Feb 26, 2013

Disenfranchising Allentown's Voters

You have asked us to review documents you received from the City Clerk, Mr. Michael P. Hanlon. Mr. Hanlon writes in his letter dated January 10, 2011 to you: Thus begins a nine page opinion to deny the voters of Allentown their rights
Colin McEvoy of The Express Times reports that the people's petition, opposing the lease of Allentown's water system, will not appear on the ballot in May. Apparently, the County did not receive the petitions by the required deadline. Initially, the signatures on the petitions had to be approved by Allentown's City Clerk. He was instructed by the city solicitor to employ stricter guidelines than had been previously employed on ballot questions. To my knowledge, the city was in control of the petitions after their approval. Although the solicitor claimed previously unknown knowledge on the rules concerning petition circulation, and placed obstacles in the way, it seems that for some reason he was less versed on the required timelines. If the failure to deliver the approved petitions to the county, in a timely fashion, ultimately rests with the city, or the petition organizers, remains unclear at this time. At any rate, it's apparent that over 4000 registered voters of Allentown are being disenfranchised in their right to challenge the water lease.

UPDATE: From I have have been able to cobble together this morning, the same procedure was followed as was utilized on the successful Rental Inspection Ballot Initiative of 1998.  It appears that the head  of the Election Office, Tim Benyo, ruled that the city procedures were not in conformity with state law.  One would think that the previous ballot initiatives would constitute a precedent.  Poresky and his petition committee should certainly legally challenge Mr. Benyo's interpretation.   I must also wonder why Mr. Benyo didn't inform the petitioners that they were not in compliance in a more timely fashion, allowing recourse on their behalf.  These obstacles,  now on both the city and county level,  have the appearance of being  politically orchestrated.

UPDATE 5:00PM:  I have managed to secure a copy of the legal opinion written by the County Solicitor.   In 1998 a local landlord challenged the Rental Inspection Ballot Initiative, and the City Charter procedure was upheld by the court.   The solicitor bases his opinion denying this ballot question on the fact that unlike 1998, this question deals with a  change in the city charter, not just an ordinance.   Apparently Mr. Benyo sought the opinion of the solicitor:  WHY?  Who or what motivated him to question Allentown's referendum procedure  now, on this question?  As a layman, the opinion justifying the rejection of the ballot question appears laborious and meager.  Hopefully, the petitioners will seek legal recourse.

26 comments:

Bill said...

This is beyond reprehensible.

Anonymous said...

The petition organizers are well intentioned naïve fools and the mayor and his people are absolute scoundrels.
I would like to be shocked. I am not.

Anonymous said...

This is beyond comprehensible, the city was in charge of the signatures since they were submitted. Obstruction of the courts? A good lawyer should have a field day with this mayor and his administration.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter in terms of the water/sewer lease. This deal will be done before the referendum date and thus legal.

It will have an impact on the city's ability to sell the park system, the golf course, and other real estate - all thoughts I'm sure are on the table with those maroons.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

It would seem that The Mayor and Council were very concerned that the voters would alter their plans to collect $$$$ from the party leasing the water plant

Anonymous said...

The petitioners need legal help. They should have sought it from the start. That would have changed the dynamic.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

By the way, apparently the county commissioners are split on whether the Lehigh County Authority should have its charter extended to 50 years so it can be a bidder on the lease.

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

scott, my first choice would be that allentown retain the water and sewer systems. the LCA would be my second, and only, other choice. it's my hope that their charter be extended, in a timely manner, so that they can be a viable candidate for the lease. this backup option would at least afford some local accountability, which would be totally absent with the commercial bidders.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute-do you mean to tell me that the petitioners did not have an attorney on their team the entire time? Unbelievable.

ironpigpen said...

General Secretary Pawlowski wins his Water War, as expected.

Shaibu!

ROLF OELER

Anonymous said...

"State law requires the petitions to have been circulated between Jan. 1 and Feb. 19 in order for them to be placed on the ballot, Benyo said.

Petitions for the ballot question were circulated largely during the 2012 General Election and presented to City Clerk Mike Hanlon in December."

I don't see how you can say that "obstacles" are being "politically orchestrated". It is clear that the petitioners did not do their homework.

michael molovinsky said...

as i said before, the petitioners followed the procedures and time frames outlined in the city charter. the county election board did not challenge such ballot initiatives in the past. benyo's opined that state law supercedes the local home charter, that's his opinion. hopefully that opinion will be challenged, if only to protect the allentown charter.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It would seem that whatever shenanigans occurred, there is now a basis for seeking a stay of the water lease in court, pending the outcome of the referendum.

Bill said...

If the same process was followed as the Rental Inspection process and that was not challenged, how can they do so now? How can the county decide one way in the past and another way now? What roll did the city have in this? I am in a total anti incumbent frame of mind and I doubt I am alone. I totally agree with this statement you made Micheal "my first choice would be that allentown retain the water and sewer systems. the LCA would be my second, and only, other choice."

ironpigpen said...

Too bad there is nothing even remotely resembling a system of "Checks and Balances" in this one horse town known as the City With No (Spending?) Limits, say Mr. Molovinsky?

I'm glad the General Secretary won. I don't think the Water Warriors had ANY IDEA who they were going up against. And, I don't think the Water Warriors will have the guts be lecturing ME any more about 'civility' when I dare talk about the All-Star Rubber Stamp Council of Apparatchiks.

Sincerely overjoyed,

ROLF OELER

Anonymous said...

"...this particular referendum sought to change the Allentown home rule charter, which requires that additional state laws be followed outside the normal referendum procedure."

This is why the rental inspection referendum is different than the water referendum.

The responsibility falls on the petitioners to petition in a manner that is procedural correct with their particular referendum. They failed to do so on two separate requirements. First is only petitioning during the time frame in which the PA Constituion allows for when a referendum calls for a Home Rule Charter change, and second submitting the petition to the local county election board within the required time. They have no basis for a lawsuit as saying "I did not know the rules" is not a legal argument.

michael molovinsky said...

@5:01, you apparently also have access to the opinion. opinion seems to be the key word, there has not yet been a legal argument,but hopefully there will be. It's apparent that Benyo was instructed to request an opinion, with the intent of disenfranchising the referendum wishes of the voters. Hopefully a court will decide if this maneuver passes legal muster.

Anonymous said...

"It's apparent that Benyo was instructed to request an opinion, with the intent of disenfranchising the referendum wishes of the voters."

This is where your conspiracy theorist comes from...

michael molovinsky said...

@5:26, i must note that it didn't occur to the City Clerk that the petition effort was legally deficient. more notable, it didn't occur to Mr. Snyder, the City Solicitor, that it was illegal. Quite the contrary, he specified exactly how the signatures were to be collected. you may content that Mr. Benyo is some legal expert who on his own questioned the expertise of attorney Snyder, but I don't buy it.

Anonymous said...

Legally what can be done? Is there anyway the petitioners can get this on the ballot in may? I hope there is a way to stop this tyrant of a mayor from selling the city's most precious resource.

Anonymous said...

When I questioned att snyder about the fumbling of the counsil meeting he shook his head like he didn't know there was any last minute cancellation of pryor meeting¿ Than the meeting was snuck in in a last minute attempt to make the people look stupid¿
Oo and king palumpa was at the second¿

REDD

Anonymous said...

Mike,

I thing it is safe to presume 5:01 was dispatch by the city administration to run interference on your blog. That tells us they are concerned about the ongoing dialogue and hope to shape it more to their liking.
Keep up the great work.

Scott Armstrong

ALFONSO TODD said...

SMH..... Again, what happened to PUBLIC INPUT ?

www.votealfonsotodd.com

Alfonso Todd

ALFONSO TODD said...

MM, and then they ASK me WHY I seem to be so ANGRY and RADICAL when it comes to the city and its leaders.....

First, there was EMINENT DOMAIN, then there was the INCINERATOR, and now the WATER LEASE. No public input or leadership accountability yet WE, the residents, have to live with it..

We CAN Do Better...

Alfonso Todd

www.votealfonsotodd.com

Anonymous said...

Wow, the next election should be interesting to say the least. The city is flipping the bird to 4000+ registered voters and could be as high as 6000. Hopefully everybody will get to the polls when the time comes to voice their opinion.

Chris

ironpigpen said...

If 'entities' such as the notorious NIZ and the ANIZDA can be created out of thin air ...

... why not create another entity, call it XYZPDQ or whatever, and give it the power to sell some more junk bonds on the open market?

It's been done before. Doubting Thomases could always reference the Pawlowski Palace of Sport for a successful 'business model'.

I believe Mr. Molovinsky tossed this idea out previously --- exactly what is so crazy about THIS proposal that is NOT crazy about the way the transformative Palace of Sport was funded?

So, WHO is standing in the way of Progress NOW?

Sincerely Confused, Conservatively Stupid But Evolving Quickly So That Big Government Can "Fix" Everything,

ROLF OELER