Bethlehem Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O’HAREDiane Donaher with John Brown announcing Community Investment Partnership Program last year. PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O’HAREDiane Donaher with John Brown announcing Community Investment Partnership Program last year.

DCED director Donaher resigns

Monday, May 23, 2016 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

NorCo DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development) Director Diane Donaher, has resigned. Executive John Brown announced her departure at Council’s May 5 meeting.

One of Executive John Brown’s first appointments, Donaher spent 15 years with SkillsUSA, a nonprofit that focuses on job training school students. She also worked in Bethlehem’s DCED as a deputy director for three years. She has also been employed by United Way LV Business Education Partnership. She has even worked as a voice-over artist.

Her husband, Dean Donaher, is a Bethlehem School director and its former director of students.

Her biggest achievement is a $1.3 million grants and loan program called the Community Investment Partnership Program (CIPP). Funded with table games revenue, this program was established to spur business and jobs in the county’s smaller communities. It’s too soon to determine whether this is a success.

Her biggest failure was her unilateral decision to seize control over nearly $500,000 in tourism grants funded with hotel taxes every year. Instead of soliciting grants, she told council they had decided to establish a major block grant to an entity like the Northampton County Historical Society, and let it decide how to dole out the money. Council exploded, and Brown quickly restored the normal grants process. He took the blame for a misunderstanding that resulted in a major delay to many toursism-related nonprofits that rely on that annual funding.

Donaher also came under criticism late last year when she scheduled a private meeting between county boards and a consultant she wanted to hire. The meeting, a possible violation of the Sunshine Act, was canceled.

Prior to her appointment, Northampton County had gone without a DCED director through two terms of the John Stoffa administration. Brown told council he will be announcing his intentions in a few days.

Mini ‘State of County’

Brown also provided a mini “state of the county” address to council. He presented a positive picture of county finances, claiming there has been no structural deficit over the last two years and that the year-end general fund balance in 2015 was a little over $30 million. Another $13 million went into a rainy day and capital improvements fund. Health care coverage reductions are beginning to bear fruit, but presented no exact figures.

He said nine of 11 union contracts have been settled. He indicated that there have been no complaints about his changes to central booking, which are designed to get local police back on patrol as soon as possible. He also thanked Sheriff Dave Dalrymple and chiefs of police for their efforts in securing a Gaming Authority grant for a regional crime center. Finally, the county money spent to continue providing human services during the state budget impasse - about $24 million - has been recovered.