Hotel creates 12 jobs
Neither a RANT nor a RAVE, but a mention of confusion reading today's "Connellsville welcomes Cobblestone Hotel to town" in the Courier. Although talk
long linked a Connellsville former county employee/political publicist and former county commissioner as investors in the hotel, today's piece is the first
known public disclosure of that fact.
While the former one-term pyrite prison promoting county commissioner likely had no moral or legal requirement to have disclosed publicly while in office that
he was or had invested in the new 55-room hotel -- that is, if the investing happened before losing re-election -- his pal, on the other hand, possibly should
have, but failed to -- i.e., at least by what we read then in the paper -- disclose the investment while he sat on the board of the Connellsville Redevelopment
Was the former Redevelopment Authority member already on board, in active investment planning in the fall of 2015, when heraldstandard.com's
"Connellsville Redevelopment Authority pays bills for proposed hotel project," said the Authority was administering a $100,000 grant from a private Pittsburgh
foundation for hotel pre-development costs? Given hotel sewage and parking plans were approved in 2014 in a public city council meeting, it's a question
Five months earlier, in April of 2015, the same paper notes that Authority members voted unanimously to "become a limited partner" in the hotel by investing
the $100,000 grant in the hotel.
Meanwhile, in August of 2015, the investor abstained without stating a reason and other Authority members and, seemingly also citizens and the press,
failed to ask why. As per the Trib's "Purchase paves the way for razing of Connellsville building," (adjacent to the hotel) the Authority:
"...approved a motion to rework an agreement with Trailside Lodge LLP, the group hoping to build a hotel on Connellsville's West Side. Trailside has
a promissory note with the authority for $50,000, and payments on the note were due to start in 2015.
“We will redo the note with Trailside and with the Mc-Kenna Group,” said Michael Edwards, executive director of the authority. Authority member
Robert Flockvich made the motion to rework the agreements. It was seconded by Mancuso. Gallo abstained."
Rants&Raves so wishes the hotel much, much success, in spite of the former commissioner's involvement. This column will never rebound completely or
likely ever believe in any politician again enough to endorse another, for that immensely disappointing performance over four years and status as the worst
commissioner in county history. His side-kick pal, whose company name was linked to nasty political graphics in the last mud-slinging election, certainly
didn't score any points here, either, by announcing now that he really is an investor, as sources a few years ago reported he was. Controversy only lessens
the integrity of any public funded entity, even when private grant money is involved.
Nobody wants to hold any of that against the success of the hotel, however. The city needs a hotel. The city needs jobs and more than just the 12 hotel
workers working now.
What the area does not need is another nuisance bar and investors not profiting enough to contemplate a return to public service . May it never, never
come to that. (24 Feb 17)
Paper error? Or did we all miss something?
RANTS that today's above mentioned Courier piece seems to contain incorrect information on one point. The article referenced hotel investor Geno Gallo
as the county airport's director.
A quick check with an airport authority member and county official, meanwhile, showed neither was aware of such title, appointment, hiring or airport re-
organization. (24 Feb 17)
RTK appeals increase across the state
RAVES for the significant number of private citizens who filed Right To Know appeals with the state's Office of Open Records after being denied information
by local government entities on goods and services funded with public money.
As per the Bucks County Courier Times' piece, "More people fighting to access public records in Pennsylvania," the number of RTK appeals has more than
doubled since the law was enacted in 2009. Private citizens filed about one-third, or 1,144 RTK appeals, while the other 2,926 appeals filed in 2015
included only 134 requests from media and 224 appeal requests from private companies. The state does not have statistics for 2016 available yet.
Inmates incarcerated across the commonwealth in 2015 filed 1,414 appeals, largely for court records and ridiculous information such as a pop star's high
school records, future prison menus, etc. The bulk of inmate appeals were denied, including more than 500 from one inmate. Government officials submitted
less than one percent of appeals.
The OOR tracks only appeals, not the original RTK requests that are filed around the state.
As per the investigative piece from Bucks County Courier Times, the OOR granted, at least partially, about 30 percent of those appeals. About 22 percent
were dismissed. Another eight percent are appeals that were pending, consolidated with other requests or transferred to another agency that had jurisdiction.
Nearly 40 percent of appeals were dismissed because of procedural errors -- the requester filed too early, too late or didn't fill out the correct form.
Nonetheless, RAVES to all of those who ask for information under RTK and file appeals when denied information.
Perhaps one day, those in charge of spending public money may actually "get it" -- i.e., that the public has a right to know how its tax dollars are spent --
and one day may just cheerfully provide the information or answers without nailing the door shut and being forced by law to release it. (17 Feb 17)
WTAE TV spanks Fay CYS
RANTS that an investigative news feature of children dying after abuse or neglect was reported brought Fayette County Children and Youth Services to the
spotlight on WTAE TV, in "Investigation finds child welfare system errors in child abuse deaths."
As per the television report, relatives of a child who died after being punched in the stomach advocated for her welfare weeks before her death, as they did
also for her sibling six months earlier.
However, CYS, as per a state Human Services official, failed to even call back the relative to inquire of the whereabouts of the children and their parents.
The family was said to be openly staying nearby in a parked car.
RANTS that with more staff added a few years ago, another child still died in Fayette after reports of abuse were made to the local child protective service
agency. There is no excuse for such negligence. None whatsoever. After all, these were not anonymous callers reporting nonsense.
While the turnover was high for lower level caseworkers and some were new staff at the time of the child's death, management has pretty much stayed the
same there. RANTS that management didn't keep up with assigning cases and getting their own behinds or those of new staff out the frigging door to look
for kids in trouble.
RANTS, too, that with two county commissioners already seeming to be running for re-election in 3 years and afraid of being sued by staff, we all know that
half-assed business as usual at the county child protective services will, yes, be allowed to continue as usual.
In other words, helpless kids in Fay are going to keep on being murdered or killed AFTER reports of abuse are made to the county department. (16 Feb 17)
Before hell freezes over?
Will Vicites apologize to Zimmerlink?
RANTS that Commissioner Vince Vicites, his assistant, or Vicites on behalf of the assistant, owes but probably won't ever provide Commissioner Angela
Zimmerlink with a public apology over her not being invited earlier this month to the round table discussion on opioid abuse, coordinated by the governor's
Possible RANTS, too, to Commissioner Dave Lohr and his assistant, if either or both were aware prior to the event that everyone but Zimmerlink was notified
to attend the governor's meeting and if they then chose not to tell her, either.
While on the subject, one-half of a RAVE for the heraldstandard.com ed opin piece, "Good visit," which talked about the governor's meeting and took issue
and laid blame on Vicites for not informing Zimmerlink of the event. One half a RAVE as opposed to a whole one, however, it shall be since the paper's
sentiment is "we're certain there was no ill intention on the part of Vicites" for the invitation mix up.
Why is the paper so certain?
Apparently, nobody at the paper read or believed the warden's filed county harassment complaint against Vicites, in which the warden claimed Vicites
referred to Zimmerlink in angry expletives as an "f'ing b." Apparently, also, is the fact that nobody in ed opin attends meetings or watches their own meeting
videos or maybe watches, but don't care to care when Zimmerlink states publicly that not all paperwork is shared with her.
Paperwork, invitations... it's all the same and all so wrong. (26 Jan 17)
Tale of same RTK sent to state, county
RANTS that the same Right To Know request -- to obtain copies of invitations sent to all three county commissioners to meet with the governor for a county-
wide opioid and heroin epidemic discussion -- drew such different responses.
As per Fayette County's RTK answer, a search of documents was conducted and no explanation is given as to why or how the snafu happened. "As a result,
the records you requested do not exist in Fayette County’s possession."
In sharp contrast, the professionally prepared Right To Know answer from the state, also received yesterday, at least attempts to try to locate an answer the
RTK. (25 Jan 17)
Second Worst Job Around: County Human Resource Rep
RAVES that so many of the rest of us have jobs we love and that we never, never have to drag our behinds to the courthouse to work as human resource
RANTS of genuine sadness that the county human resource reps have what must be the very worst or second worst job in the county. Our hearts truly go
out to them.
RANTS that the interim human resource reps, attorneys from a law office, have to get bogged down by handling and investigating what too often end up
being unfounded complaints of harassment or other offensive nature within the county employment system. RANTS that those human resource reps must
deal with frequent drama kings and queens overreacting and grandstanding with largely empty, bogus workplace complaints. Seriously, that job has to be
emotionally and physically draining.
Of course, there is only one other for whom we feel sorrier for than the county HR rep...
Worst Job Around: Commissioner Zimmerlink's
RANTS that a county commissioner has to go off in public in 2017 as Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink did, towards the end of the last county
commissioner's meeting, during public comment before adjournment. RAVES to her, however, for informing the public of the new wave of employee
grievances against her and that all correspondences are not being shared with her.
Whether it's an undelivered invitation to an important meeting with the governor or whether it's letters from citizens wanting to serve on county boards or
authorities that she says she did not receive, there's possibly that underhanded, inner office mail problem that did not go away with the shenanigans of the
RAVES of hope that the other two commissioners wise up quickly and start sharing all information with the third and insist that their staff do so in their
absences. The easiest way either can win re-election is to work cooperatively with Zimmerlink now. (25 Jan 17)
Airport has $13K in the bank!
RAVES of happiness and joy reading the piece on today's heraldstandard.com, "Fayette County airport operating with a budget surplus," which states that
the small municipal airport ended last year with about $13,000 in the bank.
As per the story, the airport anticipates increased revenue after the new corporate hangers are constructed and leased. RAVES of hope that the place
actually does become financially self-sustaining, as one authority member is quoted in the paper as saying it already is. How much, for instance, would be
left of $13K in the bank if the airport authority had to make payments on the $140,000 for a large door funded through county gaming funds? Currently, few
flights take off, land or buy fuel at the local airport.
As per 2015 newspaper articles about the proposed costs of the replacement airport hanger door, the airport authority was to put up and match the county's
kind gift of $120,000 in county gaming money with a $20,000 payment from airport authority funds expected, to pay for the $140,000 door.
The previous year, in November of 2014, the airport manager wrote to the county commissioners asking that an unused 2010 gift from the county of $50,000
be used for airport to pay off a few past due fuel invoices.
RAVES of hope that the airport leases all the new hangers and sells a lot of fuel so that it really does become self-sustaining in the true sense. (19 Jan 17)
FOX rejects 84's Superbowl tv ad
Neither a RANT nor a RAVE, but a noted moment or three of embarrassment viewing KDKA television news earlier this evening with tourists, as the story
aired that FOX Television rejected 84 Lumber's proposed 90-second spot during the Superbowl for being politically offensive. The network airing the
Superbowl agreed to air only a revised or edited commercial from 84 Lumber, said to cost $10 million.
Apparently, a scene with a wall filmed in Mexico and California with the ad text talking about 84's desire to job search by spreading a wider net to those who
are outside the box.
FOX, reportedly, took offense to the unstated but implied notion that the ad was geared to appeal to applicants of questionable citizenship or forms of
identifications. What appeared to be a large group of online teens in restaurant-like booths were shown busy at work recreating the commercial changes.
We'll leave it at that. (18 Jan 17)
V. Vicites voted to hire investigator to investigate V. Vicites???
As per a Right To Know answer received, the investigation that resulted from the county jail warden's filing of a Harassment Complaint against
Commissioner Vince Vicites was handled by Investigations by King LLC, to the tune of a $1,011.42 fee.
Because the warden's complaint mentioned alleged negative comments from the commissioner about female attorneys named as interim county human
resource directors, an outside investigative entity was contracted to avoid a conflict of interest.
However, as per county commission online meeting minutes, all three commissioners voted unanimously to contract with Investigations by King, LLC on
October 20, 2016, for an unspecified human resource matter. In other words, readers, RANTS that Vicites did not show good sense to abstain or recuse
himself from voting to hire someone to investigate an employee's claim of harassment against him. If he claims ignorance, then even bigger RANTS are sent
his way, if he were to claim he didn't realize what the matter for vote before him was about and he cast a vote on any matter anyway.
RANTS that the commissioner, accused in the employee complaint of wanting to hire someone outside the regular hiring process, seemed to want to keep
quiet from the public the nature of the investigation in the motion last October at the time he voted to hire the investigator.
RANTS, because logic that flawed might have kept the warden's complaint against him under raps for a little longer, but eventually only creates controversy
and mistrust with the public and provides the warden's lawyer with ammo for civil cases against the county or appeals thereof. (18 Jan 17)
Who investigated warden's complaints about Vicites?
In follow up to the below piece from 12Jan17, "Warden accuses commish of trying to bypass hiring process for jail hire," RANTS that these types of
complaints cost the county in other ways, too.
For instance, since lawyers who are working as interim human resource reps were named in the complaint, an outside investigator seems likely to have been
contracted to interview Vicites and the warden.
There is no reason to doubt courthouse and jailhouse sources who say that the warden's complaint pretty much sat for a few months before any real action
to investigate his complaints were made.
Miller contended in his late June Harassment Complaint against Vicites that the commissioner wanted someone hired at the jail who hadn't properly gone
through a hiring process and that Vicites reportedly vowed to have fired the female lawyers working as the county's interim human resource piece for
somehow having a hand in that with the warden.
In response to Miller's complaint against him, Vicites is said to have denied cussing Miller out on the phone, denied hanging up on him and reportedly
claimed Miller's complaint of him was politically motivated.
To help support his claim that the warden's complaint against him was politically motivated, Vicites, as per snickering courthouse and jailhouse sources,
reportedly provided to the investigator a group photograph taken in a happy social setting of the warden, a former commissioner and spouse, two of that
former official's political hires, and a campaign contributor of that former commissioner who was suddenly given a big five-year county contract the last days
his friend was in office.
Meanwhile, the photo, just possibly, could have also been a same photo that the warden could have presented in his different case against the county for
picking on him for his political pals.
That all said, a Right To Know is sent to learn the name of the investigator contracted to investigate Miller's allegations against Commissioner Vince Vicites,
the cost of this investigation, and a copy of the report, if available yet. (16 Jan 17)
Airport former employee won $20K unfair labor civil suit
As per a Right To Know answer from the Connellsville Hardy Airport Authority, a former airport lineman who sued the airport last year after his termination for
unfair labor practices, was awarded a $20,000 settlement in 2016.
The Right To Know answer also notes that there were no other out of court or court ordered settlements made with former airport employees during the
years of 2010 through the original Right To Know request five months ago.
Readers here recall that the airport authority deferred making an immediate decision and opted to take another 30 days to reply to the Right To Know
request -- i.e., to learn the total dollar amount of any and all settlements paid to former airport employees, over formal grievances, or complaints of hostile
work environment or unfair labor practices.
"This inquiry can include any and settlements made out of court to stop a lawsuit from proceeding or any settlements made as a result of EEOC actions," the
Right To Know begged to know.
The Right To Know inquiry filed last August named two specific former airport employees, but also wanted to "address any complaints filed against current or
former management, not limited to" just those two named, from 2010 through August of 2016.
RAVES to the airport folks for doing the right thing and releasing the information. (16 Jan 17)
Thanks to nice people at Subaru for making sure that a large envelope of unopened mail made its way back here. Left by mistake in a car at trade-in on an
exciting new car purchase day, the manila envelope was packed that morning with unopened mail at the post office before sliding under the seat and
forgotten, when personal contents were transferred from one vehicle to the next.
Governor, Vince&Dave forget, intentionally forget that Fay has 3 commissioners?
RANTS to this commonwealth's governor for the noticeable absence of all three Fayette County commissioners at yesterday's sit down forum of area leaders
meeting with him at Highlands Hospital to talk about the opioid drug war going on around us.
As per a hospital source, the governor's office coordinated the sending of invitations for the event to area political and media members. Presumably, all three
county leaders were thought to be attending.
Given that the forum also focused on a possible opioid treatment plan for the county jail, RANTS that the top Republican vote getter in the last election was
not invited to participate.
Even bigger RANTS, however, are in order for Commissioners Vince Vicites and Dave Lohr for failing to make sure all of Fayette voters were represented at
that meeting. Do these guys have the words "Lame Duck" written on their foreheads, or what? The governor's office has been asked for comment.
A Right To Know is sent to the state capital office to obtain the invitation list or to see if an invitation had been sent. RANTS galore if one were sent, but
possibly got intercepted and intentionally kept from the third commissioner. (14 Jan 17)
Warden accuses commish of trying to bypass hiring process for jail hire
RANTS that it appears that much of our current board of county commissioners could not have been paying close attention to the antics and wrongdoings of
the prior administration to have learned from past mistakes. A real pity, indeed, for Fayette County.
For instance, readers here are too familiar with public discontent over past officials returning favors with political hires who did not apply or interview formally
with the county.
Readers are too sickeningly familiar, too, with officials who would and do stab one another in the back instead of focus on working together productively for
Fayette residents. RANTS because it still appears to be going on in this changed and current board of commissioners as well.
In a copy of a Harassment Complaint that he filed seven months ago, Fayette County Warden Brian Miller and the target of Miller's complaint, Commission
Chairman Vince Vicites, seemingly both needed their mouths washed out with soap -- that is, if Miller's account of the heated exchange between him and
Vicites is accurate. The document was mailed here, supposedly, from jail staff, and is authenticated by two sources.
Due to the sexist and profane wording of the complaint, readers are cautioned, before clicking on the link above, that the alleged exchange between the two
professionals in Miller's account is plum nasty. Both Vicites and Miller have been asked for comment. (12 Jan 17)
Warbucks b slaps Fay, Tom, Dick, Harry, Sally
RANTS that Daddy Warbucks up the mountain packed quite the mighty bitch slap wallop to all area 20-something men, by plopping down about $10 Million
for a hiring plea to air as a Superbowl television commercial. The commercial is said to announce the possibly senile lumber company owner's job search to
locate 20-something men seeking a career, as opposed to those, for instance, seeking but a mere job.
RANTS, also, that Warbucks' slap in the face to area young men gave him the other free hand to deliver an equally powerful slap to area women. Media
stories about the Superbowl television commercial specifically are quoted as saying the locally bought ad clearly wants to appeal to 20-something men,
apparently in all areas of the world that view the Superbowl.
When Warbucks' hands were left stinging from slapping the local 20-somethings, RANTS that he then, naturally, reduced himself to another low, kicking
locals, 30 or older, in search of better employment, in the gut.
RAVES if the $10 million wager on Superbowl airtime works and his lumber company and resort become profitable enough that he won't ask for any
additional public or working tax payer funded tax breaks to keep his businesses financially operational. Warbucks or his companies have received tens and
tens of millions of dollars of low interest loans in bankroll, by borrowing into public funds from Fayette County, Washington County, state and federal fund
For instance, in 2011, his lumber company received $20 Million in Federal loans to pay off the remains of a crushing $195 million, 18-percent interest loan.
The following year, in 2012, Fayette County sponsored the same lumber company a $15 million loan request. Fayette's generosity to the lumber company
came at a time when monthly sales at Warbuck's lumber company decreased from $5 billion to about $1 billion. Those two huge low interest loans followed
an earlier $5 million low-interest loan from Washington County, as part of a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program aimed at maintaining and
Meanwhile, today's local paper* online states that other smaller tax gifts were bestowed upon Warbucks' other business, a hotel, with three LERTA breaks
on new construction.
RANTS because after all that borrowing from public funds largely generated by working class people of all ages in this part of the state, Warbucks gambles
$10 million to attract 20-something males from all over the world. He seems to have drawn the same dismal conclusion as the late state representative who
declared at his last candidate's debate that we've lost this entire generation to heroin locally.
RANTS that Warbucks seemed to have had more of a grip on reality when he funded breast enlargements for pretty young area flat women and paid
$80,000 for Jimmy Page's handwritten "Stairway To Heaven" lyrics for one of the recipients of those said enlargements. (10 Jan 17)
*heraldstandard.com, "Uniontown Area grants tax exception"
Warden sued again, over case already heard by Grand Jury
RANTS that the county jail warden is getting sued again and it seems so unlikely that this particular case, already heard much in part before a Grand Jury,
will just go away through motions court.
RANTS since large court settlements usually go hand in hand with disgusting cases of jail staff-to-inmate abuse such as this. Readers here know that this
case resulted from the beating and stomping of a shackled inmate by one county jail guard while two other guards held the inmate, back in March of 2015. It
wasn't bad enough he beat the man silly, the county paid staff also pushed the inmate down a flight of jail stairs when the beating ended.
As previously stated here in "Well run county jails don't draw a Grand Jury, do they?" and in newspapers, the vicious physical assault was video-recorded.
Although the county warden certainly wasn't one of the men on video who beat or held the inmate that day, the warden is sued because he is said to have
known about the violent nature of the guard who beat and stomped the inmate but, reportedly, did not discipline the guard.
In fact, the guard kept working but later was fired. He was not charged until after other guards testified about the attack before the Grand Jury that followed.
While the others were not criminally charged along with the fired guard, they are also named in this new civil suit against the warden and the fired guard.
RANTS to think that a such a violent goon squad was obviously protected from immediate termination or charges until after a Grand Jury had to hear the
matter. That someone so once protected, by the way, now serves time on burglary charges in Greene County. (10 Jan 17)
A White Orthodox Christmas: a safer bet than rain on Rain Day
RAVES this very snowy overnight, leading into the first hours of Orthodox Christmas Eve, that some will get their white Christmas.
Locals who follow the Julian calendar, more often than not, get their wish for a snowy white Christmas to celebrate their religious holiday.
This time around, the snow started right on cue. (6 Jan 17)
Today's fix for The Great Music Sickness
RAVES to the Trib for bringing back music writer Rege Behe for occasional features, and to Behe for interviewing this column's favorite Pittsburgh song
writer, Norman Nardini, in today's piece, "Rocker Nardini better than ever after 50 years."
RAVES that those of us afflicted with The Music Sickness finally found something of quality in the papers to read and smile about today. Nary a week
passes here when someone is in touch to ask about Nardini and pass along one of his or her favorite Norm stories.
RAVES, especially, that when asked who among all musicians, past or present, whom he would like to have played with, he lists a few big time writers and
performers, but also is quick to state with pride that he got to play with former Diamond Reo mates Frank Czuri and the late Warren King, as well as the late
RAVES to Double N for still wanting to rock us in the few venues still left for live bands to perform and for all his efforts to entertain nursing home dementia
patients with Sinatra classics on piano. (4 Jan 17)
In regard to Bullskin auto thieves
Westmoreland County Prison gets a reprieve; Fay not so lucky
RANTS that Fayette County's jail population overnight grew by one, a Westmoreland heroin using car thief, packing a loaded stolen gun and leading more
state troopers than anyone here in Bullskin ever recalls seeing gathered, for a most difficult man hunt, in the rainy fog.
RAVES to the police for nabbing at least half of the toxic duo, who crashed one stolen truck into a home and caught on fire, crashed a stolen van through a
garage door and into a ditch and tried to steal a third vehicle owned by someone with a gun who shot at the suspect.
RAVES to the observant convenience store clerks for stalling the soaking wet man hours later with his fast food order to keep him inside until police returned
to take him into custody. RANTS, yes, that one is still on the run and that the Westmoreland junkie in custody in Fayette might not ever give up the identity of
his partner in crime. RANTS that entry doors and windows in these parts are still locked and double checked... and in many cases, guns or rifles remain
propped if needed.
RAVES, nonetheless, that the scary drama that played out here in Bullskin yesterday into the wee hours seems to have almost ended today. Almost. (4 Jan