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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

NorCo Voters: Your Ballots Have Two Sides

I signed up to vote by mail, but waited until today to cast by ballot .I wanted to wait a bit to see if there were any last-minute surprises. I just though I should warn you that the ballots are two-sided.  Most of the races are on the front side of the ballot. The rear side includes judicial retentions and the referendum questions concerning term limits. If you're voting by mail, make sure you look at both sides of the ballot. 

NorCo Elections Office Posting Campaign Finance Reports Online

From time to time, I ask for suggestions on what government reforms you'd like to see. One of the biggest suggestions is to make campaign finance reports available online so that all voters can follow the money before deciding who deserves their vote. Lehigh County posts campaign finance reports for county candidates. Allentown and Bethlehem post the finance reports for candidates for city office. Northampton County tried to post finance reports online under former Executive John Stoffa, but stopped doing so because of scanning problems in an office with lots of other things to do. 

I am happy to report that the Northampton County elections office is posting the finance reports by all local candidates or political committees. 

According to a news release, 

"The Northampton County Elections Office announces that starting with the current 2nd Friday Pre-Election (Cycle 5) reporting period, the campaign finance reports for the period ending on October 23, 2023, are now available.

"Reports filed by local candidates or political committees can be viewed by visiting the Northampton County Elections Office Website and selecting the Campaign Finance tab on the left-hand side of the page.

"Future reports will be made available, as well, after each subsequent filing deadline.

"Please refer to the PA Department of State Campaign Finance website for additional information on Campaign Finance."

This is an important demonstration of transparency by Lamont McClure's administration, and I very much appreciate making these reports available for everyone. In the primary, I uploaded the finance reports for several of the more controversial races and asked for your input. Many of you came up with insights that I missed.  Over the next week, I will review several of the reports and ask you if you notice anything odd. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

54 Thais Being Held Hostage By Hamas

When Hamas attacked Israel in a dawn raid on October 7, killing about 1,500, it also took about 200 hostages. Many are foreign nationals. It has explained these people were simply swept up as part of its military operation, but "abduction manuals" seized from dead terrorists make clear that a core goal of the raid was kidnapping. Moreover, according to DW News, 54 Thai nationals are among the prisoners, even though they have no physical resemblance to Semitic hostages. According to Israel, Thais are also the majority of those who were killed on October 7.  They were in Israel as farm workers. 

Just as many Americans resent foreign migrants who provide cheap labor, Palestinians appear to resent Thais for providing labor without posing a terror threat. 

Easton City Council member Taiba Sultana continues to blame Israel. On Facebook, she declares: "This was never about Hamas. This has always been about wiping Palestinians off the face of the earth." 

Ironically, she claims to be the "Founder, Director, CEO at Asian Americans of Lehigh Valley."

Last time I checked, Thais are Asian.  

I Cycled the Pa Turnpike and Lived

Saturday was a beautiful and balmy day, much more like Summer than late Autumn. It was a great day for walking, running or hopping on a bicycle. So I joined a group of adventurous souls from the Jim Thorpers Bicycle Team for a ride on the Pennsylvania Turnpike  We all survived, too. 

Before you send the Iranian drones to bag me, let me explain that we rode the Abandoned Pa Turnpike near Breezewood in Bedford County. Built in 1940, it was known as the tunnel highway. PennDOT soon realized that the two-lane tunnels originally built by South Pennsylvania Railroad were causing a bit too much congestion. The turnpike was expanded with newer and wider tunnels, and a 13 mile stretch was simply abandoned. Since that time, the tunnels have been used to train highway workers, test emission levels, train soldiers for combat in Iraq and even shoot a movie. 

Cyclists with helmets and lights are permitted to ride the highway. 

I first learned of this ride from Pathfinder (Ken Laudenslauger),one of my readers. He did it two years ago, and was kind enough to invite me for a trip with Jim Thorpe's cycling team so long as I promised to keep quiet about politics. So on Saturday, I hooked up with Pathfinder and four other "Thorpers" for the trip to Breezewood. 

They all sported their retro Jim Thorpe jerseys, complete with shamrocks and references to Molly Maguires. Michele served as official photographer. Ray was the pacesetter. Ken was the rear guard, where he often encountered me trying to sneak away. 

Unfortunately, the ride turned out to be only about 17 miles total. Moreover, the pavement has degraded badly over the past two years. But the tunnels were awesome. One of them was over a mile long. 

Tania and I both saw a group at one of the tunnel entrances  preparing for what seemed to us like a movie scene. I stopped and offered my services, but was spurned because they already had cast a vampire. Unfortunately for them, I was a bit parched.  

There were several walkers inside the tunnels. Most of them had lights as well. 

After our ride, we had dinner at the Jean Bonnet Tavern, which was one of the meeting places for the Whiskey Rebellion that George Washington himself put down in 1794. 

Other nearby bike trails beckoned, but we woke up to rain on Sunday and headed home.

I'll pick up tomorrow with more stories about what is happening locally. 


Friday, October 27, 2023

Grandparents Victimized by Judge Sletvold's Wrath Speak Out

The Bowies
Blogger's Note: On Tuesday, I told you that NorCo Judge Jennifer Sletvold has been reported to the Judicial Conduct Board by Attorney Alyssa Lopiano-Reilly over Sletvold's handling of a custody case involving the grandparents of a special needs boy. Judge Sletvold issued a 53-page response to a recusal motion even though the matter was settled and the motion itself was withdrawn.  In it, she attacked both the grandparents and their lawyer in a blatant attempt to poison any judge who might see this case down the road. Fortunately, the Superior Court concluded that Sletvold's verbose invective would contaminate further proceedings and ordered the matter sealed. 

Since that time, I've heard from the grandparents themselves, They've given me permission to share their story. 

Mr. O’Hare,

live in North Carolina but was a resident of Northampton County, PA for years and a friend sent me a copy of your blog post entitled “Judge Jennifer Sletvold Reported to Judicial Conduct Board for Unfair Treatment of Custody Litigants and Their Lawyer.”  I am one of those custody litigants. My name is Kelly Bowie and I am one of the grandparents that are listed in the case that you blogged about. I write to thank you for shining light on all of this.  


The way we were treated by Judge Jennifer Sletvold was appalling, disgusting and unjust. What happened to us as a result of Judge Slevold’s arrogance, above the law attitude and blatant disregard for her duty as a sitting judge is hard to imagine or explain.  We spent 3 years fighting over something that should have been simple had Judge Sletvold merely done her job.


When we entered Judge Sletvold’s courtroom in October 2020 to ask for permission to relocate with the grandchild in our care to North Carolinabecause I had lost my job during Covidwhat we anticipated to be a simple hearing (where we would explain the need for the move and how it would benefit our grandson) became an absolute and ongoing nightmare. Judge Sletvold never held any hearing or heard any evidence.  She had no details about us or our grandchild or our case.  She had no details about the reason our grandchild had been with us, about the amount of time he had been with us (at that point, for 4 years and he was only 6 years old) or about what we had done to try to make sure he was safe and deal with his special needsShe had no details about why the child’s Mother had been out of his life for so very long.  She had an expert report from a therapist that explained his concerns about Mother and our grandchild but she immediately discounted that without hearing testimony.  Up until that point, the child only had supervised visits with his Mother.


In October, 2020, Judge Sletvold, all off the record, immediately started advocating for Mother sayingthings like “Mother needs overnights and holidays” and “this child needs reunification with the mother there needs to be reunification immediately.” Then, after bullying the lawyers off the record about what she expected and wanted to see, Judge Sletvold went on the record and made it sound like she just met us and that she was so pleased that the lawyers had worked together to come up with an agreed-upon Order without her assistance.  In fact, the opposite was true.  She was very involved in the “negotiations” but it was all off the record.  The clear underlying threat and theme from her to us, was this: do what I say (without evidence or a hearing) or you won’t like my decision after I hold a hearing (i.e. we wouldn’t be able to move with our grandchild to North Carolina for my new job during Covid).  Of course, we had no choice.  We were so scared.  


The trajectory of our case, at that point, was very clear to us.  Judge Slevold made her decision about us without any context, information or data, and was, very simply, totally biased.  Worse, it appeared to us that she intended, long term, that our grandchild would be transferred to Mother’s custody, eventually, no matter what was in his best interests. Judge Sletvold was keeping the case even after we moved to North Carolina with the grandchild and despite the fact that no one lived in Northampton County, PA (Mother moved from Alabama to Schuylkill County, PA and never lived in Northampton County).  Despite this, Judge Sletvold kept having status conferences about the case and she had a clear mission in favor of Mother and against us.  Our lawyer at the time actually told us to fire her and hire another lawyer who might have a better chance of helping us and our grandchild.  That was when we found Alyssa Lopiano-Reilly.  


We lovingly call Attorney Lopiano-Reilly the “Italian bulldog” for her fearless pursuit of justice, and her unwillingness to allow us to be railroaded buy an unfair Judge with blatant disregard for doing the job she was elected to do. Alyssa filed a Motion for Judge Sletvold to Recuse herself only after Judge Sletvold said, on the record, in August, 2021, that she agreed with Mother’s custody position against us.  Remember, she said this after NEVER having taken one shred of evidence in the case (we were present, via Zoom, and saw how angry she was, we heard her say it, and we have a transcript to prove it).  Attorney Lopiano-Reilly was respectful and amazingly calm in the face of the unfairness of it all but she was not going to back down.


I saw that your readers asked why this is all coming out now.  It is coming out now because it was only this past summer, 2023 that we were finally safe.  We had to wait that long for a fair judge to finally say that the case did not belong in PA but belonged in North Carolina where our grandchild had lived and gone to school since November, 2020!


I want to explain that Judge Sletvold never recused herself as she should have immediately done. Rather, in November, 2021, we worked hard and in good faith to settle our underlying custody case before Judge Murray with an Order laying out a clear schedule for Mother to see the child in a way that was safe for him.  As part of that settlement, we agreed to withdrawal the Motion to Recuse that we filed in the case against Jennifer Sletvold.  That settlement was the opportunity that Judge Sletvold had clearly been waiting for to harm us.  She didn’t write 53 pages of false claims in such a short time.  She was calculating.  She didn’t want to be reviewed on appeal so she waited to protect herself and entered that ridiculous and false 53 pages into the record to harm us and to teach our lawyer a lesson that she shouldn’t dare to challenge her by claiming that she is biased.  We couldn’t believe that Judge Sletvold was raising cases that didn’t involve us or our grandchild in a way to harm Attorney Lopiano-Reilly and us by proxy. But her actions did one thing: satisfied us that we were right all along. She was clearly biased and angry and out to harm us without any concern for our grandson. Judge Sletvold had held a grudge that we had nothing to do with.  Her grudge was personal and was against our lawyer for standing up to her in the past.  It was crazy.  But that wasn’t enough for Judge Sletvold.  The turning point was when Judge Sletvold was given a SECOND chance to do that right thing when she was asked by Attorney Lopiano-Reilly to remove her 53 page defamatory statement from the record so we could at least have a fair and unbiased position in the underlying custody case before a Schuylkill County judge.  Judge Sletvold refused to do that.  It was astonishing that she refused to reconsider her illegal actions and that she then went on and on to try to claim they were not illegal in her statement filed with the higher court.  She forced us to take the appeal to the Superior Court and she lost, thankfully.  As you said, in your blog, we eventually found a reasonable and unbiased judge in Schuylkill County, who released jurisdiction to North Carolina (after we were out of the Commonwealth 33 months).


In the end, we were the ones harmed.  I lost count of the amount of conferences/preliminary objections/objections/hearings/documentation over the 28 months that we worked with Attorney Lopiano-Reilly: first in Northampton County, then before the Superior Court and then in Schuylkill County. The expense and time (particularly of the appeal) was unbelievable. We spent over $167, 000 in fees and court costs to fight this case for 3 years, mostly due to Judge Sletvold.  We could have put our grandson through medical school at that rate and franklyit will mean that I will have to work many additional years, instead of retiring, to cover the tremendous expense. 


We are just incredibly grateful for Attorney Lopiano-Reilly and that we had the resources to fight and what saddens us is to think how many other people have lost their children because they did not have the resources to fight Judge Jennifer Slevold. The emotional toll is heavy. 


Thank you for doing this. Thank you for shining a light on this travesty of injustice. Jennifer Slevold should never wear a black robe again.



Kelly Bowie

While Seeking Re-election as Controller, Pinsley Tells Donors He's Running For Auditor General.

Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley recently paraded a large group of parents before Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners to claim that they were all victims of unfounded claims of child abuse. What that has to do with his job as Controller is anybody's guess, but it made headlines. He generated so much publicity that he took his show on the road to Northampton County Council as well, where he generated even more publicity.  There is little doubt in my mind that Pinsely was using these people to advance his re-election campaign against Bob Smith. One mental health professional told me he basically forced these people to go through their trauma all over again, and did it twice. But that's what I'd expect from someone who really should have been a juggler. No sooner was he elected to a township office that he was off an running for the state senate. 

Now he's doing it again.  While running for re-election as Controller, he's texting potential donors to alert them that he's now running for Auditor General as well. 

Yes, this is the same guy who wanted Lehigh County to add a 1% sales tax as well as a county income tax to fund the arts.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Judge Sletvold, Up or Retention, Scheduled to Hear Election Challenges on Election Day

On Election Day, the motions judge is assigned to cover all disputes that arise on Election Day. Though she's up for retention, Court Administrators just confirm d with me that Jennifer Sletvold is the assigned motions judge to handle any problems that arise. She is obviously conflicted, and this needs to be corrected immediately. 

Middle East War Breaks Out at Easton City Council

Easton City Council member Taiba Sultana was arrested in late July for domestic assault, and even spent a sultry evening in the hoosegow. But she's now all about peace and wanted City Council members to join her last night to call on Congress and the Governor to endorse a "Ceasefire Now" resolution being pushed by left-leaning members of the House.  Though the Ceasefire Now resolution is itself rather innocuous, Sultana never bothered to attach it to her own resolution. And her own resolution is one-sided. It accuses Israel of "targeting civilians" and claims incorrectly that President Joe Biden has advocated increased escalation by Israel when he's actually pressured Netanyahu to delay his ground war.  It never even mentions Hamas, which started the latest chapter in this never-ending conflict. Finally, she submitted her resolution at the last-minute, though she was sure to pack the meeting room with pro-Palestinian supporters. City Council accordingly voted 5-2 to strike Sultana's proposed resolution from last night's agenda, but that was only the beginning of a near war that erupted in City Council, as an emotional Sultana did her best to incite an equally intense mob that was at times completely out of control. 

Voting to strike the proposed resolution from the agenda were Sal Panto, Jim Edinger, Roger Ruggles, Peter Melan and Ken Brown. Voting to consider it were Sultana and Dave O'Connell. 

This is where things should have ended, but it's where it began .After all, this is Easton. While claiming to be solely interested in a ceasefire, Sultana in the same breath and sentence was accusing Israel of genocide. Sal Panto spoke glowingly of his Palestinian taxicab driver when he visited Israel a few years ago. Roger Ruggles said he has difficulty sleeping at night, so he listens to BBC and knows there are genocides all over the place. He wondered whether Easton should take a stand on them all. 

After going back and forth among each other, the floor was opened up for agenda items only, and most people addressed the Ceasefire Resolution that had already been removed. Remember, this is Easton.   

Yaseen Saleh, a Lafayette College student, actually spoke twice. He expressed some concern for his own safety, although I'm pretty sure Mossad was in Bethlehem last night to try out the new Peruvian chicken restaurant on Broad Street. He noted that, according to UNICEF, 2,300 Palestinian children have already died as a result of the Israeli bombing in Gaza. "By shutting down this resolution, we are shutting down the voices of those who are dying," he lamented.

Next up was fireball An-nisa Muqtadir, a very well-spoken resident, who reminded Council that she has voted in every election since she turned 18. She was furious with Mayor Sal Pnato, who earlier stated he does not speak for the City of Easton. "You say you don't speak for the City of Easton? Actually, you do. Every single one of you do." She reminded Panto that he once told her, "We are a voice for you.' Do not go back on your words now."

She made clear that "[w]e are against genocide, illegal occupation. Look at how many people have died and look at the definition of genocide." She slammed Easton for having a Christopher Columbus statue in close proximity to one of Larry Holmes. "Tell me how that makes sense. Tell me where it makes sense to put a colonizer and colonized together." 

In Easton. 

When her five minutes were up, she continued speaking anyway. "I am a citizen of Easton " She was incensed because she thought Council members were laughing at her. I'll tell you I doubt that very much. She was not only eloquent, but I think she could take down all five behind the dais in the blink of an eye. Her mike was eventually cut, but I could hear her saying, "I am not finished." As she spoke, another woman placed herself between Muqtadir and City Council while a third woman stood in solidarity next to her. 

I thought for sure that Muqtadir would be yanked, especially since two police officers were there on loan from Mossad. But they let her go. This is Easton. Ken Brown began talking to the triumvirate in soothing tones about giving respect to get respect.  Downtown Kenny Brown was a basketball referee so he knows how to mollify angry mobs as he's covered several Central Catholic games. 

Following fireball Muqtadir was Raya Abdelaal, a Palestinian who said she lives in Nazareth, of all places. After her grandfather left Palestine in '48, he was never allowed to return. He died in Syria. Her grandmother was displaced by war three times. "I am a product of war," she asserted. She brought pictures of children she claims were killed by Israeli bombs, adding little stories about the hopes of each of them. "And I have thousands more!" she cried out in anguish, as other photos fell out of her hands and onto the floor.

"When you question why this should be here, it makes me feel that you question the identity of all Palestinians in the United States," she posited somewhat illogically.

She also derided the 5-minte rule on public comment. "The Nazis also said we need to follow the rules when they were killing the Jews. ... The world said never again, but it's happening again." Look, I'm a big advocate of public comment and just had a big argument with a Northampton County Council member about this, but I think it's a tad ridiculous to equate a five-minute public comment rule with the Nazi Final Solution.  

She told Easton City Council that she wants to return to Palestine. "Do you think I want to be here right now? Don't you think I had a right to grow up in Palestine?" She also told them to disregard biased media reports and "look outside regular media."

That's exactly what right wingnuts say too. 

She closed with a text message allegedly sent by a Palestinian under a pile of rubble. "I'm screaming. Nobody can hear me. That's all I have to say."

Unfortunately for Sultana, there was an Israeli in the audience. Hagai Feiner is not in Mossad (at least I don't think he is), but did serve in the Israeli Air Force for four years before coming here in 1998. "I've seen first hand the impact of terror," he said.  "My sister was injured and had half of her leg blown off by Hezbollah terrorists shooting over the border from Lebanon into Israel." He also lost a family member three weeks ago in Gaza. He was used as a human shield when Hamas made their escape from Israel and was then shot in the head when his usefulness came to an end. Despite this, "I feel all of the pain in this room," he said. But he took Sultana to task and declared she has an agenda. 

He pointed to Sultana's false Facebook claim that Israel has bombed a Gaza hospital and killed 500 when it was actually a misfire from terrorists. "Miss Sultana has an agenda beyond the pain. There are lies that are being spread on the Internet about my people, which also incites violence. This is not just a call for a ceasefire. There was never a call for the release of the American hostages who are still being held in Gaza. Where is that?'

"I know that this hurts," he told everyone.. "It hurts me, too."  But he's bothered by the misstatements Sultana has made online. 

Will there ever be peace? "That may not be achievable when our children are beheaded," Feiner observed. "No posts about that. It's condemnable, but did you actually condemn it?" he asked Sultana. "I will condemn Israel's acts against any innocent person, but Israel's also fighting guerilla warfare, where Hamas is embedded within a civilian population.." 

He warned there are "two sides to this story and we have a City Council member misrepresenting the facts." 

Would not be the first time. 

Easton Solicitor Joel Scheer suggested this issue should be brought to Northampton County Council, so this may be making the rounds.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Easton City Council To Take Up Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Tonight

I can see it now. Israel stops bombing Gaza. Hamas releases all hostages. All because Easton City Council told them to knock it off. As absurd as this sounds, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be considered tonight at the urging of Council member Taiba Sultana. On her Facebook page, she has already accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" in Gaza and has falsely accused Israel of bombing a hospital. 

I condemn the murder of innocent civilians, whether it is at the hands of Hamas or Israel. But should local governments involve themselves in foreign policy matter with toothless resolutions? It might feel good to condemn Hamas or Israel, but what does it accomplish? Neither Bibi Netanyahu nor Hamas is waiting with bated breath to learn what Easton thinks. I actually feel that this kind of meaningless resolution, on a local level, only serves the ego of its sponsors. 

Lisa Tresslar's Value as a Custody Master

I've told you that Lisa Tresslar, Northampton County's full-time Custody Master, has been forced out of her job by a trio consisting of Judges Jennifer Sletvold, Paula Roscioli and Court Administrator Jermaine Greene. So what, some of you might say. Some of you have suggested that she was just there to force parties to settle custody disputes so that judges could play 18 rounds of golf instead of 9. So I thought I'd explain the difference she made as a custody master.

Supervised Visitation. - When then-President Judge Baratta appointed Tresslar to be the court's first full-time custody master in 2014, the court desperately needed an organization with trained staff and professional security that could supervise visits in cases where there were concerns about danger posed by a parent. Parties had had to make their own arrangements for supervised visits, and it had been extremely difficult. No agency provided these services on a regular, consistent, and reliable basis. It was vital that the court not only be able to refer parties to a reliable agency for supervised visits but that the court receive written reports from the supervising agency about how the party had behaved with the Child during the visits, in order to assist the court in making custody determinations.

Tresslar reached out to The Children's Home of Easton and developed a process that served both the court's and The Children's Home's interests. Since that time, the court has enjoyed a strong and reliable relationship with The Children's Home of Easton. The agency's written reports and testimony have proven to be invaluable in the court's management and disposition of custody cases where there are safety concerns about one or both of the parents.

Recruiting Affordable and Reliable Family Counselors. - Tresslar's most significant contribution was recruiting and cultivating relationships with outside professionals to assist parties in settling cases and, if necessary, preparing their cases for trial and educating trial judges about their family dynamics. Tresslar persuaded parties that taking time to engage in such counseling before proceeding to trial offered many advantages.

Instead of asking a judge to spend one or more days presiding over stressful and expensive trial and then make a decision based largely on he-said, she-said court testimony, the family could spend several weeks together with a professional who had training and experience in working with adults and children in high-conflict situations and, particularly, custody litigation.

The counselor could help the parties understand how their behaviors were affecting their children and how a judge might react to their respective contentions. He or she could help the parties learn to communicate better, work out their differences, and perhaps settle their case. If the case could not be settled, the counselor could help the parties narrow the areas in genuine dispute and clarify their respective positions for the court.

Because co-parenting/family counseling involved the entire family and was not confidential as among the family members, there was no legal privilege shielding statements made during co-parenting/family counseling from disclosure to the court. Thus, if the case proceeded to trial, the parties could support their respective positions by citing statements made, and behaviors observed, during the counseling. If the parties agreed in advance to waive hearsay objections, the counselor's written report would come into evidence and could be an invaluable, and affordable, aid to the trial judge in gaining an understanding of the case, deciding what areas should be explored further during the trial, and formulating specific questions that the judge wished to pose to trial witnesses.

Most counselors did not accept insurance for court-ordered co-parenting/family counseling, which can be very expensive, Tresslar worked hard to find counselors who were willing to accept insurance.

Obtaining a written report from the counselor helped to reduce the "trial by ambush" quality of custody litigation. After the parties had spent several weeks with a counselor who had submitted a written report to the court, it was more difficult for either party to assert surprise allegations at trial that had never been raised during the counseling. Thus, even when a case could not be settled and went forward to trial, the counseling not only simplified and clarified the trial but usually reduced the stress and expense.  Written reports by outside professionals could be lengthy and might require significant time to review and analyze. In some cases, there might be several professionals submitting reports, and some professionals might submit multiple reports over the lifetime of one case. In the case summaries that Tresslar prepared for judges, she attached all written reports, summarized them, and highlighted significant information contained in the reports. Pursuant to local rules, which permit a master to make recommendations to judges, Tresslar often suggested specific areas the judge might wish to explore at trial or specific questions the judge might wish to pose to trial witnesses.

Most trial judges found that after they had read the custody master's case summary and the counselor's written report, they were usually able to settle the case without a trial. 

Her work helped judges, to be sure. But more importantly, she helped families with custody disputes. 

Emergency Fuel Assistance For Low-Income Seniors

From Northampton County: The Northampton County Area Agency on Aging will begin its Emergency Fuel Assistance Program on November 1, 2023. This program is for once-a-season fuel assistance of $780.


In order to be eligible, an individual needs to be 60 years of age or older, reside in Northampton County, and have already applied for and received or been denied Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) benefits. Their fuel tank needs to be at 1/4 full or less. For assistance with gas or electric heat, a shut-off notice is required.


To apply, contact the Northampton County Information & Referral Emergency Services 610-559-3270 or 610-829-4800.


When a referral is received, a Northampton County Area Agency on Aging staff member will schedule a home visit to determine eligibility.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Why Would I Dare Post About Tresslar's Ouster So Close to Judge Sletvold's Retention Election?

I've been taken to task for my posts about the ouster of NorCo Custody Master Lisa Tresslar as well as an investigation of Judge Jennifer Sletvold's judicial conduct.  This is too close to Judge Sletvold's retention election, some say. But that's basically their own fault. 

Judges Sletvold, Roscioli, and Court Administrator Jermaine Greene picked that timing, not me. They were fully aware that an election was coming up. They could have bided their time and waited until the election was safely over. But they did not wait. They stripped Lisa Tresslar of her duties, demoted her below the part-time custody master, sabotaged the operations of the custody court, fired her assistant, made her boss (John Morganelli) so angry he resigned as Custody Judge, and treated her son like a criminal when he came to pick up her assistant’s personal belongings. When Lisa finally resigned from her position, as they had intentionally driven her to do, she graciously gave them two weeks’ notice, as any honorable professional would. Had they taken her up on her offer, she would have continued to be a court employee and could not have spoken out about court business before the election. But no, they told her to pack my things and get out, immediately. And now, THEY are blaming HER for bringing this situation to a head right before the election?

Obviously, they believe that they are allowed to crush, defame, and ruin anyone who stands in their but that their victims are not allowed to fight back. 

Once Lisa's termination was published, I learned of the investigation into Sletvold.  The public should be aware of all of this, but the courts could have bided their time until after the election. They are arrogant enought to think this will make no difference and are probably correct. 

Judge Jennifer Sletvold Reported to Judicial Conduct Board For Unfair Treatment of Custody Litigants and Their Lawyer

Atty Alyssa Lopiano Reilly

I've told you that Lisa Tresslar, despite her impeccable qualifications and outstanding performance, has been constructively terminated as NorCo's full-time custody master. She states her ouster was engineered by a troika consisting of Judges Jennifer Sletvold, Paula Roscioli and Court Administrator Jermaine Greene. One of these judges, Jennifer Sletvold, has been reported to the Judicial Conduct Board over actions she took in a custody case that have nothing to do with Tresslar. Judge Sletvold was reported by Attorney Alyssa Lopiano Reilly, who has practiced family law in Northampton and surrounding counties for the past 28 years and is the former President of the NorCo Bar Association.. Moreover, she has listed 16 attorneys as witnesses. 

Like Tresslar, Lopiano Reilly had an alarming and very direct experience with vitriol and revenge-seeking on the part of Judge Jennifer Sletvold. She claims Judge Sletvold used her robe and her pen as weapons to try to intimidate and harm Alyssa and her professional reputation.

Lopiano Reilly represented Grandparents who were and still are caring for their special needs grandson. They had legal custody since the child was 30 months old. After getting an interim court order, they moved to North Carolina. They eventually sought to transfer jurisdiction to either North Carolina, where they lived, or Schuylkill County, where the mother had moved from Alabama.

Judge Sletvold made statements on the record that gave Grandparents reason to believe that she was biased in favor of the mother, so they asked her to recuse herself.

After this, the parties cobbled together a settlement agreement that transferred jurisdiction to Schuylkill County since nobody lived in Northampton. They also agreed to withdraw all of numerous pending motions, including the request that Judge Sletvold recuse herself.

After this was done, Judge Sletvold entered a 53-page Order responding to the withdrawn motion for recusal in which she savaged both grandparents and Lopiano-Reilly. She refused to withdraw her order even though the underlying motion for recusal had been withdrawn.

In that 53-page jeremiad, Judge Sletvold accused Lopiano-Reilly of all kinds of ethical lapses without bothering to offer the fact finding that should substantiate her denouncements.

Why does this matter? Judge Sletvold's order, seen by another judge in another county, would damage more than Lopiano-Reilly's reputation. She was clearly trying to poison an underlying custody case and influence a future jurist. To be very clear to you non-lawyers out there, Judge Sletvold placed a very long defamatory “Statement” in the record of the underlying custody case that had nothing to do with the subject child. In fact, as mentioned, the underlying custody case had already been settled by agreement of the parties.

What happened? Lopiano-Reilly got Sletvold smacked down by the Pa Superior Court. Here's what a panel of that court said: “…Grandparents aver that harm to their reputation [caused by Judge Sletvold in her “impermissible advisory opinion” on a “moot” issue] will contaminate any future custody matters…We agree…”

Grandparents are now safe from Judge Sletvold’s personal animosity and they still have custody of their grandchild in North Carolina. But, there are other litigants and children out there that may not have been and may still not be so fortunate.

That's why Lopiano-Reilly reported Judge Sletvold. Some lawyers do believe in justice. One only need to wonder how many lawyers and judges and litigants failed to speak for fear of retribution in the “Kids for Cash” scandal in Luzerne County and how many children were hurt in that process. Silence in this particular situation is also wrong.

Judge Sletvold is entitled to due process and will be given every opportunity to defend herself. That's something Judge Sletvold failed to provide to Lopiano-Reilly or her clients.

Or to Lisa Tresslar.

Candidates' Night For NorCo Judicial Hopefuls Cancelled

Easton's NAACP was poised to host a candidates' night for NorCo judicial hopefuls Brian Panella and Nancy Aaroe. Unfortunately, this event has been canceled. Even more unfortunately, Nancy Aaroe's father passed away over the weekend. Aaroe has suspended her campaign until after the funeral on Friday.  My condolences to Ms. Aaroe. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Vargo-Heffner Claims Victims of Unfounded Child Abuse "Somewhat Slanderous"

Back in September, a large number of parents who claimed to be victims of unfounded complaints of child abuse shared their concerns with Northampton County Council over three hours of emotional public comments. Most of their complaints were directed at Dr. Debra Ersenio-Jenssen, a child abuse pediatrics specialist who recently retired from Lehigh Valley Health Network. Nobody provided notice to Dr. Ersenio-Jenssen, but even if they had, she would be unable to respond without violating patient confidentiality.  So County Council only heard one side of the story, but it bothered most members of Council. President Kerry Myers said it was the "toughest three hours" he ever had to endure. Council member Ron Heckman said it "all seems so bizarre." Even Executive Lamont McClure, who is far from warm and and fuzzy, said you have to feel empathy for the "pain and real trauma" recounted by parents. But not all Council members felt that empathy.  Council member Lori Vargo Heffner last week claimed these parents were "somewhat slanderous in a way."

Vargo-Heffner made these remarks during a Human Services Committee meeting at which Children, Youth and Families (CYF) was asked to explain their process after receiving complaints of abuse. Before that, Vargo-Heffner called a meeting of the Governance Committee to see if there was some way Council could shut down the unwashed masses from saying things that hurt her ears. Her own explanation? "Given that last month's meeting was very long due to public comment, I had questions about whether there was any flexibility, if there were any rules about that, and did we want to take a look at that as well as other matters that I've heard Council address at times about how we conduct our meetings."  Fortunately, no changes were made to council's public comment policy. 

It was actually  Council member Ron Heckman who was so bothered by these allegations that he wanted to hear from CYF, but he unfortunately was sidelined. 

Maria Torres, who administers Northampton County's CYF, did provide some clarification. The number of children who are in placement is 200. That's down from a high of 319 in 2021. Of the 200 children in placement, about 80 of them are in "kinship care," which means that the children are still in the hands of family members. 

The top three referrals of child abuse or neglect come from schools, medical professionals and law enforcement. Once a complaint is received, the child is seen as soon as possible. The parents are seen within 72 hours. 

A committee will decide whether allegations are serious enough to warrant placement, but no child is placed without first getting a court order. The primary concern of CYF is the child's safety.

All parents, regardless of ability to pay, are represented by legal counsel. They can obtain their own or a lawyer will be furnished by the county. All children are represented by a guardian ad litem.

According to Torres, once a child is placed, efforts are made to reunify the child with his or her family within 12-15 months. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

UMBT Approves "9th Largest Bldg" in US

David Friedman, an Upper Mount Bethel Tp (UMBT) Supervisor, advised Northampton County Council last night that UMBT has just conditionally approved the 9th largest building in the country. It will be over 1.5 million sq ft when complete. Friedman said he has no idea what is intended, but possible uses do include a warehouse. 

In April, County Council voted 6-3 for a tax break for the developer at that site

UPDATED: I am unsure how this proposed building actually ranks among the country's largest buildings.