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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, August 31, 2018

NorCo Offers Legal Assistance to Seniors

Since his election as Northampton County Executive, Lamont McClure has stressed the important role county government plays in protecting our most vulnerable residents. They could be children, people dealing with special challenges, or our elderly. To that end, the county is expanding its relationship with North Penn Legal Service (NPLS).

NPLS is a non-profit organization which provides legal assistance to low-income people age sixty and over. Staff lawyers help seniors with drafting Wills, Living Wills, and Powers of Attorney. They will also assist in cases of elder abuse. NPLS is certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and represents Northampton County clients who feel they have been victimized by a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

NPLS is working with several departments, including Area Agency on Aging, DCED, St. Luke’s Health Network, Lehigh Valley Health Network and the Allentown Housing Authority to provide information about their services to eligible seniors. They will hold seminars and workshops on reverse mortgages and other housing issues at County Senior Centers this fall.

Several older County residents have reported problems after taking out a reverse mortgage including becoming homeless. Reverse mortgages are a complex financial product and can present pitfalls to anyone who fails to comprehend all the fine print.

Eligible seniors who need assistance can call NPLS at 877-953-4259 or apply on their website: www.northpennlegal.org. The County’s HELP line is also available: 610-829-HELP (4357).

Scheduled Seminars:

September 18, 2018 at 10:00 AM: “Know your Fair Housing Rights” at the Rooney Senior Center, 4 E. 4th Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015.

September 21, 2018 at 1:00 PM: “Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention and Fair Housing Rights” at Meals on Wheels, 4240 Fritch Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18020

November 15, 2018 at 11:00 AM: “Know Your Fair Housing Rights” at the Northampton Senior Center, 902 Lincoln Avenue, Northampton, PA 18067.

Should Grants Be Awarded During Election Season?

Governor Tom Wolf got himself elected on a platform of reform. He crisscrossed the state in his Jeep, a millionaire pretending to be one of the guys. After he was elected, he did impose a gift ban on state workers. He also refused to live at the Governor's mansion, but that's pretty much it. I see little difference between him and the man he beat. There have been no meaningful reform proposals from him since the day he took office. It's been business as usual. Since he's the likely winner in November, I expect things will stay that way. But a man who claims to be ethical really should refrain from handing out taxpayer money at election time. 

Wolf's opponent is a rich garbageman who can't seem to get out of his own way. At the rate he's going, he should be arrested several times for assault before November. It is little wonder Wolf has agreed to only one debate. But this is all the more reason why he should limit himself from handing out taxpayer money at election time.

I was sent a Wolf news release yesterday announcing a $750,000 grant to Fountain Hill for a 40 by 75-foot addition to its existing public works building. This might very well be a good use of taxpayer money. The renovation will alleviate issues caused by numerous additions made to the original 100-year-old public works building. The completed $1.5 million project is expected to house borough street department vehicles, a salt shed and stone bins, an environmentally safe fueling station, locker, shower and break rooms for employees, and areas for storage of the borough’s equipment.

But the timing stinks.

This is just a legal bribe to the residents of Fountain Hill.

The news release includes gushing statements from State Rep. Jeanne McNeill and State Senator Lisa Boscola, both of whom are up for re-election as well. Though neither has a frickin' opponent, the Wolf news release has to make both of them look good.

I will give either Lisa or Jeanne $100 if either of them can prove to me that they've ever set foot in Fountain Hill's Public Works building before today.

If Tom Wolf really is interested in reform, and I tend to think he is only slightly more interested than his opponent, he should stop handing out any taxpayer candy during an election year. State Senators and State Reps Reps should be barred from their oh-so-informative mailers during the year of their re-election.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Joan Rosenthal Bowing Out of Local Government Service

Joan Rosenthal has "done it all." 
When it comes to local government, Joan Rosenthal has done it all. She's been a Northampton County Elections Commissioner off and on over the years. In Hanover Township, she's been a Supervisor, Planning Commissioner and Zoning Hearing Board member. Over the past few years, she's been trying to step aside so that others can serve. "You name it, I was on it," she has said. But not anymore. On August 28, she informed Township that she's stepping down from the Neighborhood Block Watch, another organization she managed for many years.

She told Supervisors, "We don't get a big following. ... Most people in Hanover say, 'Where's the crime?,' but they forget to lock their garage doors or their cars."

She praised the "wonderful cooperation" she's received over the years from Colonial Regional police.

As she made her way to her car after leaving the meeting, Rosenthal expressed her appreciation to Hanover Supervisors. "You know, they once gave me a day. Joan Rosenthal Appreciation Day," she said with a faint smile. "I don't know what I'll do with myself now."

I think she knows.

Rosenthal is a Republican and a steadfast member of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party. She loves to listen to their guest speakers, and defies the stereotype often painted of conservative Republicans. She's smart, informed and an eloquent speaker.

Her departure is a big loss to good government advocates, whether on the left or the right.

When Supervisors got down to business, they voted 4-0 to grant a conditional waiver to JG Petrucci, who is developing LV Flex Center at 3900 Burgess Place. Though his plan includes an infiltration system for stormwater, it is located within 50' of bedrock. He will be required t o comply with the Township Engineer's directions, and note them on his plan.

Petrucci has deposited $250,000 with the Township for any problems that result from the infiltration system. The township will hold that sum for the next 15 years.

In other business, Supervisors approved grant applications to the Commonwealth Financing Authority for a field house at First Responder Park. Public Works Director Vince Milite reported that a sinkhole opened up at the park, and it took 13 truckloads of flowable fill to close it.

Supervisors also authorized a $204,000 payment to Excellance, Inc. for a new ambulance. Manager Jay Finnigan reporter that $232,000 has been budgeted.

Road resurfacing is under way. Southland and Macada Drive have both been resurfaced. Supervisors authorized a $149,000 payment to Schlough, Inc. for the repaving work at Southland Drive.

Supervisor Susan Lawless was unavailable.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Thode: Is "Interpersonal Violence" Really a Problem at LU?

Blogger's Note: Dr. Stephen F. Thode has been director of the Murray H. Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies since the center's creation in 1988. From time to time, he makes the mistake of sharing his thoughts with me.

Yesterday, the entire Lehigh community (students, faculty and staff) was informed that all must complete mandatory training on interpersonal violence. The training is entitled, "Not Anymore." Let us all agree that any violence against persons is a terrible thing.

But, how big a problem is interpersonal violence at Lehigh?

Today, the Lehigh Police Department released its annual report on crime at Lehigh. I have reproduced the Federal Campus Crime statistics from that report below:

As you can see, for all of calendar year 2017, the Lehigh community experienced a grand total of five (5) reported violent crimes against persons (2 rapes, 1 fondlings, 1 robbery, and 1 dating violence). Additionally, the "Hate Crimes" data is on the same page. Not a single "hate crime" has been reported in the last 3 years. Given the report also says that there are more than 8,400 persons in the Lehigh community (students, faculty and staff), that means that less than one-tenth of one percent of persons in the Lehigh community were the victims of violent crime, and, even if every perpetrator was a member of the Lehigh community, less than one-tenth of one percent of persons in the Lehigh community were perpetrators of violent crime.

Put another way, 99.9%+ of the Lehigh community was not a victim of a (reported) violent crime. And, 99.9%+ of the Lehigh community was not a perpetrator of a violent crime against a member of the Lehigh community.

Even if violent crime is underreported by a magnitude of 10 (doubtful it's that great), 99%+ of the Lehigh community was not a victim of a violent crime (reported and unreported). And, 99%+ of the Lehigh community was a perpetrator of violent crime against a member of the Lehigh community (reported and unreported).

Those of you old enough may remember The Great Swine Flu Scare of the mid '70s. The Federal Government urged everyone to get vaccinated. Some got vaccinated. Most did not. Turns out, far more people got sick from the vaccination than from the swine flu itself.

Johnny Carson aptly observed that the vaccine was, "a cure for which there is no known disease."

Looks like we haven't learned much in the past 40 years.

Pittsburgh Becomes Largest US City Without Daily Newspaper

Over the years, I've often data-mined The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for stories relevant to the Lehigh Valley. But The Hill is reporting that this 232 year-old newspaper will no longer be a daily newspaper. After this weekend, there will be five newspapers published weekly, instead of seven. Pittsburgh will become the largest city in the country without a daily newspaper.

What I like about the Internet is that the readers tend to be active and often make significant contributions to my stories. A newspaper, much like television, is passive. You sit and watch or read without any opportunity to share an insight that the author may have missed.

What I dislike about the Internet is that there's such a rush to get a story out that sometimes, mistakes are made. I'm good for at least one a month, and am thankful when a reader corrects me. Print reporters make mistakes, too, but less often.

What I dislike about both print and Internet journalism is the emphasis on keeping stories short. Print journalists have a good reason for doing so - they only get a finite amount of apace. They try to pack as much content in with as few words as possible, a talent I envy. Though the Internet is unlimited, the trend is for stories even shorter than those you'll find in print, for fear that the reader will get bored if he has to read more than three lines.

It's as though everyone has ADD.

I tend to ignore this trend toward short stories  Some people are willing to read 700 words, if they want to be informed. I also do try to engage readers. I may write a story about a meeting I covered, and then get comments from someone who was also there, adding his or her perspective. This is what I like to call participatory journalism. I am beginning to see more of it on various Facebook pages.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Feds: Pawlowski Deserves 155-188 Month Sentence, Immediate Incarceration

Federal prosecutors filed a 32-page sentencing memo yesterday, seeking 155-188 months of imprisonment for disgraced Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. "The government also recommends that the Court remand defendant Pawlowski to the custody of the U.S. Marshals immediately following the sentencing," writes the U.S. Attorneys. So when Fed Ed faces the music next week, he had best bring along a few pairs of rubber underwear.

Sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday, September 5, 10:00 AM, at the U.S. Courthouse in Allentown.

AUSA Anthony Wzoreck explained what this is all about by quoting Theodore Roosevelt.
"[C]orruption strikes at the foundation of all law. Under our form of Government all authority is vested in the people and by them delegated to those who represent them in official capacity. There can be no offense heavier than that of him in whom sacred trust has been reposed, who sells it for his own gain and enrichment. He is worse than the thief, for the thief robs the individual, while the corrupt official plunders an entire city or State.”
To those who claim Fed Ed never acted out of lucre, Wzoreck responds that " Pawlowski put his private interest – his ambition — ahead of the public’s interest in good government. He systematically corrupted the contracting process in Allentown to serve his personal interests."

Fed Ed's two tragic flaws - the "vaulting ambition" of MacBeth and the hubris of Xerxes. 

I predicted 10-12 years and stand by it.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Stay Classy

In the wake of the death of Senator John McCain, there has been an outpouring of tributes from conservatives, moderates and liberals. McCain in his lifetime displayed a sense of civility that has all but disappeared. Even in his death, he has brought people together.

But not Authoritarian Donald Trump. He actually vetoed a statement that would have called McCain a "hero," choosing instead a brief offer of condolences to the family. He instead spent his weekend playing golf, bragging about his approval rating among Republicans, slamming Obama and ignoring a mass shooting in Florida.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham tells The New York Times,

"From Washington all the way through to President Obama, presidents have had to play a unifying and even transcendent role in affirming a sense of national unity. ... It has been and it continues to be almost unthinkable that the 45th president could follow in that tradition, and this is yet another example of his inability to bring disparate forces together even on ceremonial occasions.”

Guess What Allentown's Ex Parking Director Wants to Do at Rehoboth Beach?

Linda Kauffman, Allentown's retired Parking Director, now lives at an undisclosed location at Rehoboth Beach, far from Pa. Dutch cuisine. What's she doing there?

1) Shark fishing? - No. She bolted from disgraced Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski in 2006, not long after he got his start. She obviously dislikes sharks.

2) Whale watching? - No. There's enough of them in Allentown alone.

3) Pushing a parking meter hike? - Bingo.

According to The Cape Gazzette, Kauffman is the Chair of Rehoboth's Parking Committee, and has proposed increasing meter fees, extending the meter season and increasing the enforcement hours.

Cuz' it's been so successful in Allentown.

Kauffman touts herself as an expert because, after leaving Allentown, she went to work for T2 Systems, which touts itself as the biggest seller of parking technology solutions in North America.

Excuse me but that just makes me suspicious. I'd like to know why a parking software company located in Indiana would be interested in someone who graduated with a teacher's degree. Did she help T2 land a deal in Allentown? In any ev3nt, her role at T2 was that of salesperson, not parking expert.

She appears to be acting as a salesperson for T2 now.

Lehigh Valley Weekly Police Blotter

Below is a weekly LV police blotter. If I missed something, please provide a link. If you have a comment that contributes, please share. But I remind you that this thread is not the place for pious condemnations. Also, I am not the ass located by Bangor police.

Bethlehem police seek bank robber. - On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, at approximately 1:30 pm, the Santander Bank on West Union Blvd. in Bethlehem, Lehigh County was robbed by a male of $11,000. The male was dressed in dark clothing, and a firearm was displayed. An amount of cash taken. The male fled on foot towards Allentown. No one was injured in the robbery. The Morning Call reports an arrest warrant has been issue for Kevin Maguire, 33, who lived on Fifth Street.

Easton (and Phillipsburg) Police to host Recovery Walk on 9/1. - in support of overdose awareness day. Walkers from Pa and Jersey will meet at the free bridge and will be handed a flower to toss off the bridge for some reason.

Lower Saucon Police Seek Kitten Thief. - On Sunday, August 19, 2018 at approximately 3:00 pm, a white, middle-aged female and two young children entered the Pet Valu located at 1854 Leithsville Rd Hellertown, PA. It is alleged the female stole a black kitten and various products. If anyone knows this person's identity and/or the whereabouts of the kitten please contact the Lower Saucon Township Police Department via the Crime Watch tip or Northampton County Non-Emergency 610-759-2200, thank you.

Upper Nazareth Police Admit Bribes! -  "NAZZY Moms Unite" dropped off a basket of treats for officers to enjoy while on patrol.

Coplay, Whitehall Police Conduct Active Shooter Drilll. - Getting ready for a "happy and safe" school year.

Bangor Police Locate Big Ass on Ridge Road. - (Not me!)

Emmaus Police Have Busy August.:

Retail Theft: Ashley Godshall, 18, with no known address, was arrested on 8/15/18 for Retail Theft after she removed an item from Turkey Hill 602 Chestnut Street without paying for it. A citation was filed at the Magistrate’s office.

Retail Theft: A 13 year old male was arrested for Retail Theft on 8/14/18 after he removed a pack of cigarettes valued at $7.20 from Turkey Hill 602 Chestnut Street. A citation was filed with the Magistrate’s office.

Theft: reported on 8/10/18 in the 100 block of S 6th Street. Actor removed paver bricks valued at $75 from victim’s property.

Simple Assault: A 17 year old male from Emmaus was arrested on 8/14/18 for Simple Assault and Harassment in the 600 block of Chestnut Street. Charges filed with Lehigh County Juvenile Court.

Theft: reported on 8/14/18 in the 300 block of Minor Street. Actor removed 4 tires valued at $2,000 from victim’s Toyota Venza.

Theft: reported on 8/17/18 at Emmaus Community Park 1401 Shimerville Road. Actor entered victim’s vehicle and removed his wallet and contents totaling $30.

Retail Theft: reported on 8/17/18 at Weis Markets 1220 Chestnut Street. A male removed $511.94 worth of items without paying for same.

Public Drunkenness: Rudy Black, 44, of Emmaus was arrested on 8/18/18 for Public Drunkenness in the 1000 block of Broad Street. A citation was filed with the Magistrate’s office.

Underage Drinking: A 17 year old male from Alburtis was arrested for Underage Drinking on 8/19/18 in the 1400 block of Chestnut Street. A citation was filed with the Magistrate’s office.

Slate Belt Regional Police Acitvate Community Alerts:

Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain RIP

He was a soldier of the United States of America who represented everything that is great about this country. Honor him.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Marty Nothstein Cleared of Undefined Sexual Misconduct in 2000

You can read my story in The Bethlehem Press.

Nothstein Schedules News Conference at Noon

Lehigh Valley Congressional candidate Marty Nothstein has scheduled a news conference for noon today "regarding an important
development in his campaign."

McClure Taps Ken Brown to Head Court Services

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure has confirmed that he has decided to fill his sole remaining cabinet vacancy, and has nominated Easton City Council member Ken Brown as Director of Court Services. Brown's nomination will be reviewed by County Council, which must conform by majority vote.

Brown, who has served on Easton City Council since 2004, is also the Executive Director at Shiloh Manor in Easton. He is also an Easton Area High graduate (1956, I think) and is reputed to be  referee of sorts, though many people disagree.

McClure tried to leave this office vacant, and was assigning the duties to Administrator Charles Dertinger. But in order to maintain effective communication with the courts and facilitate many of the new services, such as e-filing, McClure decided he needs to fill this position.

Brown will supervise the Criminal Division, Civil Division, Orphans Court, Register of Wills and Archives. In addition, he will be tasked with enhancing the county's collection of outstanding fines, costs and restitution.

He will also bring both an Easton perspective to the county, as well that of an African American.

(Blogger's Note: I neglected to ask the proposed salary, and will update this post with that information.)

The Other Ron Angle

Max "Rocky" Angle and Ron Angle, Jr.
This is a story about Ron Angle. Not that Ron Angle. The other one. He's Ron Angle, Jr. and is completely unlike his father. Want proof? Yesterday, Junior saved someone's life, and without going through his pockets first.

Junior was working on a home on Roseto Avenue in Roseto, when a kid going down the street keeled over right in front of him. Junior ran up to the kid, noticed he had stopped breathing, and called 911. First responders were tied up, and it took them what seemed like 15 minutes to arrive, though they were probably faster. Junior began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which kept the young man alive until police and medical personnel arrived.

Junior's mom Sharon, who was assisting him, arrived to see police cruisers and ambulances. She was worried that something had happened to her son. She ran up just in time to hear a police officer tell Junior that he probably saved this kid's life.

The cop also told him that he could have done chest resuscitation, but I think Junior likes mouth-to-mouth and gets lots of practice, though it's usually with women.

How did His Eminence react on hearing what his son did? Ron Senior has already sent the poor kid a bill for a month's rent at $1,000 since he collapsed right outside his property.

Ron's other son, Maximilian "Rocky" Angle, is a personal trainer and a natural bodybuilder who recently took second place in Open Middleweight Men’s Bodybuilding at World Gym Philly.

A first responder weighs in. -

“Great story on Mr. Angle Jr.! A few key points are a little skewed. First arriving officer was on scene within 5 minutes  of dispatch followed by a second Bangor officer. Jr. was doing chest compressions at the time and great ones at that! The Male who collapsed did have a faint pulse but was overdosing on heroin. The roseto officer administered two doses of narcan and began assisting with ventilations utilizing a bag valve mask. Roseto fire department personnel arrived 8 minutes after dispatch following suburban EMS. Total time on location 15 minutes.  

“Jr. Did a great job no doubt by calling 911! Don't forget everyone else involved.

“Have a wonderful day sir!”

Congrats to all involved!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The "Legend's" Supporting Letters

The Legend
Disgraced Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski will be sentenced September 5 after a jury found him guilty of 47 counts of political corruption. His sentencing memo and 107 supporting letters are both included in a story at WFMZ-TV69. Though his memo claims he is humble man who lives for others, the picture that Attorney Jack McMahon unintentionally paints is one of the very kind of hubris that led to his downfall and that he continues to display today. Referring to him as a "legend" is hardly going to help. The memo is completely devoid of remorse. I also amazed at three of the letters McMahon submitted.

Tricia Mezzacappa? Though I doubt she's ever met Fed Ed, she nevertheless states that Fed Ed has been "unnecessarily smeared, defamed, slandered and framed by media outlets" in what she calls a "witch hunt." Of course, Mezzacappa also penned a letter to the editor defending mass murderer Rockne Newell, claiming he was a victim of government oppression. Last year, she ended an email to West Easton Borough Council member Matt Dees with "Have a nice day faggot!" Earlier this year, she was found in contempt in one of her West Easton lawsuits. She also lost a defamation action I filed against her a few years ago.

Another "character" reference comes from another defamation defendant who, like Mezzacappa, claims Fed Ed was framed. "The real story here isn’t who got a steak dinner and Eagles tickets but who was out to get Ed Pawlowski and why."

Alrighty then.

Then we have Kevin Lott, a Carpenters Union official who participated quite extensively in legal pay-to-play, giving Fed Ed gobs of money and getting lots of work. Lott also filed a frivolous suit over the P3 bridge project in Northampton County, and is at least partially responsible for the excessive legal fees that Northampton County paid.

Many of the other letters are actually quite touching, but not these.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Impeachment Possible; Removal Unlikely

Yesterday was a bad day for Authoritarian Donald J. Trump. His former campaign manager and personal fixer are now both felons. Michael Cohen's plea directly implicates Trump. What this means is that, after the mid-terms, it is very possible that Trump will be impeached. But that means nothing unless two-thirds of the Senate agree to his removal after impeachment. So we're probably stuck with him.

Should Bethlehem Jack Up Its Parking Meter Rate?

Mayor Bob Donchez has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, September 20th, 2018, in Town Hall, 10 E. Church Street at 6:00 pm. He and the Parking Authority want to raise the parking meter fee to $1.50 per hour, but the law requires that they first hold a public hearing. That should be a doozy. Here's some of the criticisms I've heard so far. "hidden tax" ... " Businesses will be the big losers!" ... "great way to keep folks OUT of downtown" ... "not expensive at all."

In Nazareth, it's a quarter an hour, except by my estate. Only I may park along my block. This law, which I decreed myself, is enforced by armed constables.

Community Bike Works Clean Mountain Bike Trail at Keck Park

Photo from Community Bike Works
Community Bike Works, a great local nonprofit that uses bicycles and positive mentors to help inner-city kids, cleaned up a new, introductory mountain bike trail at Keck Park yesterday. While there, volunteers received a visit from Mayor Ray O'Connell. I thought he was just a basketball player, but he's a cyclist too, and tells me he used to beat Marty Nothstein regularly at the Velodrome. He put on a clinic with the kids, showing them how to do the bunny hop to jump over logs. He left with an itch that he thought was a tick, but it turned out to be Courtney Robinson.

OK, now that I have your attention with a few lies, let me tell you about this trail. Kim Schaffer, who deserted Northampton County business bigwigs a few years ago to help kids at Community Bike Works, tells me that the trail was actually built last Fall and early this year by students of Community Bike Works, along with the City of Allentown and LV mountain bikers. It's designed to help mountain bike beginners, although the trail can be used by anyone. Kim's students, along with Muhlenberg College undergrads and Lehigh Gap Nature Center volunteers, have logged hundreds of hours there and pulled out many bags of litter and other garbage.

Yesterday, they also removed invasive plants. I believe that is called weeding. They were replaced with native plants. This is called planting. I'd love to see a few paw paws, which was George Washington's favorite desert and grows right here in Pa! You won't see them in a grocery store because they spoil too quickly.

Community Bike Works has an "Earn a Bike" program to give kids that special freedom you feel when two tires spin beneath you. Lebron James put it best: “A bicycle, for me, was the only way to get around the city. If I wanted to meet some of my friends, travel across the city, go to school, play basketball—anything—the bicycle was the way I got around."

If you have a used bike you'd like to donate, call Community Bike Works at (610) 434-1140.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Should Smaller Towns Be Allowed to Disband?

According to Governing, Allegheny County Exec Rich Fitzgerald is pressing state lawmakers to allow shrinking municipalities to simply disband and allow the county to control some services. Under current law,
Municipalities in Pennsylvania are allowed to merge with each other, but that‘s often impractical. Towns and cities that are struggling to hang on don’t want to assume the debt or budget problems of a community that’s in worse shape than they are. That’s one reason there have been only five municipal mergers in the whole state since 2000.
Pennsylvania has more local governments than all states save Texas and Illinois.

TOA'a Active Senior Community at Green Pond Approved.

Developer Traditions of America (TOA)'s plans for an active senior community at Green Pond Country Club have been approved. By a 4-0 vote, Bethlehem Tp Commissioners approved a final plan at their August 20 meeting. The approval incorporates conditions that would protecting the wetlands and birds. They were set by Attorney David J. Brooman, an independent hearing officer to render a decision appointed by Commissioners. Commissioner Tom Nolan was absent.

The plan approves the construction 229 homes on a vacant tract at Farmersville and Green Pond roads, adjacent to Green Pond Country Club. It's been controversial because it's also next to environmentally sensitive wetlands, in the middle of an Audubon-designated “Important Bird Area” called Green Pond Marsh.

Those who supported this project argued that, without the infusion of cash from this active senior community, Green Pond Country Club would have no choice but to close. The golf course was heralded as an asset used by local high schools and colleges and as a place where inner-city children can learn play golf. TOA principal David Biddison had said the township would benefit in the form of a $343,500 recreation fee, $250,000 in annual property taxes and $500,000 in realty transfer taxes. The school district would also receive $1.9 million in taxes from a development with no children.) “Don’t throw out the good for the perfect,” said Anthony Liberatori.

Those opposed argued that Green Pond Marsh is irreplaceable. That word was repeated by nearly every person who spoke against the development. Paul Jordan, who lives across the street at what he calls “ground zero,” said the mere sight of the marsh is spectacular, and noted a bald eagle was spotted there just the previous weekend. “There is nowhere else that these birds can go,” said the Audubon’s Barbara Malt, who said the nearest resource is at least 25 miles away. Ann Fessler, who teaches fifth grade at Moravian Academy, called it ia “pristine sanctuary.” She said she would instantly choose it over a golf course or wedding venue. “Once it’s compromised, it can never be remediated,” said Michael Adams, who grew up in the township. It is not just a local resource. It is a regional resource.” Irene Torres, a local artist, said. “My heart lives in Green Pond.” Kathy Glagola noted that only two percent of Pennsylvania consists of wetlands.

Though this controversial development was the subject of numerous well-attended meetings and helped elect two Commissioners, only a handful of residents was present for the final vote. None of them spoke. Also present were Easton Attorneys Tom and Charles Elliott, who represent Save Green Pond.

Construction is expected next Spring.

Colonial Regional Police Academy Accepting Applications

I've been asked to remind Hanover and Lower Nazareth residents that Colonial Regional Police Department is still accepting applications for its citizen police academy between September 5 and November 14. Applications due 8/24/18. Apply here.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Morganelli Asks AG to Investigate Forgery Allegation

From DA John Morganelli: On August 10, 2018 the Republican Party of Pennsylvania requested both the Northampton County District Attorney's Office and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General to investigate an alleged forgery of  2 names on a petition circulated on behalf of Libertarian Party Candidate for Congress, 7th District, Tim Silfies. After collaboration with the OAG, it has been agreed that the OAG will assume jurisdiction of this matter. I solicited the  OAG to  assume jurisdiction in order to avoid any actual or perceived conflicts of interest in the matter in light of the fact that I had been a candidate in the Primary Election for this position and my public support of one of Mr. Silfies' opponents. I thank Attorney General Josh Shapiro for his assistance.

Is "Sexual Misconduct" Now Fair Game?

Bottom-feeding bloggers, unlike journalists, have no ethics. I belong to no professional society, and if I did, I would have been drummed out by now. But when I first started writing about local government and politics, one of the first questions I tangled with was whether I should be writing about the sexual dalliances of the many people I cover. I decided that, unless these escapades demonstrate complete hypocrisy or have some relation to what that person is doing in office, it's none of our business. The Morning Call decided it is. On Friday, without even defining what it meant by the term or what impact it might have on Marty Nothstein and his family, The Morning Call took it upon itself to publicize undefined "sexual misconduct" allegations against him. It was a cheap shot.

Let me start by saying that if I were accused of having engaged in "sexual misconduct" in the Year 2000, I would have admitted it. I'd admit to having sexual relations with every women in the Lehigh Valley, and several times. Since we live in a day and age where all sexual orientations are embraced, I'd admit to having screwed a few parakeets, too. But just what the hell is sexual misconduct, anyway? Adultery? Going to a stripbar? Harassment? The story fails to make even that clear.

The impression I have from the story is that Nothstein is being accused of fooling around with one and possibly two women in the year 2000. Its three-month long investigation and three-reporter byline lists no other incidents, and Nothstein insists that's because there are none.

Now Nothstein has denied this undefined "sexual misconduct" and so have the women who were named by an anonymous tipster, lurking in the shadows. But if this is a story, why has The Morning Call failed to write about numerous elected officials who are alleged to have had one night stands and affairs over the years? I can list quite a few.

At the Nothstein news conference, Morning Call editor Pete Leffler attempted to claim that the real issue was the cyclist's reticence in admitting that he's no longer with the Velodrome. That's bullshit. Nobody gives a shit whether Nothstein is still working at the Velodrome. But sex sells, and this story was intended to tar Nothstein.

The original story failed to even mention that the women involved had signed affidavits denying sexual misconduct and were willing to be interviewed. That's a complete abdication of its ethical responsibility to be accurate and fair. The newspaper completely failed in its moral obligation to "[b]alance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness." A newspaper should "[a]void pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do."

In fairness, I do think there was a miscommunication between the newspaper and the Nothstein campaign. That's likely because they had too many people working on this project. At the news conference, I counted five people from The Morning Call alone.

McClure Hints Forensic Center May Be Part of 2019 Budget

NorCo Coroner's Office at Louise Moore Park
Five years ago, Northampton County Coroner Zach Lysek presented County Council with plans for a $6.3 million morgue. Everyone said it was wonderful. Nothing was done. Executive Lamont McClure, however, has resurrected the issue.

At County Council's August 16 meeting, McClure hinted that a forensic center might be part of next year's budget. Drawings for a facility have been updated, and he intends to make a presentation soon.

"Don't think of this as a morgue," he warned. Instead, he wants a "true forensic center" where autopsies and toxicology tests are performed to help solve murder crimes. He is hoping police will be able to use it to download cellphones and as a place where St.Luke's and DeSales can train  future physicians and physician assistants.

"I think you can anticipate seeing a plan in the budget," he warned.

McClure Expects West Nile Virus to Infect County Residents

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure informed County Council on August 16 that he expects that West Nile virus, which has been detected in area mosquitoes, is going to infect humans. To that end, he reports that spraying has begun.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 75% of those infected never know it. About one in five develop flu-like symptoms. A very small number of those with West Nile will develop a severe illness that can include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

West Nile virus also infects livestock and wildlife. There is no known vaccine.

McClure stated that some beekeepers have complained that spraying is ineffective for mosquitoes but kills honeybees and aquatic life. Penn State Extension has assured him that bees forage during the day, and are in their hives when spraying takes place at night. He added that spraying stops at any aquatic buffer.

Lehigh Valley Weekly Police Blotter: Police Seek Man With a Star!

Below is a weekly LV police blotter. After looking through it, I think it's time for me to get rid of that star tattoo on my left hand. If I missed something, please provide a link. If you have a comment that contributes,please share. But I remind you that this thread is not the place for pious condemnations

Moore Tp Police investigating vehicle break-ins on Grouse Drive and Kuter Road on August 10-11. A still-frame photo from surveillance video shows suspect with tattoo of a star on the top of his left hand (below). Several surrounding police departments have also received the same complaints. If you have any information about the suspect, please call the non-emergency number ((610) 759-5077) to report it. You can remain anonymous! Residents are advised to lock car doors and illuminate their property.

Colonial Regional Police are also investigating vehicle break-ins from what appears to be the same star-tattooed actor. Residents are reminded to always lock your doors! If you know who this actor is, contact CRPD at 610-861-4820.

Upper Nazareth Police seek the same culprit.

Coplay Police join this chorus, adding that 75% of all thefts from auto are to unlocked vehicles.

Bethlehem Police  responded Sunday evening, August 12, to reports that a suicidal male at a third floor apartment at 420 Wyandotte Street had threatened to commit suicide and then fired a semi-automatic handgun five times (5 gunshots) from the door of the fire escape of the apartment.

Police evacuated the apartment building and closed the 400 block of Wyandotte Street (Route 378) for public safety reasons. After a lengthy standoff,  Rolando Rolon, age 29, surrendered. He was taken to St.Luke'sfor treatment. He has been charged with four counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Disorderly Conduct-Misdemeanor grade and Discharging a Firearm in the City.

Two handguns were recovered from the apartment.

Lower Saucon Police have charged Frank Mehall, age 63, with driving under the influence on August 9 at a DUI checkpoint set up along Mountain Drive North.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Morning Call Refused Evidence Exonerating Marty Nothstein of Sexual Misconduct

Marty Nothstein, left,and campaign
manager Dennis Roddy
Following three months of investigation, three Morning Call reporters* - Nicole Radzievich, Steve Esack and Tom Shortell - teamed up Friday to publish a lengthy story reporting allegations of sexual misconduct swirling around LV Congressional candidate Marty Nothstein. It's the kind of news that could easily derail his campaign and marginalize him as a serious candidate. But after reading the news account and listening to Nothstein's explanation, there's no there there. If anything, the story marginalizes The Morning Call. Although these reporters made repeated efforts to contact these women independently, they nevertheless refused to review signed affidavits from them, denying any sexual improprieties. They also refused to meet these ladies when an offer was made by the Nothstein camp.

This supposed sexual misconduct, by the way, is nothing that just happened recently. It is alleged to have occurred in 2000, over 18 years ago. At that time, Nothstein said he was "living like a monk," rising at 6 am daily and going to sleep by 8 pm. He was training for the Summer Olympics that year and would eventually win a gold medal in Sydney as a sprint cyclist.

Other than the 2000 incident, no other similar complaints have been made about Nothstein.

An anonymous tipster, not one of the alleged victims, complained to USA Cycling about the 2000 incident just 11 days after Nothstein had announced his candidacy for Congress. That tip was shared with SafeSport, an independent nonprofit committed to ending all forms of abuse in sport. It only reports on its investigations when disciplinary action has been taken. There is no report of any disciplinary action against Nothstein.

An anonymous tipster also contacted Upper Macungie police with the same accusations. They and the Lehigh County DA's office investigated and determined these complaints were groundless.

At the time of the anonymous tip, Nothstein was the Velodrome's Executive Director. The Board, chaired at the time by Attorney Andrew Ralston,Jr., placed him on administrative leave without pay in February, and then ended his contract. William Chadwick, a former prosecutor and state inspector general who has been retained by Nothstein, said that the former Olympic cyclist was bound by confidentiality and unable to discuss publicly his suspension.

Ralston, who chaired the Velodrome Board at the time of Nothstein's suspension, was a partner at the Gross, McGinley law firm until 2016. That's where Democratic Congressional candidate Susan Wild was employed until gaining her party's nomination.

He is currently a partner at the White and Williams law firm. That firm was billing the Velodrome for legal services, and Nothstein had raised concerns about it. 

Nothstein first became aware of the identities of the two women involved from 2000 because they contacted him after being approached by reporters. His campaign obtained written affidavits from both and they were offered to reporters with on condition that there would be no quotations from the affidavits and the identity of these putative victims would remain confidential. This was refused. Reporters said they wanted to be able to speak to them as well. Nothstein campaign manager Dennis Roddy states he obtained permission to share both affidavits, allow quotations and make both persons available. This offer was rejected, too.

At the news conference, Morning Call reporters declined to respond to Nothstein's claim that "Morning Call reporters declined to so much as meet with [the alleged victims] or examine their statements. Instead, we live in a time when anonymous people in the shadows can spread false allegations and get them into the media ... ."

Reporters directed inquiries to Interim Editor Terry Rang. In a statement, she said the newspaper was unwilling to accept the affidavits under the conditions set by Roddy. But perhaps unknown to her, Roddy dropped those conditions. Efforts to reach her about Roddy's second offer have this far been unsuccessful.

"I want to say to the voters of this district: these are false accusations, planted just days after I began my candidacy. The presumed 'victims' themselves deny such a thing happened. It's time to end this sort of politics. We should be talking about policy, not false rumors."

Nothstein's wife Christi also released a statement in response to The Morning Call story: "I am asking that the people who are lying to destroy Marty's campaign for Congress also understand that they are destroying people's reputation and lives. They are hurting several families by dragging them into this fabricated scandal."

"It was a tough day to send my [PSU-bound] daughter to school today," said Nothstein. "Provide a headline that provides the truth," he suggested. "To pick and choose who you're going to hammer, that's just not fair."

* A fourth reporter, Laura Olson, assisted from Washington.

Allentown Needs No Steenkin' Lawyer!

In a knee-jerk reaction to a Grand Jury report that fails to charge a single person with a crime, Allentown City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday night to fire their Solicitor, Tom Traud. Courtney Robinson, playing Inspector Javert in this sad little exercise of bad government, convinced his fellow legislators to suspend the rules and fire Traud without bothering to place the matter on an agenda so that members of the public would have some advance notice what was intended. These cowards failed to give even Traud notice or an opportunity to be heard.

During this kangaroo court, Robinson even attacked Traud's integrity. He implied that Traud was being dishonest when he told Council that he stopped litigating for the Diocese in 2000. It was actually in 2002.

Hang him!

Another lawyer represented the Diocese of Allentown with Traud. His name is Jay Leeson, and he is a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Pa. His name was conveniently omitted from the Grand Jury report by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Wonder why.

Impeach him!

This very exhaustive report also fails to disclose that, in 2002, it was then Attorney Leeson and Traud who brokered an agreement with the five District Attorneys in the counties served by the Diocese of Allentown. Under this arrangement, all allegations of sexual misconduct by a priest would be forwarded to them. District Attorney John Morganelli mentioned this understanding at a news conference a few weeks ago, and said he is satisfied that the Diocese has honored it.

I guess the report's not so exhaustive as it should have been. 

Did Allentown City Council know that Diocese lawyer Tom Traud was one of the persons who helped come up with a procedure that would immediately notify prosecutors when allegations were made?

What they were really worried about was losing a few votes. And Robinson was intent on embarrassing Ray O'Connell, so he can be toppled as Mayor.     

In case you're wondering, I know Tom Traud in passing. He is an excellent lawyer. he will not miss Allentown. But I can guarantee you that Allentown will miss him. Thanks to the rocket scientists on City Council, the City has been exposed to all kinds of legal mischief.

Traud was fired for being a good lawyer, representing his client zealously within the bounds of the law. Based on the screwy logic of Courtney Robinson, every judge on the bench in Northampton and Lehigh County would have to step down because all of them, at one time or another, represented a dirtball.

Many of you have probably heard of Gary Asteak, a flamboyant criminal defense lawyer from Easton. He's trying to become a professional beekeeper, but in his career, he's represented the worst of the worst. Killers. Murderers. Even the Sticker Gang! But guess what? He's also an excellent municipal solicitor. All these conservative townships like Bushkill, Lower and Upper Nazareth have had him for years. In Bushkill, they only began speaking English instead of Pennsylvania Dutch at meetings about five years ago. But these so-called hicks understand that a lawyer's job is to represent his client. They'll take a lawyer. Allentown has Courtney Robinson. 

Two Huskies Take Reins at Allentown Fire Department

Chiefs Wehr and Agosto
Photocredit: City of Allentown
Mayor Ray O’Connell has named two Dieruff High School grads to the top positions at Allentown Fire Department. Jim Wehr, a 24-year veteran, was named Interim Chief. Assistant Fire Chief Efrain Agosto Jr., first hired in 2003, has been promoted to deputy chief of operations. As deputy chief of operations, Agosto is second in command.

The City's current Chief, Lee Laubach, is retiring today. He served 25 years as a firefighter, and has been Chief since February 2015. A former firefighter of the year, he stood by his fellow firefighters when they went public over equipment malfunctions and shortages. Chief Laubach is credited with the city’s receipt of a $500,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development toward the purchase of a new fire pumper.

Wehr is another Firefighter of the year, and also earned the Alfred W. Fischl Firefighter Service Award in 2014. The award is presented to an individual who has served the department for at least 20 years and has exemplified himself with consistent and dedicated work habits during that period. He first joined the department in 1994 after having served in the U.S. Air Force. He was promoted to Fire Specialist in 2005, later promoted to Lieutenant in 2006 and was promoted to Captain in 2010. Wehr was promoted to Battalion Chief in 2012. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration from Columbia Southern University.

Agosto served in the US Army, was promoted to Fire Marshal/Inspector in 2012 and Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention in 2014. He is the recipient of five unit citations for his work within the department. He is pursuing a B.A. in Spanish and Political Science at Muhlenberg College.

Though these are solid picks, William Allen High School has commenced impeachment proceedings against Mayor O'Connell. Allentown Central Catholic HS is banning him from Rockne Hall.

Wehr and Agosto have already begun repainting the engines blue and grey.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

PaNewsMedia: Journalists NOT Enemy of the People

From Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association: On May 30, 1783, the Pennsylvania Evening Post and Daily Advertiser published its first daily edition, becoming the first daily newspaper not only in Pennsylvania, but in our young nation. Today, more than 200 daily and weekly newspapers across the commonwealth carry on the ideals of not only that newspaper, but the Constitution and the free press it ensures. Today, we stand with many other newspapers across the country to defend our profession and the communities we serve.

We are NOT Fake News. Journalists pledge to report real, honest and credible news. We go to school to learn how to tell people’s stories, record history, sift through the hazes of propaganda and uncover the truth. We cover the stories and uncover the information everyone in the community needs to make informed decisions on who to vote for, where to eat, and what to buy.

Mistakes are NOT Fake News. Journalists do their best to report truthful information. In today’s world of the 24-hour news cycle, sometimes we make a mistake in the rush to sort through conflicting information and tell a story. We then do our best to correct the error and learn from it. This misinformation happens for a variety of reasons, but the mistake is not deliberate nor is it malicious.

News you don’t like is NOT Fake News. Not all news is happy news. We cover the tragedies, the crime, the tax hikes, the shady backroom deals. Just because it makes us uncomfortable, or angry, doesn’t mean it’s any less true. Journalists would not be doing their jobs if they didn’t cover the things that unsettle us. Many times, those are the things that impact our lives the most.

Opinions are NOT Fake News. The editorials and opeds we write and publish are just that – opinion. We endorse candidates based on the information we have and who we think will best serve our community. You may agree with us, or you may not. That’s OK. Our job is to provide you with the facts so you can form your own opinion and make your own informed decisions.

Journalists are NOT the enemy of the people. We are the people. We live in the communities we cover and, just like everyone else, want those communities to succeed. For communities to be at their best, the people who live in them need to know what is happening. Journalists are the eyes, ears, and voice of the people we serve. We sit at the school board meetings so you know who the next principal will be. We attend the town council meetings so you know which company is building in your backyard. We ask tough questions of government officials so you know where and how your tax dollars are being spent.

For every candidate we investigate, there’s a small business owner we profile. For every tax hike we report, there’s a high school football/basketball/soccer win we celebrate. For every congressman we question, there’s a charitable event we share. There is nothing fake about the communities, the people, the businesses we cover. There is nothing fake about our loyalty to those same communities, people and businesses.

We are not perfect. We know that. We also know that the news we provide can play a vital role in keeping our communities safe and economically sound. We cannot allow our leaders to erode the public’s trust in the media. Doing so would also erode the quality of information you receive, affecting the decisions you make.

The First Amendment is just 45 words in length, but they are mighty. It guarantees our freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Journalists are your safety valves, whistleblowers and reporters-in-chief who cover everything from what is going on in your town, to the cat stuck in the tree. And, we are passionate about our duties to document the history of our communities and serve as watchdogs to protect the public’s interests… your interests.

NorCo Gets Clean Bill of Financial Health

Under Northampton County's Home Rule Charter, an independent certified public accountant must audit the County's finances every year. Nick Hoefel and Jill Gilbert of RKL presented their findings to County Council yesterday. The county is in good health financially, with only one problem noted, thanks to the General Purpose Authority (GPA).

How healthy is the County? Its statement of net position, known in the private sector as the balance sheet, shows that the County has total assets valued at $321 million, and deducting liabilities, a total net position of $123 million. When money restricted for different projects and programs is set aside, there are $25 million in unrestricted funds. This is the county's "play with" money.

Hoefel warned that "play with" money might be in negative territory next year. That's because the county's liability on post-retirement benefits, which currently is $53 million, may have to be included in next year's balance sheet.

The audit also shows that Gracedale, the county's nursing home, earned nearly $500,000 in 2017. 

This year's audit included the GPA, even though it is a separate body. In previous years, the GPA was audited separately from the County. Hoefel explained that it now must be considered a "component unit." This is because of the P3 bridge project , in which the County has guaranteed the debt incurred to replace or repair 32 bridges.

The problem identified at the GPA is one it has had for years. It's a lack of segregation of duties. That never mattered before the P3 bridge project, but now is considered a "material weakness" that must be addressed. It is being addressed, too. Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron has proposed a solution in which the county's fiscal department will handle the finances with internal controls that will prevent or detect fraud.

The RKL audit also recommends that the county establish a formal process for the disposal of assets that are no longer needed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Shapiro's Grand Jury Report Charges No Crime

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has released a devastating account of child sexual abuse that includes over 300 priests and over 1,000 children. Even worse, it chronicles a systematic cover-up by the Catholic hierarchy. I hope it helps at least some of the victims find closure. But let me add the following caveats.

First, it is a report, not an indictment. Not a single of these hundreds of priests has been charged with anything. Though the torches and pitchforks are out, the grand jury has essentially admitted it is unable to prove even one crime.

Second, it is almost entirely old news, going back as far as the '60s. I could look any human institution and come up with a devastating account of how it has operated over the past 50 years. The number of corrupt officials in Lehigh Valley local government would number in the thousands, with crimes extending from bribery to illegal wiretaps to very real police brutality, in which confessions were quite literally beaten out of people.

Third, beware the motives of AG Josh Shapiro. He has that "lean and hungry look," as Caesar might say. He would like to be the next Governor, and could ride into office as the man who took on the Catholic Church without prosecuting a single one of these evil priests. That's quite an accomplishment.

Fourth, understand that many of the news accounts are going to be salacious and essentially unfair, while pretending objectivity. Nothing like a sex scandal to beef up sales.

Fifth, in the Allentown Diocese, all five DAs conducted an investigation in 2002, revealing much of the same information that has surfaced again 16 years later. At that time, the Allentown Diocese committed to notifying authorities whenever any allegations of child sexual abuse are made against a Catholic priest, no matter what church officials may think of the merits. DA John Morganelli said a few weeks ago that he believes the Diocese has lived up to its agreement.

Donaher Opposes Plainfield's Proposed Sludge Plant

Donaher with Senator Casey
Dean M. Donaher, who is running for State Representative in the 138th Legislative District, has come out against the proposed sewage processing plant to be developed in Plainfield Township by Synagro Technologies Inc.

“If this sludge plant is developed, it’s going to adversely affect the Slate Belt’s natural environment, plain and simple,” Donaher said. “State leaders should be rising up against this facility, which unfortunately hasn’t happened. We need leaders who will fight for their local communities and natural environment every step of the way, which is why I wholeheartedly oppose the development of this plant” he said.

For years, Synagro Technologies has been attempting to obtain the necessary permitting to develop this plant. Donaher has attended at least three of these meetings, and is concerned about its negative impact on a high-quality stream. Our waterways are also being damaged by irresponsible development, he observed. "I looked at them today and they are chocolate brown from all the sediment being washed in."

"Nobody's minding the store [in Harrisburg]," he complained.

“I’ve spoken with too many Plainfield Township residents on their front porches about how this plant will alter the natural environment in such a beautiful area in Northampton County. We shouldn’t gamble away our natural environment just so corporate profits dramatically increase for these large companies. Let’s do the right thing and oppose this unnecessary sludge plant,” he concluded.

Just this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found Synagro irresponsibly violated state rules by dumping sludge over a farmer’s field. There is also great concern that this plan will have a negative impact on high-quality streams.

In late January, Synagro was cited by the state DEP for spreading Class B sludge on a farmer's field in Lower Mount Bethel. No fine was imposed because the company addressed the issue.

Donaher, a retired educator, is challenging incumbent Marcia Hahn. Her Facebook page is devoid of comments on this issue.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

PJ Koury: No Costs May Be Assessed to the Innocent

On Friday, I told you about the poor experience that a Nazareth family had in front of Magisterial District  Judge Roy Manwaring II. They had gone to Bethlehem for a night of shopping and dinner, but made a return trip to their parking meter. Ryan Woodmansee used his credit card to add time, but was rewarded with a blank screen. he had no spare change and photographed the meter. Sure enough, when he and his wife returned from dinner that night, a parking ticket awaited them. Since this was a defective meter, they were sure they could appeal the citation and win. So when they went to their hearing on Wednesday, they brought their children. They wanted to teach them that, in America, the system works. What they got instead was a Magisterial District Judge Roy A Manwaring II. They feel that he treated them like garbage

PJ Michael Koury, Jr. 
During the hearing, the Bethlehem Parking Authority conceded there had been a glitch that night. Manwaring really had no choice but to dismiss the case. But he still ordered them to pay the court costs, and before they left his little star chamber.

Now I have already told you that Manwaring had no basis for imposing costs on an innocent Defendant. True, I've lost my license to practice law, but not for being a dumb ass. But still, why should anyone much care what some bottom-feeding blogger thinks?

While I understand that my own objections mean nothing, those of the President Judge of Northampton County mean a great deal. PJ Michael Koury, Jr. has instructed Manwaring to refund the money to the Woodmansees. A copy of his directive has been sent to the Woodmansees, but they feel uncomfortable releasing it.

They might get assessed costs again.

The statute establishing constable fees provides, in pertinent part, "In all criminal cases wherein the defendant is discharged or indigent or the case is otherwise dismissed, the court shall assess to the county the fee provided in this section ... ." Thus, a magisterial district judge has no discretion to assess costs against a Defendant who has been exonerated.

This determination is consistent with United States.Supreme Court rulings, including its recent decision in Nelson v Colorado. . In Giaccio v. Pennsylvania, the US Supreme Court ruled that a Pa. statute authorizing this sanction on innocent people is unconstitutional.

Even in Roy Manwaring's courtroom.

May a Constable Peer Into Your Windows?

May a Constable peer into your windows? Can he be videotaped while speaking to someone? According to Northampton County's Constable Review Board, the answer to both of these questions appears to be Yes.

On Friday afternoon, Northampton County's Constable Review Board convened on a complaint brought Glenn Brown against Constable Stanley Smith, who has served in that capacity for the past 27 years. Brown lives on a secluded tract located off Ridge Road in Upper Mount Bethel Tp. He said he likes his privacy. He is surrounded by farmland and other secluded homes. In fact, to reach his home, you have to travel several hundred feet along a driveway.

On July 18, at around 11 am, he was sitting in his kitchen in his underwear, and claims his wife was wearing even less. He heard a knock on his door, and that was his first encounter with Constable Stanley Smith. Smith, who was fully uniformed, was trying to serve papers in a civil matter against Kyle Brown, Glenn Brown's son. Glenn Brown refused to accept the papers. He said he and his son were estranged.

After Smith left, Brown reviewed his security footage and determined that Smith had been looking through a plate glass window on his front door. He demonstrated via video that if you are very close when looking inside, you can see the inside of the house.

Smith returned later that day or the next, and was accosted by Brown, who carried a cellphone and was videotaping the conversation.

He told Smith that his son lives in New Jersey and they are estranged. "I don't want to be bothered, that's why I live up there," said Brown. "You're not allowed to look in my window. Get off my f---ing property and don't come back, you f---ing pervert."

Although Smith was trying to remain cordial, it was difficult for him to say anything in that second encounter, in which he was instructed to leave.

He told the Constable Review Board that, during his first visit, he did ring a doorbell, knock and look through the plate glass window at the front door, but not through any of the side windows he was trying to determine if anyone was home, and said he saw nothing. He said he tries to be low key. he came back a second time because the son might have stopped by or there might be someone else who could give him information to enable him to serve the papers.

Brown insisted that his privacy had been violated and read Pennsylvania's invasion of privacy statute into the record. Although that statute contains an exception for law enforcement personnel, Brown said he applies only if the officer is conducting a lawful criminal investigation. He argued that service of papers in a civil matter is not a lawful criminal investigation.

Constable Kevin Spano, himself a former Bethlehem police officer, set Brown straight. "We are actually trained to look into a window," he said. He said they do it to see if there might be a weapon or gun or "for the unknown."

Constable Smith was in a place where he had a right to be. He was attempting to serve a civil complaint listing a defendant at the address he visited. The door included a plate glass window.

Spano asked Smith to explain how many times a constable attempts to serve a complaint. Smith said they get paid $13 to attempt to serve papers, regardless of the number of efforts or whether they are successful. He added that the unwritten rule is three attempts, but it always depends on the circumstances. In this case, he was directed to stop after his second attempt.

As for the video that Brown took of the second encounter, the Constable Review Board accepted it because Brown had the camera pointed right at Constable Smith. He had no justifiable expectation of privacy.

From here this matter will go to President Judge Michael Koury, Jr. 

What are constables?

Constables are elected officials who serve six-year terms. Their primary role is service of minor arrest warrants and other legal process for the Magisterial District Courts, such as eviction notices, and prisoner transport. They are required to maintain order at the polls on election day.

Though it is a Constitutional office that have existed in Pennsylvania since 1664, the constable system has been criticized as one that is open to abuse by armed officers who have minimal training and no oversight. As a result, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted standards in 2013 designed to professionalize them To be certified, they must undergo 40 hours of training every year, including 20 hours of firearms training.

Northampton County has 37 certified constables, including Smith.

What is the Constable Review Board?

Established in 2016, Northampton County's Constable Review Boards provides some oversight of constables and helps resolve citizen complaints. This Board includes the following: Judge Sam Murray, Judge jennifer Sletvold, Magisterial District Judge Dan Corpora, Constable Kevin Spano, Sheriff Rich Johnston, Controller Richard "Bucky" Szulborski, Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron and Magisterial District Court Administrator Debbie French.

For complaints that might result in the suspension or termination of a constable, the Review Board is required to interview the complainant, constable and all other relevant witnesses. The Board must report any suspected criminal activity to the District Attorney. After completing interviews, it makes a recommendation to the President Judge, who is the ultimate authority on a constable's continued work in Northampton County.