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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, June 25, 2018

NorCo to Take Closer Look at GPA Finances

Northampton County Controller Richard "Bucky" Szulborski has been requested to audit the County's General Purpose Authority. "The McClure Administration would like to formally request that your office review the recent activities of the Northampton County GPA," states Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron in a letter dated June 21, and hand-delivered to Szulborski right before County Council met.

"It is our belief after hearing from the GPA at their public meetings and in front of Northampton County Council that there was taxpayer money that was spent potentially in violation of the Northampton County Administrative Code," continues Barron. "Our office would like to make sure we have the review of an independent office who can review and recommend a course of action forward."

No matter who is Executive, or who is on County Council, nothing has infuriated Councils more than when an Executive goes behind their backs, intentionally or unintentionally, to spend money in violation of the County's Procurement Code. Former Executive John Brown spent $153,343.50 last year to pay invoices for “special legal services” submitted by GPA Solicitor John Lushis. Council was never consulted concerning this expenditure.

As explained in the County Council resolution adopted on Thursday night,
* Former Executive Brown's authority to hire a special solicitor is set forth in the County's Administrative Code. The only professional service agreements exempted from the Code are those negotiated by the Courts or Human Services. § 13.01e. Professional services defined as "services requiring specialized knowledge, skill and expertise ... ." § 13.02. Procurement authority is vested in the County Executive, subject to approval by Council. § 13.03. All county services, including professional services, must be obtained by one of several forms of competitive negotiation. § 13.07a. Services in excess of $25,000 requires a written contract. § 13.16a. These contracts must be filed in the Procurement Department. § 13.16a. If they exceed $100,000, Council approval is needed. § 13.16c. Contracts for professional services must require that there be a final report provided directly to County Council. § 13.16f.

* These requirements were ignored. There was no competitive negotiation. There is no written contract, and nothing is on file in the Procurement Division. Though former County Executive Brown paid over $100,000, he never sought County Council's approval. No final report was filed. This procedure was done specifically to keep the governing body, County Council, uninformed about plans to use a P3 to build a jail and market it to other municipalities.


Anonymous said...

I hear Brown has some website that he uses to get new clients. Supposedly he uses the P3 type projects as his major accomplishment and claims he can help others do the same. Do you know his website? Is that legal?

Bernie O'Hare said...

He had a statement like that in Facebook and on his Linked-in page, but it was not there Sunday night. I have been sent a screen grab.

Anonymous said...

So they found Brown violated the laws, then what, can he be criminally charged? Made to pay back the money? What can happen?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The following things can happen: 1) Nothing; 2) Surcharge action; 3) Criminal action filed by the DA; and 4) federal charges for a conspiracy to deprive NorCo citizens of the right to honest services, and mail fraud.

In order to bring criminal charges, there must be proof Brown acted intentionally. This can be established by proof that he violated the same provisions of the Admin Code before and was taken to task by Council and was even sued twice. He could argue that Lushis was acting in his capacity as GPA Solicitor and that these services are covered by them. This is untrue as the agreements between the county and GPA relate strictly to the bridges. But Brown may have been acting under that mistaken belief. Intent is a real hurdle.

McClure seems to be more interested in governing that in prosecuting. Those kinds of decisions are better left to others who can act impartially and be fair to everoyone.

Anonymous said...

Kohn Brown Leadership Solutions can help you to be successful. It can guide you through the messy PPP process and find innovative solutions that transmute reality. Just look at how well it has worked in Northampton County.

Anonymous said...

Where's Ron Angle when we need him?

Anonymous said...

It was handled without Ron Angle.

Anonymous said...

If this is such a big deal why have I not read about this in the paper? Is it hype? So far this seems not to be a story or big deal!