Category Archives: County Government

CLARKE REPORT EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Mantura Gallagher

On Friday morning at the county courthouse, I conducted an exclusive interview with Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Mantura Gallagher.  Mrs. Gallagher requested my time because she took issue with parts of my recent article concerning the alleged fraud of custody conciliation officer Lynn Bressi and perceived diversionary tactics by Gallagher and Pottsville Republican and Herald publisher Henry Nyce. In the interest of fairness, I agreed to print Gallagher’s “clarifications” to allow the readers to decide for themselves what really happened.

Before getting to the interview, I just wanted to express my appreciation to Commissioner Gallagher for reaching out to me and wanting to tell her side to the story, instead of having family members send threatening e-mails to myself and my family, like some other public officials did. She was very candid and answered most of my questions straightforwardly with class and dignity.

Its not a secret that I had a lot of respect for Mrs. Gallagher before today because of my family’s relationship with hers and because of my dealings with her husband Jim. After today, I respect her even more. The questions posed below were not necessarily asked or answered in this order. We had a 45-minute conversation and bounced around quite a lot, but I placed it in this order for you to better follow along. Continue reading

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Campaign 09', County Government

Commissioners & Local Media Playing Politics with Bressi Fraud Case

More than a week ago, news broke that Pottsville attorney Lynn G. Bressi, who was employed as a custody master by the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas, was fired from her position and was being investigated for fraud relating to the alleged over-billing of the county.  According to sources close to the investigation, the alleged fraud was uncovered by Schuylkill County Controller Melinda Kantner after complaints from local attorneys about protracted custody proceedings. Once Kantner discovered discrepancies in the billing records, she immediately reported her findings to President Judge William E. Baldwin, who promptly canned Bressi on October 12th.

According to public documents, Bressi billed the county for nearly $82,000 in services last year and over $64,000 so far this year in a position that is traditionally a part-time job. Bressi, a prominent democrat, who serves on the Schuylkill County Board of Elections, is reportedly a close personal friend of County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Mantura Gallagher. The two are rumored to play a weekly card game with each other. In addition, in an ironic twist of fate, Gallagher reportedly leaned heavily on Kantner when she took office to hire Bressi as that office’s solicitor. Kantner eventually decided on Pottsville attorney Sudhir Patel. Bressi is also married to attorney Charles Bressi, a former assistant district attorney under incumbent James P. Goodman. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under County Government, Local News

The Mystery of the Phantom Courthouse Car Accident

Over the past few months, a string of allegations of abuse of power has swept through the four corners of the Schuylkill County Courthouse. Now, I am not here to judge the veracity of those allegations, but considering that many of these stories have been swept under the rug, some by government themselves, and others by our trusted local media, it seemed proper to use this venue to at least bring one such allegations to the light of the public’s attention.

It is no secret that many county agencies are assigned government vehicles for business use. Children and Youth Services has vans for transportation of children and Juvenile Probation has cage cars to transport delinquents to and from court and secure placements. Most of these vehicles are nothing special, just minivans and old police cars. However, a few years ago, the Adult Probation Office purchased a brand new black Dodge Charger for use by officers on-call overnight and on the weekends. Some critics at the time argued that it was extravagant and unnecessary, but the county commissioners permitted the department to kept it. Now, this vehicle is only permitted to be driven by authorized county personnel on official county business. Joy riding and personal use are, of course, strictly prohibited. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under County Government

Holman Officially Announces DA Bid

In a press statement released today, trial attorney Christine A. Holman officially announced that she will seek to unseat Schuylkill County District Attorney James P. Goodman:

FRACKVILLE (March 19, 2009) – Former prosecutor Christine A. Holman, Barnesville, will challenge incumbent James P. Goodman for Schuylkill County District Attorney.

 

“Our District Attorney has turned a blind eye to drug dealers, violent criminals, and illegal aliens in order to clear files from his desk,” said Holman. “We deserve a prosecutor who refuses to make plea deals the norm and who protects the citizens by putting criminals behind bars.”

 

Holman, a former Schuylkill County assistant district attorney, brings 13 years of courtroom experience into a race where Goodman’s lack of toughness on drug dealers will be issue number one.

 

“Jim Goodman has either dropped or reduced the charges of 48% of drug offenders arrested in Schuylkill County since 2006,” Holman stated. “In his campaign four years ago, Goodman promised to stop cutting deals with criminals, but he’s broken his word.”

 

Holman added, “As your District Attorney, I will say ‘No Deal!’ to drug offenders and violent criminals looking for easy time.”

 

Along with her running mate, county Sheriff candidate and former Pottsville City Chief of Police Dale Repp, Holman is committed to pursuing white collar criminals as diligently as she does violent and drug offenders.

 

She also takes issue with the fact that Goodman has not prosecuted the minimum amount of cases expected of the county’s top law enforcement official.

 

“For the $150,000 salary that we pay for the position, this county deserves a working district attorney,” Holman said. “I will not delegate the full throe of my prosecutorial responsibility to my assistants, rather, I will sit first chair on many of the major crimes that pass over my desk.”

 

Finally, Holman believes that the District Attorney has an obligation to work with other agencies in government to proactively combat crime. To do this, Holman has proposed the formation of a task force to fight illegal immigration and a commission to identify blighted or vacated properties that are hotbeds for crime.

 

Holman believes that the district attorney, the county sheriff, and municipal police forces can aid the US Department of Homeland Security in detaining and deporting illegal aliens by using their local resources to identify where these immigrants live, informing DHS when an illegal is detained for another crime, and coordinating raids on local businesses that are known to employee them.

 

A graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, Holman has operated a successful solo practice in Frackville for the past eight years that specializes in criminal defense, family law, and personal injury.

 

###

5 Comments

Filed under Campaign 09', County Government, Local News, Uncategorized

Cronyism Continues under Gallagher/Ange’s Watch

They made it a key plank in their successful campaign platform. They railed against Frank Staudemeirer and Bob Carl for doing it for years. They promised the voters that they would never partake in it. The “they” I am referring to is Schuylkill County Majority Commissioners Mantura Gallagher and Francis McAndrew and the “it” I am talking about  is cronyism. Of course, the only change we see one year into the new democratic administration is that the cronies reaping the rewards of political nepotism have a (D) after their names instead of an (R).

Now, I realize that they won, we lost, and one of the repercussions is that many political appointments, like solicitor posts and board memberships, will go to democratic partisans. Its all part of the game. However, when a politician campaigns on the notion that cronyism is too rampant in an institution and promises to clean up the process, like Gallagher and McAndrew did, only to continue the same old cycle when they ascend to office, he/she better be ready to take some lumps.

The cold hard fact of the current state of courthouse employment is that unless you are a family member or close personal friend of, worked a poll for, or contributed to the campaign of Gallagher, McAndrew, or any one of the democratic row officers, you need not apply. And if you are a registered Republican on some sort of board, commission, or committee and your term is set to expire before 2012, you had better realize that no matter how much of a bang up job you are doing, you are just keeping the seat warm for one of Ange’s nieces or nephews.

Here are just a few examples of the current nepotism that has engulfed the courthouse:

  • Gallagher and McAndrew eliminate the 911 Operations Manager position, create a new position entitled 911 Quality Assurance and Training Officer, and hand the $18.35/hr position over to Tara Shappell, daughter of County Administrator Darlene Dolzani (a democrat).

 

  • First Deputy Controller Mike Mehalko and accountant James Moll were both demoted from full-time employees with health insurance and retirement benefits to part-time employees without any benefits. Now, we all know that county Controller Melinda Kantner is a fellow democrat, but it is well documented that she is despised both within her own political party and by the majority commissioners for various run-ins throughout the year. This is relevant because it is the first time ever that these two positions will be classified as part-time.

 

  • John Guers, an employee in the county zoning hearing department, and Philip McCarthy, an employee in the communications center, both well-known Republicans, were laid off in November to “cut costs”. Only a few days later, Gallagher and McAndrew signed a contract with American Staffing to fill their respective posts for close to the same cost.

 

  • In Feburary, Frank Zukas was fired from the County Municipal Authority after serving more than 20 years on it. Zukas is a prominent Republican fundraiser and is employed as the Executive Director of SEDCO. He was replaced by a democratic campaign contributor.

 

  • On Friday, former county GOP Chairman Dan Daub was fired from the county zoning hearing board.

2 Comments

Filed under County Government

Boscov’s Bailout Passes

The ugly face of socialism has finally arrived in Schuylkill County. On Friday morning, the county Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $5.8 million loan guarantee to Boscov’s in front of a packed hearing room at the courthouse in Pottsville. Schuylkill now joins Luzerne, Lebanon, and Cambria counties as enablers of corporate welfare. The only government body with any sort of sense in this matter seems to be Snyder County, who rejected the deal last month. Lackawanna, Butler, and Blair counties have scheduled votes of their own in the coming weeks and months.

Of course, the politicians who made this happen are trying to use less offensive buzzwords like “pass-through”, “risk-free”, “sure-thing”, and “middle-man” to lessen the sting of the reality that our elected commissioners just put our money at risk to bail out a failed business. Commissioners Mantura Gallagher and Frank McAndrew contend that no taxpayer money will be used in this deal and that the threat of losing 155 jobs from the Fairlane Mall was too much to bear.

First of all, if Boscov’s was such a “sure-thing” and loaning them money was “risk-free”, then why wouldn’t any other bank, lending institution, or angel investors touch this deal? If the return would have been lucrative for both sides, you would think that the private sector would want a piece of the action, right?

Well, that’s not what this loan is about. The money Boscov’s receives will not go towards inventory, employees, advertising, or anything else that will return the company to solvency. The bailout was originated to pay off a note to a bank who had loaned a couple hundred MILLION dollars to the investors that bought the company from Albert Boscov a few years ago. Since Boscov’s departure, the company has seen a steady decline in sales and profit, making the new owners unable to pay back the bank. When the note came due, all Boscov’s could do was file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and hope that someone would swoop in and save them from liquidation. Enter the taxpayer.

Secondly, if the Pottsville location was such a big money maker, making it a “sure thing” as the Commissioners contend, wouldn’t it be safe to say that even if Boscov’s went under, another department chain would be chomping at the bit to move right in? Isn’t feasible that a new, more financially viable store, would bring those 155 jobs lost initially back to the area and at a higher rate of pay for the employees? You might even make the argument that a new store might create even more jobs, which in this economy could be a god send to this area.

Finally, saying that “no taxpayer funds will be expended” is nothing but a ruse. The actual money from the bailout will come from HUD, which is financed by TAXPAYER MONEY. Governor Rendell is guaranteeing the loan with state economic grant funds. also known as TAXPAYER MONEY. If Bosvov’s fails and the state government has a budget shortfall when the federal government comes calling (which is not too far of a stretch the way Rendell spends), Schuylkill County will be liable for 5.8 million in real dollars, which will ultimately be repaid to the federal government from TAXPAYER MONEY.

So, if what the Board of Commissioners did on Friday was guarantee money that we don’t have to a company that has shown its propensity for failure, why did they agree? Are the Commissioners just that stupid? Hardly. Like everything else in politics, this comes down to one thing and one thing alone—-campaign money.

Boscov has been a large contributor to Gov. Rendell and the democratic party. Since 2000, he has donated upwards of $150,000 to Rendell’s campaigns and $50,000 to the PA democratic party.

Thus, once again fiscal discipline is set aside and the taxpayer takes it in posterior in order for politicians to pay back their campaign contributors from the public coffers.

12 Comments

Filed under County Government

Schuylkill C&Y Pushed to the Limits

In a recent article in the Pottsville Republican and Herald, the Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners heard arguments to increase funding for the county Children and Youth Services department. Historically, C&Y is the least popular agency among county citizens. However, they provide a valuable service to Schuylkill children and their families. Recently, an influx of transports from New York, Philadelphia, and Reading have besieged the county and brought along with them their family problems. This has led to an increase in open cases and the need for more placements of abused and neglected children. C&Y director Gerald Campbell reported that 71 transient families were referred the agency during the last four months of 2007. Even more referrals are on the horizon. At the same time, C&Y has suffered high turnover with their already short staff, which has put a massive strain on the remaining caseworkers. At last count, the agency needed to fill six caseworker slots and two supervisor positions.

As most of my readers know, The Clarke Report is a staunch advocate of less government spending and instrusion into people’s lives. However, C&Y provides an invaluable service to families and the community at large. They protect abused and neglected children, provide treatment for children with behavioral issues, and assist parents in improving a nurturing environment for their families. Of the many uses for taxpayer dollars, allocation to C&Y is at the top of my list for most important expenditures. 

C&Y needs more staff, more resources, and a better facility in which to work. Currently, they are housed at the county human services building on Centre Street in Pottsville. The area is just too darn small for the staff that they have now. If the agency is going to expand to meet the needs of the community, their work space must grow as well. Caseworkers can’t work efficiently when they are right on top of one another. Can you imagine drafting an effective family service plan when a co-worker less than two feet away is taking a call from an irate parent? Schuylkill C&Y caseworkers do it everyday and they shouldn’t have to. In a time when the county is planning to sink millions of taxpayer dollars into a “pre-release center” (AKA a new county prison) for the deadbeats and low-lives of the area, I don’t think its too much to ask to provide those sworn to protect our children and aid our families with a sufficient space in which to work. The Clarke Report challenges the Board of Commissioners to act swiftly. Let’s see where their priorities lie.

8 Comments

Filed under County Government