Political Decisions – Fayette County Commissioners Vicites Lohr – You Decide

Commissioners meeting today. (July 18, 2019)

One unfortunate item was the appointment of a person to the Fayette County Industrial Board.  As said at the meeting only one person sent a letter of interest, that being, the Mayor of Belle Vernon Gerald Jackson. Yes it was an unanimous vote as there was no one else to consider. Anyone besides me believe that residents have given up sending in their letters knowing that it does not matter because the “fix is already in”?  And why was the invitation to submit a letter done for this position but not for the recent past?  Yes I made comment at that time that we should have welcomed letters but it fell on the deaf ears of fellow Commissioners Vicites/Lohr. My opinion? They don’t want your participation.

Then we had the awarding of the architectural/engineering firm for the new jail.  Some prison board members interviewed  7 firms and RL Kimball & Pieper OBrien were listed as the top 2 and from there RL Kimball was awarded the work.  At an agenda meeting I indicated to solicitor Jack Purcell that once the award is done before “he negotiates the price” (as the other two commissioners would like him to do) I said that we must discuss. I later heard that Commissioner Vicites said that such a discussion would be in violation of the Sunshine Law. Now those words from his mouth most certainly is hilarious.  As far as  announcing  campaign contributions before voting you only need to read my other posts or look for yourself to see if campaign contributions were given and accepted by this firm or any other.

Finally we have the awarding of FACT Bus towing services.  I learned a few days ago that one commissioner (Vicites) instructed the Fact office initiate this proposal.  Only 2 vendors responded.  The current vendor and a new vendor.  Because the scope of work involved the FACT staff attempted to do their due diligence by contacting the new vendor for further info etc.  Soon a call was made to Vicites who in turn stopped FACT and instead got solicitor Jack Purcell  involved. Why?  There was no legal questions that needed answered. The staff simply was doing their job and wanted to inquire from this prospective new vendor its capabilities. Everything was halted (I learned later).  So at todays meeting  the current towing vendor discussed his qualifications etc.   When it came time for the vote Vicites turned to Jack Purcell who then went into his review.  Now this is a RFP not a bid. A bid you must give to the lowest “responsible” bidder.  For a RFP other factors besides price is considered. Long story short this is how it went……

Zimmerlink moved to award Professional Auto Service towing for small buses and Burnworth Towing for large buses for a one year term …… Died for lack of a second

Vicites then said he uses the same process for RFP as for bids rarely deviating……. (that’s funny)  so Vicites then Moved to award Professional Auto for all towing for 2 years……Died for lack of a second…..Yes readers Lohr did not 2nd Vicites Motion.  But dont get excited no doubt it was previously discussed as Vicites looked good to the one vendor while saving face.  Lohr then made a Motion to award all towing to Professional Auto for 1 year…. Vicites agreed and the Motion passed 2-1.

To determine which local company could handle the large bus tows and the small bus tows why not split it and revisit it in a year?  Even the solicitor and FACT staff agreed that would be a viable solution.

So why was there Commissioner interference?  See this re elect photo……….   Voters & Taxpayers You Decide and remember it this November election

$476,535 to be distributed – County General Fund still owes $1.7 million

Like I’ve been saying all along….  (also see Chart )                                            (excerpts from Herald Standard coverage of the commissioners meeting)

  •           An audit submitted in 2018 noted expenses already spent out of the sales fund must be transferred from the general fund to the sales fund.
  •           The next step, Witt said, is presenting the 2011 free-and-clear sale distributions in court for approval next week. That will be followed by a 30-day period for objections to distribution amounts and mailings of the judge’s order and property distribution sheets to the former property owners and purchasers of the 155 parcels on the list for that year.
    The county should receive roughly $111,000 from the $476,535 to be distributed, a total that will go back into a tax sale distribution fund, Witt said.
  •         “(I)t’s my understanding that for 2017 and 2018, there’s going to be an adjustment where the funds that were taken out to pay general expenses are going to be put back in to replenish the funds for those years,” Witt said. “And then for 2011 through 2016, all of these sales, all of the distributions that will be going to the county are going to go back into that fund, because once again, funds were taken from that fund, and these are just basically reimbursements from the county.”
    Witt said the county would be able to cover the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2017 free-and-clear sales and 2011, 2012 and 2013 upset sales as well as additional sales beyond those.

And my comment then, before and still now………..  yes while the county proceeds will be returned to the tax claim sale fund to build the account those monies taken from the account incorrectly as per the audit needs be reimbursed by the county general fund. The estimate as per the audit is $1.7 million. Returning the county’s share of the proceeds is correct and will add up but it will not add up to the estimated $1.7 while taking the costs from it at the same time.  I am no mathematician, I am no CPA (but then again neither is Sam Lynch I am told), I have never filed bankruptcy but I can do simple math.        Two commissioners do not want to replace these funds because doing so would mean allocating  the estimated $1.7 million which means raise taxes or reduce overall costs. It is a debt of the General Fund and if the year end audit always performed by Zelenkofske Axelrod fails to give the Finding they are not doing their job. (note they gave the finding in 2004).    I will continue to monitor.

Also, yes it must be chronological out of fairness to those lienholders waiting. There are more than just school and municipalities as lien holders. I understand Lohr and Vicites want 2016 done because it is under their watch but you dont take such an action to make it look good on your part. We must do so chronologically.             Chart

Fayette County Commissioners Anticipating voter backlash?

Yes I guess in anticipation of upcoming November election voter backlash…Commissioner Vicites asked HR Director Cristy Spiker to explain the hiring process of Bethany Dye.  (Budget Purchasing Mgr $36,835.50).  Why this position and no other?  He mentioned there was some social media comments made.  What he was referring to but failed to say was the post made on RantsRaves which was “Quote Of The Day” on an alleged political rival from a different race “Commissioner Vicities’ personal hatred of me for refusing to ‘help him out’ regarding his wife’s prior court ordered costs and fines, which I have no authority to do, spilled out in “payback” as lies regarding my work ethic…” Janice Snyder, Fayette County Clerk of Courts, ranting on social media today, about Vicites and the fact that the daughter of Tim Dye, the democratic candidate for clerk of courts, is “recommended for a top non-union, higher salaried position,” as Budget and Purchasing Manager; Snyder, pointing out that, “coincidentally” the position was vacated over six weeks ago, but no interviews or recommendations were made until after the primary election; Snyder, not commenting why she hasn’t commented sooner about her claim that Vicites asked for inappropriate manipulation of his wife’s court ordered costs or fines, as we assume this might have happened long ago… but, nonetheless, we still believe Snyder   (Facebook Post of Janice Snyder June 11 2019)

Another agenda item was to award a contract to Felice Associates of Greensburg Westmoreland County, former HR vendor of the county.  This contract is to conduct a classification & compensation survey for apprx 69 Non Union county positions. The contract cost is $24,000 plus out of pocket expenses.  Forget about all the whispers within the courthouse & other county buildings from employees who have complained about this vendor for years….yes whispers but no one speaks out so you get what you get.  It was interesting that Felice Associates employee Dominick Carnicella , who is Fayette Co’s former HR director under a Felice contract for years, was asked to attend yesterday’s meeting to explain “out of pocket expenses”.  His response…”minimal”  Is anyone surprised that when I asked if the other vendor who submitted a price was asked to attend the meeting the response was No.  Is anyone surprised that Felice has been a campaign contributor ?

And finally, while not discussed during this Agenda Meeting, Sam Lynch of Susquehanna Financial Consultants, was present for this 2 hour meeting. Was it needed? No. Will there be a 2 hour charge? Most likely.  And, after this meeting Commissioner Vicites had Sam Lynch meet with the Herald Standard reporter to explain his fees (you know the fees of close to $1million in less than 4 years) …….and I believe from the reporter both Vicites & Lohr were present (unsure if anyone else was there). Will that additional hour be billed? Shouldn’t be.

 

Fayette County Commissioners – dereliction of duty

Fayette County past due in distributing monies to those owed.

Our county tax claim office sold properties that were delinquent for taxes in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. For those years, the county collected more than $5.2 million and deposited the money in a special account. The commissioners have a statutory obligation to distribute these monies to school districts, municipalities, lien holders, etc.

Presently there is insufficient funds in the account to make full distributions. A 2018 audit reported that the County used some of the money and is obligated to reimburse close to $2 million.

Commissioner Vicites and I were in office in 2011 and Dave Lohr joined the commissioners’ office in 2016. So the last 4 years with Vicites Lohr and me in office these distributions still have not been made. In order to comply with this statutory obligation and distribute the money to the rightful recipients how will the County come up with the money? Cut expenses drastically or increase taxes?

This is documented, as well as, my attempts for resolution. In early 2019 I also reached out to external sources seeking their assistance and intervention. You will hear excuses, reasons, pointing of fingers and even downplaying this. There is no excuse. Commissioners have not lived up to the duties and responsibilities of the office.

590 am & 101.fm WMBS radio Russ Rhodes talk show host should reveal his bias

So it continues with Russ Rhodes the talk show host of the local Fayette County WMBS radio show giving his snide remarks about me. When Rhodes makes his comments against me and favorable to Commissioner Dave Lohr, Rhodes should tell the listening audience that he is biased because his wife is the administrative assistant turned a few months before the election his “chief of staff” with a $2300 non-budgeted taxpayer funded raise. Yes Rhodes does not like me but I could not care less. I speak the truth about what goes on in Fayette County and what goes on within the commissioners office (staff) and in the circles of Fayette County and I have documentation that cannot be disputed. Grievances, lawsuits or whatever will not keep this Commissioner quiet.

$5.2 million tax sale fund needs distributed but where’s $2.5 million of it?

When you do not pay your real estate taxes your property is sold.  There is an Upset Sale and a Free & Clear Sale each year.  Afterwards there is a process which takes about 1 year and then proceeds from the sales are to be distributed to local municipalities, school districts, lien holders, etc.

Despite repeated meetings, emails, directions etc distributions are not timely made.  I have the documentation.  I have also sought outside assistance to help me.  I met with the 3 county solicitors in 2016 when the new commissioner board took office showing all of them this issue (one already knew since she was part of the prior administration) We have one solicitor working on preparing the Petitions (he says he has 2011 almost done and working on the next year)

For years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 (8 years) the sales were about $5.2 million. Yes $5.2 million. The $ is to be placed in its own account.  However, the amount in that account is about $2.5 million. Yes $2.5 million.  The balance, as per an internal audit done by the Controllers Office reports that the balance was used for General Fund tax sale purposes. It was not supposed to be used in that manner.  Why was it used in that manner?  The county offices followed the procedure outlined by the paid financial consultant who has been the paid financial consultant for years.

How does this get corrected?  1. Correct the accounting procedure immediately   2. Transfer the funds from the General Fund to the correct Sales Fund.   3. Get the Petitions for these years filed before the Courts and get the $$$ into the hands of the proper entities such as your local school districts and your local municipalities.

Do not allow Commissioners Vicites and Lohr or the financial consultant to place blame on the prior commissioner board or me or the former county manager or the former controller or the former acting controller to point fingers because of their quest for re-election.   They’ve been in office since 2016 and the 2011 distribution is not done. The county General Fund should not have used these monies….. No wonder the two commissioners Vicites and Lohr report to the voters- the taxpayers that they have “balanced the budget” and work “diligently daily on the budget” “review line item by line item”………..they use and still use monies from the sales fund for other sales fund expenses which is not permitted.

A county should not sell properties and retain the proceeds from the sales. Like I said, the process after a sale is normally 1 year and in some cases maybe a year and 6 months but not this long.   The proceeds from tax sales 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 should be distributed.  No excuses….. Can I get a second?????????

 

94 year old WWII veteran “hand wrote” this letter to the editor

Whether you agree with Mr. Rostich or not you have to give him credit for handwriting a letter to the editor at his age. Why does he do it? Because he cares.  He has a history of writing letters but given his declining health he has not written as much as he would like.

Here it is taken from the Herald Standard today : https://www.heraldstandard.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/our-local-politicians-can-to-better-for-fayette-county/article_11cfc604-75e4-11e9-a1d5-cfd6df4e822a.html

In my commentary of July 3, 2018, in this newspaper, I wrote about population decrease, school closings and decline in students, church closings, loss of retail stores, businesses and jobs and the high number of obituaries in the newspaper each day. I was surprised that I never received a response to that commentary. I guess writing about Fayette County’s dilemma has no answer.

In an April 23 article in this newspaper, the Census Bureau released the 2018 report. Again, Fayette County continued to experience decline in population. Fayette County 2010 Census population was 136,606 and the 2018 is estimated at 130,441 a loss of 6165 people in 8 years. Where is the end?
In the Progress Section of the April 26 edition, it talked about expansion, which is good. Fayette County makes one step forward and one step backward. How long can the Uniontown Mall exist with the main retail store gone? Is this county making any progress?

Where is the Chamber of Commerce with its 600 membership? They could be the striking force to move this county forward. Years ago, they were behind the push to bring industry to this county. They called it 5-4 meaning five industries in four years. Sad to say, all those industries once located across from Penn State Fayette are gone. With the right leadership this chamber could move this county forward. They are powerful. Use your talent.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in this county has been politics. Our elected officials’ biggest concern is getting reelected. Moving this county forward was not their priority although some of our elected officials had reached top positions in government. It is with sadness that Angela Zimmerlink has decided not to seek reelection to the commissioners office. I guess after 16 years, she had enough. Commissioner Zimmerlink to me was a decent, honest, intelligent person who tried her best to make this a better county, but was voted down most of the time by a 2-1 vote.
What will it take to move this county forward? We know that the toll road was supposed to move the county forward, but it did not happen. This 17-mile toll road cost $886 million is one of the costliest in America, but did not help this county. The location was bad. It was the politicians’ way.

There is a gem in this county that is not being utilized to its fullest extent which is tourism. The people in this county should demand that the money derived from the hotel tax stay in the county and not be given to the Westmoreland visitors center. Over one million dollars a year is collected in hotel tax. Commissioners Vince Vicites and Dave Lohr can change this. Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink is for giving this money back to this county and having a tourism center in our county. Tourism could do wonders where it is set up to tour people showing them historic sights, museums, scenery and events. By promoting this county, we can impress visitors which would have a positive effect and could help bring new businesses to the area.

Not moving this county forward means more decline in population, more school closings, more church closings, more retail stores closings. Business closings will continue until there is more leadership showing more involvement.

I served with the United States Navy Seabees in World War II. Our motto was “We Build, We Fight, Can Do!” That is what is needed from our so-called Fayette County leaders and politicians. A “Can Do We Build” attitude. A “Can Do, We Build” logo should be the county standard bearer for the county.

Bill Rostich is a resident of Footdale.

How could Commissioners Vicites & Lohr say this with a straight face? Their wasteful spending of tax $$ and taking FACT buses away from other routes

Commissioners Vince Vicites and Dave Lohr attempted to explain their fiscally irresponsible actions during a recent candidate forum.  They were asked about the FACT buses transporting MATP consumers to Carmichaels, Greene County, to the Greene Treatment Center for opioid addiction.(Fayette Treatment Center LLC dba Greene Treatment Center).

We as Commissioners can take action to have New Seasons included in the “in network”. New Seasons treats opioid addiction but because New Seasons is not “in network” patients receiving medical assistance cannot use New Seasons treatment center. Even Gov Wolf’s Press Release says MATP requirements need changed.  Because of Vicites & Lohr, many patients are driven to Greene County on FACT buses which is a longer drive, more fuel & more cost. Plus these trips takes the FACT buses away from other routes which  serve other residents. New Seasons is located on Route 51 Uniontown and the FACT bus drives right past it on the way to Greene County.

Commissioner Dave Lohr at the forum said he told New Seasons to connect with Highlands Hospital.  Listen Commissioner Lohr… New Seasons wishes to be an “in network” provider.  Connecting with Highlands Hospital does not accomplish that.

Commissioner Vince Vicites at the forum claimed that other counties look to Fayette County when choosing programs etc. Really?  Why would counties look to Fayette when Fayette is at the bottom of the list?

Why do Vicites and Lohr send patients to this Greene County facility?  James Jones, owner and James Zalar, project director gave $5,150 in campaign contributions as reported.   ($5000 to Lohr and $150 to Vicites this reporting period)

Vicites said zero county tax $ used for MATP. While he is correct that MATP is state money why would he want to waste state money that comes in Fayette County?  County tax $ does pay for FACT operations (state & federal pays too)  2019 county general fund budget paid $200,000.  In 2016 we paid $150,000 and in 2017 paid $250,000 and in 2018 paid $250,000

Commissioners Vicites and Lohr should not waste any tax dollars regardless if it is county, state or federal.  They claim they are fiscally conservative and want to run the county like a business.  Neither of them should be re-elected.

Attend the “Learn the truth about Fayette County’s substance abuse epidemic” by attending event at New Season, 1023 Pittsburgh Road, Uniontown, on Wednesday, May 15th at 7pm-10pm.

 

 

How Vicites & Lohr spends your tax $$$

Last week a FACT bus was stopped at a red light. I noticed something odd so I took a cellphone picture because I could not believe my eyes.  This is what I learned. Commissioners Vicites and Lohr instructed the FACT office to place the verbiage on the bus.  Vicites apparently said that neighboring counties do this, however, upon checking with neighboring counties that is not true.  And regardless, even if neighboring counties did that still would not make it right. Maybe that’s way those Commissioners in those counties didn’t do it!!!   FACT had the verbiage put on the bus this past January 2019 using money from the county general fund. Our tax dollars. County tax $ should not be used as a PR for commissioners. I was not asked about doing this most likely because they knew I would not agree. The Board of Commissioners (and they specifically put our names) did not fund the bus. The taxpayers of Fayette County funds the bus. It is unethical and fiscally irresponsible to use county tax $ in this manner.

Did you mail Christmas cards this year or last? Have you decreased your list because of the rising postage? Well Commissioner Dave Lohr, a self-exclaimed fiscally conservative true Republican mailed cards using the county Pitney Bowes postage machine, postage cost, county paid labels, and county staff to process the mail in order to send his Christmas cards. I inquired about this when it occurred and he failed to respond. I reminded him yearly not to do this. I also asked for him to repay the county general fund however I have seen no refund.  Commissioner Lohr also attempted to process a requisition for reimbursement for parade candy awhile back to which I wrote on the requisition NO. I did not see a reimbursement to him so perhaps he at least realized he and not county taxpayers should pay for the candy that he tosses to children at parades.

Have you noticed the campaign picture of Commissioner Vicites? It was taken in his office by a county employee who worked at an agency which receives state funds ( I am confirming whether we give county $ to that agency as well). When this employee came to the commissioners office with camera in hand I inquired why the employee was here. I was told by the employee “to take Commissioner Vicites picture”. A few days later Vicites’ new photo was uploaded to his Re-elect Face Book page and you see it on his billboards.  I am investigating if the employee was on own time, own camera etc.   Vicites also should not have been doing campaign activities in his commissioner office.

And finally, recently an internal decision was made by 2 commissioners to pay for bereavement flowers etc for county staff from the county general fund.  At times, the card reads, condolences from the Commissioners Office.  We as Commissioners should reach into our pockets to pay for flowers not reach into the county taxpayers pockets.

 

Support MATP & waste $326,000 plus at the same time

PA counties are scrambling to issue Resolutions in support SB 390/HB 986 that would delay the implementation of MATP (medical assistance transportation) brokerage model. Why? Because in June 2018, in the final hours of passing the State Budget the state legislature adopted HB 1677 which directs DHS (Dept Human Services) to provide MATP through a state/regional brokerage system.  Counties say having a state/regional brokerage system would negatively impact current programs.  I agree that a delay should be implemented and while in Harrisburg I (and Vicites/Lohr)advocated as such.

Now the double-standard.

Fayette County, using FACT buses, transports MATP riders to Greene County at a cost of more than $326,000 through 2018 rather than using a Fayette County facility.  State law requires patients must have access to an In-Network provider within a 60 minute drive.  Fayette County meets this requirement by driving patients to Polaris (Fayette Co) and to Greene Treatment Center (Greene Co).   Why waste tax dollars, take FACT buses away from other trips, have patients on a FACT bus for a longer time and actually ride right pass New Seasons in Fayette Co?

New Seasons (located on Rt 51) could be designated as an In Network facility thus eliminating the need for FACT buses to drive to Greene County.

I have heard so many excuses it is mind boggling.  Commissioner Vicites said “its not that far” when FACT staff discussed the cost and tying up FACT buses.  Both Commissioners Vicites and Lohr said they do not want another meth clinic in Fayette Co yet both are waiting for the 2nd Polaris (Rt 119) to open its doors.

Political decisions continue to be made in Fayette County.  Only with a new Board of Commissioners in January 2020 can things change because I can never get a 2nd vote or a 2nd commissioner to make decisions for the Right Reasons & In the best interest of our County.