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Same S[tuff], Different Day

The general structure of the March 20 LST Council meeting is pretty much what we’ve been dealing with ever since the new council was sworn in.  Lots of wasted time, lots of name-calling, lots of extraneous nonsense that has nothing to do with agenda items.  Same old, same old.

The Good Stuff

So let’s start with the positive items.  The township Police Department was presented with the FBI-LEEDA Trilogy Award.  LEEDA stands for Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, a private, non-profit organization, separate from the FBI, that provides advanced training for leaders in a police department.  The COO of LEEDA made the trip to present the award to Chief Barndt and four other members of police department leadership.  According to Chief Barndt, this has been a goal of his ever since he took over as chief in January 2018.  Congratulations to those leaders in our police department who put in the time and effort to complete the 3 Institutes that comprise the Trilogy Award!

We have an Eagle Scout who requested support from the Council for his project, the construction of a Gaga Pit in Polk Valley Park in order for residents, mostly children, to play Gaga Ball.  If you’re not familiar with Gaga Ball, you can read more about it here.  The Council offered to fund the full cost of the project, estimated at $1500.

There were a few housekeeping items – a change order for the Reading Drive culvert project, a resolution recognizing the Saucon Valley Lions Club, an award for 2024 lawn mowing services, an update on who the right-to-know officer is.  With the loss of Mark Hudson, it’s now Cathy Gorman if you want to file a right-to-know request but be aware that you’ll have to get in line behind Banonis who has already filed 900 pages worth of them since the beginning of the year. Does anyone really wonder why Mark Hudson went to look for another job?

Say What?

One curious vote occurred on the motion to authorize collection of 2023 delinquent real estate taxes.  This is a fairly straightforward housekeeping item.  Now that we are into 2024, the township can tell who has not paid their real estate taxes for fiscal year 2023.  They have now become delinquent.  In order to collect those taxes, the Council has to authorize their collection.  The amount that’s delinquent is $38,618.10 in taxes and $3,862.03 in penalties for a total of $42,480.13. Banonis with snide asides from Carocci did another song and dance about the budget for this year and the tax rates for this year (reminder, it’s now 2024), none of which had anything to do with the collection of delinquent taxes. Then, when the vote was called, Banonis and Carocci voted AGAINST authorizing the collection of the delinquent taxes for 2023.  

Read that again.  And then scratch your head as you wonder exactly how you can be a responsible councilperson and vote AGAINST collecting delinquent taxes that are legally owed. For all of you who paid your township taxes on time, doesn’t that make you feel warm and fuzzy?

Even with their irresponsible actions, the motion passed 3-2.

Cell Tower Conditional Use Hearing

The big event of the night was the completion of the hearing for the Conditional Use Application for the building of a cell tower by Verizon in the Township over near Steel City and the dump.  I’ll cut to the end of the story first, but then there are some puzzling and disturbing behaviors that I’ll go back and revisit.

The council voted 2-2 on the motion to approve the conditional use application which means that the application was denied (a tie vote means the motion is defeated).  Banonis and Carocci voted for it; Mrs. Opthof-Cordaro and Ms. Ray voted against it; Mrs. deLeon had recused herself.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into why an hour and 40 minutes was wasted on what should have been a fairly direct wrap-up of the hearing.

Attacking the Solicitor 

Before the hearing could get underway, Banonis had to argue that the Solicitor was not allowed to conduct the hearing. He insisted that Mrs. deLeon had to conduct the hearing and if she wasn’t going to, then Vice President Opthof-Cordaro had to do it.  Just one problem.  Mrs. Opthof-Cordaro is NOT the vice president; Ms. Ray is.  So we’re off to a fine start. Following his pompous grandstanding to which the response from Solicitor Goudsouzian was that Mrs. deLeon had the right to delegate the conduct of the hearing to whomever she wanted, Mr. Goudsouzian indicated that the next step was to open the floor to any public comment.  

Worthless Motions and Time Wasted

As the Solicitor paused to see if anyone wanted to speak, Banonis bullied his way in by making a motion to force Mrs. deLeon to recuse herself from the hearing and from voting on the Conditional Use Application because, in his opinion, she had a conflict of interest.  Carocci, with perfect Abbott and Costello timing, seconded.  What followed was the most ridiculous dog-and-pony show back and forth between Banonis and Carocci. If you watched carefully, you could even catch them signaling to each other when they wanted to trade off speaking.

Most of this was all warmed-over nonsense that they had complained about at the previous hearings but at least we got some insight into what Banonis wanted with those 900+ pages of right-to-know requests.  Carocci dragged up the minutes from some hearing in 2004 regarding some property issues by a neighbor of Mrs. deLeon’s where she had recused herself, as proof that she should do it now (because we all know nothing changes in 20 years).  Back and forth, back and forth with nothing of substance until they had wasted more than 10 minutes.  Once they had finished blabbering and smearing Mrs. deLeon, in her turn to comment she presented a letter which she had written earlier that day recusing herself from the hearing, not because she felt she had to, but because she felt it was in the best interest of the Township for there to be no question.  She also presented a letter from the Commonwealth Ethics Board which indicated that they did not feel that her position presented any conflict of interest and therefore did not require recusal.  Did the two dolts apologize for how they had just behaved?  Of course not. Carocci made some kind of slur about “guilting her into it” which was obviously NOT the case since her letter predated the meeting by at least several hours but that’s the level of slime we expect from him.

The vote on the motion was 2-2 with Mrs. deLeon recused which means the motion failed.  Great use of taxpayer time and money as the stenographer sat there getting paid to record this crap.

Carocci then embarrassed himself further by moving that all the ancient history minutes that he had previously read be entered into the minutes of the meeting.  Nevermind that those minutes are in the archives of the Township already.  The motion is defeated 2-2.  Then Carocci moved to include other extraneous items including a campaign flyer(!). Banonis of course seconded. It failed 2-2.

The hearing proceeded with input from the public but it broke down as one commenter made derogatory comments and basically all hell broke loose.  Mr. Goudsouzian declared a recess which lasted 17 minutes.  More wasted time. Upon return, the lawyers made their closing comments.

Whose Side Are You On?

Now here’s where it gets really interesting.  Mr. Goudsouzian explained that the council had 45 days to reach a decision on the Conditional Use Application.  As an observer, I would say that there had been some interesting information provided in the closing arguments which I had not heard before and, if I had been voting, might have changed my vote.  The Solicitor recommended that the Council take some of the 45 days to consider all the issues from the hearing (all 3 nights of it) and then vote.  At this point, Banonis jumps in and makes a motion to approve the Conditional Use Application – right then, right there, no further discussion.  He claims everyone already knows how they’re going to vote so why wait?  It was amazing to me to learn that he’s a mind-reader.  

In any event, he says that “it’s going to lose” and “then they can start suing,” which was not the first time that night he had suggested and even invited someone to sue the Township. He had previously invited Verizon to sue if Mrs. deLeon didn’t recuse herself and even before that, he had implied that the fact that Mr. Goudsouzian ran the hearing might be grounds for a suit.  Now we all know that his solution to every problem is to sue someone – that’s how we ended up with more than $400,000 in legal fees last year – but I question what his motives are for repeatedly suggesting and in fact inviting people to sue the Township.  Isn’t that a direct violation of his duty to behave in the best interests of the Township and its residents?  It sure makes me wonder which side his and Carocci’s bread is buttered on because it sure doesn’t seem to be on the side that’s looking out for our welfare.

The Council could have easily taken time to analyze all the info they had received – which they had still not done to that point – discuss in public, in front of all of us, explaining their various viewpoints, listening to the Solicitor’s advice, and then voted.  But no, Banonis cut that off. Completely prevented any discussion about the pluses and minuses of the project among the council members.  In other words, he drove it into rejection.  Why?

Then, because Banonis has apparently never met a lawyer that he doesn’t want to waste money on, he moves to search for an attorney to prepare to represent the Township when it does get sued over the cell tower.  So let’s pay someone for litigation that doesn’t even exist yet. Right. Remember, this is the same person who objected to the Council considering finding an attorney who is experienced in environmental issues like the dump.  Not to put too obvious a point on it, but those lawsuits are already happening.  The motion is defeated 2-2.

The Bigger Question

There’s more bad behavior which I won’t waste your time with including gratuitously smearing our new Controller, Lynn Hill, and their new trick which is leaving arbitrarily before the meeting is over.  But here’s the bigger question I’d like you to consider.

Why are they behaving like this?  Yes, they were rude and boorish and arrogant when they had control of Council but this has all been several degrees worse since the beginning of the year.  Wasting time and money. Slurs, smears, lies, insinuations.  Trying to prevent Council from moving forward on the issues they were elected to address (at which they have been spectacularly unsuccessful)?

Is it just because they are naturally rude and boorish and can’t help themselves?  Are they just sore losers? Do they think that this is buying them support within the community?  If that’s true, then they’re living in an even bigger bubble than the one they were in on Election Day when they thought for sure their side would win.  Does this make them big men at the country club?

Do they plan to act like this until the next election in November 2025?  Do they think they’ll get one or more of the other council members to resign?  Fat chance there, after all the work that was put in to get them elected.

Do they not understand that in November 2025 the only two seats up for election are theirs and, even if they get themselves re-elected – which with this kind of behavior I can’t imagine is likely – but even if they do, they’ll still only have two of the five seats?  They still won’t be in control?  They’ll still be the minority?  And not only are they making it easier for two Democrats to oppose them, they’re making it even more likely that they’ll be primaried by their own party, by responsible Republicans – and there are plenty in Lower Saucon Township – who are appalled to be represented by these two buffoons.

Keep asking yourself – why are they acting like this?  If you come up with an answer that doesn’t involve mental illness, let me know.

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