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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Despite Efforts to Keep Public in Dark, GPA Meeting Is Broadcast

Yesterday, I told you that Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA) was meeting that day at 8:15 am. It was a "special" meeting designed to keep the public away. For one thing, it was scheduled for the Human Services Building, not Council Chambers. For another, it was also a teleconference meeting. Pretty hard to participate when no phone number is provided.  The meeting was called concerning Ron Heckman's invitation to appear at his Wednesday Finance Committee. He's concerned about Solicitor John Lushis' excessive bills over two years, which do add up to $813,000.

I was more than a little surprised to go on the county website yesterday and learn that I was able to listen to the meeting  Someone in the County hooked it up to the video system, so whether the GPA likes it or not, their pearls of wisdom have been recorded. 

As usual, Solicitor John Lushis dominated the meeting as though he were a member of the Board and not there to provide legal advice. He even went so far as to start talking about a new P3 project he wants to run through the GPA He had to be told to stop talking.

During this meeting, Chair Shawn Langen called the invitation "political,'and called Heckman's meeting a "dog and pony show." He said he wouldn't go.

His sidekick, Shawn Langen, said Lushis' $813,000 bill was actually "reasonable." He vowed to boycott Heckman's meeting, too. 

Peg Ferraro had a different view. "We absolutely have to show up," she said. "How does it look if we don't show up?"  Frank Pintabone said much the same thing.

Somewhere along the way, Chair Shawn Langen got disconnected. When he returned to the meeting, he warned everyone that there were listeners.

"We do have 11 callers, so there's a handful that haven't identified, so there's a head's up," Langen warned everyone.

"Did you say 11 callers?"asked Lushis.

"Yeah I was the 11th caller." Then he gave this warning.  "So everyone knows, there is a list of numbers generated from this phone call. A list of the phone numbers. Not the individuals' names."

After this, Langen and Donahue decided they would go the meeting after all. But not Lushis. He said it would be "improper," but wanted everyone to know that "a lot of information about this project that is flat out incorrect." He said claims that he was paid $813,000 are "absolutely incorrect."

"It is up to us to educate everybody to what is going on,." responded Frank Pintabone, but that won't be happening.

Shawn Donahue told Pintabone, quite condescendingly, that he is "drinking from the fire hose with information that is being thrown at you."

But it's not appropriate for Lushis to explain. They will instead provide CDs in which 95% of the information has been redacted

Heckman told me he likes dogs and ponies.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is their problem? Do they even have a notion they are using the publics money? Are they above reproach? Who voted for them.

Anonymous said...

The accusation about being kept in the dark is rather ridiculous. A sitting County Council member has been approving the payments all along. She should have been providing an unprecedented level of transparency. The GPA is slimy. But an elected official who facilitated the sliminess is extraordinarily slimy and should resign from all positions in county government. If she wasn’t your friend, you ask for her to resign everyday until she does. Transparency was not the problem. Sleazy or no oversight was.

Jeff Fox said...

Anonymous @ June 19, 2018 at 12:04 PM

"People don't really care about all this. Look at the comments. Why the big deal?"

Perhaps, the sentiment expressed in your comment is exactly why the GPA and especially chair Shawn Langen and solicitor John Lushis have been allowed to operate in such a manner. Langen and Lushis do not seem to understand the role of oversight. They do not seem to hold the people of Northampton County and Northampton County itself in very high regard. They do not seem to understand the concept of governmental transparency. They seem to think of themselves as more important than they ought. They are not public servants. Their attitudes and actions speak otherwise. The GPA needs a new chairman and new legal counsel. Why it has not happened already, I do not know. The question, "Why the big deal?", itself expresses an attitude which has enabled us to get to this point.

Anonymous said...

Will they provide the documents requested?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, they had to believe they were operating with impunity while a sitting council member was also approving their payments. Why she was asleep at the switch is the real oversight question. The watchdog was not watching ... or worse.

Anonymous said...

Someone showed me the original contract and minutes. The fact that a sitting county council approved this monstrosity is the real shame. They approved a blank check to the GPA and also signed away their right to question or enforce county law. This was really stupid.

Anonymous said...

I listened to their meeting. They seem very on edge. They claim they don't have to answer any questions they don't like. Has this ever been the way any other county organization operated?

They are very condescending to the county elected officials. Their snarky insults to Mr. Heckman are childish and unprofessional. They sound like they want a lawsuit so the lawyers can make more money. Given they are appointed, they really come off as being better than others.

It sounds like they are bringing their lawsuit lawyer they want to use to sue the county. Maybe if that lawyer shows up, the county council should just stop the meeting as it appears the GPA is not acting in good faith and just fishing for a lawsuit.

Jeff Fox said...

Anonymous @ June 19, 2018 at 4:45 PM

I like Peg, her heart is certainly in the right place. She has dedicated herself in service to this county for many years. That says something. That means something. I agree that Peg was complicit and must take responsibility for her role in getting to where we are. I don't agree that her presence on the GPA would have, nor should have, given the GPA the belief that they were "operating with impunity". It comes down now to a matter of character. Mr. Langen and Mr. Lushis are not looking good in that department, IMHO. If the GPA was transparent and had nothing to hide or be concerned about, we simply would not see the maneuvering and attitude(s) we see coming from the GPA and its leadership. Mr. Langen and Mr. Lushis should put the interests of Northampton County and its' people above their own. They have not. They should resign. The GPA needs new leadership and new counsel.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if anyone showed up and answered any questions?

Anonymous said...

Council ain't going to mess with these guys and get sued.