Northampton Co.: Council ignored in Bethlehem
Nearly a million people from around the country attended Musikfest this year to follow headline acts like Run-DMC and Lady Antebellum. But believe it or not, the crowd was much smaller Oct. 6 when Northampton County Council departed from their Easton location to visit Bethlehem’s Steelstacks, where Octoberfest was scheduled to continue the next day. Aside from the press and a few county officials, the only visitor was from Pen Argyl. Making matters worse, a meeting designed to bring government closer to the people started off with a 45-minute executive session, from which the public is excluded.
Executive John Brown made the request to discuss litigation, though he never named the suit involved.
Municipal meetings must be conducted in public, but there are exceptions for things like litigation. Brown was asking council that very night to bless an arrangement with the General Purpose Authority that would enable the county to repair or replace 33 structurally deficient bridges.
Brown wanted a backroom meeting to discuss a lawsuit filed by a disappointed bidder, as evidenced by the General Purpose Authority officials who left the room to join the private talks. They quickly returned to their seats when Controller Steve Barron loudly objected, even though Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act does permit lawyers and other professional advisers to join closed-door meetings concerning litigation.
When council finally returned, that Pen Argyl resident, Jeffrey Fox, said, “I hope you had a nice executive session.” He also announced that his Slate Belt borough, home of the Green Knights, is the “hub of the universe.”