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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, May 31, 2019

One of My Fans

From time to time, people who dislike my blogging let me know in unusual ways. I once received a package in the mail that had my face superimposed on all kinds of gay porn. I was once emailed a picture of Goebbel's corpse. Late last night I received this email. If this is supposed to be a threat, he needs to work at it a little harder.

This is from Jeffrey Houndsman (jeffrey.houndsman@gmail.com)
You know, "Bern", I have seen u roast innocent people over the years.  But, recently, I have resurfaced.
I just want to know, how does it feel? You fuck?
Yeah, I know you believed in what you have been doing.  But, Bernie, people make mistakes.  And, sometimes, those mistakes, include making powerful enemies.  You idiot.
You have helped destroy people who needed you.  You mother fucker.
Y Rick O represented you, I have no idea.  But, he is a good man.  One of the last.
I only regret that it took me so long to take a breath.  And, now, I see what a horrible mess it has all become.  I should have destroyed all of you back in 2002, when I had the means.
Do you know who I am yet?  You poor man.
Hehe.  I will watch out for your Bern.  Because it would seem that all the chess games are converging.  There is only one prize.  "Justice".
Whatever you do with this info, received from me, will not matter in the least, except to cement you loyalties to those who r watching.
Do u have any idea how easily these fucks can turn on u?  Dont b stupid.
Were u ever a "good man"?  Does he still exist within you?
Some of us make war when we see wrong.  We dont think.  We smile, we arm and we jump.
At the very least, Bern, you should have been backing us.
I am watching you.  What r u going to do?
You and your peers should b very wary of traps these days.  Word to the wise.
What r u going to do?

How Bethlehem Preserves Saucon Creek

.Bethlehem is a virtue signaler that wants the entire world to know  how environmentally conscious it is. It's already adopted a meaningless "climate action plan" and now is considering an equally useless plastic straw ban. But these hypocrites thought nothing of clear-cutting the riparian buffer along a huge section of Saucon Creek along land the city owns near its sewage treatment plant on Shimersville Road. They knocked down everything, including trees. The trout in these waters have no problem with the smell of shit, but are unable to survive in warmer water.that is inevitable as a result of the lack of shade. 

Had you or I done this, we'd be strung up.

Ironically, the Wildlands seeks grants to preserve these buffers. 

November's Election To Include Judicial Retention Elections

As many of you know, I serve as an appointed election judge in Northampton County. Though turnout was low in the municipal primary,  I was very impressed by those who voted. Many of them really make an effort to inform themselves before they cast a ballot, but they told me they had a difficult time doing so this year. Many of them no longer subscribe to a daily paper because they do a lousy job covering local government. They have stories about every time Donald Trump farts, but do a poor job telling people what is happening in their own back yard. Many appreciated the League of Women's Voter Guide, which we make available. I decided to do a voter guide of my own for November's election, and would appreciate your suggestions on what information I should seek from the candidates.

Here's what I'm thinking. For each candidate in a contested race, I will seek the following: 1) link to webpage, Facebook page and twitter account; 2) residence (not specific); 3) family; 4) educational background; 5) occupation(s); 6) criminal record; 7) judgments; and 8) responses to questions about a few issues relevant to the office being sought. I will also list the salary and benefits.

I will also prepare background information for the judicial retention races. Many complain that so little is known about judges seeking retention. I will try to inform you as best I can.

If there are local races you'd like to see covered, please list in a comment and explain why. For now, these races are a given.

Superior Court (two seats): Democrats Daniel D McCaffery and Amanda Green-Hawkins v. Republicans Christylee Peck and Megan McCarthy King

Superior Court Retention Election: Judges Anne Lazarus and Judith F Olson

Commonwealth Court Retention Election: Judges Kevin Brobson and Patricia McCullough

Northampton County Retention Election: Judges Kimberly J McFadden Michael J. Koury, Jr.and Craig A. Dally

NorCo District Attorney: Democrat Terry Houck v. Republican Tom Carroll

NorCo Controller: Democrat Tony Bassil v. Republican Hayden Phillips

NorCo Council District 2: Democrat Kerry Myers v. Republican Andrew Oliveira

NorCo Council District 3: Democrat Luke Verdes v. Republican John Cusick (inc.)

NorCo Council District 4: Democrat Dan Engle v. Republican Tom Giovanni.

Easton Mayor: Democrat Sal Panto (inc.) v. Republican Tim Reilly

Lehigh County District Attorney: Republican Jim Martin (inc.) v. Democrat Jim Moreno

Lehigh County County Controller: Republican Glenn Eckhart (inc.) v. Democrat Mark Pinsley

Lehigh County Comm'r at-large (four seats): Democrats Dan Hartzell (inc), Bob Elbich, Dave Harrington and Zakiya Smalls v. Republicans Brad Osborne (inc), Marty Nothstein (inc.), Antonio Pineda and Mathias Matt Green.

Allentown Mayor: Democrat Ray O'Connell (inc.) v. Republican Tim Ramos

Allentown City Council (three seats): Democrats Candida Affa (inc), Josh Siegel and Ce-Ce Gerlach v. Republican Joe Hoffman

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Rudiger Martinez: Baby Boomers Worst Generation in History of Mankind

NorCo employee employee Rudiger Lyle Martinez is back at work again. His latest suspension has something to do with clogged toilets, but he declines to say exactly what happened. He did tell me that we baby boomers are the worst generation in existence. "As you try to claw your way out of your graves, I will pour Scott's Turf Builder all over it to erase any evidence you ever existed."

Martinez has previously me that I'm a shitty blogger because no one has ever assassinated me.

I agree.

Now I suspect a large number of my readers are boomers. He says we all suck because we inherited the most secure and prosperous nation the world has ever seen, and all we have to show for it is Sean Hannity and Hillary.

He also complains that we spend all our money so we can live an extra six months.

He describes millennials as the grandchildren of our first wives.

Five NorCo Nursing Homes, Including Gracedale, Below State Staffing Standard

Under Pennsylvania law, each nursing home resident must receive 2.7 hours of general nursing care every day. This state protection is obviously designed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens. But at five of Northampton County's 14 nursing home, this state regulation is being ignored. A review of the Medicare ratings reveals that staffing shortages exist at The Gardens at Easton, The Gardens for Memory Care at Easton, New Eastwood Healthcare and Rehab Center, Slate Belt Health and Rehab Center, Weston Rehab and Nursing Center and Gracedale. The only publicly owned nursing home is Gracedale.

Staffing shortages lead to resident mishaps. This should be remedied at Gracedale simply because it is the right thing to do. It should be added that failure to comply with state standards would be considered negligence per se in the event of litigation over a resident mishap.

Here's where Gracedale stacks up on staffing, according to Medicare.

Staffing rating
2 out of 5 stars
Below Average
Average number of residents per day661.7109.585.7
Total number of licensed nurse staff hours per resident per day1 hour and 19 minutes1 hour and 41 minutes1 hour and 33 minutes
RN hours per resident per day26 minutes49 minutes41 minutes
LPN/LVN hours per resident per day53 minutes51 minutes53 minutes
Nurse aide hours per resident per dayNurse aides are not considered “licensed nurse staff” and are not included in the calculation for “total number of licensed nurse staff hours per resident per day.”2 hours and 4 minutes2 hours and 10 minutes2 hours and 19 minutes
Physical therapist staff hours per resident per dayPhysical therapists (PTs) are licensed healthcare professionals who provide treatment to help residents gain or maintain physical function. PT staffing hours aren’t included in the overall staffing star rating calculation for nursing homes. This measure shows the average time physical therapists (PTs) spend providing care to residents throughout the nursing home. Not all nursing home residents require physical therapy.2 minutes6 minutes5 minutes

Gracedale is below both the state and national average.

Late last year, Pa. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced plans to audit the state's nursing homes over staffing shortages. He said then adequate staffing levels directly impact the quality of care provided to 90,000 Pennsylvanians — more than the population of Lancaster and Johnstown combined — who live in nursing homes.

Gracedale officials are doing their best to hire more people. But let's be real. In a recovering economy, the pool of people willing to clean bedpans tends to shrink.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Local State Legislators Report $14,800 in Travel in Annual Ethics Form

Schlossberg putting in his face
A Pennsylvania legislator is paid $88,610 a year, and this is aside from the health benefits and per diems claimed for "expenses." But you know, it's really hard to get by on such a pittance. So many of our lawmakers have other sources of income. They also can accept gifts and trips, but those have to be reported in annual ethics forms. Last year, Pennsylvania's men and women in the land of midnight payraises report having received $83,000 in free trips. Guess what? Nearly $15k of that money was paid by third parties for our very own Lehigh Valley delegation.

You might think that State Senator Pat Browne or Lisa Boscola are the jet setters, but no. Neither accepted any gifts or trips. Browne did supplement his income through his CPA and law firm, and Boscola has some kind of investment portfolio. Both steered clear of firms willing to pay for travel.

The biggest recipient of paid trips was Ryan MacKenzie. By the way, in addition to his salary as a State Representative, he receives money from PNC Bank. He is also a trustee for with for-profit corporation F.A. Rohrbach, a concrete contractor.

He may be wary of Greeks bearing gifts, but accepted a $5,847.37 trip from the U.S.Japan Foundation and a $6,215 trip from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.

I wonder when he found time for his two-week run for Congress.

Of course, there's always Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg.  He took $1,040 for transportation, lodging and hospitality from State Innovation Exchange (Six), a self-described progressive nonprofit that apparently offers training to state legislators on how to be a liberal.

Not to be outdone, Pete Schweyer reports a gift of $1,703 from Sleep Inn and Suites, which he states is the difference between the advertised rate and one he negotiated.

Zach Mako reports no gifts or trips, but had to amend his report because he forgot to report that he is paid as a State Representative. Not too bright, that one. 

Steve Samuelson is claiming no gifts or all-expense paid trips. What about those adult diapers, Steve? We all have the videos. 

Marcia Hahn took no gifts or trips, but she should contact her State Rep. She's paying outrageous interest on her Sam's credit card.

Joe Emrick reports no outside income or gifts, but claims to be a trustee with Cornerstone Counseling Ministries, which provides Christian counseling. Based on his ugly campaign against Amy Cozze, he should enroll as a client.

Gary Day reports no outside income or gifts. He's from Germansville, and they pay each other there with pigs and chickens.

In addition to her income as a State Rep., Jeanne McNeill rakes in a nice rental income from six different homes. She has a real estate empire. She is also collecting three pensions and still has time for Mary Kay sales. .

Bob Freeman is an Adjunct Professor at Lehigh, and also collects rent from a property he owns in

Update 8:40 am: Jeanne McNeill tells me she has one summer home in Jersey.which was rented out six times last year.

Paper Ballots Under Fire in Montgomery County

Last year, Pennsylvania's Department of State mandated all 67 counties to start using voting systems that include a voter-verifiable paper trail. They must be in place for next year's Presidential contest. In Northampton County, both the Elections Commission (3-2) and County Council (8-1) have opted for a new, $2.9 million, voting system called the Express Vote XL. It's a hybrid that combines a 32" touch screen with a independent voter-verifiable paper record that is digitally scanned.  The alternative was a paper ballot system. But a large number of  elections judges were leery of that alternative, citing privacy concerns, long lines and confusion. Based on the experience of voters in Montgomery County who used paper ballots in the Spring primary, it appears that every concern raised by judges was justified.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer story, Montgomery began using paper ballots during the May 15 primary. Voters marked ballots with a pen, shading in bubbles like a n SAT, and then scanned them.

NorCo election judges and county administration employee Amy Cozze predicted that the use of paper ballots would create privacy concerns, and that's exactly what happened in Montgomery County. Cozze and election judges predicted long lines. That's exactly what happened in Montgomery County.

Montgomery election officials downplayed the complaints because otherwise, they'd have to admit they were wrong.

Here's an excerpt from the story:
At the Upper Dublin Sports Center, Prashant Rushi, 35, of Ambler, said it took him 20 minutes to vote around 7 a.m.

“This process isn’t going to fare well,” he said. “Imagine what it’s going to happen during the peak times.”

Rushi, a Democrat who works in health-care licensing, said he worries that in future elections people will ditch long lines and not vote because of the new system.

“Instead of going backward to paper ballots,” he said, "they should’ve gone forward to digital.”

Afternoon voter Thomas Wagner, a 67-year-old welder living in Plymouth Township, was also not a fan.

“Cardboard boxes. I’m impressed,” he said sarcastically. “We’re going back to basics. This is crazy.”

He said he was “forewarned” by neighbors who had voted earlier in the day.

“They said, `Bring a lunch. It might be a while.' ”

David Hartman, a 59-year-old Plymouth Township resident, volunteered at three local polling places to stump for school board candidates and said he heard mixed reactions to the machines.

The voting machine said he had “under voted,” because he didn’t vote for a district attorney candidate. But Hartman is a Republican and there was no Republican candidate on the ballot for DA.

  Misunderstandings like that “could slow things down” during the next election, he said.

“I’m worried for the general election more than this,” he said. “If it’s a big election where a lot of people turn out, there’s going to be a lot of people waiting. I don’t know how they’re going to handle that.”
Though the Express Vote XL underwent rigorous testing before certification, it was derided by Elections Commissioner Deb Hunter. NorCo Dem party boss Mat Munsey rallied a group against these machines with no true understanding. Hunter was more concerned about her own powers than the system itself. She also demonstrated a personal animus towards County Administrator Charles Dertinger. At one meeting, she spun around to ask him to be silent even though he was sitting there quietly.

The person who was speaking, perhaps a bit too loudly, was me. I was muttering because, instead of using her time before Council to address the competing systems, she was complaining about the lack of respect she was being accorded as an elections commissioner. That's irrelevant to which system should be chosen.

Executive Lamont McClure, who advocated Express Vote XL, said he respects Montgomery County's process. But he added, "All the fears that the Northampton County judges of elections told Council about  are real."  He noted the privacy concerns raised by Montgomery County voters and added ,"We vote in some tight spaces."

McClure has signed the contract to purchase the new system, and Acting Voter Registrar Amy Hess awaits their arrival. In addition to training election workers, she plans on several public displays.

Meet Walter and Clara

Walter and Clara on Thursday night
I've told you before about security measures at Ron Angle's farm. Sure he has barbed wire and vicious dogs on constant patrol. Yes, his property is surrounded by a moat infested by man-eating sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. If you make it past them, there's sludge pellets scattered everywhere like landmines. Step on one and you get bubonic plague. But his most effective deterrent were his guard geese.

I narrowly escaped with my life during several visits. They were mean, ugly, loud, foul-tempered and fat. Just like me. They'd even go after Ron. They hated everyone. But for some reason, Ron adored them.

About a year or so ago, they both died. The first was accidentally run over by one of Ron's helpers. Ron thought it was intentional until he accidentally ran over the second about a week later.

Walter and Clara on Sunday night, double the size
of Thursday and on their third box. 
Quite upset at being a goose killer, he called me. "I don't know what I'm going to tell Max," he said.  Max is one of Ron's two sons. The goose Ron killed, named Gertrude, was raised by Max. He had found the egg and used a heat lamp to bring this killer goose to life.

Over the past year, I've been looking for replacements. It's really hard, you know. They don't sell goslings anywhere near here. Then, on election day, a poll worker told me I might be able to find them at The Mill in Germansville. I was in luck.

Last week, I delivered two embden goslings to Ron and his wife Sharon.

They loved them. Sharon was hugging them like little babies. Even Ron held them. They are keeping them on a porch until they get a little bigger, which will happen very fast. A male embden is 40 pounds and mean as hell.

I had provisionally named them "Little Ron"and "Little Sharon." But when we went to dinner that night, we ran into two little kids named Walter and Clara who were climbing the walls at the restaurant. We all agreed this was a sign from above, and these vicious killers are now Walter and Clara.

"We'll invite you up when we cook 'em," were Ron's parting words to me.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

CFA Awards $1.8 M in Gaming Grants

Changes in the state gaming law have removed local control over distribution of slots tax revenue from the Sands. These decisions are now being made by the black hole known as the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA). CFA consists of seven Board members: four legislative appointees and the secretaries of DCED, the Office of the Budget and Department of Banking and Securities. Project approval requires five affirmative votes, four of which must come from legislative appointees. What this means is that the land of midnight payraises decides what's necessary.

At their May 22 meeting, CFA approved the grants you see below. Hellertown appears to have been short-changed. That borough, which definitely has been impacted negatively by the casino, in the past used slots revenue to help fund police. But I'm sure we'd all agree on the value of the $15,000 murals grant in Easton as well as $75,000 for Bethlehem's golf course.


1 Lehigh County Lehigh Valley Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center Lehigh $225,758
2 Macungie Borough Cotton Street Pedestrian Bridge Connection Lehigh $32,197
3 Weisenberg Township Weisenberg Township Trail Network Lehigh $32,197
4 Whitehall Township Whitehall Parkway Pavillion Lehigh $69,622
5 Whitehall Township Industrial and Commercial Development Authority Hokendauqua Historic Preservation District - Site Survey Lehigh $26,590
6 Bath Borough Multi-Municipal Paving Equipment Procurement Northampton $51,721
7 Bethlehem City Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course Improvements Northampton $75,000
8 Bethlehem Township Police vehicles Northampton $39,783
9 Bethlehem Township Purchase of fire utility truck Northampton $40,000
10 Borough of West Easton Phase II, Public Works Garage Northampton $46,091
11 Bushkill Township Police License Plate Reader Program Northampton $40,080
12 Freemansburg Borough Streets Maintenance Program Northampton $51,192
13 Glendon Borough Berger Road Stormwater Management and Road Improvements Northampton $80,000
14 Greater Easton Development Partnership Easton Murals Northampton $15,000
15 Lehigh County Lehigh Valley Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center Northampton $275,742
16 Lehigh Valley Economic Investment Corporation Northampton Community College (NCC) Culinary Upgrade Grant Request Northampton $176,000
17 Lower Nazareth Township Lower Nazareth Township Fire Company Air Packs Northampton $42,920
18 Lower Saucon Township Seidersville Hall Improvements Northampton $47,239
19 Nazareth Borough Life Saving Fire Equipment Northampton $26,000
20 Northampton Borough Tomcar Fire/Transport Rescue Vehicle Northampton $56,867
21 Palmer Township Suburban EMS Ambulance Northampton $50,000
22 Pen Argyl Borough 2018 Police Vehicle Request Northampton $66,658
23 Redevelopment Authority of the City of Bethlehem Bethlehem Steelworkers Veterans Memorial Relocation - Phase 2 Northampton $25,000
24 Roseto Borough New Public Works Garage Northampton $200,468
5/22/2019 Page 25 of 26
25 Stockertown Borough Police Equipment Upgrades Northampton $17,500
26 Tatamy Borough Security and safety upgrades Northampton $15,000
27 Wind Gap Borough Wind Gap Municipal Complex Garage Apron Upgrade Northampton $40,000
28 Wind Gap Borough Wind Gap Sewer Line Study

Why Courtney Robinson Lost

Given their choices over the past dozen years, I seriously question the intellect of Allentown Democrats. Time and again, they make horrible choices. This year was no exception. Despite being caught in lies over and over, combined with an unwillingness to listen to the public, Candida Affa captured 18.24% of the vote. That was enough to propel her into office for another term on Allentown City Council unless a Republican can beat her in November. There's a sign, however, that Democrats are finally starting to wake up. They rejected grandstander and Jenn Mann-Mike Schollsberg-Pete Schweyer puppet Courtney Robinson. He was barely edged out by Lehigh County Public Information Officer Joshua Siegel, 1925-1832. Robinson lost by only 93 votes, but he went down. 

Siegel, at age 25, is on a track to be the youngest person ever elected to Allentown City  Council. He will also be the only Council member who actually lives on the often neglected east side.

Why did Siegel win and Robinson lose? Here's my analysis.

1. Money. Siegel raised over $16,000 in his bid for public office  His largest contributor was Richard Brooks, President of Brooks Development, who gave him $3,000. In contrast, Robinson raised just $6,800.  Mann mobsters Peter Schweyer and Mike Schlossberg each kicked in $500, but he needed more.

2. Tax hike. It's bad enough that Robinson voted for a tax hike, but he actually stated at a City Council meeting that no one complained to him about it. This, of course, is untrue.

3. The Traud removal. Robinson spearheaded Tom Traud's removal as Allentown City Solicitor, hoping this might get him a few votes. It actually cost him. On the west end particularly, where Tom Traud is highly regarded.       

Why DiLuzio Lost

According to the unofficial tally from NorCo's elections office, 14,543 Democrats voted in Tuesday's primary. That's just 15.41% of the registered Democrats, far fewer than you'll see in next year's presidential contest. Those who did vote, however, are the super voters. If unable to walk, they still come with canes, wheelchairs or walkers. They take their role seriously, and try to inform themselves. Their verdict was pretty clear. They detested Nuria DiLuzio, who was running for DA.

Terry Houck, John Morganelli's top assistant and DiLuzio's sole opponent, won in a crushing landslide with 69.75% of the vote. He's a professional prosecutor, but no politician. He had no base. In contrast, it was DiLuzio's race to lose. She started her campaign with endorsements from Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez and State Senator Lisa Boscola. She's married to Bethlehem's top cop, Mark DiLuzio. And though Executive Lamont McClure claimed he was neutral, most of his staff were backing DiLuzio. He himself  inappropriately came within a centimeter of endorsing her during his State of the County address.

So how did DiLuzio manage to lose this race? Before giving you my theories, let me give you the facts.

In Bethlehem, which should have been her stronghold, she was massacred. She did win in four small south side precincts, but the other 21 went to Houck. He garnered 60.48% of Christmas City's DA votes.

In Bethlehem Township, where DiLuzio lives, Houck's margin of victory is even higher. He won 63.42% on the DA votes.

Things really get out of hand in the Easton area. In the City, Houck won with a whopping 78% of the vote. In Palmer Tp, it was 79%. In Forks, which only recently has become Houck's home, he captured 85.4% of the vote.

Is this because Terry is so popular? He's amiable and soft-spoken for a tough prosecutor, but is about as comfortable with politics as a vampire on the beach. He ran a professional campaign and avoided any direct attacks, but I think his victory has little to do with him or his campaign.

Here's what I think explains DiLuzio's defeat.

1. She failed to work for it. - Her campaign finance report reveals that she made no serious effort to raise  money. Given her early support and the number of union people I saw at her announcement, she should have outraised Houck. She instead failed to send a single mailer, made no use of Facebook and poured what little money she had into TV ads that reached audiences in Berks and Lehigh County. She also missed several candidate events.

2. Easton-area Democrats worked against her. - They were unhappy that she only recently changed parties. When it was learned that she had decorated her home with Trump-Pence signs, that damaged her even further.

3. She was dishonest.
- Her campaign manager quit after the Trump-Pence picture surfaced, not because of the sign itself, but because DiLuzio initially denied that she had one. She also misrepresented her party to several supporters who were unaware that she was, in fact, a long-time Republican. She told me that a  Trump-Pence campaign sign was at her home for just a few days, and then a second picture surfaced from a different time of year. She claimed she had an ethics opinion that there was no conflict with her as DA and her husband as a police chief, but I obtained a copy and it concludes that there actually is a conflict.As each lie revealed itself, she lost support.

4. She is unlikable
.- Although I personally have always considered her friendly, I have spoken to numerous people who have had unpleasant interactions with her. She told one woman, several times, to get botox treatments. She freely admitted to me that she was at war with a next door neighbor and placed a Trump sign at her home to taunt her.

This is a campaign that exposed DiLuzio, not as a Republican in Democratic clothing, but as a dishonest person. Many of those who originally supported her suddenly became silent.

Monday, May 27, 2019

NorCo's First Ever County Festival

Big Easy Easton Brass (Photo credit - NorCo Facebook) 
Northampton County kicked off Memorial Day weekend with its first ever County festival on Saturday at Louise Moore Park. Part of it included the following major awards. Winners get an evening with Council President Ron Heckman. Losers get two..

Outstanding Volunteers
David Bosich
Donald Broad
Eugene and Joyce Ashner

Outstanding Veteran
Joseph M. Pokojni Sr.

Outstanding Youth
Chris Dech

Outstanding Emergency Services
Harold B. Garland, Jr. – Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Co.
Joseph Moser – Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Co.

Outstanding Municipal Employees
Michael Hunsicker – Police Officer in Bangor Borough
Marena Rasmus – Office Administrator in Bath Borough
Robert Novatnack – Emergency Management Director in Bethlehem City
Vincent Milite – Public Works Director in Hanover Twp
Lori Stauffer – Township Manager in Lower Nazareth Twp
Lois Kerbacher – Zoning and Planning Secretary in Moore Twp
Chistine Lilly – Borough Clerk (retired) in Nazareth Borough
Robin Zmoda – Borough Manager in Pen Argyl Borough
Thomas Petrucci – Township Manager in Plainfield Twp
James Ackerman, Jr – Temporary Road Department Foreman in Plainfield Twp
Carol Hummel – Borough Secretary in Portland Borough
Cathy Martino – Borough Manager/Secretary in Roseto Borough
Deanne Werkeiser – Borough Manager in Tatamy Borough
Thomas Pysher – Road Crew (retired) in Upper Mt. Bethel Twp
Lee Messinger – Road Department Foreman in Washington Twp.
Michael Allen Strawn – Public Works Director in Williams Twp
Richard Fox – Street Department in Wind Gap Borough

Friday, May 24, 2019

State Drops Plans To Demolish or Sell Allentown State Hospital, at Least for Now

Nat Hyman
Pennsylvania's Department of General Services has dropped plans to demolish Allentown State or sell it anytime soon. That's according to court documents filed yesterday in Allentown businessman Nat Hyman's lawsuit against the state.

In what is known as a "Stipulation," the Department of General Services represents "they are not moving forward at the present time with a sale of Allentown State Hospital or demolition of the buildings located at the Allentown State Hospital." The state has also agreed to give Hyman at least 30 days advance notice before sale to a third party or any contract for demolition. It has even agreed to advise Hyman if it even seeks proposals for demolition.

In exchange for these concessions, Hyman has agreed to drop his request for a preliminary injunction, at least for now. He can renew it if the state decides to rip these buildings down.

The parties have finally agreed to put the litigation on hold.

With this lawsuit, private citizen Hyman has succeeded where public officials have been a disappointing failure. These officials include Allentown City Council, who had an opportunity to condemn the proposed demolition through a resolution prepared by Ed Zucal. They let it go. They include State Representative Mike Schlossberg, who personally attacked Hyman instead of addressing his concerns about demolition. They also include State Senator Pat Browne, who took forever and a day before finally responding to his own constituent.

These public officials wanted to spend $15 million to tear down the buildings at the hospital and then sell to a wheeler-dealer from Doylestown named David Ali for $2.57 million. In addition to being someone who has no clue about the Lehigh Valley, Ali is a tax deadbeat who has racked up eight judgments in Bucks County, including tax liens to the state and IRS. But the same people who brought you ghost voting and Fed Ed were perfectly wiling to give Ali three years to arrange financing.

At best, this is incompetence. At worst, it is corruption. This deal had Jenn Mann's fingerprints all over it. She's a State Representative who became a lobbyist and realtor. She has been using her public connections to swing deals like this. That's why Allentown School Director Charlie Thiel wanted his fellow Directors to buy some of the land there for a school. Instead of representing the public good, these politicos serve the private agendas of others.

Of course, Hyman wants to buy this property himself. He knows that filing this suit pretty much ruined that possibility. But his suit has served the greater good by exposing several problems: 1) Should a government ever sell a property to a third party without first seeking proposals? 2) Should there be more restrictions on former public officials who attempt to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayer? 3) Will state legislators like Schlossberg and Browne ever realize that they were elected by the people and not business interests?

Hyman is represented by Attorney Suzanne Ilene Schiller of the Bala Cynwyd law firm of MANKO, GOLD, KATCHER and FOX, LLP. Yhe Department of General Services is represented by Attorneys Harry Robert Walter and David Lee Narkiewicz

The stipulation is below.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

NorCo Wasted $300,000 For Dead DaVinci Project

Rumors had been swirling for the past few weeks, but the news became official on Wednesday. Easton Mayor Sal Panto said plans to bring an expanded DaVinci Science Center to the twin rivers are dead. Though Panto offered an alternative location for a scaled down facility, Erickson said she'd look elsewhere.

Good luck with that!

Interestingly, Panto made his announcement the day after his election. .

This, like his much ballyhooed high school hall of fame, was always a stupid idea. Yet not only did Panto agree to spend $30 million for what originally was a $130 pipedream, he actually did spend $5.9 million in taxpayer dollars to buy and demolish the blighted Days Inn upon which an aquarium and later, a 100' tall Vitruvan man, would stand.

This termination might actually work to Easton's advantage. Several developers have expressed interest in the location, and the city could actually make a profit.

Or not.

Northampton County is not so lucky. In 2017, a lame duck Council on its way out the door awarded a $10 million grant of hotel taxes to help fund the project.

The grant passed by a 5-4 vote. Voting for it were Peg Ferraro, Glenn Geissinger, Mat Benol, Seth Vaughn and Bob Werner. Voting No were Ken Kraft, John Cusick, Matt Dietz and Hayden Phillips. The money was to paid over a period of 40 years.

Peg Ferraro, who has been named Pocketbook Peg by my readers, was the spearhead for this grant. She had no qualms about placing a ball and chain around the county's neck for the next 40 years, really hamstringing its ability to fund tourism anywhere else.

"It's insane," said Ken Kraft, who would become Council President in 2018. One of the first things he did was propose a repeal of the grant.

By this time, plans changed for what was supposed to be a shark-infested 500,000 gallon salt-water fish tank. You see, another aquarium was being considered in the Poconos. State Senator Mario Scavello wanted no competition from a non-profit. He and State Senator Lisa Boscola agreed to throw $20 million at Erickson if could come up with something else.

Her Plan B was ridiculous. A fish tank in a flood plain was now going to be a "Nature Dome" that permits you to see the exact same things you'd see if you walked along the river. There's also a bug garden and a 100' tall XXL Vitruvian Man modeled after Easton Mayor Sal Panto, complete with a 3 inch peeper, three hairs and a 200' diameter mouth.

Vitruvian Sal would still originally require the same $130 million that was proposed for the fish tank. When people complained, Erickson knocked off $10 million.

Vitruvian Sal would later become Vitruvian Gumby when Council member Tara Zrinski objected to the notion that a man could be the model.

No peeper at all.

Previously, DaVinci was awarded $50,000 in hotel taxes.

So though Northampton County ended its commitment, DaVinci also still received $250,000 from the repealed $10 million grant. So the County has spent $300,000 for a project that never got past the drawing board.

Four of the five Council members who voted for this nightmare on Washington Street are no longer on the board. Just Peg.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

My Election Takeaways

As many of you know, I am a judge of elections in Northampton County. It's a long day that starts at 6 am, and ends around 9 pm when results are finally delivered.  I always arrive tired. I worry so much about oversleeping that I usually get none at all. Then I nod off at the polling place, especially in low-turnout affairs like yesterday, in which each second lasts an hour. I still would like to share these observations.

1. Richard Huntington Pepper, Esq. is an asshole. - Many years ago, Pepper and I were pirates on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. We sailed a 36' long Southern Cross, equipped with a fog horn that can blow your eardrums out. On one voyage, I blew Pepper's eardrums, brains and just about everything else out by blasting that horn while he was sleeping. Yesterday, he got revenge. I had taken a break and went to my car for a quick 20 winks. He waited until I nodded off and then bounded my car door. This would give anyone my age a heart attack,but I have no heart.

2. It was DiLuzio's race to lose, and she did. - When Nuria DiLuzio first announced her candidacy for DA, it appeared that she would be unbeatable. Bethlehem Dems got behind her, including Mayor Bob Donchez. She also picked up some important union endorsements. Then the shoes began to drop. I reported she had been a long-time Republican. Then I told you about a Trump-Pence sign, posted on her door. She claimed it was only there for one or two days. Then a second picture of the sign appeared, taken at a different time of year. She claimed to have an ethics opinion concluding that there is no conflict with her husband as Bethlehem's chief of police. I obtained a copy of that opinion, and it concludes there is a conflict. Her campaign manager dumped her/. Unions walked away. Last night,Northampton County voters delivered a final rebuke..They picked professional prosecutor Terry Houck over her by a  69.83% margin.

3. Provisional Ballots rule. - Two women who claim to be Democrats but are registered as Republicans were able to vote provisionally

4. Morganelli beat Morganelli. - Since he had no opposition, he will be a judge. Governor Tom Wolf may very well appoint him now.

5. Numerous voters complained about the scant information. - They pointed out that newspapers provided very little detail about candidates. I will try my best to remedy that problem in the Fall.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Election Day Picks

I’ll be at the polls all day, but this is an opportunity for you to comment on your favorite candidates in any of the local races. Donald Trump visited central Pa. last night. He knows he’s in trouble here.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Easton's Mayoral Race

I was speaking last week to a woman around the same age as me. She and her husband are both of Mexican descent, though both were born here. She has lived and worked in Easton's west ward for most of her life. On Tuesday, she will vote for Taiba Sultana over incumbent Sal Panto in the Mayoral race.

Now before I go further, I expect Panto to win. Easily. Though he is egotistical and thin-skinned, he has been a good Mayor. Sure, he's had idiotic ideas like the giant fish tank and the high school hall of fame.  But overall, he's been good and passionate about Easton. He has basically delivered on his "clean and safe" mantra ... except in the west ward. The downtown is hopping, but the western part of the city is horrible. I personally know one gentleman who was shot while taking an after-dinner walk. The homes, most of which are owned by absentee landlords, show signs of neglect.

This woman agreed that Panto has done a good job downtown, but not where she lives in the west ward  She has also been plagued by parking tickets. She worked nights for a time a few years ago, and often would get home around midnight. Rather than park several blocks away, she would find a spot on the corner near her home. She'd be ticketed because she was too close to the intersection. But at least she was not robbed ... or worse.

Getting no satisfaction from Easton's so-called appeal process, she would take her ticket to then Magisterial District Judge Michael Koury. Judge Koury would always take her ticket and warn her to find a better spot.

I doubt that now President Judge Koury even remembers this. But the women was able to go to him when ignored by city officials. There is little doubt in my mind that he either paid those tickets himself or that Easton officials were willing to listen to him.

Now, there is no judicial review at all of parking tickets

Sal needs the dough.

When speaking to this woman, I picked up on another reason why she'll be voting for Sultana. She feels that the community discriminates against her family, and that Sultana would understand this better than Panto.

She told me a story. Not long ago, her granddaughter celebrated her 13th birthday with a party at the family home on Ferry Street. She invited 20 classmates. Two came. The word she received from most of her friends is that their parents felt the area is too unsafe.

I believe my friend is mistaken about Panto, who has always stood up for underdogs. He's been one himself.But this woman feels that Sultan has a better understanding.

Friday, May 17, 2019

NorCo Council Approves New Voting System

At a meeting attended by about 50 supporters of dueling voting systems, Northampton County Council voted 8-1 last night to approve a $2.9 million contract to purchase a new touchscreen voting system with a voter-verified paper trail. County officials expect to have it in place for November's election. The sole dissenting vote came from Council member Bob Werner.

This purchase was delayed by Council to see how this new system worked in Delaware, which conducted school board races on Tuesday. Northampton County's administrator Amy Cozze attended this election as an official observer, and reported the machines were unqualified success. Her endorsement was echoed by a Delaware State election official who phoned in. Castle Point, a Delaware newspaper, reports that county officials in the First State give the new system an A.

This is an unfunded mandate. Last year, Pennsylvania's Department of State directed all 67 counties to select new voting systems that include a voter verifiable paper trail, making post-election audits more accurate. They must be in place before the 2020 primary. Though the statewide cost of his change is estimated at $125 million to $150 million, the state has yet to provide any of the funding. The federal government has provided a $342,000 grant to Northampton County.

The Express Vote XL is a 32" touch screen similar to the system currently in use. It was the overwhelming and nonpartisan choice of election judges who attended a day-long presentation of different voting systems earlier this year. In March, the Elections Commission voted 3-2 to endorse this system over paper ballots that would be scanned.

Opponents of Express Vote XL, some of whom spoke several times, expressed security concerns even though it is a stand alone system with no network connection. They also complained that a vote could flip after it is cast, going to a different candidate than the person selected. They also argued that moving the machine would present calibration issues, making it inaccurate. They also criticized a bar code on ballots.

These concerns were discounted by ExpressVote XL vendors. There is no Internet connection. Testing on the state and federal level revealed that flipping is nonexistent. There also is no calibration problem. Vendors also pointed out that barcodes are common everywhere, from grocery store to hospital.

Numerous election judges and poll workers spoke in support of the new system. They argued it would be familiar to voters and present none of the privacy concerns or multiple lines that would accompany paper ballots.

In addition to election judges, Elections Commissioner Maude Hornick said she supported ExpressVote XL because she wants no election official to decide how she intended to vote.

Trudy Fatzinger, Secretary of Pennsylvania Council for the Blind, reported that ExpressVote XL is handicapped-friendly. This was a selling point to Executive Lamont McClure, who observed that 25% of Pennsylvania's registered voters have some form of disability.

What sold Council member Matt Dietz was money. When this matter was tabled a few weeks ago, Administrator Charles Dertinger warned that the County would be forced to be $20,000 in shipping costs. At Dietz' request, the vendor agreed to wave this additional cost.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

NorCo Gets Clean and Unqualified Audit

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 minor problem.

When the County disbanded the Gaming Authority, a little under $60,000 was transferred to county coffers. This money is there to monitor compliance with outstanding grants.

Hoefel provided a clean and unqualified opinion during a lengthy presentation at which I fell asleep.

"I live for this stuff," Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron told me. At night, he reads the county's latest financial statements to his daughters as bed-time stories.

Boomer the Exploding Dog

Northampton County Sheriff Rich Johnston advised County Council yesterday that he's adding a new Deputy to his staff. Instead of the usual cost for a trained Deputy Sheriff, this one is costing only $1,700 a year. That's because this new addition is a dog.

According to the Sheriff, suspicious packages are sometimes left at the courthouse's loading dock. People also sometimes leave briefcases in a hallway or the parking lot. Rather than risking a Deputy's life to check these items, that task will fall to the K-9, whose name is going to be Boomer.

Both the dog and its eight weeks of training are thanks to an anonymous donation from a county resident.

In addition to detecting possible explosive devices, Boomer will also be trained to assist local police in tracking elderly county residents who wander off.

Council member Tara Zrinski wanted to know whether the dog is going to be male or female. Isn't that sexist? She also questioned why the county is hiring a chocolate lab. Isn't that racist? Sheriff Johnston said he ruled out German Shepherds because they tend to bite. Isn't that anti-German?

The dog will be partnered with a Deputy who will receive one hour per day for at-home care.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Will NorCo Choose ExpressVote XL?

In recent weeks, self-proclaimed election experts have instructed Northampton County Council to do their homework concerning new voting machines. What they are really telling Council is to reject ExpressVote XL, the choice of the Lamont McClure administration, Elections Commission and about 40 election judges. While touting a great reverence for democracy,  they ignore democratic choices. They distrust a touch screen voting machine with a voter-verifiable paper record. They much prefer paper ballots, and dismiss the very serious potential for fraud that comes with it. In fact, that's why paper ballots were phased out in most jurisdictions many years ago.

In the early days of this country, there were no ballots at all. People voted viva voci. In Colonial Pennsylvania, you voted by tossing beans in a hat. No secret ballots either.

Paper ballots were a step up from tossing beans in a hat, but guess who prepared the ballots? The political parties. They would be printed up in advance and then taken to the polling place unless the person carrying them was jumped.

Before the trusty old lever machines, there are stories of paper ballots being switched in the trip from the slate belt to the courthouse. One bag would leave the polling place and be switched for another.

Lever machines pretty much eliminated most types of fraud. Then came the computer. Though most are stand alone, there were still worries about hacking. Or worse, vote flipping. That's a computer glitch in which you vote for one person, but the software program recognizes another. So the latest rage is a paper verified system. That is still suspect to many who think Republicans or those damn Russians have found a way to ensure that every vote is rigged. Maybe they have, but I doubt it.

Northampton County Council is waiting to see how the ExpressVote XL works out in Delaware. Voters in that state had school board elections on Tuesday. I've seen no news account that reports whether the machine functioned well or had problems.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

NorCo's 2019 Primary: What the Campaign Finance Reports Tell Me

A week from today, Northampton County voters will elect candidates for various municipal offices, from school boards to county council. Pre-primary finance reports were due Friday. This is what they tell me.

District Attorney's Race. - Terry Houck ($68,685) has raised twice as much money as Nuria DiLuzio ($26,880). Houck has used his money to send out seven mailers to Democrats. DiLuzio has sent none. Both candidates are heavily financed by unions.

On the Republican side, Tom Carroll has already spent $11,000 even though he has no opponent. His campaign contributors include Tricia Mezzacappa, who defended mass murderer Rockne Newell as a victim of government oppression.

Easton Mayoral race. - Taiba Sultan is a day late and a few thousand dollars short. She's fighting an uphill battle against entrenched incumbent Sal Panto, and forgot to file her campaign finance report on time. The hurried one submitted on Monday is mathematically challenged. She claims to have raised $1,500, giving her a total of $6,506.72. She fails to state how much she had on hand before raising money. She did loan herself $5,000.

Sultan is making great use of Facebook, a cheap yet effective way to target voters.

Panto is keeping his race low budget. He raised $89,750, but spent only $1,488.

NorCo Council - With no opponent, Kevin Lott raised $31,725. Why? Because he can, I suppose. Most of his money comes from the trade unions, where Kevin spent his career as a carpenter. God, I wonder how much he could have raised if he had an opponent.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Why Tuesday's Delaware Election Matters to NorCo

On Tuesday, voters in Delaware will elect school board candidates in two counties. Why does this matter to NorCo? Because the voting will be on the ExpressVote XL system, which has been proposed here. Northampton County is waiting to see how that election goes before voting to purchase the choice of Executive Lamont McClure, a vast majority of 40 election judges who viewed several systems, and a 3-2 recommendation of the county's Election Commission. The purchase is opposed by political activists, most of them Democrats, who want a return to paper ballots instead of a touchscreen.

Though both federal and state governments are pretty good at telling counties what to do, there is no single voting system in use nationwide. Instead, it's a potpourri of different choices. All have their flaws.

The dispute in Northampton County is whether to go with ExpressVote XL or a paper ballot that is subsequently scanned.

ExpressVote XL is considered a hybrid. It is still a Direct-Recording Electronic voting machine, but it includes a Voter Verifiable Paper Trail. As explained in Harvard Political Review, " the machine prints out a receipt with the voter’s choices on it. The voter can therefore easily verify that the machine counted the vote as they intended. This paper is kept at the polling station and can be used to conduct post-election audits." It concludes that either this hybrid or a paper ballot is satisfactory, and that Express Vote XL is an improvement over current touchscreens.

Long term, there really should be a single system put in place by the federal government, which is better equipped to deal with this fundamental problem of democracy of making a machine that is built entirely for elections and only elections.

That's a long way away. For now, I feel far more comfortable with the touchscreen than having some election official decide what Imeant when I marked a paper ballot.

Friday, May 10, 2019

More About DiLuzio's Potential Conflict as DA

On Monday, I shared an advisory opinion written by one member of the Pa. Bar Association's Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee. It concludes that NorCo DA hopeful Nuria DiLuzio has a potential conflict of interest in prosecuting cases arising in Bethlehem, where her husband Mark is the police chief. What astonished me is that DiLuzio at a forum in Easton misrepresented that opinion. The Morning Call, which has since published its own story concerning this opinion, also hints that DiLuzio has been less than candid. As reporter Peter Hall observes, "DiLuzio did not make the ethics opinion public, nor did she mention its suggestion that she distance herself from prosecutions stemming from arrests by Bethlehem police by designating an assistant DA to handle them." That's what bothers me. I have my own problems with that opinion, but someone who wants to be a "minister of justice" has an obligation to be painfully honest. DiLuzio has failed in that category, both with the ethics opinion and in he numerous explanations about switching parties or her support for Donald Trump.

I originally thought very little of the opinion itself because the interests of prosecutor and police office are closely aligned. But I'm coming around.

Recently, Bethlehem police were called to visit a property in Bethlehem in response to a noise complaint. A woman answered the door, holding a bottle of booze in her hand. She assured officers that everyone at her house party were at least 21, and agreed to allow police to confirm that by going inside. They asked heto be r to step outside, and she did so.

After confirming that this woman had been truthful, Bethlehem police cited this party host for being on the sidewalk with an open container even though she was only complying with a police directive. It was a bullshit charge, deigned to harass this woman for having a loud party. The case never made it to a hearing, so far as I know, because DA John Morganelli directed that it be dismissed.

What would DA Nuria DiLuzio do? Would she dismiss a bad case or would she be concerned that it might embarrass her husband?

What about more serious matters? During his tenure as DA, John Morganelli has prosecuted about 40 police officers. He's referred about half as many to the state AG when he has known or worked with the officers. Would DiLuzio prosecute a bad Bethlehem cop if it embarrassed her husband or gave his department a bad eye?

Based on the dishonesty I've seen in her campaign, it's clear to me that she would misuse her office.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Who Will Be Lehigh County's Next Judge?

Like Northampton County, Lehigh County has one judicial vacancy this election cycle. In Northampton County, the only candidate to file is District Attorney John Morganelli. In Lehigh County, it's another story. A cornucopia of seven lawyers want that black robe, which comes with a $184,781 annual salary that automatically goes up each year. They include six guys and one woman. Given the recent success of women in political contests, you might think Anna-Kristie Morffi Marks has the inside track. Besides, she's Lehigh County DA Jim Martin's top prosecutor. But I think Zac Cohen will get the nod. It's perhaps the one time that being a Jew is advantageous.

In the most recent issue of Hakol, an excellent monthly newspaper called "The Voice of the Lehigh Valley Jewish Community," Cohen has taken out a full-page ad. There is little doubt in my mind that many in Lehigh County's large Jewish population will vote for him. If the field were more limited, this would be less helpful. But with seven candidates, he could prevail over Morffi Marks.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

DiLuzio To Stay in DA Race

Despite questions about whether her loyalties really lie with the Democratic or Republican party and even more basic questions about her honesty, Nuria DiLuzio is soldiering on in her quest to snag the Democratic nomination for NorCo DA on May 21.

She was a no-show at a Kirkland Village candidate forum on Monday. Also, there were no updates on her Facebook page since word broke that her home was decorated with a Trump-Pence campaign sign.

Yesterday, she made clear she's staying in the race. She posted this on Facebook.
"Thank you to the many many supporters who have called or messaged me in the past week expressing commitment to my campaign for Northampton County DIstrict Attorney. Attacks on my character and disingenuous remarks by my opponents will not stifle my voice or push me out of this historic election. Discussion of critical issues of criminal justice reform and creative and compassionate approaches to the opioid crisis and treatment for mentally ill offenders should not be drowned out by personal attacks.

"Please join me in getting out the vote on Tuesday, May 21st and in being a loud voice for change in Northampton County."
So far as I know, DiLuzio Democratic opponent Terry Houck, has mounted no attack aimed at her character or honesty.

That would be me.

I believe they are entirely appropriate. In a race for DA, questions of character and honesty matter far more to me than Trump signs. She denied that there was a Trump sign at her home until a picture of it surfaced. She then said it was only there a day or two, and was put there mostly to annoy a neighbor. Over the weekend, I was provided a second picture taken at a different time of year.

We deserve a District Attorney who is above vindictive actions aimed at a neighbor. We deserve a District Attorney who is honest, even if it hurts a little.

DiLuzio continued her campaign last night at Bethlehem's 540 Club.

RIP Gus Loupos

Gus Loupos, former chair of Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board, has passed away. You can read his obituary here. It tells you many fascinating things about this great man. He served in the US Army during the Korean War, was a teacher at both of Bethlehem's public high schools and even helped found an interim school for troubled kids. I was privileged to get to know him during many long nights covering the Zoning Hearing Board. He was everything you'd want to see in a public official.

Gus set an atmosphere for the board that continues today. He was always careful to make sure that anyone who wanted to speak had the opportunity to do so. He was fair-minded in what were sometimes contentious hearings, and always displayed a self-deprecating good humor. 

I will miss him. 


Tuesday, May 07, 2019

NorCo To Break Ground on $10.6 Million Forensic Center

Northampton County is expected to begin construction of a $10.6 million forensic center in June. It will be located on the Gracedale campus, near the County's 911 Center.

Believe it or not, Coroner Zach Lysek has no morgue and operates out of a small office at Louise Moore Park. Though a forensic center has been discussed for decades, nothing has happened until now. In addition to providing storage of the deceased, the center will be also include autopsy stations and instruments that assist in determining the cause and manner of death.

The county's population is expected to increase 23% by 2030. Nearly 40% of the population will be 50 or older. A forensic center will enable the county to provide a place for pathologists and police investigators, as well as temporary storage. 

DiLuzio a No-Show at Bethlehem Candidate Forum

Every election cycle, Bethlehem's Kirkland Village Retirement Community hosts a "Meet the Candidates" event  This year is no exception, and the auditorium filled yesterday to hear from the political hopefuls. Unlike many of the stops along the campaign trail, the audience actually includes people who have no association with any of the campaigns. So if you are seeking office in Bethlehem or Northampton County, you want to be there.

Kirkland Village conducted its forum yesterday. NorCo DA candidate Terry Houck was there. NorCo DA candidate Nuria DiLuzio was absent.

Her last Facebook entry was on April 30.

Monday, May 06, 2019

More About DiLuzio's Trump Sign

Last week, I published a photo from a Facebook page showing a Trump-Pence campaign sign at Nuria DiLuzio's home. When you're seeking the Democratic nomination for NorCo District Attorney and just switched parties, as she did, this can and does bother people. What bothers me far more than the sign are the conflicting accounts DiLuzio has given..

Story #1.- Celeste Dee is DiLuzio's former campaign manager. When Dee was first informed that DiLuzio had decorated her home with a Trump-Pence campaign sign, she contacted the candidate. DiLuzio denied it. She told Dee that campaign signs of any kind are prohibited by the homeowners' association in their development.

Then a picture of the sign surfaced, establishing that what DiLuzio said to Dee is inaccurate. This is why Dee decided to part ways with DiLuzio, who then falsely claimed to have fired her.

Story #2. - In a conversation with me concerning the campaign sign, DiLuzio admitted that one had been placed at her front door. (Her front door actually faces her next door neighbor, and not the street.) According to DiLuzio, it was only there one or days, and then was taken down. She told me it was done mostly to taunt her next door neighbor, an ardent Hillary supporter.

Over the weekend, I obtained a second photo of a Trump-Pence sign at DiLuzio's front door. If you take a close look at it, you can see that  there are mums on the porch and flowers on a tree. This picture was obviously taken in autumn, around the time of the election.

Compare the second photo with the first. You'll notice the tree is bare in the first photo.Also, the porch is adorned with with an evergreen instead of mums. The second photo was taken at a different time of the year, most likely winter.

The second photo demonstrates that, contrary to what DiLuzio told me, that sign decorated her doorway at different times of the year, and not just for a day or two.

What she told me is inaccurate, to put it kindly.

This basic lack of honesty casts a dark cloud over DiLuzio's fitness as a prosecutor or in any other public office. The question now is not whether she should be elected DA, but whether she should remain as the county's Chief Public Defender.

If you need further convincing, look at the story below.

Pa Bar - DA DiLuzio's Marriage to Police Chief Would Be Ethical Conflict

Nuria DiLuzio is running for the Democratic nomination as Northampton County's next District Attorney. When she first announced her candidacy in January before a crowded room of enthusiastic supporters, she certainly seemed like the candidate to beat. A few months later, her campaign is on life support.  I've previously reported that she only became a Democrat on November 21, just three days after incumbent John Morganelli announced he had decided against seeking re-election. This hurt her. Her campaign team dropped her last week after discovering that she decorated the front door of her home with a Trump-Pence sign. This hurt more. Now there's another problem, too. DeLuzio is married to Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem's Police Chief. To those who've asked whether this is a conflict, DiLuzio has said No. At a candidates' night with the Easton NAACP, she even claimed the Pa. Bar Association had given her a green light in the form of a favorable ethics opinion. This, however, is completely inaccurate.

I've obtained and have attached a copy of that opinion. Contrary to what DiLuzio has represented, she has a conflict. It's one that would prevent her from supervising any prosecution arising out of Bethlehem. That's about 40% of the criminal cases tried in Northampton County.

This Opinion, dated February 21, comes from the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee. It represents the views of only one member. It is "advisory only and is not binding on the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. This opinion carries only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it."

This epistle carries no weight, nor should it. But it says the opposite of what DiLuzio has claimed.

The issue:
"You are running for the position of District Attorney in County A. Your husband is the Chief of Police in City B, which is in County A. If you win the election, you ask whether you will have a conflict of interest in serving as the District Attorney because you are married to the Chief of Police."
"Given that a prosecutor’s role as a “minister of justice” requires impartiality or disinterestedness, and a prosecutor is obligated to refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause, the issue is whether you will be precluded from exercising independent professional judgment in instances in which your spouse or subordinates of your spouse are bringing charges and testifying against defendants in court. You would have a conflict of interest under Rule 1.7(a)(2) where there is significant risk that your representation of the Commonwealth, which entails a fiduciary duty to the public to act disinterestedly, is materially limited by your personal interest in taking actions that favor your spouse or your spouse’s subordinates. Section 3-1.7 of ABA Standards for Criminal Justice cited above reinforces this precept.

"Rule 1.7(b) provides that notwithstanding the existence of a conflict of interest, representation may proceed if the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation and the client gives informed consent.  However, serious doubt exists as to whether the interests of the Commonwealth will be adequately protected if the Commonwealth gives informed consent. Moreover, it is not clear how the Commonwealth would consent to such a conflict when its own representative is the lawyer engaging in the conflict. Accordingly, whenever matters arise in the District Attorney’s Office involving the police department for which your spouse serves as Chief of Police, you should consider formally designating an Assistant District Attorney to be fully responsible for prosecutions arising from arrests by that police department consistent with a court-implemented and supervised screening process concerning the handling of such matters to avoid the conflicts enumerated above. See PBA Informal Opinion 2010-052."
Under this opinion, DiLuzio would have to designate an Assistant District Attorney who was never elected to handle and supervise all Bethlehem prosecutions  So basically there would be two district attorneys. Moreover, the unelected DA would be subject to court supervision. That presents another ethical dilemma. How could the court possibly hold itself out as an independent and neutral jurist if it is supervising the DA who prosecutes Bethlehem cases? 

This informal opinion is poorly considered. But it nevertheless says the exact opposite of what DiLuzio has told others. I find that more troubling than the opinion itself.

PaBar: DA Has Conflict if Married to Chief of Police by BernieOHare on Scribd

Friday, May 03, 2019

NorCo Council Wants More Input from Elections Comm'n

Two weeks ago, Northampton County Council voted to delay the $2.9 million purchase of a new voting system mandated by the state. It;s called Express Vote XL, and the vote was delayed at the suggestion of Council member John Cusick. He wants to see how well the system works in Delaware. As a result of this delay, there was no scheduled discussion. It happened anyway. Earlier in the day, a clarion call went out to Democrats. So a procession of speakers blasted one system they don't understand in favor of another system they don't understand. Now, County Council wants to hear from the three Elections Commission members who voted to recommend this purchase.

Three of last night's speakers had just spoken at the last meeting, but wanted to be heard again. A fourth speaker claimed to be an election judge who was never notified when systems were available for review. This will be news to the 40 elections judges who attended a day-long presentation of the different systems in March, and with no remuneration. They once again attended the March Elections Comm'n meeting at which the Express Vote XL system was chosen, and with no compensation.

There were complaints about flipping, which is a reversal of how a person actually voted. That flipping did occur, but not with ExressVote XL. It occurred with the Clear Ballot system over which they all gushed.

The guy who claimed to be an elections judge went on to tell Council that he knows them all and respects them. Right after that, he hinted they were all on the take. He also argued that ExpressVote XL is the system Republicans want. It was the choice of Executive Lamont McClure, who happens to be a Democrat.

It was also the overwhelming choice of elections judges, but their vote was discounted.

Tara Zrinski suggested that Council invite the elections Commission members who voted for ExpressVoteXL.

I'd invite the elections judges, who can explain better than anyone why they prefer this system over the choice of partisans who have deluded themselves into thinking something is amiss.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Trump Sign May Have Doomed DiLuzio's DA Race

Nuria DiLuzio wants to be Northampton County's next District Attorney. Before that can happen, she must capture the Democratic nod. Based on a photo that made its way to Facebook over the weekend, her campaign might already be over. It's a photograph of a Donald Trump sign from the 2016 Presidential race, which was on her side door. This revelation has upset many Democrats.

Northampton County is one of 209 purple counties to vote twice for Barack Obama, then Donald Trump.He won with 49.63% of the vote. This happened because, obviously, some Democrats voted for him. Since then, the pendulum has swung back to favor Democrats.A Democratic County Exec and five Council members were swept into office in 2017. So long as Trump keeps tweeting, things will stay that way.

Though DiLuzio seeks the Democratic nomination, she was a registered Republican until November 19 of last year. This was just two days after incumbent District Attorney John Morganelli announced he had enough as  the county's top prosecutor and would let someone else shoulder the responsibility. Her voting history from 1996 shows that, except for 2012 and 2013, she has always voted as a Republican.

This completely stunned many local Democrats, especially those active in local elections. DiLuzio has been a frequent supporter Democratic supporter. She has backed State Senator Lisa Boscola, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez and NorCo Exec Lamont McClure. I've seen her at numerous Democratic fundraisers, so I was surprised by her Republican affiliation.

When confronted over her party switch, Diluzio responded that she is a Democrat. "My values align and have aligned with the values of the Democratic party," she explained. 

I accepted this explanation, but it is now known that she had a Trump campaign sign affixed to her front door during the 2016 election. Lehigh County Comm'r Amy Zanelli uploaded a photograph at Lehigh Valley Roar over the weekend "Just thought you might want to see her front door," she says.

Reaction has been quick and furious. I've been told (not confirmed) Lehigh Valley Roar and some of the unions backing her have withdrawn their support. Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez, her campaign chair, has asked for an explanation. And yesterday, she met with her campaign consultant, who is only willing now to help DiLuzio withdraw.

DiLuzio acknowledged that she did have a Trump sign affixed to her door, which faces her next door neighbor. She denies that she supports Trump, calling him "abhorrent." She admitted that a Trump sign was on her door during the 2016 race,, but only for a few days. She said her neighbor had been besieging her with Hillary information, and the Trump sign was an attempt to give her some of her own medicine. She added that in many marriages, a husband and wife can support different candidates.

I find it kind of bizarre that someone would hold onto a picture taken in 2016, and then use it three years later. But it's obvious that's what happened. So I find DiLuzio's explanation is credible. Having said that, I will support Terry Houck.

Taking DiLuzio at her word, she admits to taunting a neighbor. Vindictiveness should be absent in a prosecutor. Though both are great administrators, Houck is an experienced prosecutor who has tried most of the county's most difficult cases since he came aboard. In contrast, DiLuzio has had two jury trials. As a prosecutor, Houck has tried capital cases. DiLuzio has no death penalty certification.

Diluzio is very personable. I admit I like her. I accept her explanation. I support Terry Houck.

Erratum, 2:00 pm: I incorrectly stated Dems won five seats on NorCo Council in 2017. They won four.