Friday, January 31, 2020

Rick Orloski, RIP

Prominent civil rights attorney Rick Orloski, champion of underdogs everywhere, has had a change of venue. Instead of suing bad cops and governments here in the Lehigh Valley, he's been recruited to assist some of the more questionable recent candidates for Paradise.

"People like Bart Star or Doris Day need no help," he told me in a special appearance from a burning bush earlier this week. "But do you know how much the heavenly host despises Rip Taylor? Archangel Michael went ballistic when he got sprinkled with confetti." Orloski had special permission to warn me it's time I clean up my act.

I'm apparently in bigger trouble than Rip Taylor.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Rick passed away on Sunday, just shy of his 73rd birthday. Like both my parents, he is originally a product of the coal regions. He was of short stature like my father, but was a legal giant.

Most of the general public will remember Rick as a perennial candidate for public office, be it Congress or State Senate. Cedar Crest commuters could tell when an election was approaching by the number of signs outside his law offices. He was a very involved Democrat who understood better than most that democracy is no spectator sport.

But his real passion was helping others. Like his brother, a priest, Rick used his passion of the law and Cornell Law School education to give a voice to those being besieged by bully employers, bad government and violent cops. He often took on unpopular causes because his conscience was more important to him than what others thought.

His clients loved him. I know. I was one of them.

I hesitated before writing this tribute. I will explain why in the post below.

The Ugliness of Tricia Mezzacappa

I delayed posting a tribute to Rick Orloski for one reason. Tricia Mezzacappa. Rick represented me in my successful defamation litigation against her. I suspected she would trash him anonymously. I was going to deny her that opportunity.

Instead of posting anonymously on my blog, she published this screed on her West Easton Borough Constable Facebook page:
Now its [sic] my turn, and Mom, this one is for you. I could care less [sic] who may be "offended" by this rant. Heaven gained no angel, rather Hell gained a sadistic parasite named Richard Orloski esq, who practiced an evil brand of law. This is the dirtbag who sued my innocent mother on behalf of a lazy degenerate sleazbag [sic] disbarred sociopathic sadist, who was too lazy to ever find a fucking job and support himself. The stress that was caused by this evil scumbag was no doubt, [sic] what lead [sic] to her death. A fine woman who hurt no one, and lived her life to always make sure others came before herself. Not to mention , at the same time, suing an 85 year old man in a nursing home, who died during the litigation. I hope the Mezzacappa family money that you extorted from my innocent mother paid for a fine looking casket that places you face down, to show you where you are headed. May you burn in Hell where you belong.
It's hard to believe hateful people like Tricia Mezzacappa exist. She's scheduled to go to trial May 4 on charges that she lied to Pennsylvania State Police in an attempt to frame a black man whose car exhaust was too loud for her tender ears.  Yesterday, on the eve of trial, she applied for a continuance. Under these circumstances, a normal person would want to keep her head down. Not Tricia.

I think she's already in Hell.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

My Take on the Whitehall HS "Riot"

Most of you know I'm only one person. Every day, I get older and slower. Yet I was taken to task for failing to cover a fracas that ensued when the Whitehall Zephyrs were scheduled to host Allentown Central Catholic' Vikings in boys basketball on Tuesday night. "Where is your write-up? demanded a reader who's already certain the kids involved are all thugs.

I wish I had been there, not for the near riot, but the game. The two teams met last night, and the Vikings are now on a 14-game winning streak with a 49-31 victory, led by Nick Filchner and Liam Joyce. I had the privilege of watching the Vikings play earlier this season, and hope to do so again.

What happened is unfortunate, but as Vikings' Coach Dennis Csensits told The Morning Call, "It's just one of those things."

I have attended many games between Whitehall and Central over the years. My grandson has numerous friends who attended or played there. These kids are no "thugs." They are awesome. Funny, too!

Unless things have suddenly changed within the last two years, what happened is an aberration.

My own experience is that basketball tends to bring out the best in people. It brings people from many different backgrounds together. Rich or poor, white or not, there is more to unite us than divide us.

It's a good thing to stand up and question authority. I do it frequently. But you need to do it the right way. When 16 or 17, some kids will occasionally cross lines they would think twice about with a little more maturity. With what has gone on at some high schools, police rightly need to be very firm.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Turning Point Founder Honored For 45 Yrs Service to NorCo

Kevin Dolan, who administers the Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Division in  Northampton County, is retiring after 45 years of service. He was honored with a Certificate of Recognition by County Council at their January 23 meeting.

Dolan began his work in 1974 as a caseworker. He rose through the ranks to direct the Child Abuse Investigation and Emergency Units, and eventually became Director of the entire division. Over the years, Dolan's commitment to at-risk youth was noticed by state officials, and he has been named State Child Abuse Worker of the Year (1984) as well as State Social Worker of the Year (1990).

Dolan is a founder of Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley, which provides assistance to the victims of domestic violence.

In its Commendation, County Council notes that Dolan's "commitment to public service has clearly demonstrated that one person can make a difference."

Gracedale Hit With Five Citations in Latest Annual Health Insperction

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure presented County Council with a shitburger at last week's County Council meeting, but tried to pretend it was filet mignon. He said he had good news about Gracedale, the County's nursing home. He first reminded everyone that last year's annual health inspection yielded a whopping 13 citations. Then he announced that things are looking up now because the state Department of Health just finished its latest annual inspection, and only found five health deficiencies.

This kind of low expectation from the County's leadership is entirely unacceptable. It just guarantees  citations will continue.

In Pennsylania, a nursing home is hit with an average of 9.2 health citations during the annual survey. Gracedale beats is well above that average, but it also went two years with no citations at all when it had an outside Administrator. When County leadership praises mediocrity, that's what it gets.

I am unable to report on the nature of these latest  citations because the state Department of Health has only posted surveys through December. But I will.

What I can say is Gracedale's Medicare rating remains at two stars, or below average.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Elections Comm'n Will Meet Thursday, 4:30 PM

Northampton County's new Voting Registrar, Amy Cozze, has confirmed that the Elections Commission will meet again this Thursday, 4:30 pm, to discuss a $240,000 proposal for electronic poll books manufactured by Tenex Software Solutions.  In addition, they will consider voter outreach suggestions.

At their inaugural meeting last week, all five members agreed to wait a week before making a decision so they could do their own research. I did some research myself, and told you yesterday that Dallas had to scrap Tenex because it was susceptible to hacking and unable to interface with their voting system, which happens to be the ExpressVote XL.

I see no reason why an electronic pollbook should be able to interface with an actual voting system. One has nothing to do with the other.

Cozze told me yesterday the problem arose in Dallas because voters in that county can vote at any voting precinct they choose. Thus, the electronic poll books were connected to the Internet so that if voter A voted at Precinct #1 and then decided to vote again at Precinct #2, the poll book at Precinct #2 would know that voter A had already cast a ballot when he attempted to check in.

In Pennsylvania, that scenario is impossible. You can only vote by mail or at your assigned precinct. Thus, there is no need for an Internet connection. The pollbooks within each precinct will be able to sync via bluetooth, but there will be no Internet or WiFi.

Cozze also told me the County was working to establish a direct link to the election's office from the county's home web page. I just checked, and it's already there as a "Quick Access Link."

In the meantime, paper ballot purists suing in Commonwealth Court have strangely withdrawn a request for a preliminary injunction against the ExpressVote XL. In a companion lawsuit in federal court, a hearing is scheduled before Judge Paul Diamond on February 18. Judge Diamond has made clear he is uninterested in the experiences of individual voters and has concluded the State has already made a showing that it has been prejudiced by the nearly year delay after certification of the XL before seeking a ban on its continued use.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Do We Have the Right EPollBook Vendor?

Tenex' Lena Santiago demonstrates epollbook. 
Recent changes in The Elections Code extends registration and mail-in ballot dates. This is good for voters, but bad for the company that prints Northampton County's paper pollbooks. It simply is unable to do this in time. The County has no choice but to finally purchase electronic pollbooks, widely considered a great convenience during voter check-ins. But is Tenex, the company preferred by the Lamont McClure administration, the right choice? This system has been used in Lehigh County without incident for the past six years. But problems with Tenex in Dallas have raised questions.

At last week's inaugural meeting of Northampton County's Elections Commission, they postponed a vote on a $240,000 order with Tenex, the cheapest of three bidders, for electronic pollbooks at the voting precincts. They will make a decision this week after doing their own research.

What they might discover is that Dallas County spent $6 million for the very same glorified iPads. County Commissioners there now say the system is vulnerable to hackers. As it happens, these iPads are unable to interface securely with the voting system Dallas uses. That system happens to be the ExpressVote XL, the very same system used in Northampton County.

In Northampton County, the Tenex pollbooks will have no interface with the ExpressVote XL, nor will they be connected to the Internet. There will only be an encrypted blue tooth connection between iPads operating within the same precinct. It seems unlikely this should be a problem, but this is why you don't rush into things.

Elections Code Changes Explained

I have previously written about and  summarized the first major changes to Pennsylvania's Elections Code in 80 years. These changes were also addressed by Rick Santee, the Solicitor to NorCo's Elections Commission, at their meeting last week. I am updating my original story after listening to what Attorney Santee said.

1) Voter registration. - Previously, in order to vote, you had to be registered at least 30 days before the election. That deadline is now 15 days before the election, or April 13. You can register at the county office elections office, with PennDot or online (https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx.)

2) Voting by Mail.- You can now vote by mail, and may apply for a ballot within fifty days prior to an election. A request to vote by mail must be received by 5 pm on the Tuesday prior to an election. The county must accept the actual ballot so long as it is received by 8 pm on Election Day. Previously, the ballot had to be received or postmarked by the Friday prior to the election. You can apply for a ballot online at the above site, but must wait until 50 days before the election.

3) Permanent Mail-in voter list.- You can ask to be placed on a permanent mail-in voter list. Voters on this list will receive an application for a ballot in early February.

4) Can You Vote by mail and in person? No. If you've returned a mail-in or absentee ballot, you are ineligible to vote at your polling precinct. If you do not think your mail-in ballot was received, you can always cast a provisional ballot.

What's to prevent someone from voting at the precinct and then going to the Elections Office, obtaining a mail-in ballot, and handing it in to elections officials? That question was asked by Elections Comm'n member Gail Preuninger. What prevents this is the law. Voters are unable to apply for absentee or mail-in ballots within 15 days of the actual election.

5) Where Will Mail-in and Absentee Ballots be counted? At the elections office, but not until the polls close. Absentee ballots will no longer be counted at voting precincts. Counties have been given the option to select other locations at which voters can drop off ballots, so long as there is security and a chain of custody can be established. Where will these ballots be stored? In lockable containers in the elections office.

The County has two scanners with which to tabulate the mail-in ballots. Administrator Charles Deringer said they can read 2,000 per hour.

6) Straight-party voting. - This feature has finally been eliminated.

7) Nomination petition changes. - Instead of getting nomination petitions notarized, a circulator (a person who gets signatures from registered voters for a candidate) need only fill out what is called a "verification." This is essentially the same thing as a notarized statement, minus the expense. In addition, the residency requirement for circulators has been eliminated.

In another tweak to the Elections Code, the state legislature has banned the Department of State from decertifying voting systems used by the majority of the counties unless it advises the legislature six months in advance with a justification as well as a plan for paying for a new system. Counties were given no warning when Governor Tom Wolf suddenly decided, as part of a lawsuit settlement, to order all counties to get new systems in time for this year's election.

Friday, January 24, 2020

NorCo's New Elections Comm'n Gets To Work

Maude Hornick and Dr. Alan Brau
Northampton County's five-person Elections Commission got to work yesterday in Northampton County's training room at 3:30 pm., adjacent to County Council chambers. The meeting lasted 2 1/'2 hours. It met there because it had a busy agenda and there was a conflicting Council Committee meeting at 4:30 pm.

The only returning member of the Commission was Maudenia Hornick, sister of and every bit as outspoken as her sister, County GOP Chair Lee Snover. Newcomer Frank L DeVito joins Hornick to complete the Republican contingent of this Commission. The Democrats - all of them newcomers - consist of Alan Brau, M.D., Daniel Lopresti, and Gail W Preuninger. Providing legal advice to this Board is Rick Santee.

In the first sign these newcomers are going to be very different, they unanimously appointed Republican Hornick as Chair. Dr. Brau, who was running a little late, was unanimously elected Vice Chair. "That's what he gets for being late," joked Hornick.

The second sign this Board is going to be different is the amount of work and preparation by each of them before the meeting. For example, Gail Prueninger told the XL manufacturer that she had suggestions on improvements the company could make to a video for the public to make it more informative. She had suggestions for improvements to a separately produced county video as well, and suggested the home page of the County's website should include a direct link to the Elections Office. She then provided both the manufacturer and the county with several pages of her suggestions, all of them single-spaced.

The third sign this Board will be different is that they refuse to be rushed into making recommendations. Instead of rubber-stamping a recommendation that the County spend $230,000 to purchase electronic pollbooks, they decided to put off the decision for a week so they could do their own research. "I would like more time," said Hornick. She said she voted for the XL and "We got egg on our face."

These electronic pollbooks, called epollbooks, are the product of Tenex, a Florida-based company in business for the past 20 years. It's the same system used in Lehigh County for six years, according to Administrator Charles Dertinger. It is also the cheapest of three bids received.

Dertinger acknowledged that he opposed epollbooks himself, but the county has no choice. Changes in the Elections Code have expanded the time to register to vote or seek mail-in or absentee ballots, and this makes it impossible to print paper pollbooks in time. "If we don't have pollbooks by the primary, we can't have an election," warned Dertinger.

Prueninger is extremely concerned about voter outreach and this will be a topic of next week's meeting as well.

Ordinarily, an elections commission meets just four times a year, but these board members want to meet more frequently.

Dr. Brau also had some ideas of his own. He said the geek in him loves the XL, but voters should have the option of voting by paper ballot at the polls as well. He was informed that voters can already do this via a mail-in ballot or a provisional ballot at the polls.

DeVito grilled Dertinger on Cozze's selection as Voting Registrar, and was told the County followed the Administrative Code.

Attorney Santee and other elections officials also addressed significant changes in the Elections Code. I have previously discussed these changes, but will add the insights of these officials on Monday.

Amy Cozze Named NorCo Voter Registrar

Cozze responds to question
from Elections Comm'n
Northampton County has selected Amy Cozze as its new Register of Elections. She was one of seven internal applicants for the position, and one of only two who were qualified. She was selected pursuant to career service regulations by a three-person board consisting of Administrator Charles Dertinger,  someone from the Elections Office and someone from Human Relations.  There were external applicants as well, but the County's Administrative Code requires that priority be given to county employees. Acting Registrar Amy Hess declined the job, saying she wanted to return to her role as Deputy. According to a highly placed county source, only one external applicant was qualified.

Cozze is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where she majored in Psychology and minored in Business Administration. Since 2018, she has worked at Northampton County's Department of Administration, and threw herself into elections. She was instrumental in the selection of the Express Vote y there, visiting precincts and speaking to voters. She organized a voter outreach program in which the new system was demonstrated at over 20 locations. Only Philadelphia could match this effort to inform the public. When County Council wanted to see how this system worked in Delaware, she spent the entire day at the Diamond State, visiting precincts and speaking to voters. When problems arose in Northampton County's first use of this system, Cozze is one of a handful of county workers who worked 35 hours straight to make sure the votes were counted properly.

In 2018, Cozze mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the state house against incumbent Joe Emrick.  She made clear, however, that she will be completely nonpartisan in her new role. Moreover, her previous role as a candidate should give her some insight into the many problems faced by candidates for public office.

In the private sector, Cozze worked at Deerfoot Auto Parts, a successful family-owned auto recycling and service business located in Wind Gap. She also started and managed her own cake bakery in Nazareth.

It was widely assumed that Amy Hess, Acting Registrar and one of Northampton County's hardest workers, would take this job. But after November's election, in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong, Hess made it clear she wanted to return to her role as Deputy. No amount of persuasion could change her mind. In fact, Hess was one of Cozze's biggest supporters.

Even in the best of times, a Presidential election is always a challenge for the elections office. On top of that, she will be responsible for the controversial XL voting system and, if she has her way, electronic poll books to make it easier to check in voters. She will also be tasked with implementing recent changes in the Election Code that will drown her office with mail-in ballots.

I've watch her since she started working for the County. We are lucky to have her.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

NorCo Elections Comm'n to Meet Today

Northampton County's Election Comm'n is poised to meet today at 3:30 pm in County Council chambers on the third floor of the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton. It has scheduled  and advertised four meetings this year.

Today, Executive Lamont McClure is expected to present an action plan for this year's Presidential election. He will outline what steps he is taking to avoid a repeat of last year's disastrous November 5 election, in which the Express Vote XL was improperly configured, programmed and tested. He will likely discuss recent changes in the Elections Code that, for the first time, permit voting by mail. He may also be recommending someone to replace Acting Registrar Amy Hess. Though Hess is the first choice of everyone who has come in contact with her, she likes being a Deputy.

Especially after last year.

Washington Tp Cop's Girlfriend Claims His Son Paid For Hawaii Visit

On Tuesday, I slammed suspended Washington Township police officer Mark Gwozdz or sauntering off to Hawaii on paid administrative leave with his girlfriend, who herself also happens to be a cop in another jurisdiction. I received an angry email from her yesterday, demanding me to remove my post because she said it is inaccurate. As regular readers of this blog know, I only rarely will poof a post. I decline to do so here as well, but I told Gwozdz' female companion I would be willing to provide her side of the story.

She explained that Gwozdz' son, who is in the military, actually paid for his Dad's trip. She paid for her half. "We had to sleep on the ship with him for 6 nights until we pulled into the home port, it was no Hawaii vacation let alone on public dime. We slept in metal racks as big as a coffin in about 50 degree temperature constantly. We learned what sailor life and what he has done for the last year is really like. It’s like jail and these guys come home to deal with this crap?"

She also told me her boyfriend is now on unpaid administrative leave, pending the outcome of charges filed against him for allegedly threatening his third wife.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

PMW Girls' Basketball Coach Succumbs to Cancer

Stacy Perryman, who coached high school girls' basketball at Pocono Mountain West for the past 14 years, has lost her battle with breast cancer. One of my friends, a basketball official, had this observation about her. "There were not many women coaches who would show up with a bald head to lead her team after a Chemo session, but last year I had a game where she did. Towards the end of the JV game, she was out of time outs and asked me if I could stop the game so she could put one particular player who had not participated into the game. I faked that my shoe was untied and called officials' time so that could happen. That is the kind of person she was, looking out for all her players. May she rest in peace."

DA Opens Investigation Into Police Chief's Crash

Northampton County DA Terry Houck has opened an investigation into Washington Tp Police Chief Scott Miller's January 5 (late night) or January 6 (early morning) accident at a property along Kesslersville Road in Plainfield Township. His office was at the scene yesterday, taking pictures.  A top prosecutor also spoke with property owner Mike Drosnock   I wrote about this matter last week and again on Monday. In addition, Lehigh Valley Live has published a story, including several good pictures of the damage to Mike Drosnock's home.

According to the LehighValleyLive story, the Slate Belt Regional Police (SBRP) Officers who initially responded to this accident never bothered to test Miller for alcohol. Despite the accident, they failed to even conduct a field sobriety test.

It is clear to me the officers who initially responded were covering Miller's tracks. When Drosnock awoke later in the morning and called SBRP, they initially told him they had no report.

At this point, DUI charges against Miller are highly unlikely precisely because SBRP failed to conduct a field sobriety test or have blood drawn at the time of the accident. But he is by no means out of the woods.

Under Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code, the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident that causes damage to another person's property has an affirmative obligation to notify the owner of his name, address, registration number of vehicle and proof of financial responsibility. Failure to do so is a third degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $2,500 and a year in jail.

In this case, Drosnock was in his home and asleep. His pellet stove was in operation. Miller hit the pipe leading to the stove and moved it. Had it gone over, the house could have burnt down. Had the pipe been bent differently, it would have released noxious fumes inside Drosnock's home, killing him.

Yet Miller made no attempt to contact Drosnock. According to Drosnock, there were no footprints on either of his porches, even though it had snowed. Had Miller bothered to look, he would see both a car and a truck were parked in the garage. He failed to look because he had been drinking and wanted to get out of there. The SBRP were busy covering Miller's tracks and wanted to get out of there, too. Their conduct recklessly endangered Drosnock's life, which is a second degree misdemeanor.

Neither Miller nor SBRP has reason to rest easy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Washington Tp Cop Visits Hawaii on Paid Administrative Leave

Relaxing in Hawaii on public dime
Last week and yesterday, I regaled you with the antics of Scott Enoch Miller, who is police chief in Washington Township (Northampton County). He was given that job in spite of  an Ocean City (Maryland) drunk driving charge. He was made chief notwithstanding a domestic altercation that at least briefly led to criminal charges and a Protection-From-Abuse Act order.  His most recent trick is a one-vehicle accident, after which he left the scene without checking on the welfare of the homeowner. He returned the next day in an unmarked police vehicle to collect his belongings. It's safe to say he's out of control, but people are beginning to wake up. This might explain why the police department's Facebook page, which should be informing the public, has suddenly disappeared. Unfortunately, the integrity of his entire department is now in question. My proof? Washington Tp Police Officer Mark Gwozdz.

In October of last year, Gwozdz was charged with terroristic threats after an altercation with his third wife. He is alleged to have threatened "to kill you before I give you anything"  He also allegedly said that he wished he had put a bullet in the head of one of his previous wives. Gwozdz has denied making these threats, but Magisterial District Judge Richard Yetter concluded after a preliminary hearing that there was sufficient evidence to hold the case for court.  Gwozdz, who is free on $15,000 unsecured bail, is scheduled for arraignment on February 6 and trial on April 6.

Chief Miller reacted to this situation by placing Gwozdz on administrative leave. Paid administrative leave.

So what did Gwozdz do? He went to Hawaii on the public dime with future wife #4, who happens to be a cop herself.

According to his LinkedIn page, Gwozdz has been with Washington Tp since 2003. He's bounced around in the Slate Belt as a cop or Chief in Roseto, Portland, East Bangor, Bangor and Wind Gap.

Hearing on ExpressVote XL Challenge Delayed Until Feb 18

US District Court Judge Paul S Diamond has delayed a hearing on Jill Stein's challenge to the ExpressVote XL voting system. Originally scheduled for January 21, the hearing will now take place on February 18 at 10 AM.

Stein is asking the court to ban the continued use of the ExpressVote XL voting system, which will be used by seven Pa. counties, including Northampton, in this year's fast-approaching April 28 primary. According to machine manufacturer ES&S (Electronic Systems and Software), this would throw this year's election into "complete chaos." Judge Diamond has concluded that the state has already made an adequate showing of prejudice, and wants Stein to address her failure to complain about the ExpressVote XL for nearly a year after it was first certified.

In addition, Judge Diamond has barred testimony from voters who wish to complain about their experience with the XL. "[W]hether the ExpressVote XL creates a 'voter-verifiable record' is best determined by examining the machine itself. An individual’s personal experience using the machine is not likely to be probative ... ."

In addition to Stein's lawsuit, an action seeking injunctive relief against the continued use of the XL voting system has been filed in Commonwealth Court. In that matter, the Court has sua sponte (on its own) raised the question whether the counties using this system should be joined as indispensable parties. Oral argument on that question is scheduled for January 23.

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK and Thich Nhat Hanh

MLK with Thich Nhat Hanh

"The moment I met Martin Luther King, Jr., I knew I was in the presence of a holy person." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ (1995). (Hanh is a Buddhist monk who has been allowed to return to the Vietnamese temple where he was first ordained at age 16. His letter to MLK persuaded the civil rights activist to oppose the war in Vietnam.)

Washington Police Chief Who Hit Home Failed To Notify Owner

Drosnock's carefully landscaped home.
Thursday's story about Washington Tp Police Chief Scott Miller's January 5 one-vehicle accident stirred quite a bit of interest, both here and at a Facebook page called Slate Belt Watch. He left the scene with all kinds of debris strewn about, including items that clearly identified him. He left without making any attempt to advise the owner of the property of the damage he had done.

That owner, Mike Drosnock, was in his Kesslersville Road home, sound asleep, at the time of Miller's visit. He tells me he's a sound sleeper. He awoke on January 6, day of the Epiphany, to see that a pilgrimage had arrived at his residence, not from the Three Magi, but Washington Tp police chief Scott Miller and a towing service.

"It looked like a tank came through my landscaping!" he told me. Whatever had hit him scraped the side of his house, taking out a window and bending a very important pipe leading to his pellet stove, which had been running. It completely destroyed the landscaping he had carefully planted, shearing off three trees. It tore apart stones embedded into his landscaping. It ripped a pump away from its cistern. Flying debris even damaged some of the shingles on his roof.

In my Thursday story, I said Miller had rolled his truck. Drosnock believes the truck never actually tipped over.

Some of the damage done
From a light coating of snow that had fallen, Drosnock could see that whatever had hit his home  had come nearly 75 yards from Kesslersville Road. He could see footprints from the driver, which appeared to go in circles. But there were no footprints leading to his porch. No one had tried to contact him or even leave a note. Under state law, a driver who damages another person's property has an obligation to notify this victim as soon as possible with the driver's name, address, information relating to financial responsibility and the registration number of the vehicle being driven.

Why does this matter? Drosnock can tell you why. One of the items that Chief Miller hit was a pipe from Drosnock's pellet stove. It bent the pipe and actually moved the stove, which was in operation. Hot ashes. Had the stove gone over, Drosnock would be dead today. A repairman who later visited the scene told Drosnock that, had the pipe been bent in a different way, it would have fed noxious fumes into the home, killing him.

Scott Miller
Drosnock should have been notified immediately.

Drosnock called 911.

Two Slate Belt Regional Police (SBRP) officers came to his home. They could see what had happened.

"We don't have any report about this," they told him.

By this point, Drosnock had his suspicions. He was looking at the debris littered all over his lawn. They included a lot of construction tools, golfing equipment and certain items that could only belong to a police officer. (I have been asked not to identify the objects found. ) In addition, Drosnock found one or more receipts issues to a Scott E Miller.

When Drosnock called the SBRP later, their tune had changed.

"We got it all figured out," they assured him.

"Everything's been taken care of."

At this point, Drosnock disclosed his suspicion that a police officer had hit his home.

"We'll call back."

Drosnock decided to visit SBRP in person. He knew by this time exactly who Scott Miller was, and wanted to know what police were doing about it.

"Did you give him a field sobriety test?" Drosnock asked.

"No, the officer at the scene determined it wasn't necessary," he was told.

This is contrary to my information, gathered from two police officers who have been talking to other police officers. According to them, SGT Andrew Daly and another officer met with Miller. There is bodycam footage creating grounds to believe Miller had been drinking. One officer tells another that he detected the odor of alcohol on Miller's breath. I was informed that Miller was requested to submit to a blood test. If that is true, and the BAC (blood alcohol content) is below the legal limit, then Chief Miller has no reason to worry. On the other hand, if this was omitted, then there definitely is a coverup.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Right before he left SBRP, Drosnock received a call or text from a neighbor who noticed someone on his property, picking up items from the accident. Drosnock returned to find Chief Miller, collecting his stuff. He never bothered to ask for permission to go onto Drosnock's property, but was apologetic.

Miller had come in a black and unmarked police vehicle

I have called Miller about this matter, but he has declined to speak to me. Where was he coming from? Had he been drinking?

I do know that Miller was charged on 4/14/10 in Ocean City MD with driving under the influence. At that time, he as a police officer in Washington Tp, Wilson Borough and for the Bangor Area School District.

In Maryland, when someone is charged with DUI, the arresting officer hands him an Order of Suspension, which becomes effective on the 45th day after arrest. I do not know whether these Orders are handed to out-of-state drivers. If so, Miller's license would have been suspended in early June of that year.

On June 28, 2010, Miller pleaded guilty, but the judge placed him on a program called "probation before judgment."  After successfully completing probation, the charges are dismissed but they stay on your record forever. It appears Miller successfully completed this program because the charges were dismissed. There was no suspension.

The following year, in 2011, Miller was charged with assault, terroristic threats and harassment following a domestic dispute with his then wife. According to a criminal complaint, he had grabbed his wife by the hair several times, choked her, pushed her to the ground, into kitchen cabinets and across a table. She filed for protection from abuse, and Miller was ordered to give up his firearms.

The charges were ultimately withdrawn.

Friday, January 17, 2020

A Second Road Trip to Wilkes-Barre

Some of you visit the Virgin Islands or Florida at this time of year. This past weekend, I visited Wilkes-Barre for a DeSales basketball game against King's College. I wrote a shitty story (quite literally) about the trip here. Guess what? I visited Wilkes-Barre again on Wednesday night because the Bulldogs were up against the Wilkes University Colonels. Both the men and women's team won exciting games, but this is again a story about my road trip.

This time, I was supposed to pick up a friend in Scranton and bring him. Unfortunately, he must have read the story about my first road trip because he called that morning and canceled. He said he had leprosy. He must have figured I would use him as a fall guy in case my last trip created any problems.

On my weekend trip, I avoided the tolls and took Rte 115. This time, I took the turnpike and found it took longer. When I arrived in Wilkes-Barre, I turned in at Wilkes U and began asking kids where the gym is located so I could find a parking spot.

"The gym's right there," said a student, pointing to a building across the street. Adjacent was a parking lot. I would not have to walk forever. But it charged $15. I asked the attendant whether he was serious, and he told me that rate only applied if I stayed past 11 pm. I was able to park for $2.50, and walked across the street to the gym.

It was the wrong gym. 

I was at the local Y, not Wilkes U. That gym was about a mile away. Once again, I had a long walk. But I am a highly conditioned, well trained athlete, and I hoofed it. When I finally arrived at Wilkes U's gym, which is called Mars Hall for some reason, I noticed numerous empty parking spots. I could have parked right by the gym!

Once I got inside, the first half of the men's game was nearly over. They had started early, without waiting for me.

When the buzzer sounded, I began talking to the Wilkes U fans.

"Can you name any notable alumni?" I asked one.

- "Not really."

"Haven't you heard of Lamont McClure?"

- "That dude from Sanford and Son? I had no idea.!"

I also spoke to one of the natives.

"Is it pronounced Wilkes-Beara or Wilkes-Berry? I've heard both"

 - "It's Wilkes-Berry, named after two members of the English Parliament."

"That's not really a very catchy name. Nothing like Bethlehem. You ought to change it to attract more tourists and business. How about Dingle-Berry?"

After the men's game was over, the coaches were in a pretty good mood because they had won, so I decided to offer my services.

"Coach, I have 16 years of eligibility and am ready to play."

- "We'll keep you in mind," I was told. So I got that going for me.

I left before the women got underway and began walking to my car. After about 20 minutes, I ended up at Mars Hall. I was lost. I was only able to find my car by plugging the local Y into my GPS.

I also used the GPS for the quickest route home, and ended up for about 20 miles on some dark, windy and narrow road, with my ears popping as I went up and down the mountains.

Next week, the team is playing away in Hoboken.

NorCo Looking For Cranky Old Men

Northampton County is looking for some outstanding seniors to honor before they keel over. They must be sixty years or older, a resident of Northampton County, and have a passion for helping others through personal action, inspiration, public service, sports, educational instruction or humanitarian efforts.

Nominations may be made in an essay of 250 words or less with a description of why the nominee deserves to be recognized and listing their volunteer activities. Forms for nominations can be obtained from Melissa Titus at 610-829-4509 mtitus@northamptoncounty.org For each nominee, please return one entry form along with the essay to:

Melissa Titus
Area Agency on Aging
2801 Emrick Blvd.
Bethlehem, PA 18020

Nominations must be postmarked by March 18, 2020. The selected individuals will be honored on Thursday, April 30, 2020 at Wesley Church 2540 Center Street, Bethlehem.

I'd nominate myself because I'm pretty great, but I'm only 39.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Washington Tp Police Chief Rolls Truck ... and Leaves Scene

As a Washington Township police officer, Scott E. Miller once filed criminal charges against a gentleman who committed the dastardly offense of flying the American flag upside down, in its traditional distress mode, as a protest against then President George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi "and all the other democratic politicians." This American citizen refused to remove the flag or fly it properly, so then Officer Miller charged the guy with "insulting the American flag," and as a second degree misdemeanor. This prompted prominent criminal defense lawyer Gary Asteak to ask, "How the hell do you insult the American flag? What do you do, walk up to it and start cursing?"

This case went nowhere. Then DA John Morganelli, who is something of a free speech purist, tossed it. Perhaps Miller should have been tossed, too. Not for insulting the American flag, but his own badge. In 2011, he was charged with simple assault, terroristic threats and harassment following a domestic dispute with his then wife. She also filed for a protection-from-abuse act order. Those charges mysteriously went away, and Miller and his then wife divorced.

Officer Miller remarried and was amazingly promoted to Chief, but it appears he has issues.

Which brings us to the early morning hours of January 5. Miller, driving a white truck, rolled it somewhere along Kesslerville Road, near someone's home. Miller left the scene before the Slate Belt Regional Police Department arrived. I don't know whether he or someone else reported the one-car accident. Miller reportedly left plenty of evidence, including parts of his uniform and his badge. There is video of the incident and the truck was towed.

I called Chief Miller for comment, but he's not talking. Chief David Mettin of Slate Belt Regional told me the investigation into the accident itself has concluded, but has declined to say whether charges will be filed.

I hope this matter does not mysteriously disappear, too.

Updated 9:30 am: - I am informed Miller did not call the police but instead called his girlfriend and Lane Towing. The tow truck driver called police. I also am informed that Slate Belt police did seek a blood test for alcohol.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wild to Host Town Hall



Lehigh Valley Congressperson Susan Wild, who is seeking a second term this year, will host a town hall somewhere in Easton on Thursday, January 23, between 7 and 8 pm. For what I presume are security reasons, the exact location is a secret until January 20. Her town hall conflicts with a County Council meeting so it's unlikely it will occur at the courthouse.

In her first term in Congress, Wild has sponsored 18 bills and resolutions. None have passed the House. 

Unfortunately, Wild's life partner committed suicide recently. She courageously addressed this issue on the floor of the House, and is working to expand mental health treatment options.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Teladoc Saved NorCo $565,598 in 2019

If Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure could only be remembered for one major accomplishment, what would it be? Some might say the purchase of the centralized human services building, long a dream of John Stoffa. Others might say it's the forensic center, which is currently under construction. I think McClure himself would pick Teladoc. He loves this service, and has discussed it several times.

Last week, McClure told County Council that Teladoc, which enables county employees to seek medical care through their phones, iPads and computers, saved Northampton County taxpayers $565,598 in health claims last year.

Teladoc (TDOC) incidentally, is projected to be a top growth stock this year. 

Tricia Mezzacappa, Independent Journalist

West Easton's Tricia Mezzacappa is many things. A candidate who's lost every race in which she's run. A NJ school district business manager fired for her bad attitude. A bankrupt. An R.N. unable to hold a job. A political blogger who lost a defamation action. Defender of a mass murderer. A constable whom no judge will use. Now she's invented a new title for herself. Independent journalist. That's how she refers to herself in messages she's sent on Facebook, trying to dig up dirt on West Easton Borough Council Prez Matt Dees. She thought Dees was stepping down, and went nutzo when he not only stayed in office, but got himself elected Council President. On her West Easton Boro Constable Facebook page, she posted a lengthy diatribe when she got the news. There were 44 comments to her screed, and all of those came from her, too! It's safe to say she's come unhinged.

Now, in addition to habitually placing Dees in a false light with crude distortions of his image, she wants people to say bad things about him. Tricia Jenn, as she refers to herself on Facebook, is hoping his own family will smear him. Here's what she's sent to all the Dees' of this world.
"I am an independent journalist doing a story on Matthew A Dees of West Easton Borough. He was recently named Borough Council President, but has been silent about wether [sic] or not he has family members. Please reach out here or at [redacted], if you would like to add anything. A number of people in the Borough think he is unfit for public office."
In addition to dirt on Dees, Independent journalist Mezzacappa recently wanted to smear two West Easton residents who dared to criticize Donald Trump. She sought their local tax records, hoping to humiliate these Trump critics. But the state office of open records rejected her request because private citizens still do have at least some privacy rights.

Not Dees. She routinely posts his salary, hours and even his mileage as an IU-20 bus driver. She wants to harass him out of office, and has abused the Right-to-Know Law for that purpose. Over the course of 2019, she filed 16 of the 42 Open Records appeals heard by the state from Northampton County. She flooded tiny West Easton Borough with, by my count,82 vexatious requests. In fact, her conduct has led to the state legislature to consider a bill giving some small municipalities like West Easton relief from the Tricia Mezzacappas of this world

She can call herself an independent journalist. But in my view, the title that best suits her is criminal defendant Mezzacappa. She's been charged with false reports to the Pa State Police, and her trial is scheduled February 3.

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Road Trip to Wilkes-Barre

On Saturday, I drove to Wilkes-Barre because DeSales was facing off against Kings' College in both men's and women's basketball. The men won convincingly, while the women lost by 1 in a tight game. This story has nothing to do with the games.

This trip takes me about 90 minutes through the mountains, with my ears popping about every five seconds. I had exercised earlier in the morning, and was getting a slight headache, so I stopped and drank two bottles of water. The headache departed but now I needed to take a leak. Of course, that hit me suddenly, nowhere near anything. So I pulled over along Rte 80 and pretended to be inspecting something while I was really watering the weeds. I got back in the car and continued up and down those mountains. This must must have done wonders for my digestion. Now, instead of needing to urinate, I needed to take a dump. I figured I could last until Wilkes-Barre.

Did you know there's no parking in Wilkes-Barre? I had forgotten that important little detail. I spent a good 20 minutes looking a spot and finally found one, a good half mile from the gym.

Did you know parking costs an arm and a leg in Wilkes-Barre? For a quarter, I got ten minutes. There was nothing in which I could feed a credit or debit card, but I could install an application called Pango and use it. So I started, and as more minutes ticked away, I realized I now needed to go both ways, and badly. In addition to the app, there was also a number I could call, so I tried that.

A recording on the other end told me that, if I was over 50, I qualified for a special discount, and I should press a number. I did so and some woman got on and started trying to sell me a medical ID badge. I could see how that might be really helpful if I passed out along the road, and was found in a pile of excrement. But this was not the time. I tried telling the lady on the other end that this was no time to discuss medical IDs. But she continued talking. I told her I was in a hurry and needed to go. She was undeterred. I finally hung up.

By this time the app had loaded, but now I needed to confirm it with my email. I also needed to give my credit card data. More time. When everything loaded, I learned that, in addition to paying an exorbitant sum to Wilkes-Barre, I was also paying Pango for the "convenience" of using their shitty system. One second cost me 64 cents. I stopped the session immediately.

I'd rather get a ticket.

At this point, I hastily made my way to the gym. Fortunately, there was no line at the ticket booth, and I asked for directions to the nearest rest room. I've noticed those are always located a long way from ticket booths.

The rest room was located in the gym, where the women were already playing. To get there, I had to wait for a break in the action so I could cross the court. I stood there and waited, as patiently as I could, while the refs suddenly decided to just let them play without blowing a whistle. Finally, a quarter ended and I marched across the gym, saw a sign directing me to the restrooms, and was in.

It was like heaven. The stalls were much larger than I've seen at other places, and there was plenty of toilet paper. I erupted like the Taal volcano, with just as many toxic fumes. But I felt great. At my age, a good dump is better than sex.

Just as I was finishing, the door opened, and in walked two people talking to each other.

They were women.

I was in the wrong frickin' rest room.

I sat in my stall, as quiet as I could be, until they were gone.

I was able to get out of there without getting arrested.

When I returned to my car after the games, I had no tickets either.

Voting By Mail On Its Way

For the first time in 80 years, Pennsylvania has made significant changes to the Elections Code. Northampton County Exec Lamonmt McClure discussed them at Thursday's County Council meeting. He was still waiting for county guidance from the Department of State, which came out on Friday. If you hate standing in long lines on Election Day or insist on voting by paper ballot, this is for you. For the first time, voters will be able to cast their ballots by mail. Here are some of the important changes.

1) Voter registration. - Previously, in order to vote, you had to be registered at least 30 days before the election. That deadline is now 15 days before the election, or April 13. You can register at the county office elections office, with PennDot or online (https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx.)

2) Voting by Mail. - You can now vote by mail, and may apply for a ballot within fifty days prior to an election. A request to vote by mail must be received by 5 pm on the Tuesday prior to an election. The county must accept the actual ballot so long as it is received by 8 pm on Election Day.

3) Permanent Mail-in voter list. - You can ask to be placed on a permanent mail-in voter list. Voters on this list will receive an application for a ballot in early February.

4) Can You Vote by mail and in person? No. If you've returned a mail-in or absentee ballot, you are ineligible to vote at your polling precinct.

5) Where Will Mail-in and Absentee Ballots be counted? At the elections office, but not until the polls close. Absentee ballots will no longer be counted at voting precincts. Counties have been given the option to select other locations at which voters can drop off ballots, so long as there is security and a chain of custody can be established

6) Straight-party voting. - This feature has finally been eliminated.

In another tweak to the Elections Code, the state legislature has banned the Department of State from decertifying voting systems used by the majority of the counties unless it advises the legislature six months in advance with a justification as well as a plan for paying for a new system. Counties were given no warning when Governor Tom Wolf suddenly decided, as part of a lawsuit settlement, to order all counties to get new systems in time for this year's election.

Think Gracedale - "We Don't Smell Like a Nursing Home!"

Accidentally, Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King might have come up with a great advertising line for people thinking about sending their loved ones to the county's facility. "We Don't Smell Like a Nursing Home!"

Stewart-King was responding to questions from Northampton County Council member Kerry Myers about sanitation at Northampton County Council's January 9 meeting of its Human Services Committee. Without hesitation, she said the home has the "best housekeeping staff." Whatever problems might exist at Gracedale, the home is very clean.

November's census is 647. The year-to-date average is 655. It's usually higher, up to 670, but is still at 94% capacity. In 2010, it was down around 540.

One troubling point is that the home is spending more than it takes in. It did have a number on one-time expenses, like new food carts. It projects it will have a fund balance, but it's unclear exactly what that will be. It is deficit spending.

The nursing home continues to be plagued by call-offs, especially during the 3-11 shift.

According to Stewart-King, the home is still waiting for its annual inspection. The facility still has just a two-star rating from Medicare, making it "below average." But the facility also accepts residents that other homes refuse.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Zrinski Kicks Off New Year With Another NonBinding Resolution

Tara Zrinski has been a member of Northampton County Council for two years. She knows that Council members who wish to place a matter on the agenda must advise the Clerk several days before. There are exceptions for grant applications with funding deadlines, but legislators generally like a little lead time so they can review a matter before casting a vote. Yet time and again, Zrinski has submitted resolutions after an agenda has already been published. She kicked off  2020 with a last-minute resolution asking Governor Tom Wolf to support more funding for foodbanks. In the past, Council has usually supported her. But they've had enough.

Zrinski is running for the state house, and has been for some time. She's clearly using her perch on County Council to run her campaign. Many of her resolutions deal with state and federal issues, and have little or nothing to do with core county functions.

This State Rep hopeful tried to explain her failure to give Council members and the public an opportunity to review her nonbinding resolutiion in advance with excuses that she had bronchitis, that she had a lot of Christmas visitors, and that they all have a responsibility to make sure food banks stay open longer. But Council finally has had enough. Instead of feel-good yes vote, her resolution has been referred to Lori Vargo-Heffner's Human Services Committee.

Council members like Ron Heckman, Kevin Lott and Bill McGee tried to tell her gently that she should give them more lead time. Vargo-Heffner was a bit more blunt.

Vargo-Heffner made clear she is concerned about food insecurity within the Lehigh Valley. But she is concerned about Zrinski's last-minute resolutions. "We have a lot of business to do in this county," she lectured Zrinski. "We are elected officials to do county work. I'd like to know what we're doing at home before we go writing letters to the Governor."

Kerry Myers, in his first business meeting as a Council member, was even more blunt. He said he comes from a family of 15, and knows what it's like to be hungry. He talked about different groups in which his father participated that raised money to feed and even bury people. "We take care of our own," he said. "We have to take care of what the hell we got going on in our county," the brand-new Council member reminded Zrinski.

Executive Lamont McClure said he had no opportunity to review Zrinski's latest missive, but added the County already funds nearly every, if not every, food bank. "We're doing really good work out there," he added.

Realizing she had no support, Zrinski back-pedaled and said she intended to invite people to speak on the matter and had no intention of seeking a vote last night. But there it was, on the agenda, clearly as part of her state house campaign.

McClure Wants EpollBooks, More XLs

Boockvar and McClure sample XL.
Since the November 5 election, the ExpressVote XL voting system has been under siege. Both a federal and state judge have been asked to ban their use in this year's fast-approaching April 28 Presidential Primary as well as the November 3 General Election. Northampton County's Election Commission voted unanimously that it has "no confidence" in this equipment after an election in which the county was stuck with machines that had been improperly calibrated, improperly programmed and improperly tested. Yet in his report to County Council last night, Northampton County Lamont McClure said he may want more of them.

Basically, he has no choice. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has told a federal court that it would be logistically impossible for counties using the ExpressVote XL to have a new system in place without about a year of lead time And McClure told Council last night that other systems such as a paper ballot and scanner would have their own issues, which was certainly the case in York County. Better the devil you know. He wants to be able to purchase 100 additional machines to reduce lines at the polling precincts on election day.

In addition, he wants to replace the pollbooks currently used by election workers to check in voters. The process of looking for and finding a voter in these paper books is time-consuming. Moreover, if a voter is in the wrong precinct, an election judge usually has to call the voting office to determine where the voter should go. An epollbook enables the clerk to find a voter instantly, making it much easier to sign in. If someone is at the wrong precinct, which is often the case in a presidential election, the epollbook will tell the clerk where a person who wants to vote can exercise that right.

According to McClure, epollbooks have been used in Lehigh County for several years, and have reduced lines.

Besides, he has no choice. Recent changes in state law will make it impossible to prepare paper pollbooks in time for this year's elections.

McClure announced these changes in state law mean that, for the first time, people will be able to vote by mail. He said the state will be announcing its guidelines today, and he intends to send every voting household a letter to explain this convenience, which might also help reduce lines.

He also hinted that Northampton County might conduct a mock election with the ExpressVote XL to ensure the system runs smoothly.

He will outline his plan at this month's Elections Commission meeting.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Tracy Simsick Gets 1,000th Point in DeSales Win Over FDU-Florham

Tracy Simsick with his mom
DeSales MBB Standout Tracy Simsick had been on the sidelines since twisting his ankle in a disappointing loss to Scranton on December 16. He was finally cleared to play this week, and if there ever was a time the 6'4" Senior was needed, it was last night. The 7-4 Bulldogs were starting conference play against the 5-6 FDU-Florian Blue Devils. Simsick came out onto the court wearing an ankle brace, and was still unable to jump. But he could shoot. He scored 25 points in an exciting victory (78-64) against FDU, including three missiles from downtown. Those 25 points just happen to be the exact amount the Soudertown High School grad needed to become the 28th baller in DeSales history to score 1,000 points.

What impressed me most about Simsick, a Marketing major, was his selflessness. On the night he scored his 1000th point, he also had four assists. He was more interested in getting the win than an amazing personal accomplishment. During his time on the bench, he made sure those who were playing were properly hydrated and stayed totally involved.

Aside from this feat, the game itself was one of the most exciting I've seen in my years as a hoops' fan. It was a battle in which the lead changed 15 times. In the first half, errant passes and turnovers killed the Bulldogs, and they were down 36-31 in their first conference game at home.  Coach Scott Coval must have made adjustments because a different team came out in the second half.

The lead went back and forth until DeSales' sophomore Dat Lambert drilled a three and a two in the middle of the second half. After that, the Bulldogs never looked back.

Simsick was 11-15, and Timmy Edwards was unstoppable under the basket. He nearly pulled off a double-double, getting 10 points and 9 rebounds. Following Timmy, four Bulldogs - Ben Pratt, Alex House, Kweku Dawson-Amoah and Dat Lambert - scored eight points each. It was a balanced attack in which 51 of DeSales' 78 points came from the bench.

DeSales, now 8-4, travels to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday to take on Kings College.

Nathan Brown to Seek Simmons' Seat

Republican Nathan Brown is running for the State Rep. seat currently held by Justin Simmons in Pa.'s 131st legislative district. Simmons, whose term expires at the end of this year, has decided against seeking another term. He has served since 2011.

The 131st is a hodgepodge of municipalities located in three different counties. In Lehigh, it includes Coopersburg, Emmaus, Lower Milford Township, Salisbury Township (PART, Ward 03 [PART, Division 01]), Upper Milford Township and Upper Saucon Township. In Montgomery, it's East Greenville, Pennsburg, Red Hill and Upper Hanover Township. Finally, in Northampton, it includes a portion of Lower Saucon Tp. ZIt is a right-leaning district.

Brown is a Lehigh County Commissioner who also spent ten years on Emmaus Borough Council.

He works as a project manager for a fire and safety corporation and states he oversees the installation of fire and safety equipment at four military bases along the east coast.

Though he was born and raised in Pottstown, Montgomery County, Brown has lived in Emmaus for 21 years, It''s where he and his wife raised two daughters.

Brown says he “wants to expand on the good work that Justin has accomplished over the years, and continue to fight for our community in
Harrisburg.”

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Should County Inmates Be Charged Rent?

A recent story in PaPost reports that numerous counties charge rent to those who are jailed. At first blush, this makes sense. After all, why should taxpayers foot the bill? But think about it. Inmates who are already disproportionately poor are being saddled with debt they are unable to pay. When the counties send the unpaid bills to collection agencies, and they do, this makes it impossible for a released prisoner to build up a decent credit history and pretty much encourages him to engage in the same criminal behavior that git him in trouble in the first place. Then counties wonder why recidivism rates are so high.

I'm ashamed to say I do not know whether Lehigh or Northampton County charge rent, but will find out and report to you. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

A Tale of Two Hospitals



According to its website, St. Luke's University Hospital is "dedicated to providing our patients and visitors with easily accessible services and excellent quality care delivered with outstanding customer service." It's named in honor of one of the apostles who was also rumored to be a physician. It has numerous locations throughout the Lehigh Valley and beyond, and most are tax-exempt. Its 990 states its mission is "TO PROVIDE COMPASSIONATE, EXCELLENT QUALITY AND COST EFFECTIVE HEALTHCARE TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE COMMUNITIES WE SERVE REGARDLESS OF RACE, COLOR, CREED, SEX, NATIONAL ORIGIN OR ABILITY TO PAY." Never mind that its President was paid over $2.4 million according to its 2017 990. Or that 11 other executives were paid salaries over $500,000. This hospital is named after a Saint, so it must be very caring, damn it! Except it isn't. Just before Christmas, this so-called non-profit turned someone away precisely because he had no means to pay. You see, he's homeless. He was even threatened with arrest. At this moment, he's at Lehigh Valley Hospital on Cedar Crest Boulevard. He's been told he'll be there awhile.

His name is Mark. I wrote about him back in 2015. One of my readers recognized him because she and he at one time traveled in the same circles. She now tries to help him and other homeless people even though she's an evil Republican. Fortunately for Mark, she was there for him very recently. St. Luke's was not.

On December 18, exactly one week before Christmas, Mark was in downtown Allentown. He was sitting, but noticed a very sharp pain in his hip when he attempted to stand up. He attempted to make his way back to his hooch, but the pain kept getting worse. Eventually, as he neared the Union Street bridge, he collapsed. He called 911 from his dumb phone, and paramedics responded. He asked them to take him to Lehigh Valley Health Network at 17th & Chew because a Street Medicine clinic is right across the street. They know him, and he is one of the stars in the above PBS video about street medicine. Instead of doing that, the ambulance dropped him off at St. Luke's at 4th and Chew.

St. Luke's took an x-ray, found he had no broken bones, gave him morphine and told him to be on his way. Mark tried, but was unable to walk. He spent the night in the waiting room, trying to reach the evil Republican so she could take him to a hospital that might actually treat him. While waiting, security personnel approached him twice and told him to leave or the police would be called. He was unable to move.

Mark eventually reached this evil Republican and she came to get him. He was still unable to walk, but St. Luke's reluctantly agreed to let her borrow a wheelchair so she could get him to her car. She took him to Lehigh Valley Hospital at Cedar Crest. They treated him like he was a human being.  Medical personnel drew his blood, and determined immediately that he had a major staph infection. It had actually entered his spine, which is why he was unable to walk. He's been at the hospital since, and is being treated with antibiotics.

In addition to treating him, Lehigh Valley Hospital sent someone to help him sign up for Medicaid and food stamps. He's been off assistance of any kind for over a year.

Lehigh Valley Health Network, which operates the street medicine program, has a core philosophy that all people matter. In contrast, St. Luke's treated Mark like he was garbage.

Heckman To Serve One More Year as NorCo Council President

Bottom row (L to R): Solicitor Chis Spadoni, Lori Vargo-Heffner, Ron Heckman,
Clerk Linda Zembo and Tara Zrinski
Top row (L to R): Tom Giovanni, John Cusick, Kerry Myers, Bill McGee and Kevin Lott
Northampton County Council is required to reorganize every year, and that's usually when the knives come out. Over the years, I've watched as Wayne Grube, Ann McHale, Ron Angle and Peg Ferraro have been unceremoniously dumped.  Sometimes, it's been a change in  party control. But this is also when ambition grips some Council members. So naturally, I was at yesterday's reorganization, waiting with popcorn for the fireworks. Instead, in a very brief meeting, Council voted by acclamation to retain Ron Heckman and Lori Vargo-Heffner as President and VP, respectively.

"I'll try to do a better job that I did last year," said Heckman after his election. He added that he will only serve as President for one more year and then let someone else take over. He also welcomed two newcomers. Democrat Kerry Myers, representing the Easton District, has succeeded Bob Werner. Republican Tom Giovanni, representing the Slate Belt and northern tier, succeeds Matt Dietz.

Council has retained its 6-3 Democratic edge.

Ann Flood Seeks Open Seat in Pa.-138

Marcia Hahn has represented the Pa.'s 138th Legislative District since 2010, but has decided against seeking another term as a State Representative. She's a Republican in a Republican District comprised of the townships of Bethlehem (portion), Bushkill, East Allen, Hanover, Lower Nazareth, Moore (portion) and Plainfield as well as, the Boroughs of Bath, Chapman, Pen Argyl and Wind Gap. Democrat Tara Zrinski, a member of Northampton County Council, announced her candidacy for this seat months ago. But now a Republican is in the hunt, too. Her name is Ann Flood. She's married to Dan Flood, but not that Dan Flood.

According to her announcement, Ann was Born and raised in Wind Gap and a graduated of Pen Argyl Area High School. She also earned a Biology degree from Moravian College, and an MBA from Villanova University. She has lived in the Bath area for 22 years, and she and her husband are the parents of two children attending college and middle school. The Flood family also has one angel child, Lauren, who passed away in 2007.

Ann is the the Founder and CEO of the Lauren’s Hope Foundation, whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for brain injured children and their families. This foundation has helped children receive life-saving care at The Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Children’s Hospital’s
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

She also serves her community as the President to the Board of Directors for the Greater Bath Area Chamber of Commerce and is on the Board of Governors for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

She is also a catechist at Holy Family Catholic Church, where she helps fifth grade students prepare for confirmation.

So far as I know, this is her first foray into the world of politics.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Why No Saturday Post?

On Saturday, one of my readers demanded I explain myself. "Bernie, with all the tweets of another dictator killed by drone attack no Saturday article?" Well, that's right. I think it's more or less ridiculous to weigh in on a US military action when I know nothing. Until Saturday, I had never heard of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani or Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. I suspect few have. I had never heard of the Quds force. I suspect few have. But according to at least one opinion piece in Al-Jazeera, which is certainly no US or Israel cheerleader, these guys were no anti-Imperialist heroes. I am certainly no authority when it comes to the President's war powers. But according to The Brookings Institution's Scott Anderson, who is such an authority, there appears to be legal authority for the military strike. While we live in an era of instant news, I prefer to be silent and thought a fool while talking heads, AOC and pundits remove all doubt.

It's no secret I detest Trump. I consider him a bad President and a bad man. But not as bad as Iran. He attacked no oil tankers or refineries.  He killed no US Servicemen or military contractors with incessant rocket attacks.

Politics should stop at the water's edge.

Terry Houck to Be Sworn in as NorCo DA Today

For the first time since 1991, Northampton County will have a new District Attorney. John Morganelli, who held office for an unprecedented 28 years, will be succeeded by his First Deputy, Terrence Houck. When Morganelli was first elected, nine of his 11 assistants were part-time prosecutors with private practices. The office of District Attorney was itself a part-time job. Morganelli argued that he and his assistants should devote 100% of their professional time to prosecuting criminal cases. The voters agreed, changing the Home Rule Charter to make his office full-ime. Since then, Morganelli has replaced retiring part-time prosecutors with full-time professionals. All of Houck's 22 assistants now have just one client - the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Houck himself is a career prosecutor who has spent 32 years in the Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton County DA's office. His last 13 years has been as Northampton County's First Deputy DA. Before he became a lawyer, Houck worked as a cop in Philadelphia. He attended Temple Law School at night.

"Being elected as District Attorney has been a life goal since the time I became a career prosecutor over 32 years ago," said Houck on election night. "This is who I am. I will seek no other office."

Like Morganelli, Houck will try cases.

He has snagged Richard Huntington Pepper as his First Deputy District Attorney. Pepper was poised to leave the District Attorney's office after 36 years, but will assume the role once held by Houck.

In addition, Houck has formed a Leadership Group consisting of Pepper and three prosecutors who have been promoted to the position of Chief Deputy District Attorney. They are William Blake (Chief Deputy, Investigations), Patricia Fuentes Mulqueen (Chief Deputy, Prosecutions) and Tatum Wilson (Chief Deputy, Training). "These changes will create a clear chain of command and will provide the office with a structure that will create consistency and uniformity among our units," said Houck.

At a news conference before taking office, Houck outlined some of his goals. He vowed to continue the community outreach established by Morganelli, who even visited every municipality in the county. He vows to strengthen victims' services, start participating in problem solving courts, establish a child advocacy center, update the website, increase training and create a social media presence.

He has named Tina Queen "to the most important but underappreciated position in our office: Office Manager." Mehvish Ahmed, who started in the DA's office by answering the phone, will be his Executive Secretary.

The prosecution divisions are as follows:

Homicide and Violent Crimes - Chief Deputy DA Patricia Mulqueen
Ass't DA Dave Ceraul
Ass't DA  Alec Colquhoun
Ass't DA Aaron Gallogly

Drugs - Deputy DA Mike Thompson
Ass't DA Adrianne Doll
Ass't DA Julianne Danchak
Deputy DA Sandra McClure

DUI - Deputy DA Joe Lupackino
Ass't DA Katie Kurnas
Ass't DA Alec Colquhoun
Ass't DA Nicole Cheskey

White Collar and Fraud - Deputy DA Jim Augustine
Ass't DA Abigail Bellafatto
Ass't DA Patricia Turzyn

Sex Crimes and Child Abuse - Chief Deputy DA Tatum Wilson
Ass't DA Laura Majewski
Ass't DA Julianne Danchak

Domestic Violence - Deputy DA Ed Penetar
Ass't DA Judy Chaverri

Juvenile Crimes - Deputy DA Sandra McClure
Ass't DA Laura Majewski

Appellate Division - Deputy DA Becky Kulik
Ass't DA Katie Kurnas

Grand Jury and Major Crimes - Chief Deputy DA Bill Blake.

Friday, January 03, 2020

What Counties Use The ExpressVote XL?

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, all of Pa.'s 67 counties will have new voting systems with voter-verifiable paper trails in time for this year's Presidential election. The last hold-out, Dauphin County, chose new machines on Monday. Thirty-nine counties chose an Elections Systems and Software system. This is the company that manufactures the ExpressVote XL in use in Northampton County. At least seven counties have opted for an ExpressVote system. These include McKean, Elk, Montour, Northampton, Philadelphia, Cumberland and Juniata Counties.

Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure told the Inky he stands behind the XL. He vowed there will be "no dispute" in the upcoming Presodential. "There may be light and heat, but at the end of the day, those ballots will be in people’s hands, and they can examine them. And they’re going to hold up.”

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Why Are We in the Middle East?

On Tuesday, I told you about Richard Brookhiser's Give Me Liberty, who postulates that American nationalism, at its very best, is its engagement with the idea of liberty. He goes on to discuss 13 documents over 400 years showing our commitment to this ideal. His 13th document is Ronald Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" speech, in which the Great Communicator said our commitment to liberty requires us to tell the Soviets that the Berlin Wall had to come down because all of Europe should be free. Another is FDR's 1940 "Arsenal of Democracy" fireside chat, in which he argued that America's commitment to liberty meant we would help Britain, another free nation, defend itself against the Nazis. This same principle is why we are in the Middle East. It has nothing to do with regime change or oil. It has everything to do with freedom.

Donald Trump made a big mistake when he decided, seemingly on a whim, to pull American troops from Syria and abandoning both Kurds and Syrians before our mission was complete. But he did the right thing when he launched five retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria. These are the same folks who shot down an American drone, attacked a Saudi oil refinery and, most recently, killed an American contractor and wounded four American soldiers.

According to some pundits, an unsuccessful attack on our embassy in Iraq has made us look weak. What makes us look weak is when we stop standing up for freedom.