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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly – Part II, the Bad

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Next stop, the actions and behaviors over the last 3 meetings that have been deleterious to the Township.  This includes actions that were proposed even if they weren’t passed and behaviors that make governing the Township harder for no purpose except ego and idiocy.  The good news is that most of the actions did not get passed.  The bad news is that haggling over them just wasted a lot of time and energy.

Time Wasted

The April 3 Council meeting ran for 2¾ hours.  The April 17 Council meeting ran for just less than 4 hours.  The May 1 Council meeting ran for 6½ hours.  The April 3 meeting should have been completed in 2 hours. The April 17 meeting should have been completed in 2 hours.  The May 1 meeting should have been completed in 2½  hours. That means there was a total of wasted time of about 405 minutes over those 3 meetings for a cost at $9/minute of $3645.  Added to the estimated cost of wasted time from March 6 and 20, that’s a total of $4860 for five meetings, or almost $1000 per meeting. This is all calculated on time spent by Banonis and Carocci going off-topic, arguing, talking over others so that nothing can be understood in the chaos, recesses that had to be called to restore order, and public comments by people that were completely off-topic.  Is this really the way we want our money to be spent?

Dumb Stuff That Makes the Township Look Stupid – Well, Two of the Councilmembers

Some of the comments and motions of Banonis and Carocci are just stupid.  For example on April 17, Banonis made a motion that the Council double the pay of the stenographer for the transcription of the Fire Rescue Annual Presentation because of all the “garbled nonsense.”  He should know.  He and Carocci provided most of the garbled nonsense.  The motion failed.

At the same meeting, following the approval of a Special Event Application for the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Heritage Day event, Banonis launches into a ridiculously long history of Lower Saucon Township before questioning why the Heritage Day event is named “Hellertown-Lower Saucon” instead of “Lower Saucon-Hellertown”.  He then makes a motion to direct the Acting Township Manager to send a letter to the President pro tem of the Saucon Valley Conservancy that instructs him on the history of the region and asking if the name shouldn’t be changed to Lower Saucon-Hellertown Heritage Day.  The motion fails.  Could we be any more petty?

At the April 3 meeting, Carocci repeatedly claimed that Mark Ozimek is Priscilla deLeon’s brother.  There is no reason for this but he reiterates throughout the meeting.

Mrs. deLeon was not present at the April 17 meeting although she did participate by phone.  Although Carocci had missed 3 of the first 5 meetings of 2024 without any explanation, it apparently really bothered him that Mrs. deLeon was there by phone and not in person with no explanation.  He tried to suss out where she was, first claiming that perhaps she was still in Hershey where she and Ms. Ray and Ms. Opthof-Cordaro had just attended the annual PSATS Conference.  Carocci said, “she was at a Township paid taxpayer fund trip to Hershey for the past 3 days and stayed at the Hershey Hotel or the Lodge and she wouldn’t show up for a Council meeting for you . . .” [Minutes April 17, 2024, p. 23 lines 25-26]. I include the exact words from the minutes so you have some idea of how garbled his comments generally are.  Then he tried claiming that she was at home in Steel City and that was why the phone connection was so bad.  Sadly he was completely frustrated in finding out where she was calling from.  Of course, many of us knew, but we chose not to share and instead let him look like the dork he is.

Speaking of PSATS, when was the last time that Banonis and Carocci attended a PSATS event for training in how to be a township councilperson?  What’s that you say?  You can’t recall?  Neither can I.  Perhaps that’s why they are so bad at their jobs.

Then we have the ongoing dumbshow of Carocci and Banonis pretending that they are still running the meetings.  Particularly ridiculous was the April 17 meeting when Carocci tried to start the meeting because Ms. Ray, who was filling in for Mrs. deLeon, wasn’t ready to start the meeting at 6:30 PM.  Remember, this is the person who missed 3 out of 5 meetings in the beginning of 2024 with no explanation.  He tried to get Ms. Gorman to call the roll.  She wisely refused.  He insisted everyone stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Solicitor Goudsouzian called him out on all of this idiocy whereupon he and Banonis rained all kinds of abuse on the Solicitor’s head.  Eventually, Ms. Ray established control and continued with the roll call and agenda.  

At other times and in other meetings, Carocci claims to “recognize” Banonis so he can speak and Banonis does the same back at Carocci as if they actually had any power.  It must be tough to keep losing those 3-2 votes after years of being BMOC.  

The Sunshine Act, Title 65, Part II, Chapter 7

One thing I have learned in the four years that I have faithfully been attending Council meetings is that most people who babble on about The Sunshine Act really have no exact idea of what it is.  It’s certainly been thrown around a lot in the last 3 meetings.  Banonis and Garber in particular love to claim it’s been violated. But here’s the question.  If someone thinks the Sunshine Act has been violated, regardless of their position in the community, either as an elected official or as a resident or even as someone who has just attended a public meeting, they have a perfect right to file a complaint with the Court.  That complaint must be filed with the Court of Common Pleas within 30 days of the public meeting.  If there have been so many violations, why haven’t Banonis or Garber or Carocci or citizens who babble about the Act file a complaint with the Court?  Could it be because the challenger “bears the burden to prove a violation” (Smith v. Township of Richmond, 623 Pa. 209, 223 (Pa. 2013)?  If you can’t prove it, you pay the costs.

So perhaps all those Sunshine Act violations are not as clearcut as they are claimed to be.  And maybe people who don’t know what they’re talking about should just shut up about them.  I know many of us gave up asking the sainted Lincoln Treadwell about Sunshine Act violations because his answer was always “no”.  Not that most of us believed him.

Also, FYI, at the May 1 meeting, Carocci had to ask Garber what the penalties are for violating the Sunshine Act since he clearly didn’t know.

The Sainted Lincoln Treadwell

One of the things we hear often out of Banonis and Carocci is how wonderful a solicitor Lincoln Treadwell was and how there would be no problems if he were still the solicitor.  Likewise life would be great if the Eckert Seamens law firm was still ripping us off at $290/hour as our special projects attorneys.  And one of the baldest lies – how Treadwell’s being Solicitor was in no way political.

Short piece of history – the very first township meeting I ever attended was a special meeting called following the appointment by the Court and swearing in of Kristen Stauffer to fill a Council vacancy in early 2020, pre-Covid.  Every year my Facebook Memories remind me of that meeting because it pulls up a picture I took of Treadwell at the meeting that evening with my post, “Who is this dick?”

That meeting was an attempt by the Council to figure out how to get the Court to remove Ms. Stauffer and instead appoint some other township resident who had applied for the position and obviously lost.  It was also obvious that the main reason they wanted this guy appointed was that he was a Republican and it would increase the Council ratio from 3:2 Republican to 4:1 Republican.  Treadwell clearly had his thumb on the scale in the discussions and decision-making.  In fact, at one point, he came within a millisecond of telling Ms. Stauffer to shut up and not talk.  Probably why I thought he was a dick. He certainly was political.

Long story short – the Court told the resident who filed the appeal with the support of the Council to go pound sand.

Over the last three meetings there has been an enormous abuse of Solicitor Goudsouzian and of the way he was chosen.  Obviously some people have short memories.  In the four years I’ve been attending meetings, Treadwell’s position was never challenged.  There was no RFP created for the Solicitor position or for any of the other legal positions.  In fact, early on in my watching Council meetings, there was an attempt to oust the engineering firm overseeing the landfill and put another firm in its place, one which seemed, at least clearly to me, far more likely to be amenable to whatever the Dump wanted them to do.  Luckily they were voted down 2-3 (Stauffer, deLeon and Yerger voting no).  

At that meeting I questioned why there had not been any RFP for the position and what exactly was the problem with the firm that the Township was currently employing.  Crickets.  I pointed out that best practice in business was to bid out those kinds of positions on a rotating basis, perhaps once every two or three years to prevent the kind of opportunity for corruption that can occur when someone becomes just a bit too cozy with the municipality (cf. Boeing and the captured FAA inspectors in their plants).  My suggestion fell on deaf ears.

Now along comes Carocci at the April 17 meeting and he disrespectfully says “…Susie[meaning Solicitor Goudsouzian], did we ever advertise this position?  Mr. Goudsouzian said we did not advertise it.  Mr. Carocci said well why not?” [April 17 minutes, p. 25, lines 12-13.]. Why don’t you tell us, Carocci, why you never advertised for the Solicitor position for the 23 years that Treadwell was here?  

And by the way, there’s your answer, Ms. LST Resident Ann Marie Slavick, to your comment at the April 17 meeting.   “…so it seems like you should put bids out for this kind of job like who wants to apply, let’s send your resume, send what you’ve done, let’s see what you’ve done. That’s the kind of responsible Council she would expect but as a taxpayer in this Township, what she sees is shady stuff.”   [April 17 minutes, p. 24, line 54 to p. 25, line 1]. I guess when you decided to shill for Banonis and Carocci, they forgot to mention that little historical fact and who it was who kept the Council from behaving responsibly for all those years.  So perhaps you might be a bit more circumspect in claiming who’s doing “shady stuff.”

In addition, Ms. Slavick, before you start insinuating that somehow getting a recommendation of a good lawyer from another lawyer is somehow sleazy, just exactly where would you get a recommendation from?  Your garbageman?  Do you get doctor recommendations from IT people?  And you don’t have to tell us that you’re “not well versed in all of this” [April 17 minutes, p. 45, lines 10-11].  We can tell as soon as you open your mouth.  Perhaps you should go back and look at how Council operated when Banonis was in charge. Talk about lack of transparency!  We were all blindsided by losing our library for which we have still not received anything close to a believable explanation.  

And if you love transparency, you would have loved how Treadwell ran this Township.  There was a town hall meeting at citizens’ request in November 2022.  Neither Banonis nor Carocci bothered to show up.  They sent Treadwell instead.  There were lots of questions about the library and what plans were in the works and what was happening.  He gave us NOTHING!  But a couple weeks later, we all got word that he was on the agenda at the Southern Lehigh School District Board Meeting so a bunch of us watched the Zoom feed and there he was, Mr. Chatty Cathy, with all kinds of plans about creating a regional library and combining libraries from different counties and how it had been successful in western PA and on and on.  But did he owe it to the people of Lower Saucon who were paying his legal fees to tell them what was happening?  Absolutely not.  We could sit and stew in darkness.

One other point:  at the April 3 meeting, Carocci claimed “[If] Linc Treadwell was still the Solicitor here, Mark Hudson would still be the Township Manager here.” [April 3 minutes, p. 4, line 20]. Carocci has no way of proving that.  In fact, many of us have reason to believe that it was Banonis and Carocci’s behavior even before they lost the majority that drove Mark away.  Or perhaps it was just that Hanover Township was willing to pay him a significantly larger salary.  Either way, without proof, Carocci’s statement is a lie or, to be generous, a guess.

Inserting Partisanship Into Local Governance

I firmly believe that there is no place for partisanship in local government.  I believe the best run municipalities are those where the best people with the best ideas are elected and work together to reach the best solutions to local challenges.  In writing Saucon Shenanigans, I have not chosen a party line to support specifically for that reason.  In fact, Saucon Shenanigans has endorsed candidates from both parties based on who seems to have the best skills to bring to the table.

Sadly, since the November election, we have begun to see partisanship being deliberately inserted into Council discussions.  Carocci regularly points out that it’s a “Democrat” who says something or a “Democrat” on the Zoning Hearing Board [May 1 meeting].  And then there’s Ms. Slavick who claims “this is what you get when you vote for liberals.” [April 17 Minutes, p. 23, line 14].  She repeats the word “liberals” three times.

At the May 1 meeting, Ms. Slavick took it upon herself to inform us that she knows that the three women on Council are setting up a clash between workers and corporations and that’s why they’re supporting the things they support.  She “knows” that they hate rich people and that Ms. Opthof-Cordaro has a set agenda, implying that she’s pushing class warfare.  This from a woman who doesn’t even know what the word is for a “brownfield.”

And while we’re discussing lack of knowledge, apparently neither Ms. Slavick nor LST citizen Dave Boulin know that the Bethlehem Sewage Treatment Plant is 1) not in Lower Saucon Township and 2) not under the control of Lower Saucon Township.  Geez, people, at least get the facts straight before you make fools out of yourselves.

There is so much more that could be included under the Bad, but this is enough for now.

Next up – Part Three –  The Ugly


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