Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Independent Audit Shows Norco in Great Financial Shape

RKL has finished its independent audit of Northampton County finances as of 12/31/2020. This report has yet to appear in the county's webpage, but shows a county in great financial shape. Here are siome highlights.

Assets exceeded liabilities at the end of the year by $139.5 million. 

There are $2.5 million in unrestricted net assets of $2.5 million as of December 31, 2020. 

The county's total net position increased by $48.8 million. In addition, the governmental fund balance increased $14 million.

Investments in capital assets increased $21.2 million as the County continues to replace or refurbish County bridges as well as construction of a new forensics center.

OPEB liability and related accounts decreased $5 million due to differences in actuarial estimates in both benefits paid and expected investment earnings in 2020. 

Pension liability and related accounts decreased $7 million due to differences in actuarial estimates in both claims paid and expected investment earnings in 2020. 

Liability to P-3 contractor increased $5.6 million. 

Total debt decreased $11 million (8.7%) during 2020. 

At the close of 2020 the County’s governmental funds reported an ending fund balance of $131.1 million, an increase of $14 million. This is primarily due to the following activity in 2020: (1) Intergovernmental revenue increased $60.7 million due to federal and state Covid-19 pandemic relief funds. 

(2) Hotel tax revenue decreased $1.2 million due to the Covid-19 pandemic government mandated shut down. 

(3) Investment earnings decreased $2.2 million due to market uncertainties during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

(4) Capital Projects fund balance decreased $14.9 million, mainly due to the capitalization of a new forensic center. 

(5) Gracedale Nursing Home fund balance increased $10.4 million due to the timing of receipts of the InterGovernmental Transfer revenue and additional federal and state Covid-19 pandemic relief funds. 

(6)  HealthChoices fund balance increased $8 million. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, members did not drop off the program, resulting in increased membership. Additionally, members were not using services during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

(7) Open Space fund balance increased $1.8 due to a prior period adjustment 

(8) Tax base growth generated approximately $681,842 in additional general fund real estate tax revenue. 

(9) At the end of 2020, the unassigned fund balance, that which is available for spending at the government’s discretion in the general fund, was $48.3 million, or 39% of total general fund expenditures. 

(10) $17.6 million of the unassigned fund balance represents funds designated as financial stabilization. (rainy day fund)


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Should Health Insurers Link Coverage to Vaccines?

I oppose making vaccines mandatory. But instead of offering cash incentives, those who refuse should pay the price. A nurse case manager in Salt Lake City has suggested that health insurance providers should link coverage to the vaccine. "If you choose not to be part of the solution, then you should be accountable for the consequences," she told The New York Times.  

My Brother on Why Bethlehem Needs New Leaders

Blogger's Note: Willie Reynolds is the latest in a long line of Democrats who've controlled Bethlehem for the past quarter-century. Republican John Kachmar thinks the Christmas City needs a housecleaning. My brother, who lives in Bethlehem, agrees. He's my polar opposite. I'm a Democrat, while he's a Republican. He makes a compelling case for Kachmar, a combat veteran of Vietnam and Lehigh County's former administrator.

An Example of why we need new leadership in Bethlehem

In January 2018, Bob Donchez, the current mayor of Bethlehem hired Eric Evans as Bethlehem’s business administrator. Mr. Evans at the time was an elected member of city council and a middle school teacher.  He resigned his teaching and elected position to assume his new duties. His current salary is $111,459*.

In 2019 the Bethlehem Director of Recreation retired from her position with the city. 

Jodi Evans, wife of Eric Evans, was selected from a field of about 100 candidates for the new job in April, 2019. Mr. Donchez went out his way to assure us that there was nothing unusual about her hiring. Out of 100 candidates, we were publicly assured that there was nothing wrong with the hiring process. Really?

All we heard was silence from city council. Crickets.

 Mrs. Evans’ starting salary was $65000 as she resigned her position as a teacher to assume her new duties.

The 2021 Bethlehem city budget shows that the Director of Recreation, Jodi Evans, went from a 2020 salary of $69000 to $77000* in 2021. That’s a $7000 increase in the middle of a pandemic when all the parks were forcibly closed! 
 
In two years her salary has jumped from $65000 to $77000. In that same two years your city taxes have gone up even as you have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic. 

This is the picture of nepotism and institutional corruption, and a perfect example of why we need new leadership in Bethlehem. 

“In some States Mr. Evans would be charged with a crime before a Court of Law. If you engage in openly hiring your wife for a city job, what are you doing behind closed doors?” John Kachmar

          Vote for John Kachmar for Mayor on November 2

*Budget information available on the City of Bethlehem website

NorCo's GOP Candidate Vlogs While Driving ... and Complaining About Another Driver

Northampton County's GOP Executive candidate, Steve Lynch, likes to hold forth quite a bit with Facebook Live videos. Although he's blocked me, I get numerous reports on an almost daily basis of the outrageous lies and disinformation spewed by this demagogue. He's even willing to hint around at violence when things don't go his way in November. I'm posting the video you see above because it makes clear that, in addition to everything else I've noted, he is an idiot. 

What you see is called a Facebok Live or a vlog, a technique used by people who prefer speaking to writing. Nothing wrong with that, but Lynch is vlogging while driving.  This is distracted driving. I believe these vlogs are contrary to current state law. More importantly, they endanger not only Lynch, but other drivers on the road. I realize he's all about freedom, but should be a bit more concerned about the safety of his fellow drivers and whomever might be unlucky enough to be in the car with him.

What I find most amazing is that Lynch, who is himself engaged in distracted driving, spends a full two minutes complaining about another driver. My guess is that he was weaving or perhaps cut this driver off, but because he was distracted by Facebook, failed to realize it.  

Monday, July 26, 2021

Lynch's Plan B Hints at Violence When He Loses Exec Race

Steve Lynch, the Republican nominee for Northampton County Exec, is dangerous. A reader asked him "when do we start to physically take our country back cause [sic] I gotta tell ya I'm getting tired of waiting. They have no clue the beast they are awakening in true conservative Americans." Lyunch responds, "I am focusing on winning through taking back local government and then permeating liberty throughout surrounding counties. If this fails, then we will have to have a Plan B." 

I know many conservative Americans. They tend to take a dim view of sedition. 

Morning Call Fails Its Readers Again

On Friday, blogger Michael Molovinsky made some interesting observations about The Morning Call. This is the hedge fund owned daily that suppressed an important story about child abuse that was embarrassing to both Gerlach and Valley Youth House, the publicly funded nonprofit where Gerlach was employed. The paper knew she had flat out admitted to dropping off an underage runaway at a tent city, and refused to tell its readers. Even after it knew that she was under investigation by the Lehigh County District Attorney, it remained silent. Only after charges were filed did it finally run a story.Its editor offered some hollow excuses for its failure to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. To me, that itself was an admission of its failure. 

Mark Pinsley, Lehigh County's Controller, was running for the State Senate before he was even sworn in as a South Whitehall Tp Comm'r. No sooner did he lose the Senate race to Pat Browne that he was off and running again. This time he was running for Controller. After he was elected, he played the patronage game to install Josh "Dox" Siegel as some sort of assistant. He did so despite Siegel's complete lack of  knowledge of accounting. 

Together, both Pinsley and Siegel came up with the idiotic idea of increasing the sales tax in Lehigh County as well as a county earned income tax. That's right. These rocket scientists wanted ti impose two regressive taxes on the citizens who could least afford to pay them. This proposal thankfully went nowhere, although it did have support from back-room politicians like Alan Jennings. 

Now Pinsley is running for the State  Senate again. He formally announced on Saturday, but anyone who takes even the slightest interest in local politics has known about this for several weeks. 

So last week, The Morning Call gave Pinsely a bit of free advertising. It ran an opinion piece from Pinsley. It was Pinsley's second one in a month. The Morning Call  failed to warn its readers that Pinsley was going to be announcing his second state senate bid. 

At the same time, the paper has still failed to explain why it took Valley Youth House so long to investigate and terminate Gerlaqch. It has failed to tell its readers that magisterial candidate Amy Zanelli is misrepresenting herself as some sort of super child abuse investigator when in fact she was fired ... twice.   It has failed to warn readers that the GOP candidate for NorCo County Exec is asn anti-vaxer who has hinted at violence when he loses the race. 


Friday, July 23, 2021

New Covid Surge Predicted

As people get vaccinated, most of us seem to think the pandemic is over. Few of us wear masks indoors, even though at least half of the people there are unvaccinated. We think we're magically immune. It's time to rethink what's going on. A new surge appears to be in the works.  

The Covid-19 Consortium Modeling Hub is made up of  researchers from Johns Hopkins and other major universities. It works in conjunction with the CDC to help track the pandemic. It also acts a bit like the National Weather Service, and creates forecast models. It is predicting a steady rise of both new Covid-19 cases and deaths throughout the summer and fall, peaking in October. This forecast assumes that 70%  of all eligible Americans are vaccinated and that the Delta variant of Covid-19 is 60% more contagious than the original virus. 

In an interview with NPR, epidemiologist Justin Lessler stated that the one thing that will "stop the Delta variant in its tracks" is getting more people vaccinated. 

This surge will be felt most strongly among those who are vaccine hesitant.   

Gracedale is certainly better prepared now than it was when the pandemic first reared its ugly spiked head. Executive Lamont McClure reports that 93% of the residents have been vaccinated and he's shooting for 100%. He adds that inmates at the jail are very receptive to the vaccine. 

Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy is an issue among the staff at the jail and the nursing home. 

MDJ Candidate Andrew Tupone No Longer Employed by NorCo

Andrew Tupone is the Republican candidate for Magisterial District Judge in Bethlehem Tp. He's running against incumbent Patricia Broscius.

Both candidates were at one time county employees. Pat Broscius was a well respected Assistant District Attorney who devoted much of her career to prosecuting child abuse. She was also, at least in her younger days, a dedicated runner who logged five miles a day, no matter the weather. Tupone has been all over the place. He bounced from 911 to elections to assessment. He had a bit of a reputation for causing trouble wherever he went. 

He used that tactic in this race. According to some who signed his nomination petition, he misrepresented that Broscius has decided against running for re-election. Then he unsuccessfully tried to bounce Broscius off the ballot with a spurious challenge that was rejected by Judge Craig Dally. 

He better hope he wins because he's no longer employed by the county. Executive Lamont MvcClure confirmed this last night. He declined to state whether Tupone has been fired, stating that it is a personnel matter. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Great American Rail Trail


Although I kicked back a bit yesterday, I have been pushing myself pretty hard as I prepare for my Bikeventure along the 330 miles of trail between Pittsburgh and D.C.  The trip starts August 8. Curt's Cyclery, located in Nazareth, really souped up my Cannondale so that I travel 2 mph faster than on my other bikes.  So I've pretty much resolved to travel light and push hard. No reservations. When I'm tired, I stop. If there's no room at the Inn, I  have an emergency tent, thanks to Agent 99.  

I've heard from and have met several people who've made the trip. One of them called it a "life-changing experience." That's fine so long as it's not life-ending. My biggest source of inspiration is someone I've never met.  I've only read about her and have followed her on her Instagram feed, called "recapturinglife_.Her name is Whitney. In June, she began her ride along the Great American Rail Trail. That's a 3,700-mile journey starting in Washington, D.C.,  and ending in Washington State.  

I discovered Whitney on the Facebook group created by Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal enthusiasts. Whitney started her trip along the C&O Canal in DC. She made it through the C&O and Great Allegheny Passage and is currently in Ohio Amish country, where they all ride ebikes instead of carriages. She's riding solo, and as you can see from all her gear, she's camping. 

She seems to have encountered lots of good people who've helped her and one bad person who stole her food while she was asleep in her tent (She was thankful the thief left her and her bike alone). 

She's going through 12 states and over the Rockies. She will have to share the road with cars over half of her journey

She is a badass for even trying. 

When I see what she's doing, I have to laugh at my own trip, which is only 1/10th the distance she's doing. 

Looks like I have a trip for next year. I better learn some basic bike mechanics. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

What is Covid Vaccine Rate in the LV?

 From ABC27

Northampton County

– Population that is fully vaccinated: 50.0% (152,780 fully vaccinated)
— 0.8% lower vaccination rate than Pennsylvania
– Population over 65 that is fully vaccinated: 81.5% (48,614 fully vaccinated)
— 0.9% lower vaccination rate than Pennsylvania
– Cumulative deaths per 100k: 235 (717 total deaths)
— 8.3% more deaths per 100k residents than Pennsylvania
– Cumulative cases per 100k: 11,767 (35,923 total cases)
— 24.2% more cases per 100k residents than Pennsylvania

Lehigh County

– Population that is fully vaccinated: 54.4% (200,838 fully vaccinated)
— 7.9% higher vaccination rate than Pennsylvania
– Population over 65 that is fully vaccinated: 93.0% (58,764 fully vaccinated)
— 13.1% higher vaccination rate than Pennsylvania
– Cumulative deaths per 100k: 234 (863 total deaths)
— 7.8% more deaths per 100k residents than Pennsylvania
– Cumulative cases per 100k: 10,798 (39,880 total cases)
— 13.9% more cases per 100k residents than Pennsylvania

NorCo COs Want Hazard Pay, But Refuse Vaccine

A few weeks ago, a gaggle of corrections officers, festooned with those ugly green AFSCME T-shirts, appeared before County Council. Perhaps they were green with envy. You see, some Gracedale staffers exposed to Covid residents receive hazard pay. Corrections officers do not. Neither do 911 dispatchers, human services workers or courthouse employees. A reader suggested yesterday that I should find out how many of these hazard-pay-seeking corrections officers actually bothered to get vaccinated. I made inquiries, certain the number would be high. After all, the county is handing out $1,000 to each and every guard who is willing to get a jab. Guess what? According to the county, only 23% of these courageous corrections officers have been inoculated. These brave bagpipers are afraid of a little needle. 

I was very impressed at how these jailkeepers handled themselves during the pandemic. In addition to showing up and doing their job with no complaint, they actually saved lives. They stopped several attempted suicides. But when they demand hazard pay at a jail with exactly zero Covid cases, and refuse a vaccine in spite of a $1,000 cash incentive, they are being hypocrites.   

That's just the way it is.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

What's Going On at NorCo Jail?

Several NorCo corrections officers appeared at a Council meeting a few weeks ago to seek hazard pay for their work because they are experiencing a manpower shortage (again) and overtime mandates  Though there's hazard pay available at Gracedale for staffers who come into direct contact with Covid residents, it's unlikely at the jail. Executive Lamont McClure pretty much ruled it out, though he told Council member Peg Ferraro that he's open to the idea of more frequent, albeit smaller, step increases. It's pretty difficult for me to tell you what's going on there because it is, after all, a jail. The County, however, released a statement on Monday with some salient details. 

Total number of Covid-positive inmates from pandemic inception: 188

Total number of Covid-positive corrections officers from pandemic inception: 65

Current Covid-positive inmates or staff: 0

Total number of Covid tests  administered at jail: 3,603

Current jail census: 569

Total number of vaccination clinics conducted at jail: 5

Services available at jail: Employment pre-release program, family answers

Inmates who were furloughed are being brought back.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Why Hasn't Amazon Unionized Already?

If you work at an Amazon warehouse in Pa., you are twice as likely to be seriously injured than at any other warehouse (or should I call it fulfillment center?)  in the state. According to Governing, Amazon has averaged 7.2 serious "incidents" per 100 workers over the past three years. In other warehouses, it is only 3.9 incidents per 100 workers.  This statistic alone makes me question how Amazon has remained union-free for so long.   

If you combine serious injuries in Pa., Delaware and  New Jersey, it's still pretty bad. Amazon had 4.9 serious injuries per 100 workers in the three states combined. By contrast, its rivals are safer:

Walmart: 3.4 serious injuries per 100 workers

UPS: 3.1 serious injuries per 100 workers.

Fed-Ex: 2.3 serious injuries per 100 workers.

Like Amazon, Walmart is also nonunion. UPS, which has noticeably fewer injuries than Amazon or Walmart, is unionized. FedEx, which has the lowest rate of all, is mostly nonunion and has spared no expense to stay that way.

It's time to recognize that  warehouse work is dangerous. Coal mining is considered dangerous. But according to the BLS, serious injuries amount to 2.6 per 100 full-time workers. This makes Amazon and other warehouses far more dangerous. 

Shouldn't these warehouse workers have union protection? 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Residents Complain About Conditions at Nazareth's Oliver Border House

Nazareth's Oliver C Border House is a four story building with 75 1-BR apartments for persons who are over 62 yo or who are disabled. It's in a quiet corner of a quiet borough, just a stone's throw from Holy Family Church. There's a bus stop right outside the door. There's even a cemetery right across the street so that when the end comes, you don't have far to go. A group of tenants, however, is upset with conditions at the home, and took its complaints to Northampton County Council last night. But there's a problem. This home is operated by the Lehigh County Housing Authority, not the Northampton County Housing Authority or even Northampton County.

Kathy Riffert was the first resident to take the podium. She started by thanking Council member Tara Zrinski, who visited and inspected the building a few weeks ago at the request of residents. She asked the county to consider regaining control of the home. 

Riffert asked about Valley Housing Development Corp., which apparently runs the facility. She indicated this firm might manage 31 buildings, and asked where Northampton County's money is going. She indicated that when she first moved there, the tenants were mostly elderly. Now it is a "mixture of nursing home, mental hospital and a group home for mentally challenged people." She also observed that police "are here three or four times a week for frivolous tenant calls." 

Joanne Messinger, who lives on Seip Street but visits the Border House regularly, followed Riffert. "The office is not worth the room they take up," she complained. She was concerned specifically by how the office is treating one of the tenants, who is barred from visiting any floor except the one on which she lives. "Something's got to be done about that place, it's gone downhill." 

Tenant Trudy Davis was the next speaker. She and her late husband first moved there in October 2012.  She was once  proud to say where she lived. "Now, things have changed. There's no longer pride in the old dirty red building on the top of the hill. I heard that description many times while riding the bus back and forth to the Palmer Mall."  She listed numerous deficiencies, from red walls turned black by mold to cracked entry steps. The Border House, "once the 'Cadillac' of HUD buildings, is now a building in desperate need of repairs." 

Resident Carol Kostolanci was the next to take the podium. Her complaint is that "management has opened the building to people who are not only a danger to themselves, but to every other tenant. They wander the halls in various states of undress, some are self abusive." She indicated they linger outside the apartments of other tenants or just lie on the floor.  She added that management locks its doors, closes its blinds and is unresponsive. 

Barbara Tinker, an 82 yo resident, said she's seen several changes in management, and the present operators are the worst. She also complained about the habit of locking the door and pulling down the shades. "That gesture alone makes us feel inferior, almost as if we are the enemy. In many ways we are treated like lower class citizens."

Batting clean-up was 91 yo Joyce Rice. "I'm the grandmother of the group," she joked. She said that when she first moved into the Border House in 2011, the office was wonderful. But she slammed the current management for the way it treats the first floor tenant who pretty much is banned from everywhere else in the building,  

Executive Lamont McClure pretty much agreed with these complaints. "It's time to take our housing authority back, folks. It was a mistake to vote to give it to Lehigh County."

McClure was a member of Council when it voted to cede control of the Border House to Lehigh County Housing Authority, and was the sole member to vote No. 

While McClure claimed that Northampton and Lehigh County work well together, he said the bi-county arrangements have been a failure. He indicated he is currently working on a plan to regain control of the housing authority in Northampton County. "We're going to have a housing authority again in Northampton County." 

He indicate that Valley Housing  should be invited to a Council Committee meeting to address resident concerns. But he cautioned that people with disabilities must be permitted to reside at Oliver Border House. 

Council member Ron Heckman, who chairs the Human Services Committee, said he'd invite management to his next meeting. 

The Four Horsemen of Basketball

It was a pleasure to see these guys play at Catasauqua Park last night. From left to right, it’s Aiden Ellwood, Dat Lambert, Jay Vaughan and Zach Sabol. Dat, Jay and Zach played together for the Blue Chips AAU team in 8th grade. Aiden played with Dat and Jay at ACCHS for one year before going back to Northampton, where he excelled.

These days, Aiden and Dat play together on DeSales men’s basketball team, Jay Vaughan is still the Barishnikov of basketball and now plays for Lafayette’s hoops’ squad. You can find Zach, a former Emmaus standout, under the boards at East Stroudsburg.

It was wonderful to see them together in a team that Aiden put together himself.

The Angel of Death, who mistakenly thinks he's a Hearts player, joined me in the stands.

They lost. Unfortunately, it's my fault. I forced my grandson Dat to ride with me on Wednesday with a defective bike. The chain jammed and he went for a loop, losing the skin on one of his palms. That pretty much took him out of the picture as an offensive threat,.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Though Incarcerated, Mezzacappa Refuses to Appear at Hearing to Review Her Sentence

If you've been following the antics of West Easton Borough Constable Tricia Mezzacappa over the years, you know that she has a history of refusing to appear for hearings in both civil and criminal matters. She's even spent time in jail as a result of several bench warrants that had to be issued for her. But yesterday, she pulled off something new. She refused to appear at a scheduled hearing to review her sentence even though she's already in jail. Let me tell you the story. 

By way of background, Mezzacappa was convicted of false reports to the Pennsylvania State Police after a jury trial in march. She attempting to frame a black neighbor with accosting her at gunpoint. She told troopers she had fired her own gun at him as he ran off. A jury determined beyond a reasonable doubt that she was lying. The case was prosecuted by Assistant DA Abigail Bellafatto, assisted by unpaid summer intern Richard Huntington Pepper. The trial judge was Stephen Baratta. Mezzacappa represented herself, although Judge Baratta appointed a standby counsel to assist her. 

Mezzacappa had no prior record of significance. Judge Stephen Baratta sentenced her in April to 12 months probation with conditions that included no contact with the victims, a psychiatric evaluation, a drug and alcohol evaluation and the temporary surrender of all offensive weapons and firearms. 

On the very day she was sentenced, she violated the terms of her probation. She left a note for the victim and told both the ADA and her probation officer that she had no intention of complying with Judge Baratta's sentence. 

Mezzacappa was as a result picked up on yet another bench warrant and has been housed at Monroe County's correctional facility since that time. Judge Baratta directed that she be given a psychiatric evaluation and drug and alcohol evaluation before being released.

The psychiatric evaluation was apparently conducted, but my understanding is that she refuses to submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation.  Though she refuses to comply with Judge Baratta's own sentence, he agreed to review her case yesterday. 

Instead of transporting prisoners from jails to courtrooms, court officials often have defendants participate by video. That's what was supposed to happen with Mezzacappa. But at the appointed hour, all the video feed showed was an empty chair in an empty room.

A corrections officer eventually appeared, and informed the court that Mezzacappa refused to get dressed or leave her cell. 

My views concerning Mezzacappa are colored from my numerous negative interactions with her. But it seems clear to me that she has no respect for the court and no intention of complying with any probationary sentence. While her continued incarceration is far from ideal for her own rehabilitation, it will at least keep the rest of us safe for the next few months.   

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ce-Ce Gerlach Wants $100,000 for Legal Defense

Allentown City Council member Cecelia E (Ce-Ce) Gerlach is off in Florida, visiting family. But before leaving, she was sure to set up a GoFundMe page called "Help Ce Ce pay legal fees."  She's seeking $100,000. 

Prominent criminal defense attorney Ettore "Ed" Angelo was quick to condemn Gerlach's prosecution for child endangerment and failure to report suspected child abuse as politically motivated. But interestingly, his name has yet to appear as her attorney on the docket sheet. This means he's waiting for that all-important witness, Mr. Green. I doubt very much that he charges $100,000 to represent someone at a preliminary hearing on misdemeanor charges. That hearing is currently scheduled for August 6  

Methinks Gerlach is hoping to milk this for her own pocket. So far, she's raised $300. 

According to Gerlach, she's never, ever, ever, ever, ever, not ever committed a single crime in her entire life. Never mind that she admitted to this one. Never mind that her own paperwork shows she knew she was dropping a minor off at a tent city.

Gerlach complains that the prosecution "has been a very challenging time for me, but I remain committed to fighting for the people of Allentown." I would prefer that she be committed to fighting for the safety of a minor entrusted to her care, but that's me.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

NorCo Civil Division Resumes Accepting Passport Applications

Northampton County's Civil Division is again accepting passport applications. But it's  by appointment only. To make an appointment, call 610-829-6457. Applications will be processed in the Prothonotary,. That;s a fancy word for the Clerk of the Civil Division. It's located on the Lower Level of the Courthouse at 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042. Applicants who have not been vaccinated must wear a mask while at the Government Center.

You might bump into me, so you should make sure your tetanus shots are up to date. 

Information on fees and documents required for passport applications can be viewed at travel.state.gov

The County of Northampton now offers applicants the option of getting their passport photo done at the courthouse for a $10.00 fee. Anyone who wants to use this service should arrive thirty minutes before their appointment and pay the fee at the Revenue Department.

Passport applications had to be suspended in March 2020 because of the pandemic and office closures at the Department of State. 

Zanelli Neglected Children in Jersey, But Wants to Be a Judge

Amy Zanelli is running for Magisterial District Judge in West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill. She spoke with a fawning Josh Popichak in February about her work in child protective services. "My ability to see things others didn't led me to go into investigative work on a state level for the State of New Jersey," she told him. "I specialized in sex crimes and homicides and abuse and neglect for children ... ." She even went so far as to claim that she was forced to move here because she had been targeted in Jersey. 

This, of course, is a bald-faced lie. Below you can see the opinion of an arbitrator who upheld her termination in 2012 She worked primarily as an intake worker in Somerset County's Department of Children and Families, not as a sex crimes or homicide detective. She was terminated because she refused to work or seek accommodations in a department that was short-staffed and trying to cope with the most vulnerable elements of our society - our children.

In fact, her supervisors discovered that she had failed to document the cases she did have, and they had to be reassigned. 

While refusing to work, Zanelli did find the time to drop off some Avon products for fellow caseworkers. 

I reported this termination when Zanelli ran for Commissioner four years ago. The Morning Call had the same information I did, yet kept you in the dark. It repeated this failure with Ce-Ce Gerlach. . 

Now she wants to be a magisterial district judge. 

Amy Zanelli's Terminati... by BernieOHare

Monday, July 12, 2021

I Was Evicted!

You may have heard there's a moratorium on evictions, but I've been tossed. Oh, I still have my apartment. I've been evicted from a community garden I rented from Northampton County at Louise Moore Park. 

I picked it up in early Spring for $25 with very good intentions. I planted stuff and watered every day for about two weeks. But I began to neglect it. That's a no no.

Apparently, the fine print in my lease requires me to maintain my plat. This admittedly is something I failed to do. Other gardeners complained. I tried to tell the parks dude that I love to eat weeds. I even tried to tell him it was hemp.  He was unmoved by my lies.

So I'm out. I do apologize to the real gardeners who are doing amazing things there.   


Will the Lehigh Valley Elect Its First Ever Black Judge?

Maraleen Shields is running for Judge in Lehigh County. She's one of six candidates vying for three open seats. If elected, she'll be the first African American on the bench in the Lehigh Valley.  She's quite proud of her heritage, and rightly so. She's having a news conference today at which various officials are going to plug her and I presume use her race as a selling point. I have a better reason. She simply the best of six very good candidates. 

She knows hardship. She lost her father when she was a seven year old girl. 

She knows discrimination. Her high school was created as the result of court-ordered integration. 

She excelled as a student. She graduated magnum cum laude from University of Pittsburgh. While she was there, she was a member of the Law Review, an honor bestowed upon a law school's top students. 

She has had a brilliant career as a lawyer. She is a partner with Fitzpatick, Lentz and Bubba, one of the Lehigh Valley's most prestigious law firms.

In America, a lawyer is a lawyer. In England, a lawyer can be a solicitor or a barrister. The barrister is the one who argues cases in court. Shields would qualify as a barrister, which strikes me as a skill one would like to see in a judge. In fact, she is a recipient of the Lynette Norton award, which recognizes female attorneys who excel in litigation and have served as mentors for women who practice law. 

She is driven. Not only does she push herself in her legal career, but also in her personal fitness. 

Someone with her intellect and life's experience deserves a seat on the bench.  

Friday, July 09, 2021

Gerlach's Whistleblower Speaks Out

The Morning Call has attempted to explain why it refused to cover Ce-Ce Gerlach's alleged child endangerment (she dropped a minor off at a tent city) and failed to report suspected child abuse.  One of its many poor excuses is that it was unable to verify the facts with anyone, including community activist Jeani Haskins Garcia. If the paper tried to speak to her at all, it was a feeble attempt. Alfonso Todd, aka The Savage Entrepreneur, had no difficulty persuading her to appear on his podcast.  

Garcia, whose son was a shooting victim of gang violence in 2012, is considered a community activist. But she considers herself a mother first and spoke at length about her son and the grief she felt when he was taken away from her. She formed Mother2Mother, a nonprofit to assist parents who lose their children to violence, drug overdoses or suicide. 

She cares deeply about children and spoke about Grace Packer, a product of our dysfunctional state system. That child was preyed upon and murdered by the people who were supposed to be caring for her. 

It is thanks to her Facebook post in April that fellow blogger James Whitney began to look into this story. 

Here's part of what she told Alfonso Todd about the Ce-Ce Gerlach case:

"[Gerlach] was an intake worker, an outreach worker, a street worker. She got a phone call at 7 o'clock at night from a runaway, and he asked for help.After doing his intake, Ce-Ce thought it was in his best interests to take him to an unsheltered encampment in Allentown, which we used to call tent city. ... She failed to do her job and let his child down, and in the process of him being in this encampment, he was subjected to sexual abuse. Nothing physical happened, but he was solicited for sex - a sexual act. 

"It was brought to my attention by some of the unsheltered people I helped in the past ... . Ultimately, we ended up getting the young boy - the child - the help that he needed. Now that's escalated into [Ce-Ce] being charged with child endangerment and failure to report this incident because she's a mandated reporter. 

"There's been a lot of stuff going on and I'm getting a lot of heat it for certain things. I'm standing here unapologetic. This will pass for Ce-Ce. This will pass for me. But this will not pass for the young man who was subjected to that.  ... If your kid runs away from home - some run away for good reasons, some run away from home just because they don't want to follow rules - and then you get a kid who reaches out to some organization and asks for help from Ce-Ce, and you get an intake worker who takes you to a tent city, an unsheltered encampment at night, in the dark, with adults who have mental health issues, drug addiction issues, alcohol, there's so much that goes down in those communities that I would never take a child. ... There are just some things our kids should not see. ... 

Todd asked Garcia what needs to change:

I think that people who say they have organizations representing the youth be held accountable to do so. I think the reporting needs to be more in-depth. ...  If you say you're doing something for the kids and you're getting these grants and you're getting money and you're out here publicizing that you work for the youth and you're here to protect the youth, then DO YOUR JOB! DO YOUR JOB! Integrity shows when nobody's looking, when the camera's not there, when the politics aren't involved ..."

"I'm not going to sit back and not sound the alarm." 

She's sounding the alarm for the kids of Allentown. She notes children attending schools in Allentown get about $5,000-6,000 per student, while neighboring school districts are raking in $16,000 per student. She noted that the William Allen graduation at J Brirney Crum had to be postponed three times because of the weather and was finally held in blistering heat. Meanwhile, neighboring school districts held their graduations at PPL Center. 

She indicated people like Gerlach need to start taking accountability. "She's literally in the media saying, 'I did nothing wrong.' ... She's not saying she didn't do it. She definitely admitted she took him there. What she's saying is she did nothing wrong. And that scares me.  And that's why I can't have empathy at this point. 

"We all make mistakes. I've made plenty of mistakes. Accountability starts when you say, ' I messed up. I messed up."

"When it comes to a kid and the safety of a child, that's where I draw the line. I'm sorry. Call me what you want."

"It took eight months for something to happen. It took my Facebook post to bring it to light again and I'm getting all the blame for it. 

"I did my job. I reported her to Childline and I felt like the community needed to know." 

Thursday, July 08, 2021

I'm a Lousy Minimalist

I pride myself on being a minimalist. I try to keep as few things as possible. Last Summer, I even lent my car to someone for a few months, and relied on my bike and LANTA to get to where I needed to be. But this philosophy goes right out the window when it comes to bicycles. I now own three of them. 

My first love is a Jamis Tangier hybrid that I bought in 1999 for $429. Over the years, it has undergone many modifications.  I had the gears completely redone, added fenders and a heavy duty rack. I replaced the wheels and my tires are made of kevlar. It is slow, like its owner, but it's a tank. 

My second bike is a Bianchi Cortina, yet another hybrid. While the Jamis tends to be clunky, the Italian bike is quite nimble and can turn on a dime. Though that bike is only a year old, it's slower than the Jamis. 

My third bike is one I bought (used) yesterday. It's a hardtail, a Cannondale Trail 5. I never expected I'd ever buy a mountain bike, especially with those shock absorbers that seem to slow things down. But I've been passed by enough guys on them to start wondering. Moreover, my grandson flies on his Cannondale. I believe they are faster because they are extremely light and the tires are bigger. 

I tried it out yesterday on the Ironton Trail.  My fastest time on that 12.7 mile ride has been exactly 1 hour on my Jamis. Yesterday, in my first ride on the Cannondale Trail 5, my time was 64 minutes. That's slower, but the ride was in 93 degree weather. It's definitely a faster ride. 

I felt much more confident and comfortable on that bike, too. There was no rattling of the joints as I went over bumps. I added a fat man saddle and changed the handgrips, and am going to see about getting better tires. This is the bike I will likely use for my ride from Pittsburgh to DC in August. If I do, I will add lights and a rack. 

NorCo Small Businesses Can Apply for Second Round Now

Are you a Northampton County small business that failed to apply for a Covid relief grant from the County? If so, you can do so now. Northampton County Council has set aside $15 million in federal money awarded under the American Rescue Plan. 

To qualify, you must (1) have a business located in Northampton County; (2) with fewer than 100 employees; and (3) did not receive a grant in the previous rounds of funding.

So far,nearly 1,000 county small businesses have received grants of up to $15,000. 

The money received can be used for rent, payroll or other operating expenses. 

Executive Lamont McClure proposed this spending plan to Council, and they quickly agreed.  “Many of our small businesses are still feeling the economic fallout from the pandemic,” said McClure. “Small businesses are a critical economic driver in Northampton County, providing both jobs and services our residents need.”

As with the previous rounds of grants, the program will be administered by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. I know that they spent hours working with nonmembers who can barely speak English.

Tony Iannelli, who is the chief cheerleader for Lehigh Valley business, thanked McClure and Council, noting their program "has literally kept many businesses alive.” 

Hey if it's business, it matters. 

Applications are due by August 31, 2021. The maximum grant amount is $15,000 per business.

The application form can be found on the DCED and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce websites:


Wednesday, July 07, 2021

MDJ Candidate Amy Zanelli Kicked Out of Fountain Hill Pool

The first time I saw Amy Zanelli was at a Hanover Tp (Northampton County) Supervisors' meeting in 2015. Though Hanover Tp was once known as Chickentown, it imposed a backyard chicken ban in 2011. Zanelli, who had a chicken coop with four hens, wanted that policy changed. While the CDC has just issued a warning about a salmonella outbreak linked to backyard chickens, they are nevertheless increasingly popular in suburban and even urban environments. I found no fault with Zanelli's poultry pitch, but something else bothered me. At the time, she was employed by Northampton County Children and Youth. She flashed her badge at Supervisors, which was entirely inappropriate. It was a portent of things to come.

Fast forward two years, and she's no longer a resident of Hanover Tp. She's no longer a Children and Youth caseworker. Now she's a realtor living in West Bethlehem, and is running for Lehigh County Comm'r. 

I learned then and told you Zanelli had been employed as an intake worker in Somerset County, but was terminated in 2012 because she refused to return to work after receiving a number of leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. She left the most vulnerable element of our society, our children, go without protection. Though she refused to work, she dropped in on her office one day to deliver Avon products to co-workers. 

Zanelli appealed her termination and lost.

She told me she was a victim of discrimination.

Zanelli then worked in Northampton County Children and Youth as a caseworker between  March and October 2015. She was terminated there as well, and during her probationary period.

She told me this was because her hours had been expanded beyond the time she had agreed to give. 

Zanelli was quite upset with me for telling you she had been fired twice. She banned me from her Facebook page, which happens to me quite. She claimed my report was nothing but "false allegations" and "fake news." She noted The Morning Call declined to publish a story, as though that somehow makes her truthful.  

Voters apparently believed her. They elected her. 

According to Zanelli herself, she could remain a Lehigh County Commissioner for the next 30 years if she wanted. But after a May 1 Facebook post in which she supported looting as an appropriate response to slavery, she decided to bring her special brand of justice to the people of West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill. 

On the campaign trail, Zanelli has held erself out as some sort of super child abuse investigator from Jersey.  She has told people this past will give her some sort of edge as a magisterial district judge. She told a fawning reporter that she was forced to move here because she was a target in Jersey. But guess what? She's a liar. My report about her was right. She really was fired. Twice.

You see, Zanelli is currently involved in a rather protracted custody dispute with her ex-husband. She's already gone through several lawyers, and is currently is represented by David Harrington. He just happens to be both a fellow Lehigh County Commissioner and a member of LV4All's Exec Committee. 

In her Pretrial Memorandum (filed 9/22/16 at 2014-3733), Zanelli's attorney makes the following admission: "Mother was employed long term in New Jersey as a social worker. The Mother was a union member. The Mother was terminated from her employment in 2012 and as a result of the termination the Mother filed a grievance. The Mother recently received an Order with supporting Opinion denying her claim."

In another Opinion and Order of the Court signed by President Judge Michael Koury, Jr. on 8/23/17,  he notes that Zanelli was employed after she separated from her husband, but was "terminated from the position." This refers to her job at Northampton County.  

So contrary to Zanelli's "fake news" assertions (where have I heard that before?), she was terminated twice as a social worker for children, both in Jersey and NorCo. 

This is how Judge Koury assessed Zanelli's demeanor: "Mother testified at length during the parties' custody trial. ... Mother's demeanor varied from happy to openly hostile. ... Mother repeatedly referred to the custody trial as a 'circus.' ... Mother accused opposing counsel of  'play[ing] semantics and stated that her questioning was 'crap.'"

She obviously lacks the temperament necessary to be a magisterial district judge. 

But if you have any doubts, take a gander at this incident report from a week ago today, when Zanelli was kicked out of Fountain Hill Pool. She was ejected by the pool manager for repeatedly intervening as the manager was attempting to deal with some unruly teenagers. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Outgoing Mail Being Stolen in Hanover Tp

From Hanover Tp (NC) - The Colonial Regional Police Department has taken numerous reports today of outgoing mail being "stolen" from mailboxes. It is happening all over the Township.


The vehicle involved is an Infinity - G35 (unknown year) sedan; gun metal in color; white female driver, & a white male passenger.

If the vehicle is observed; please immediately contact the police by dialing 911.

Do not approach, but try to obtain a license plate.

Thank you.

Morning Call's Gerlach Apologium Rings Hollow

Over the holiday weekend, The Morning Call offered an apologium for its failure to cover the Ce-Ce Gerlach story. She is a City Council member and was running for Mayor at the time the story was reported by this blog. What was reported here is that, as a mandated reporter employed by Valley Youth House, she dropped off a 16 yo runaway at a tent city, where he was sexually abused for two days before being rescued. After she was charged by the Lehigh County DA with child endangerment and failure to report abuse, this daily newspaper finally decided to let you in on what it had been brushing under the rug. Now it has decided to explain why it suppressed this story But like a bell, it rings hollow. 

According to Mike Miorelli, the paper's most recent "Editor-in-Chief", it declined to go with the story originally reported here by James Whitney (and on Facebook) because Gerlach clammed up. After admitting to Whitney that she had dropped an underage boy off at a tent city, she went silent. "We decided we would not print such a potentially explosive story unless we could verify the facts with our own reporting," says Editor Mike. 

What the paper is really saying here is that it is unwilling to rely on a story reported by this blog. In fact, Miorelli refused to link to the blog in his attempt to explain why he let you down. To me, that's an indication that he looks down his nose at what I've been doing - and what his paper's reporters have been data mining - since 2006. This is a mistake. For one thing, the days when local newspapers serve as the gatekeepers for what you need to know are long gone. For another,  this blog has established itself as a highly credible source over the years. Yes, I am opinionated, but am very careful with the facts. I also have the journalism awards to prove it. 

The reality is that the newspaper was playing it safe. If it relied on something reported here and this information turned out to be incorrect, the paper could be sued. I doubt legal action would succeed, but fear of libel lawsuits is why papers usually shy away from controversy. 

I once asked an editor, "Aren't you in business to report the news?"

"No, we're in business to make money," was his reply. 

Though it's hardly fearless, I could understand the failure to report Gerlach's admission as a business decision. Miorelli attempts to dress this up as being about "journalistic integrity," but it's really about money.

Here's what kills me. We have more than Gerlach's admission. Much more. Not long after the Gerlach story broke, I received a phone call from Lehigh County Detective Gregg Dietz. He was investigating the allegations. I reported the existence of this investigation on May 10. At this point, it's definitely a story. The Morning Call still refused to inform its readers. This demonstrates a lack of the journalistic integrity that Miorelli claims to have. 

According to Miorelli, the DA's office told reporters its investigation had stalled. So what? It was still an investigation and a story. It's quite common for investigators to run into a few brick walls before cracking a case. That's why it's called an investigation. 

But wait, there's more. Gerlach worked at Valley Youth House, where CEO Tom Harrington is pulling down an obscene $335,036 per year on $28 million in revenue  The Morning Call could easily have verified this on its  own, but ignored this news. 

Valley Youth House CEO Tom Harrington also used his position as Chair of Allentown's Homeless Comm'n to make a play for Allentown to contract with his outfit for yet another shelter. The person who proposed Harrington for this homeless commission was Gerlach. This can be confirmed from city council videos. 

But wait, there's even more. Valley Youth House is getting about  $2.2 million per year from Lehigh County.  And guess who sits on the Board that budgets this money? Tom Harrington's son Dave.

Dave and his mommy, Kathy Harrington, run Lehigh Valley For All Some. This outfit endorsed Gerlach and even apologized to her after she was charged. 

Where's The Morning Call on all this?

MIA. 

On Tuesday, I'll shed some light on another politico who should have been exposed by The Morning Call four years ago. Perhaps it's time that the paper, in its waning days, develops some of the journalistic integrity it pretends to have. I call it balls. 

Note: Fellow blogger Michael Molovinsky weighs in here

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Do You Hear the Artillery?

On this day in 1863, the largest artillery barrage ever conducted in North America took place 163 miles away in the tiny borough of Gettysburg. It was actually a 90-minute duel between Union and Confederate red-legs as Robert E Lee's Army of Northern Virginia tried to soften up the Union center before the doomed Pickett's charge. 

Lee was warned against making the assault by the person he called his "warhorse," General James Longstreet. Lee went ahead anyway and lost half the men sent in perhaps the biggest blunder of his career.

The rest is history.

While Confederates were in Pennsylvania, they helped themselves to just about everything that wasn't nailed down so Lee could feed his army. This included black people, most of whom were free. 

One woman wrapped herself in an American flag as rebels marched from Chambersburg to Gettysburg in a show of defiance. 

"You oughn't be doing that, ma'am," said a Texas who broke ranks.

"I'm not afraid of you."

"You misunderstand me. It's just that us Texans aren't used to seeing that flag wrapped around breastworks without charging."  

Friday, July 02, 2021

NorCo COs Request Hazard Pay

A coterie of Northampton County corrections officers, festooned in green AFSCME T-shirts, was at Northampton County Council last night to seek hazard pay. AFSCME Staff Representative Bryan Dayoc, who spoke on their behalf, stated officers ore subjected to verbal and physical assault, being spit on, and having feces thrown at them. In addition, they are subjected to Covid-19 exposure. He noted they are 23 officers short. "It is hard to find applicants that will do the job for the low wages they make, compared to other counties," noted this union official.

Dayoc went on to complain that the County administration appears to care more about the staff at Gracedale, where there is hazard pay. "Gracedale is getting extra incentives just to pick up shifts and show up." He wants the county to pay corrections officers with some of the $61 million it is receiving from the American Rescue Plan money.

Council member Peg Ferraro, whose grandson is employed at the jail, asked Executive Lamont McClure to respond to Dayoc. McClure conceded the work done by corrections officers [COs} at the jail has been "fantastic." He noted that the county and COs just agreed to a two-year contract extension in which they are getting raises of about 6.5% 7% over two years. During that extension, there's no increase in payments COs must make for medical coverage. He added the county also just resolved a grievance with the union under which each CO will get $500 and, if fully vaccinated by the end of the year, another $1,000. 

Ferraro pressed McClure, noting that employees at one time received step increases every year. McClure said that he is considering restoring more frequent step increases, but at a smaller percentage like 2.5%. He said prior administrations have balked at step increases because they are too large. He said he's been pretty liberal in granting step increases, but "I have to balance the interests of the taxpayers." He said he cares deeply about the COs, and has gone out of his way to get them vaccinated. He said a smaller step increase, which actually has been suggested by AFSCME, "makes it more likely" that employees might see them every year.

 McClure denied that the county pays its COs less than other counties. "We look at that all the time," he said, noting "that when you put it all together [salary plus benefits], we're even or a little better than Lehigh County."

In response to a question from Council member Tara Zrinski, McClure noted that COs did receive hazard pay during part of the pandemic. He added that hazard pay is a "management right. It's not even bargainable." He added no specific request has come to him for hazard pay. 

Council member Ron Heckman cautioned that Council can listen, but really has no say in contracts that are negotiated with the administration. They could be charged with an unfair labor practice if they do. 

In other business, Council voted 8-0 to support a resolution authorizing about $1.8 million to 124 small businesses that had previously applied for mostly $15,000 grants. This will make nearly 1,000 businesses helped by the county during the pandemic. Council President Lori Vargo Heffner said these businesses were vetted and approved last year, "but we ran out of money."

Council member John Cusick questioned three of the grants that went to lawn care companies. He said those were "essential services" and experienced no disruption as a result of the pandemic. Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron said the lawn care companies might be deemed essential, but lost customers who were unable to pay for their services during the pandemic. Cusick was satisfied with that reply.

Council member Kerry Myers was absent from the meeting. 

Thursday, July 01, 2021

My Virtual Appalachian Trail Challenge: June Report

Highly conditioned, well-trained athlete
On Tuesday, some smartass sent me this message: "How are you today?" After I responded I was fine, I received this explanation: "Good. I just saw a PSA telling me to check in on my elderly friends."

This bastard is apparently unaware, despite my constant bragging, that I am a highly conditioned, well-trained athlete.  Not only am I in the middle of  a virtual Appalachian Trail challenge, but I am in training for a 330-mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to DC in August. In fact, I also received an invitation to compete in the Olympics, but turned it down because it looks too easy.  

Here's how the virtual Appalachian Trail challenge works. Any distance based exercise counts along this 2,190-mile journey. This includes walking, running, cycling, canoeing, elliptical or arc trainer, rowing, etc. Two friends are also doing this, although they have different starting dates.

As the weather has improved, I expected my mileage to increase. I had a bad May but made up for it in June. My grandson, who likes to cycle the 13-mile Ironton Trail, has been killing me.H ere's the data, starting January 17.

January - 132.72 miles

February - 220.45 miles

March - 247.03 miles

April - 304.64 miles. 

May - 271.63 miles

June - 429.76 miles 

So far, I have logged 1606.23 miles, which means I've completed 73% of the Appalachian Trail. My June average, helped by my grandson and great weather, was 14.32 miles per day. I'd say about 40% comes from walking or running. 

As pleased as I am about a 14.32 mile per day average, I'm going to have to do much better if I expect to conclude my bikeventure in August in a week or so.  

The 330-mile trip between Pittsburgh and DC starts on the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Cumberland Md,. From there I hop on the C&O trail from Cumberland to DC.. I'd like to complete the trip in a week, but it might take longer. I heard of one fellow who did it in 24 hours. He rode in the dark. I think that's pretty much impossible for mere mortals like myself. 

I better pick it up.  

Next month, I'll be telling you about Pathfinder, an avid cyclist who recently completed a bikeventure of his own. ... On the turnpike. ... The abandoned turnpike. He has offered to accompany me on a ride and I am going to try to fit it in, but that might have to wait until late August or September. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Lehigh County DA Charges Gerlach

The Morning Call and other local news outlets have finally opened their increasingly small mouths to report about Allentown City Council member Ce-Ce Gerlach and her decision to drop a minor off at a tent city. They had no choice. She was charged yesterday with both child endangerment (a first degree misdemeanor) and failure to report suspected child abuse (a second degree misdemeanor).

A first degree misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison as well as a $10,000 fine. A second degree misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison as well as a $5,000 fine.  

At the time of the offense, Gerlach was a caseworker at Valley Youth House. As originally reported by James Whitney at this blog, Gerlach met with a 16 yo runaway who needed a place to stay. Rather than take him to any of a number of shelters, including one operated by her own employer, she dumped him off at a tent city. There he was subjected to two nights of sexual abuse, thanks to Gerlach, 

Whitney contacted Gerlach, who admitted to him that she did drop this teen off at a tent city. She denied she knew he was underage, "so if people want to beat me up for that, they can."

Looks like they have. In addition to these criminal charges, Gerlach finished last in a four-way Mayoral contest on May 18. 

The charges were filed by Lehigh County Detective Gregg M Dietz, who conducted a quite thorough investigation detailed in The Morning Call account.  Significantly, Gerlach's claim she was unaware ofthe boy's age is bellied by her own paperwork. 

Gerlach was preliminarily arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Rashid Santiago. He set bail at $2,500 unsecured. A preliminary hearing, in which the Commonwealth must present prima facia evidence that Gerlach committed a crime, is currently scheduled for August 6 before Magisterial District Judge Karen Devine.  

Gerlach is represented by prominent Allentown criminal defense attorney Ed Angelo. Through him she has denied wrongdoing and refuses "to allow these allegations to distract me from my service to the people of Allentown." 

Service like that Allentown does not need. 

Gerlach sounds eerily similar to another so-called public servant who had to be dragged out of office, kicking and screaming. Former Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski is currently serving a 15-year sentence for his service. 

Though this blog and fellow blogger Michael Molovinsky had Fed Ed's number in 2007,  The Morning Call refused to take a serious look at his hijinks until the Feds were literally at his door. 

This pattern continued with Gerlach. The paper and other local news sources refused to write a word even though she herself admitted she dropped this boy off at a tent city. That refusal continued when I told you that the Lehigh County District Attorney was investigating. It was a story you needed to hear. 

I suspect this refusal was politically motivated. I saw no hesitation when the paper targeted Congressional candidate Marty Nothstein with a decades old rumor. 

Let's not forget we are dealing with child abuse, a topic far more important than politics. The local media let you down when it refused to cover this story. This reluctance to cast a critical eye toward child caregivers is how little girls like Grace Packer end up dead. Valley Youth House kept Gerlach on their staff until May 10, after the Lehigh County DA began sniffing around.

That's another story.  

Previous stories:

Whitney: Allentown Mayoral Candidate Ce-Ce Gerlach Exposes Minor to Alleged Sexual Abuse

Lehigh County DA Investigating Ce-Ce Gerlach Allegations

Politics, Money and Power: All in the Family for the Harringtons

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Why I Still Wear Masks Indoors

WHO recommends that people, even those who ate fully vaccinated, should continue wearing masks indoors because of concerns about community spread of the virulent Delta variant. I am following that recommendation. The protection masks provide is admittedly limited, but I've noticed I touch my face and rather prominent proboscis less often when I wear them. That makes me less likely for me to infect myself or others.  Plus, I'm told I'm very handsome when masked. Some have even suggested a bag. 

Should Retention Elections Be Abolished for County Judges?

County judges are elected to serve 10-year terms. If they desire to remain in office at the end of their term, they seek retention. Voters vote Yes or No. In my lifetime, I've only seen one judge - Justice Russell Nigro in 2005 - rejected in a retention election. 

The argument for retention, as opposed to re-election, is that judges could be taken to task for unpopular but legally correct decisions. A 10-year term, however, provides lots of insulation. Another argument is that a nonpartisan retention election takes the judge out of politics. But judges are the most political animals I know. 

Since 2012, the County Comm'rs Ass'n of Pa has maintained that county judges should stand for re-election, instead of retention, at the end of their 10-year terms. While this would require a change to the Pa. Constitution, I am sure it would garner wide support, especially if the elections are nonpartisan. A judge should be accountable to the voter. 

Let me add as an aside that I oppose any attempt at so-called "merit selection" of judges. That just takes the politics away from the people and into the hands of a bunch of unelected bluebloods.

What's your take?  

Monday, June 28, 2021

Zero

According to CovidAlertPa, established by the state Department of Health, there were zero new cases of Covid on Sunday in Northampton, Lehigh and Carbon Counties. Monroe reported two, Berks had eight and Bucks had just one. These are the lowest figures I've seen since the state (and counties) began tracking the pandemic. While it's premature to declare victory, we certainly are headed in that direction. 

How many of these new cases are from the vaccinated. Strangely, Pennsylvania fails to track this important data point. According to the Inky, Covid among the vaccinated is tracked in New Jersey, Delaware and Philadelphia. Only two percent  of new Covid-19 cases are among those who've been vaccinated. This means the vaccines approved for emergency use have a combined efficacy rate of 98%.  

Friday, June 25, 2021

Did Biden Just Deliver a Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal?

When he was a candidate, Trump attempted to vilify Joe Biden as a "Sleepy Joe" who hid in his basement from the pandemic. He was ridiculed for wearing a mask and was criticized as both corrupt and incompetent for failing to get anything accomplished during three decades of public service. Now he's President Joe, and has an average 56% approval rating. He's actually on the verge of hammering out a bipartisan infrastructure deal, something he never could have accomplished without his decades of experience. 

You might recall that Trump was supposed to do this in his first term. He actually campaigned on that issue. He explained his expertise: "I own buildings. I'm a builder; I know how to build. Nobody can build like I can build. Nobody. And the builders in New York will tell you that. I build the best product. And my name helps a lot." He did announce a $1.5 trillion plan in 2018, but walked away instead of compromising like Biden did. 

Biden is an adult. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Supreme Court Upholds Bill of Rights

In a trio of decisions yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld basic freedoms conferred to us in the Bill of Rights.

The most important of these rulings comes from a case that made its way to the High Court from Mahanay School District here in Pa. A high school girl who failed to make the varsity cheerleading squat vented with vulgarities on Snapchat. She did so, not at school, but off campus. The school suspended her from the team. 

In a 8-1 ruling written by Justice Stephen Breyer ruled that a student's off campus speech is generally the responsibility of a student's parents. The school does have an interest in regulating some kinds of off campus speech like bullying or threats.

In a case involving "hot pursuit," a divided Supreme Court ruled that in minor cases, police officers should  generally obtain a warrant before entering someone's home. This is a vindication of the Fourth Amendment. 

Finally, the court ruled 6-3 that state regulation allowing union organizers to come onto an employer's property in an attempt to speak to workers is an unlawful taking of that employer's private property in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The regulation in question allowed organizers to enter the property three hours per day, 120 days per year. It provided no compensation to the owner. 

New Covid Cases Dropping Dramatically in Northampton County

On January 29, there were 448 new Covid-19 cases in Northampton County. Yesterday, according to the County, there were just two new cases. The DOH had the figure at just one. While it's too soon to say whether this is just an anomaly, it certainly is encouraging news. 

The state reports Lehigh County had six new cases yesterday, but it was down to two on June 17. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Following the Money in NorCo Council Races

Five at-large seats on Northampton County Council will be voted on in this year's November 2 municipal election. As of now, five Democrats and five Republicans will square off.  

The five Democrats finished in the May 18 primary as follows: Tara Zrinski - 16,791 votes; Lori Vargo-Heffner - 15,610 votes; Patti Bruno - 14,927 votes; Ron Heckman - 14,773 votes; and Bill McGee - 14,372 votes. Patti Bruno is a newcomer, while the rest are incumbents. 

Ironically, the Democratic candidate who spent the most money in the primary came in last. Bill McGee spent $22,625.56 during the period between May 4 and June 14. This money went to political consultant Celeste Dee ($2,000) and some DC consultant called Bergmann Zwerdling Direct ($16,121.20). These rocket scientists sent a mailer asking voters to re-elect McGee ... to City Council.

I could think of better ways for McGee to raise his visibility than to spend a boatload of money for a mailer asking voters to put a candidate for county council in city government. 

I'll give Bill some advice for free. Start calling yourself Wilhelmina, wear dresses instead of three-piece suits and give yourself a shot or two of estrogen. Democratic voters were obviously voting for women just because that's what they are. Identity politics at its finest. 

Bill still has $16,661.48 in his treasury so he can start the transition now. 

The other member of the penis club in the Democratic primary, Ron Heckman, only did slightly better than McGee. He only spent $75 between 5/19 and 6/7. He also picked up a $2,000 contribution from the Sheet Metal Workers. He goes into the summer with a $3240 warchest. He should probably change his name to Heckwoman. 

Top vote getter Tara "I hate plastic straws" Zrinski spent just $940 during the period between 5/4 and 6/7. But she picked up an electrifying $5,000 contribution from IBEW. That's the kind of green we all like. She marches into the summer solstice with $7,873.95. 

I considered Lori Vargo-Heffner the weakest of the Democrats because she has no base. I never  realized that women were her base. She spent nothing between 5/4 and 6/7, and received a $1,250 contribution from a Maryland-based outfit called Road Sprinklers Filters. Under Pennsylvania law, contributions by corporations or unincorporated associations are illegal. So I find this donation suspect. 

Vargo-Heffner's  campaign treasurer, Becky Bartlett, is an administrator for Executive Lamont McClure. Under the County's Home Rule Charter, employees are generally permitted to engage in political activity. 

Vargo-Heffner has a tidy sum of $13,172 to kick off her general election campaign. 

Newcomer Patti Bruno spent $4,234.72 during the period between 5/4 and 6/7. She also received $1,500 from the Sheet Metal Workers. But she only has $1,522 in her treasury as she prepares for the general. 

The five Republicans finished in the May 18 primary as follows: Scott Hough - 12,973 votes; John Goffredo - 12,720 votes; Kristin Lorah Soldridge - 12,482 votes; Nicole Romanishan - 12,427 votes; and Annamarie Robertone - 11,986 votes. 

The Republican candidate I consider most qualified for County Council is Annamarie Robertone. She is a paramedic and a public health professional, something that would certainly help the County. I saw her speak (remotely) and she impressed me with her passion for Gracedale. Ironically, she came in last. 

During the period between 5/4 and 6/7, Robertone spent $1,216.56. She also received $500 from L Anderson Daub over that time period. She's going to need more to attract open-minded Democrats and independents. Right now she only has $3,195 in her campaign kitty. 

A slate belt Republican who has money and is likely to get more is John Paul Goffredo. During the period between 5/4 and 6/7, he picked up $11,630 in contributions. There's a lot of grass roots support for him in the slate belt in the form of smaller donations. He also received $1,000 from Congressional candidate Lisa Scheller and $500 from State Rep. Joe Emrick. 

I heard him speak, too. He spoke out against Governor Tom Wolf's lockdown. I'd agree. In my opinion, Gov. Wolf was using a sledge hammer when a scalpel was needed. But that has nothing to do with county government. When it came to that, Goffredo spoke out against farmland preservation. I'd agree with the opposition to the purchase of undevelopable swamps and cliffs or the estates of people who are already wealthy. But farmland preservation is much different. The best way to prevent what Lamont McClure calls warehouse proliferation is by preserving as much farmland as we can. It also provides food security. Finally, it has the overwhelming support of the public. It could be that Goffredo, who is a young man, will come around on this topic as he learns more about it.

Goffredo heads into the general with nearly $9,000 in his warchest. 

Scott Hough was the top vote getter among Republicans for one and only one reason - Bethlehem. Yes, there are Republicans in Bethlehem and he got their votes. He's just coming off a loss to Steve "diaper man" Samuelson for State Rep. Hough ran with the "I am not a politician" mantra. 

Looks like he is. Fresh off that loss, he's running for Northampton County Council. He heads into the general with just $1,333 ... and Bethlehem. 

Kistin Lorah Soldridge recently told Lehigh Tp Supervisors that they all need to start descending on County Council because they don't listen. So far as I know, she's never been there. But she has made time to appear on some goofy internet TV show broadcast somewhere in the deep South. She's a Trumper and is allied with goofy Exec candidate Steve Lynch. 

As far as money goes, she is somehow in the hole. She goes into the general election with negative $425. 

Nicole Romanishan hails from Chapman and appears to be another Steve Lynch ally and Trumper, Most of her campaign money comes from her family. She heads into the general with $455. But she's a banker.