Fayette Co Jail – Commissioner Dave Lohr says was just talk

Hearing radio ads of Commissioner Dave Lohr has many wondering where he’s been.  Lohr wants you to re-elect him on Nov 5th. Lohr says before he took office there was only “talk” about building a new jail.  There was much more than talk and he knows it.  4 years and $4million.  The money the commissioners spent negatively impacted the county’s Moody Rating…and Lohr claims he improved the Moody Rating since taking office! Really. Lohr needs to tell the voters just how bonds, loans etc are being paid back. He also is taking credit for getting the armory site for a dollar.  Property owned by government entities are transferred between entities for a dollar. He knows it (so does Vicites). The prior administration looked at the armory site & could have gotten the site for a dollar too (read the news articles) but they didn’t want that site they wanted the site by the county airport.

Now for the MOU which Democratic Chairman George Raatay speaks about giving Vicites credit saying the labor unions will build the jail.  That MOU passed by Zapotosky/ Vicites was rescinded by Ambrosini /Zapotosky then Ambrosini/ Zapotosky passed a new MOU which sets up a Project Labor Agreement says the construction projects having an aggregate cost to the County in excess of $500,000 must go through those unions.

Last month  Westmoreland County Commissioners were hit with a lawsuit over their Project Labor Agreement and it may happen to Fayette County and other counties as well.  You can read the 3 articles here                    Lawsuits against counties

HS Herald Standard reports   Tribune-Review reports

Finally, if you want to learn more about the proposed new jail obtain a copy of Prison

 

Fayette County Commissioners need to explain to taxpayers NOW – Zelenkofske Axelrod paid but no report given?

The auditing firm has been paid $17,000  invoices reqs checks.  But where’s the report?  This is wrong on so many levels.

By letter dated August 24, 2018 …Yes 2018 Zelenkofske Axelrod set forth an engagement between them and Fayette County regarding the Tax Claim Fund of Fayette County. Read the letter Aug ZA engagement ltr

About 30 days later, September 20, 2018, 2 commissioners (Lohr/Vicites) voted to enter into the agreement, for an amount not to exceed $17,000. See MinutesMinutes

Understanding it takes time to complete the task, I waited for about 6 months before, internally, asking for a copy of the report. I was told each time by the Tax Claim Bureau and Controllers Office that neither were in receipt of it.

By email of June 4, 2019, the auditing firm said they are working on it and hope to have a draft in the next 30 days. See ZA email

By handwritten note dated July 16, 2019 to Vicites/Lohr I asked if they received a copy. No response from either of them

Now more than a year later, by email of October 3, 2019, I again asked the auditing firm for a copy of the report. See ZA email

By letter of October 9, 2019, I wrote the auditing firm. See Oct letter to ZA

So ……….more than One Year later this is we were are:
1. I don’t have a copy of the report despite numerous requests
2.  Tax Claim Bureau & Controllers’ Office don’t have a copy of the report
3.  Vicites/Lohr refuse to respond whether they have a copy of the report
4. The auditing firm has refused to respond to me since June 4, 2019
5. The auditing firm submitted 4 invoices throughout this timeframe
6. Vicites/Lohr approved the 4 payments to the auditing firm
7. The controllers’ office & the computer system confirms invoices reqs checks
8. TheAug ZA engagement ltr states their findings in the “report will be addressed to the County of Fayette Board of Commissioners and Tax Claim Bureau”

Questions being asked by me AND should be asked by you
1. Why has the auditing firm refused to respond?
2. Why have both commissioners refused to respond?
3. Why did 2 commissioners (and county staff) process the last invoice without a report in hand?
4. Why did the county pay the last invoice without receiving the completed work i.e the Report?

As of today October 23, 2019 @ 2:35 pm the Tax Claim Bureau is not in receipt of the report; I am not in receipt of the report; the auditing firm has not responded to me; neither of my fellow commissioners responded.

So what, if anything, will be done?

 

 

 

 

 

Fayette Co Audit says different than Vicites Lohr & financial consultant

As Commissioner Vince Vicites and Commissioner Dave Lohr do their radio ads, websites and have their talking heads talk to get you to vote them back in for another 4 years…..they hope voters are not paying attention.  If you listen to their ads, social media posts etc one would think Fayette County is on the move !!  and they’ve corrected audit findings and got the county in good working order……  They touted their justification of paying  $$$ million plus for outside consulting and they hope to get re-elected and do it to you for another 4 years.

Everything is great they say… Well read the 2018 audit that was received a few days ago.

Here are the Findings & Questionable Costs of the 2018 Audit

Payroll Inmate DA Drug Taskforce                                                               procurement                                                                                                                             Tax Claim                                                                                                                           Annual Audits                                                                                                                         Accounting                                                                                                                                     CYS

no accountability from commissioners, vendors, solicitors and staff  — they’ve been in the majority; they’ve steered the ship

They hate that I say it They hate that I upload the documents They will probably threaten harassment, hostile workplace, etc but I don’t care Fayette County deserves better.

Incumbent commissioner candidate Dave Lohr radio ad disturbing about Fayette County’s Moody’s rating

In listening to Fayette County Commissioner Dave Lohr “vote for me ” radio ad asking voters to re-elect him because he “fixed” the county’s Moody Rating I shake my head in disgust.  Lohr claims to have fixed it when he took office 4 years ago. Really? Then why did Moody, earlier this month, write to Fayette County and why did the financial consultant not have the financials prepared and why did Lohr, Lynch, Vicites and staff attempt to keep this under wraps.

Moody wants a response saying that the county’s financials need to be submitted.  Then read Financial Consultant response (Sam Lynch whose company has been paid millions) that he sent to Vicites and Lohr and conveniently omitted me. (this isn’t the first time). When I became aware that our Moody rating was at risk AZ email to Moody.

It is truly pitiful to hear Re-elect me radio ads that are not truthful.  It is pitiful that the county’s paid financial consultant continues to omit me from important county issues. It is pitiful that two fellow commissioners continue representing Fayette County in this manner

So will you vote to re-elect them?

Monday’s Public Meeting recommended the new voting system

On Monday, September 23, 2019, the Fayette County Board of Elections (Angela Zimmerlink, Mark Mehalov, Matthew Jaynes) voted unanimously to recommend to the Fayette County Board of Commissioners to purchase new voting equipment from Dominion Voting.

Timeline of events

Throughout 2018 to present  Election Bureau staff and county commissioners attended various conferences at which time vendors displayed and/or demonstrated voting systems

1st quarter 2019  Election Bureau staff invited the certified vendors to their office for demonstrations

June 2019 Election Bureau hosted a 2-day public event (Friday/Saturday) for the certified vendors to demonstrate their voting system

September 23, 2019 Election Board held a public meeting and voted to recommend the Dominion Voting system. Also, the Board of Elections, via memo, requested that the Board of Commissioners to either hold a special meeting soon or at its October meeting enter into an agreement with the company so that the election bureau can prepare for this undertaking which includes staff training, election day worker training, and voter training. Both the resolution & memo will be provided to the BOC on Wed 9/25/19 (to read the resolution and the memo contact the election office).    Sheryl Heid, assistant county solicitor, normally attends the election board meetings and she was present for this one. Jack Purcell, a county solicitor, attended this meeting as well.

What’s next?

The Board of Commissioners, at a public meeting, will either accept the recommendation of the Election Board or will select another vendor/voting system and will need to enter into a contract for purchase either negotiating the price directly or using the CoStars Program. The DOS recommends using the CoStars program, and the BOC will need to determine if this will be an Outright Purchase or a 10-year Managed Service Agreement.

Also, funds will need to be placed in the upcoming 2020 general fund budget. The budget must be adopted by December 31, 2019. The DOS indicated that counties must procure new voting systems by December 31, 2019.

Additional Information 

Both newspapers were aware of this public meeting but neither attended. Accordingly, there was nothing in either newspaper.

Vendors were Clear Ballot, Dominion Voting, ES&S, Hart, Unisyn. For more information https://www.votespa.com/About-Elections/Pages/New-Voting-Systems.aspx

Members of the Election Board  The 3 county commissioners are the 3 election board members EXCEPT when commissioners are on the ballot. In this case 2 of the 3 are on the ballot (Vicites and Lohr). Accordingly, Mark Mehalov is serving in Vicites place and Matthew Jaynes is serving in Lohr’s place.

As per CCAP, pursuant to the DOS, counties must replace equipment by April 2020, but many are moving more quickly (or have moved already) to have equipment in place by November 2019 to enable a roll-out in a municipal election rather than a Presidential primary

Funding As per CCAP, counties seek funding from the state and federal government for equipment replacement – any dollars counties spend that does not come from state or federal funds will be property tax dollars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.