Northampton County Council decided unanimously at their May 7 meeting to suspend as many as 54 pay hikes that may have been awarded illegally by Executive John Brown. He has argued that he has this authority under personnel policies that are written by the executive. But earlier in the week, council solicitor Phil Lauer ruled that county law requires council approval for most wage hikes.
Three of Bethlehem Township's Commissioners were up for election on May 19. Eight Republicans and one Democrats were in the running. Campaign signs were everywhere. So it came as no surprise that their May 4 meeting was a quick one.
Jeff Kocsis, along with Olga Negron and Matt McKernan, are running for a two-year seat on Bethlehem City Council. Kocsis has been knocking on doors all over Bethlehem, but had a recent close call.
Most people aren't home when candidates knocks on doors. Candidates write out a little "Sorry I missed you" note and sticks it in the door with a flier. Kocsis was doing that when he saw a dog that was none too happy to see him.
Maybe the dog was a Republican.
There are a lot of similarities between Northampton County DA John Morganelli and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty. Both come from working class backgrounds and were the first in their families to attend college. Both dealt with blue collar families, whether in South Philly or South Bethlehem. Both have distinguished themselves in their profession.
Morganelli is now Pennsylvania's most senior District Attorney, while Judge Dougherty is the Administrative Judge for the Trial Division in Philadelphia's busy Court of Common Pleas.
Newly elected State Senator Mario Scavello goes on a quest to visit the governing bodies of each of the 40 municipalities in his district at least once every year. On April 28, he visited Hanover Township's board.
Steve Salveson joked that Scavello should have an office in Hanover when he's ready to go "upscale."
Actually, Scavello is working on plans to do that, and have a staffer available one day a week, either in the municipal building or at the community center.
At this time last year, the National Museum of Industrial History was on life support. Despite the infusion of $17-19 million in both public and private funds, the museum was no closer to opening than it had been 17 years before, when it was first formed. A Northampton County Investigating Grand Jury had cast a glaring spotlight on a pattern of mismanagement, conflicts of interest and excessive salaries at the Steel Museum on Bethlehem's south side.
Northampton County's nine-member gaming board, which annually doles out the slots revenue generated by the Sands Casino, is basically finished for the year. At their April 27 meeting, they awarded $1.66 million in what are referred to as impact grants to Northampton County, Bethlehem and the five communities surrounding Bethlehem. Since this exhausts all the revenue anticipated this year, there will be no funds available this year for other communities seeking grants.
Northampton County Executive John Brown has stated that he considers the county employee to be its most valuable asset. But a recent report to Northampton County Council reveals that there are 268 vacant positions throughout the county, which accounts for 12.4 percent of the entire 2,162-person workforce.
This report was generated at the request of Hayden Phillips, who ran on a theme of limited government. He has previously stated that if a position goes unfilled for a period of time, it should just be eliminated.
At their April 20 meeting, Bethlehem Township Commissioners unanimously decided against enacting a public comment policy that would limit the right to speak to five minutes. It would also have restricted the public soapbox, called courtesy of the floor, to the beginning of a meeting or during a public hearing.
Northampton County has issued credit cards to 129 employees who made over $900,000 in purchases during the twelve-month period ending June 30, 2014. There were nearly 4,400 transactions. Most cardholders have a $500 credit limit. But when Controller Steve Barron recently audited this program, he only looked at a random sampling of 35 transactions to determine if anything is amiss. "That's less than one percent," remarked Glenn Geissinger. He and Bob Werner both question whether there should be more scrutiny.