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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, February 08, 2018

NorCo GPA Board Members Need to Go

GPA Chair Langen poses with Glenn Geissinger,
just days before the election, and you paid for this
lousy picture.  
NorCo General Purpose Authority (GPA) Chair Shawn Langen insisted at Monday's meeting that he is completely apolitical. He made the same claim in a separate meeting with me. But the facts tell a different story. It prostituted itself to help former Executive John Brown in his bid for re-election.  Its Chairman began charging the County for work, something that has never happened before and was never disclosed to Northampton County Council. It has also lost sight of its role as nothing more than a conduit for loans. It instead began taking steps so it could market itself as the place for local governments to come if they want to do a P3 project. It would do nothing for the County. But it might help Solicitor John Lushis line his pockets.Its time to seek resignations from the entire board. Helene Whitaker, whose term already expired at the end of last year, has told current Executive Lamont McClure that she's done. Another board member, Neal Koplin, has resigned. That leaves the Board with five members who need to go.

Last year, the GPA hired Sahl Communications, the very same firm that Executive John Brown had hired at public expense to try and make himself look good. the result was two lawsuits. Despite what happened, GPA hired Sahl at Brown's request and paid this firm was paid between $60,000-70,000 in public funds in a thinkly veiled attempt to get himself re-elected.

Sahl created a completely web page for the GPA, even though one already exists as part of the county web page. Sahl also set up a Facebook page, loaded with pictures of John Brown. They are still there, even though he is no longer the Executive.

Sahl then promoted an October 27 groundbreaking ceremony  for work on the first of 33 bridges being repaired or replaced  Though careful to make sure that I was never informed, Morning Call reporter Tom Shortell was there. He is much nicer than I.

The reason I was kept in the dark is because the groundbreaking ceremony was planned just days before the election. It was obviously political. John Brown, Peg Ferraro and Glenn Geissinger were all seeking re-election, and were hoping to get some free publicity. The Facebook page includes pictures of them all, taken at public expense on election eve.

Shortell, to my knowledge, never ran that story. The Express Times no longer really exists. So the hoped for publicity never came.

A third grader could have done a better job of setting up the Facebook and web page. It was a complete waste of public money.

The five GPA board members who need to go are Mike Dowd, Peg Ferraro, Langen, Mark Schiavone and  Shawn Donahue.

Mike Dowd is a former NorCo Council president, but us the person who actually made the motion to violate the Sunshine Act and go into executive session in January without bothering to explain why. He knows better. Also, he chairs the Airport Authority. One of these shadow governments is enough.

Peg Ferraro was MIA last January, when the Board voted to pay Langen. She may have even been absent when the GPA voted to retain Sahl. She definitely was absent in January, when the Sunshine Act violation occurred. Even at the most recent meeting, she participated by phone from Florida. She clearly lacks the time for this responsibility. In addition, there is caselaw providing that an elected official should not be a part of a board that the elected official helps to appoint. Courts have found this to be contrary to public policy.

I have nothing against Schiavone or Donahue, and perhaps they should be re-appointed. but they should offer their resignations and let McClure decide.

Langen should never have agreed to permit Lushis to work for the GPA and simultaneously work for then Executive John Brown, as some sort of secret P3 Solicitor. This is an inherent conflict of interest. Langen should also have realized that he should never accept a dime without getting approval from NorCo Council, regardless what Lushis might tell him.

The person who really needs to go is board Solicitor John Lushis. He is there to sell P3 projects, not assist what is supposed to be a conduit agency for loans.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you would like to see a purge of all republicans in the Norco government, to be replaced by good loyal democratic party members.

Anonymous said...

County Council does not have to reappoint any of them, even if McClure wants to reappoint them. That would send a clear message regarding power of the people.

Anonymous said...

It’s not like they floated some $100 million bond that saddle taxpayers for generations and provided nothing. You wouldn’t want to hire somebody who made that decision as part of your cabinet. All administrations have sleazeballs.

Anonymous said...

Great detective work sorting this all out Bernie! Your best effort ever! I have had my doubts about the GPA for some time now. Neal Koplin is also on the airport board with Mike Dowd. Both need to go. McClure should boot both of them from the GPA and the airport. Time for change! Godspeed!

Anonymous said...

How's the P3 bridge project on Rt's 33 & 22 progressing? On time & on budget? Same cast of characters involved as mentioned in the post?

Anonymous said...

22/33 run my Commonwealth, not county. Duh ...

Anonymous said...

nice finger over the lens dumb ass.lol

Bernie O'Hare said...

"How's the P3 bridge project on Rt's 33 & 22 progressing? On time & on budget? Same cast of characters involved as mentioned in the post?"

It's too early ti say whether P3 is a good or bad thing. The lack of transparency from Brown and Lushis makes it hard for me to answer that. I believe the first bridge - the one started in October - is now done. Usually, when I hear the words "public private partnership," I think it's bend over time for the taxpayer. But this might be very good and i am willing to wait and see. It would be foolhardy to end the contract for 33 bridges now. It would cost too much money. But it is equally foolhardy to use P3 on other projects without seeing first how this one works.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"nice finger over the lens dumb ass.lol"

We paid for this incompetence.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Sounds like you would like to see a purge of all republicans in the Norco government, to be replaced by good loyal democratic party members."

This has NOTHING to do with political party. Whitaker is not just a Democrat, but is extremely liberal. I have no idea whether Langen is a Dem or Republican, but he was appointed by a Democrat. the only two that I know for sure are Rs are Dowd and Ferraro. And they clearly need to go. Peg was absent in January and called in to the meeting earlier this week. The Supreme Court has held that it is contrary to public policy for council members to appoint themselves to an office that is within their gift. I love her, but she should step down. Same for Dowd. He chairs the airport authority. People serving the GPA or Airport authority should not be asked to serve on other authorities. It is simply too much.

It could very well be that Schiavone and Donahue are treasures, but McClure should have the option of considering their continued existence on the board. As for Langen, he orchestrated the hiring if the shitty propaganda firm for Brown and arranged to have himself paid without first asking Council. He was all too willing to market P3 without first seeking the clearance of the governing body. He needs to go.

The GPA needs to get a grip and dump Lushis, and the sooner the better. He interjects himself on nearly every issue, not as one giving legal advise but as one who seems to think he is a member. he is using the GPA to market P3. Lushis denies this, but Langen himself told me that Lushis was working separately for Brown. That is an ethical conflict. he repeatedly interrupted me during courtesy of the floor and after the meeting, wagged his finger in the face of the county administrator. That is highly unprofessional.

Incidentally, the person who brought that firm and Lushis in is now on trial for political corruption.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" McClure should boot both of them from the GPA and the airport."

Once they are on these authorities, McClure has no power to boot them. But they need to go.

Anonymous said...

Really interesting story Bernie, thanks again for your diligence in reporting this. Seems like public funds going to their buddies and donors, which is wrong, and the fact they tried to hide it and go into "private session" in violation of the Sunshine Act substantiates your concerns. seems like a shadow entity meant to circumvent County authority.

Anonymous said...

Every one of these boards..authorities, LVPC, LVEDC all have things to hide. It's why none of them publish audits or budgets and they all hide behind attorneys.

Don't take my word for it. Call up and ask for salaries or an audit. Gurantee you'll get a response from their attorney first.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, looks like anon 12:57 is the same person that always has a grudge for LVPC and sometimes LVEDC. Not sure how requesting salaries specifically is relevant, but supports my grudge theory and I'm sure they do audits that their respective boards review. Could be someone who worked for one of the two before Cunningham or Bradley showed up and made changes.

If not a grudge, maybe Anon 12:57 should get on their board/s or show up at their meetings and become informed rather than complaining or making blanket statements.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Well, he's full of shit. There are audits and public scrutiny of finances. If anything, there is too little public funding of LVPC, and not enough power.

Anonymous said...

Only 15 comments, people just don’t care, this is amazing, a popcorn machine gets more replies than blatant corruption

Anonymous said...

McClure will reappoint them, no onions. country council needs to step in and not confirm them.

Anonymous said...

Council has no backbone as well. Rubber stamp appointments. Big mistake. New exec and council; nothing changes. Sad.