest. I won't.

I can understand a delay might be needed if the request is more burdensome than I originally thought it would be. But he needs to produce his legal bills. Now.

Below is my response to Lushis:

Mr. Lushis,

I have filed two Right-to-Know requests seeking information from the General Purpose Authority (GPA). In both, I made clear that I would agree to an extension, so long as it was to a date certain. You serve the GPA body as Solicitor and Right-to-Know Officer. You sought such an extension until February 15. This was not fine with me, but I kept my word and posed no objection.

On Friday, February 9, at the end of the day, you wrote to advise me you wanted yet another extension until April 15. This is because you suddenly discovered that over 3,000 documents need review.

I will agree in part to your request, although this is now a second date certain. I have no desire to unduly burden staff .

At this point, when you are ready to release these documents, have someone contact me so I can make an appointment to review them and determine how many copies are needed. Having done this before, I know that there is lots of duplication.

But I agree to no additional extension with respect to your legal invoices. They were approved at numerous meetings as a matter of public record. I have made no request that you disclose any legal advice you may have provided. I simply want and have a right to know how much the taxpayers paid you, and immediately. This is information at your fingertips. Your delay at this point smacks of bad faith.

Why are you hiding what the public pays you?

I expect you to produce your legal invoices on the agreed date of February 15, along with a record of all payments made to you.


Thank you.

Bernie O'Hare