Saturday, April 13, 2013

Some insight on the ballot refusal of the Allentown Water issue petitions

  If you read the blogs and the so called local media, you would think that the head of the Lehigh County Voter Registration office, Tim Benyo, was responsible for the water issue not getting on the ballot. Some folks mistakenly were lead to believe by uninformed sources that Benyo reviewed the petitions and found there to be a conflict between state and local laws, which kept Benyo from putting the question on the ballot, There is even a belief that he did nothing to notify the petition gatherers of their pending legal issues.

    All of this would be wrong

    You see, I have this nasty habit of asking questions and trying to find the truth. I am not sure who told what to whom, I only have the media reports and what I have read elsewhere. But I also have my firsthand investigation and my in person questioning of the parties involved.

    When you want to see petitions, usually you go to County Voter registration. But this time, the big secret is that THE PETITIONS NEVER LEFT THE CITY CLERK'S OFFICE. Tim Benyo never laid eyes on them. All Benyo ever got was a communication from the City Clerk that there was a legal conflict that prevented the issue from being on the ballot. After receiving that, he kicked it upstairs at County for the legal eagles to handle. To blame REPUBLICAN Tim Benyo and claim he is an agent of dark conspiratorial forces is untrue. He, and no one else at his office, ever laid eyes on the water issue petitions.

    So I went to the City Clerk's office and asked to see them. The only person there was a receptionist who wanted my name and purpose for seeing them. She retrieved the petitions for me after I made it plain  that I knew they had to be there......somewhere.

       She retrieved them from a cabinet from which she had to remove several piles of files to get to them.
      These things were buried on the bottom drawer under God Knows what in the City Clerk's office. I did look through them, and they were the originally submitted petitions. the kicker is I already had access to copies of the petitions from a third party and knew what I was looking for.  The receptionist told me I could only look at the petitions, if I wanted copies I would have to file a right to know and probably pay for them.
     So after 15 minutes paging through them and verifying they were the real deal, I went back downstairs and filed a Right To know Request asking for copies of the original petitions.

    I also learned at that time that the power burning plant petition folks had fallen approximately 800 signatures short in their efforts for a ballot question.

     If the water issue people have questions about what happened, they should start and end their investigation at the City Clerk's office. That is where all the evidence leads, and where the petitions are, literally buried. The Lease is pretty much a done deal, and they should accept that. But the actions of the Allentown City Clerk raise ethical questions on many levels. The Clerk has an obligation to do his job properly, in this case, his neglect in not notifying the petition gatherers of a potential conflict may have been perfectly within legal bounds, but rings loudly of political maneuverings. The Clerk should be above that,
    If I were an Allentown resident, I would ask City Council to review the procedure used by the Clerk in handling and verifying the petitions, and what measure are in place to enable the citizens to correct any mistakes or perceived deficiencies that might occur. A mechanism exists for candidates, isn't there one for potential ballot questions? There must be, and if there isn't, there should be.


  1. Chris, Thanks for your diligence in following up on this petition drive. Sincerely, Bill Sherman Murrells Inlet S.C.

  2. It sounds as if there is more to learn in this, but I am curious to know why there is a presumption that the clerk or (in other instances) the county voter registration office has a responsibility to assist people in election matters? I've run for office (and lost). It was my responsibility to know the rules. I had to know how many signatures I needed. I had to ensure proper circulation. I had to ensure proper filing. I had to make sure I filed financial statements and campaign finance reports. The clerk probably can be obligated to give truthful answers on facts, but should not be expected to render legal advise or give direction on how to succeed in an electoral endeavor (or how to make somebody else fail).

    The retention of documents of this nature in a filing cabinet is a little troubling. Would like to think the solicitor's office or soembody might have a document retention policy?

    1. Sir, if you had a problem with something you had filed, unbeknownst to you, don't you think it should be pointed out, giving you time to address it? Government has a duty to serve those who fund it, not obstruct it. That's my take, agree or disagree, I don't like it when Government uses the rules to OPPRESS DISSENT.

    2. Settle down Chris. Nobody should expect gov't to help them win an election. "party" in power or loyal opposition, that's not the role of gov't.

      If I am running a campaign, it is my job to know the rules. "Unbeknownst to you," is a cop-out. To answer the question directly: no, it is not the job of gov't to help me correct my mistakes, political or otherwise.

    3. Okay anon, if I follow logic correctly, then everybody should get a juris doctor before thinking about running for office. Have you ever tried to read some of the campaign laws, or decipher the crazy percentage requirements for Independents who want to get on the ballot? You have to trust people who work in those offices to give you the right information and follow the right procedures.
      I don't think Hanlon knew what to do, so he did nothing. Tim Benyo followed the procedures and laws as he knew them, and he had to go to court for a challenge because the law wasn't clear.
      We want to have faith that our government serves the greater good, sometimes it seems that government only serves those presently in power. When you are in power, you don't care, but when you are out, you will.
      Government has to treat all EQUALLY. That is the point of issue here.

    4. I'm not in power Chris and I'm not a lawyer. When I need a legal opinion, I speak to a lawyer. If I don't speak to a lawyer and I get an outcome I don't like that isn't the fault of gov't. I chose not to get that info. And don't tell me Pawlowski's opponents can't get a lawyer. Velez got a pro-bono representation. There are plenty of other lawyers who would gladly offer the same for minimal advice.

    5. Huh, so anytime I want to speak or deal with any function of government, I should get a lawyer to do it for me. I'm sure there will be thousands of lawyers offering to do that pro bono work.

    6. If I want to do something and do something effectively, I ask the people who understand how to do it effectively. If I choose not to do so and I don't like the outcomes, that is my decision. Clearly legal resources were available for Ms. Velez to get the outcome she wanted. Why didn't the water lease petition circulators seek the same resources? Surely there would be a lawyer in Lehigh County who would enjoy providing such a service. The Velez story shows this to be true. You can speak to the utopian goals you have, but anybody looking to take on a massive campaign like this needs to be prepared with the information and resources to carry on the campaign. In issues campaigning, that includes having a lawyer make sure you follow the rules. And as the Velez story shows, there are plenty of R lawyers who would be happy to smear egg on the Pawlowski Machine's face.

      Here's the thing Chris: I am inclined to support the Pawlowski opposition, but I am frustrated by the group's expectation that the field be fair. They need to be ready to do battle and have Pawlowski dish crap non-stop. He will bend rules, twist them any which way he can and enjoy the victory when the group is unpreppared for that. I've signed every petition on the water/sewer and clean air efforts. I'm sympathetic. I'm also not deluded into thinking that fairness is to be expected. If folks want to beat the Pawlowski machine, they have to be ready to fight a machine that enjoys all the resources of being in office. Spare me the rosy-colored glasses that somehow the opposition should expect otherwise. If they do expect otherwise, they have been asleep for 8 years.

    7. The one thing that always bothered me is nobody thought to have a lawyer review the petitions for them. And I know of several who would have jumped at it as a public service. I agree with you on that one. I always say, politics is full contact, and I expect the hits I get.
      I'm not as utopian as you think, I am a realist, but I still like to dream.


I welcome comments from real people, not robots. (Though I admit that with some extremists who have been programmed, you can't tell)