Shoe of the Day

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When is a RTK Request "Disruptive" ?

I feel like I must take a bow for this one. "Disruptive Request" became West Easton's most favorite  reason for denying access to public information. In 2012, I won a request by appealing the refusal to the OOR. The OOR stated that for a request to be disruptive, it has to be requested more than twice in the past, but held that a single repeat request is not disruptive. West Easton chose to appeal this decision to the Trial Court with no success. Then tried again in Commonwealth Court without any success., either.

Thanks to yours truly, my work has paid off for many others seeking records and getting denied for "Disruptive Requests."

My case actually set a precedent for the "Disruptive Request" exemption found in Section 67.506 (a) (1) of the Open Records Law. It was the first case to reach Appellate Court which required review of what exactly makes a request disruptive. Since the Commonwealth Court is the highest court to hear the argument, the Mezzacappa decision is now standard case law language, that appears in many OOR Final Determinations that had to resolve the "Disruptive Request" argument. Since the September 6, 2013 Commonwealth Court decision decided in my favor and against West Easton, my name has appeared several times in these decisions:

In this RTK request

And in this one.

Also in this one.

And here.

And here.

I would say this goes into the A+ bin to assess my good character and reputation. Because of the hours upon hours of time I spent litigating this case pro se, others now benefit from that long, costly, and exhausting battle. When a tyrannical government says no to a RTK request based on "Disruptive" reasoning look no further than West Easton vs. Mezzacappa, Commonwealth Court, 174 CD 2013 affirmed .

I am pleased to have performed a terrific civic duty. Also know that West Easton has refused to honor that case, and now is scheduled for a Contempt of Court hearing in January of 2015 for blowing off the Appellate Court and the Trial Court. Judge Zito found that my Petition for Contempt contained enough evidence to merit a non-jury trial. Subpeonas are coming, and West Easton Borough officials will have to testify, on the stand , under oath. Additionally, they have filed a new appeal with the Commonwealth Court on the identical issue that they lost in the last one. This case deals with the DUI Center revenue received for the impact fee generated by West Easton Devlopment LLC, based on inmate census.

Monday, November 24, 2014

No Quorum, No Meeting

Tonight at 7 pm, West Easton Borough was to introduce its 2015 budget. But only 3 members of Council showed up. Gross, Nodoline and DePaul were present, and all others were absent.

No budget introduction. No meeting.

That's a shame.

A Message From Jim

After witnessing all of the love and affection that Jim showered upon my Earl almost daily for months, it is inconceivable that he "battered" anyone.

Those who love animals , and treat them like children, are not characteristically cruel and violent to humans.

On the other hand, one who assaults a defenseless animal, poisons its food, and returns to do it again, is a dangerous violent predator who must be stopped. Beating animals is the first indication that a dangerous predator will assault a human being.

Who is the "batterer" who should be in jail? I'll let my readers speculate.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

RIP Attorney Lonardo

Jim Gregory's attorney, Tomasso Lonardo of Allentown, PA , passed away on October 31, 2014. He was referred to Jim by a cellmate in NCP. I met him briefly at his Allentown office when delivering Jim's banking info, car keys, house keys, etc, last year around this time. He was a class act who cared about his clients. Jim Paid Tom $10K. If anyone reading this wants to pick up Jim's case, please contact this blog. Brief was due on Nov 3, 2014.

Thoughts and prayers to his family.

Monday, November 10, 2014

West Easton Council Meeting Lasts 20 Minutes

There is little to report for this evenings council meeting, except two new faces. One is Vernon Moore, the newest Councilman who replaced Tim Jones who resigned in July 2014. This was Vernon's first meeting. At courtesy of the floor, and upon my request, Vernon confirmed that he was interviewed for the position only by Mayor Gross and Tom Nodoline.

It was after a heated debate in August of 2014, that Tom Nodoline lied to the public by stating that Matt Munsey, Northampton County Democratic Chair, also interviewed Mr. Moore. This is not the first lie that has been told to the public during council meetings. Kelly Gross, an avid liar, told the public at a meeting two years ago that the staff were all receiving 4% pay raises. This was in response to my question why Council was voting for a 50% pay raise for themselves. Later, in a RTK request for Borough Payroll Records  from 2 different years, it was revealed that the staff received no raise.

Council did hire a treasurer, but declined to hire long time former councilman Carl Pierson, who prepared the budget every year, and had a strong grasp of Borough Revenue and Expenditures. Instead, they hired someone who has never served West Easton in any capacity. The reason for this is that he was willing to work for $100 per month, while Carl asked for $160. They saved a whopping $60 per month, but spend thousands of dollars on two lawyers to fight the Open Records law. Additionally, we received a 2 mill tax hike for 2014  even after the $165,000 savings  realized when the Easton Police dumped the contract as of 12/31/13. Additionally, West Easton receives windfall cash from Abe Atiyeh for the DUI Center Impact Fee. We do not know how much has been received to date, because West Easton is litigating the matter, after records were deemed public by the OOR, and were supposed to be released to yours truly. Instead of doing that, the flopped in trial court on appeal, and are now rolling the dice (for the 3rd time) in Appellate Court. an enormous cost to taxpayers.

The other new face was the new clerk, who was hired by Kelly Gross without any input or vote from Council. When I asked him his name and position, he declined to answer, and looked at Kelly Gross to answer for him. I only received his first name, and that his position is neither "Borough Clerk" nor "Borough Manager", but "Administrative Clerk." Kelly Gross has again used the services of a staffing agency instead of a much less expensive direct hire. Staffing agencies in the area charge between $25 -$30 per hour. This has been a $10-$12 hour position, which has been paid in the past for office staff. This also means that the new person will probably not be able to be bonded, because he is not an employee. That would mean he is not allowed to handle money, either. In this job market, a 20 hour per week office job, if advertised, would likely bring in dozens (if not hundreds) of qualified applicants.

The budget has not been introduced, but is expected to be introduced at the next meeting, according to Finance Chair Paul James.  However, no vote was taken to advertise any of this.

Two other people spoke at Courtesy of the Floor. One had concerns about the lack of proper leaf removal, and the other had concerns about the Borough owned police cars that are not in service and sitting unused inside a storage shed. Another concern raised was that the Borough has not had any public discussion on lowering the quarterly sewer fee for senior citizens age 60 and up. Both residents were blatantly ignored by Tom Nodoline.

Mayor Gross has apparently appointed himself as the Acting Police Chief of West Easton. He has been busy watching Borough residents come to rolling stops at stop signs. He indicated that he is "ordering" the State Polcie to come down, and do a "detail" to catch people running stop signs. Its time for our Mayor to roll in a leaf pile and retire.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Be Careful Who You Hire : A Growing Epidemic of Employee Related Thefts

Yesterday, I had the displeasure of reading an article about the Warren County School Business Administrator, who pleaded guilty to embezzling over $70K in school funds.

This theft, in my opinion, tops the charts for evil intent. As a former School Business Administrator, I find it hard to comprehend why anyone would destroy their career by stealing, and stealing from children, no less. These employee-employer related thefts are a growing epidemic in the Lehigh Valley area and beyond.

Equally despicable, are the thefts by home care workers from their elderly clients. There seems to be a rise in these crimes as well. Certainly, the theft of over $300K from a church by a Palmer Township woman, tops the charts as well.

Then there was the Wilson Borough Clerk, who stole thousands of taxpayer dollars from a sewer fund account, and the South Whitehall Clerk and her retired police officer husband, who stole almost a  million in taxpayer money.   In 2006, a Northampton County Clerk embezzled thousands of dollars from a bail account.

These examples are just a few , in what seems to be a growing problem statewide. While all employee thefts are a terrible breech of trust, those who are entrusted with taxpayer funds should be held to the highest level of scrutiny.

If you request information, financial or otherwise, from your local municipality, and find that they refuse, reject, delay, (and perpetually sue to try to stop the release of information) there is probably a very serious problem. Don't be bullied and harassed by secretive municipal workers who will try, at every turn, to stifle the release of public info, by provocation, yelling, shouting and name calling, threats of police intervention, etc... In fact, when you suspect there is a problem with transparency, make more requests. If there is something to hide, eventually (and hopefully) the truth will come out. When a municipality engages a taxpayer in a virtual Vietnam War of Open Public Records, it is safe to say that there is something to hide. My advice? Fight the fight and dont give up.

A simple google search of employee related thefts returned thousands of results, but I managed to link a handful of them below. These are just the ones that I found for the Lehigh Valley area, in the past few years. Is it poor quality workers, or horrendously overworked and underpaid staff? Neither scenario justifies theft, but one must speculate why we are reading about these crimes almost daily.