Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Supreme Court Not Impressed With Obama Team On Immigration

Supreme Court casts doubt on Obama’s immigration law claim

Supreme Court justices took a dim view of the Obama administration’s claim that it can stop Arizona from enforcing immigration laws, telling government lawyers during oral argument Wednesday that the state appears to want to push federal officials, not conflict with them.

The court was hearing arguments on Arizona’s immigration crackdown law, which requires police to check the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally, and would also write new state penalties for illegal immigrants who try to apply for jobs.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said the federal government has limited resources and should have the right to determine the extent of calls it gets about possible illegal immigrants.

“These decisions have to be made at the national level,” he said.

But even Democratic-appointed justices were uncertain of that.

“I’m terribly confused by your answer,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who went on to say that the federal government can always decline to pick up illegal immigrants when Arizona officials call.

Click the title to read more......

But the 53 Democratic Senators want to overrule the Supreme Court with new legislation stripping the states of their apparent rights.  Can you imagine that 53 residents of the United States have the audacity to tell over 308 million what to accept?

Congressman Lou Barletta's Election Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                  Contact: Lance Stange, Jr.

April 24, 2012                                                                                                                            

or 570-501-8683

U.S. Representative Lou Barletta congratulates Stilp

Looks forward to a spirited campaign

HAZLETON – U.S. Representative Lou Barletta released the following statement after the Primary Election results were known:

“I would first like to thank everyone who voted for me today. The warm welcome I continue to receive in Northeastern, Central, and South Central Pennsylvania has been incredibly encouraging.

“The people of the 11th District sent me to Washington to reign in out-of-control spending; cut excessive regulations; create a pro-growth, pro-jobs environment; and repeal Obamacare.  They want a domestic energy policy that works and lowers prices at the pump.  And, they want to make sure that the U.S. is secure from all threats.  That’s why they sent me, that’s what I’ve been fighting for, and that what’s I will continue to fight for.

“I would like to congratulate Mr. Stilp on his victory and I look forward to a lively and hard-fought campaign in the General Election.”

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vinsko and His Bill Troubles

In this Go Lackawanna article by Andrew Seder he highlights an unpaid school loan for Bill Vinsko who is making an attempt to garner the 11th Congressional District Democratic nod.

An outstanding student loan through Sallie Mae, incurred in 2000, is also listed totaling between $15,001 and $50,000.

Given Vinsko's wealth listed on his financial statement one has to wonder why he didn't pay off his student loan before amassing properties at the shore.

He also listed income through a rental property he owns in Brant Beach, N.J. He collected between $15,001 and $50,000 on the property last year. Three separate mortgages were taken out for that property. One through Hudson City Savings Bank was for between $250,001 and $500,000. Two others, through the Wilkes-Barre City Federal Credit Union, were each valued between $50,001 and $100,000.

Looking at the Property Database over at the Times Leader Bill Vinsko and his wife Paula own a property at Reliance Drive valued at $379,600.00 purchased in November, 2001.

According to state records Keystone Professional Pharmacy was started in April, 1999.

Further property search records reveal a tangle of tranactions concerning V Prop LLC.  V Prop appears to own the building for the address listed as Keystone Professional Pharmacy.  However it also owns the building where Judge William Amesbury kept his practice, 253 South Franklin Street, Wilkes Barre, PA.  It is no secret that Amesbury is not a fan of Lou Barletta.  Over at Pittston Politics Joe Valenti makes this observation.

You see, Bill Amesbury was in Vinsko’s law office from 2003 until he won a spot on the bench. And, I’m sure Vinsko was quite supportive of Amesbury’s run for judge.
Now it’s time to return the favor.

While a District Justice is not allowed to participate in any partisan politics and you’ll never see them at a political rally, the District Justice network is a tight organization that takes care of their own.

What is the point of all this property.?  Well Mr. Vinsko lists his income on his financial statement as follows.

Vinsko, according to his 2011 financial statement, earned more money working as the Wilkes-Barre city attorney than he did from the private practice he owns with his brother Brian. He reported $46,841 in earnings from the city and $35,000 in earnings from Vinsko & Associates P.C. He also listed salaries from Riverfront Abstract Co., $4,560, and VPharm Inc., $11,769. He has a 50 percent ownership stake in the abstract company located at 318 S Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, and serves as president of VPharm, a local pharmacy that serves nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

He should give lessons on how to amass such wealth in properties on such little income.  But let's forget that for a moment and look to New Jersey to see if Vinsko pays his bills.

According to this 2007 filing by the Supreme Court of New Jersey

the Trustees of the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (Fund) have reported to the Supreme Court the names of those attorneys who have neither made full payment to the Fund, the Disciplinary Oversight Committee, and the Lawyers Assistance Program for
the calendar year 2007, nor demonstrated that they are entitled to an exemption from making such

And the Court having had the Trustees send notice to each such attorney that unless all reporting and financial obligations were fully satisfied on or before August 24, 2007, his or her name would be published in the

New Jersey Law Journal and the New Jersey Lawyer together with an Order of the Court declaring him or her ineligible to practice law;


There are two more filings for 2008 and 2009.  As a result of his failure to pay into the fund for 2009 his license to practice in the state of New Jersey was administratively revoked by Supreme Court Order as linked on September 28,2009.

And this guy thinks he is a serious contender for a Congressional seat??  Uhhh.....okay.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

PNC Loan Default By The HCA

In the last post on the Hazleton City Authority and the Northeastern Building Saga that started in the late 1990's SOP covered the problem with MHT Holdings, Inc and Mark H. Trammel.  An internet check on Mark H. Trammel produced many stories about his development in the Hamburg section of Buffalo called Hickey Farms for senior and low income housing at the same time he was talking to officials at the HCA.  SOP has been trying to track down a relationship between Trammell and an attorney from Hazleton that has been floating around.

The HCA Board secured a  PNC bank loan in the amount of $500,000.00 for the Northeastern Bank Building project on March 26, 1995.  PNC Bank notified the HCA that is was in default on that note on March 27,1997.  A hold was placed on 4 DDA bank accounts of the HCA on April 11, 1997.

On April 16, 1997 PNC bank officials prepared a document that showed the HCA was behind 150 days( 5 months) on payments.  It was prepared John D. Nichols, Unit Manager.  That very same day officials of the HCA including Richard Ammon, Norbert O'Donnell, and John Mundie met with a PNC bank attorney. An agreement was made that funds above $250,000.00 were released so the HCA could pay its bills.  In addition Authority Board member John Mundie agreed to turn over to PNC representatives several items including rent rolls for the building, a listing agreement to sell the property, copies of the loan documents surrounding the loan from the City of Hazleton, and any financial information available.

On May 13, 1997 Attorney Barbara Sedella for PNC Bank wrote a letter that stated in part that as of that date she still was waiting for the information from Mr. Mundie.  “We are at standstill until such information can be viewed.”  Attorney Ferdinand for the HCA responds that the HCA is still waiting for the release of the hold on the remaining account of $250,000.00 despite the fact that HCA Board members previously agreed to the hold.  Attorney Sedella reiterates her request in a letter dated May 19,1997.
Attorney Ferdinand responds to Attorney Sedella May 20, 1997.  In part his letter states, “Recently another matter has surfaced in that Jack Mundie, board member who handles the finances of the Northeastern Building for the board, has advised that he can no longer pay the bills at the building.  He wishes to advise tenants to move in the very near future.
During this time the HCA Board members were also requesting the release of $250,000 Business Development Loan originally made by the City of Hazleton to MHT Holdings.  The HCA’s position was that the funds were needed to continue with the project despite MHT Holdings relinquishing any part in it.
On August 5, 1997 Ron Slusser,  Economic Development Officer, wrote a letter to Richard Ammon, President of the HCA in reference to the Enterprise Zone Loan of $250,000.00.  Slusser tells Ammon that the loan was specifically “to make safety improvements to the physical structure at 8 West Broad Street.  Further he says, “Since receiving the funds over one (June 1996) year ago, the Authority has failed to make the necessary improvements.
Due to the Hazleton City Authority’s failure to meet the conditions required in the Business Development Loan Agreement and Loan Application filed with the City of Hazleton, the City of Hazleton requests immediate payment of the $250,000.00.

It appears the HCA Board severely hurt the financial reputation of its entity with these problems.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Obama Needs To Revisit History

Obama vs. Marbury vs. Madison As published in the Wall Street Journal.

President Obama is a former president of the Harvard Law Review and famously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. But did he somehow not teach the historic case of Marbury v. Madison?

That's a fair question after Mr. Obama's astonishing remarks on Monday at the White House when he ruminated for the first time in public on the Supreme Court's recent ObamaCare deliberations. "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress," he declared.

I believe Obama misspoke.  He meant to day Democratically Controlled Congress.  Then his attack makes more sense.

Click on the link above to read the whole Opinion piece in the WSJ.

Obama Thinks The Supreme Court is an Enemy of the State

For the second time in two years President Obama is embarassing the Presidency with Chicago-style thuggery politics. 

Back in 2010 Obama, during the State of the Union address, attacked the Supreme Court's decision on campaign finance.  Most voters know that this President's malignant narcissism forces him into trying to provoke and manipulate those who disagree with his positions or Chicago politics.  He truly believes his grandiose legislation should turn into irrevocable actions by anyone.

He made this statement at that State of the Union address.

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections," Obama said. "Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."

Justice Alito promptly rejected his statement during the Address by mouthing "It's not true."  The President has a Supreme Court Justice tell him he is misleading or lying to the people.

The American Thinker wrote this assessment on Obamacare.

Obama is going for the "nuclear option" to force very bad and very toxic medicine down our throats. He is willing to sacrifice his congressional majorities to get the biggest, most budget-busting entitlement ever imagined into the permanent fabric of American national life. The main beneficiaries of Obamacare will be Obama's ego and the Permanent Left.

This is his chance to be FDR, and he can't control his need for that glorified image. He is therefore crossing the Rubicon -- making an irreversible decision that will define his presidency forever, win or lose. This is not just another grandiose gesture. Obama now stands revealed for what he is.

On Tuesday President Barack Obama during an official Presidential visit took the opportunity to initiate an unsettling attack the Supreme Court once again.

“I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench is judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law,” Obama said. “Well, here’s a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that, and not take that step.”

To be clear, I believe the individual mandate is both good policy and sound law, well within Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause. I think overturning the mandate would be bad not only for the country but for the court itself. Especially in the wake of Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, it would look like a political act to have the five Republican-appointed justices voting to strike down the law and the four Democratic appointees voting to uphold it.

This President once taught constitutional law yet he violates one of its basic premises.  It is not for the executive branch to interfere, bully, or manipulate the judicial branch.  It didn't take long for this egregious attack to backfire.

Appeals Court Calls President's Bluff on Obamacare

President Barack Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court appeared to backfire Tuesday, when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order giving the Justice Department until noon Thursday to state whether the administration truly believes courts lack the authority to strike down mandates that they determine are unconstitutional.

On Monday, Obama said that striking down his signature healthcare legislation would be an “unprecedented, extraordinary step” and would demonstrate a lack of “judicial restraint” by the Supreme Court.

He also pointed out that the nine Supreme Court justices are unelected, suggesting that it would therefore be undemocratic for them to overturn Obamacare, which narrowly eked through Congress by a seven vote margin in the House of Representatives.

“This is liberals in shock over watching their side being demolished in oral arguments,” Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday, pointing out the courts have had the authority to strike down unconstitutional provisions for over 200 years. “And [they are] trying to bully the Supreme Court into ending up on their side in a case which they clearly had lost intellectually and logically.”

The order from the 5th Circuit for the Justice Department to clarify its position on judicial authority came during a separate challenge to Obamacare brought by physician-owned hospitals.

As a Justice Department lawyer began arguing the government’s case, Appeals Judge Jerry Smith interrupted the presentation to ask if the 5th Circuit Court had the legal authority to strike down a law it finds to be unconstitutional. CBS News reports that when the government lawyer answered affirmatively, the judge stated that it was not clear to “many of us” that the president agrees.

The three-judge panel then gave the Justice Department until noon Thursday to provide a three-page letter clarifying whether it believes courts have the authority to pass judgment on the constitutionality of laws.

Obama knows he is wrong but the narcissism prevents him from not being himself.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Northeastern Building- HCA's Continuing Saga

At a recent board meeting  of the Hazleton City Authority board members were reminded of a decade old award stemming from a lawsuit involving the HCA and the Markle L.P. partners.  This saga is a tale of twisted decisions and questionable actions on the part of HCA officials as well as former Mayor John Quigley.  What is interesting is how much of this information never made it to the media.  A search of the Standard Speaker files located at the Hazleton library failed to provide a record of all of the dealings.

Why would such a story be relevant today?  Ratepayers of the HCA funded a loan received from the Office of Community Development of the City of Hazleton on December 18,1995.  As reported the Hazleton City Authority has an outstanding award in the amount of $250,000.00 as a result of that loan that was never collected in the seventeen years since.  The ratepayers are still on the hook for the money.

In the forthcoming series SOP is going to produce documents never made public before in an attempt to highlight the reason why Open Records is a necessity.

In a letter dated to Sam Monticello, Hazleton City Community Development officer, dated April 10, 1995 the HCA Industrial Division (HCAID) requested a $750,000 loan with an interest rate of 5% for a term of 15 years.  Board Chairman, Norbert O'Donnell also requested that the first two years of principal and interest be waived.  The desire at the time was to save the Northeastern Bank Building located in downtown Hazleton from continued deterioration.  The building was owned at that time by Dr. Gerald Andriole.

Dr. Andriole engaged the services of CECO Associates, Inc. to "conduct and inspect the structure to develop a proposal to the required professional services associated with installing the REQUIRED improvements so the compliance with the orders in the January 11,1994 correspondence be obtained."

Al Magnota, P.E. and Vice President of CECO Associates wrote this conclusion in that letter.

"Based upon the approval, the potential financial committment to acheive compliance with the said Orders in the January 11, 1994 correspondence would be approximately $1,400,000.00 including a 15% allowance for design and inspection services.  In my view this amount is significantly above the market value of these structures.  In addition you will lose net rentable space due to providing direct access to the fire rated second access from the eleven story building, not to mention the relocation and replacement costs from existing tenants you will incur.  Finally, I would doubt that the installation of the subject improvements will correspondingly increase the market value of the building and/or your ability to recoup your investment through increased rental charges.

Recognizing your commitment to installing the proper improvements that are feasible, I would suggest that a meeting be arranged with proper officials of Labor and Industry to determine which Orders can be vacated via the historic designation of this building and which improvements must be installed in order for an Occupancy Permit to be issued."

In March 16, 1995 Louis Valentas, Vice President at PNC Bank, wrote a letter to Norbert O'Donnell, Chairman, HCA, informing the HCA that a loan facility in the amount of $500,000.00 would be provided to the borrower, the HCA.  The interest rate would be 6% per year and payments would be made in equal installments of $4,220.00 over sixty months , based on a one hundred eighty (180) month amortization with a SUBSTANTIAL BALLOON PAYMENT due April 30, 2000.

According to the Business Development Loan Program (BDLP) Agreement the HCA listed the total project cost at $2,000,000.00(more on this later).  The HCA sought $250,000.00 from the BDLP as part of the financing needed for the entire project.  It was clear from this agreement that the $250,000.000 BDL "shall be used for the physical improvement of the structure."

There are inconsistencies in the application by the Hazleton City Authority Industrial Division to the City of Hazleton for a Enterprise Zone Business Loan Development Program dated April 10, 1995 with a request made later in the year.  On the Financial Request page the HCAID lists the following expenses:
Acquisition         $335,000.00  * (under negotiation)
Leasehold Improvements  $2,004,000.00
Architectural Fees      $140,000.00
Financial Fees       $6,000.00
Legal Fees            $10,000.00
Other                    $165,000.00
Total Project Cost   $2,660.000

However in a subsequent document, the Business Development Loan Program Agreement dated December 27, 1995 the total project cost is listed as $2,000.000.00
Private Debt Financing    $1,000.000.00
Private Equity                  $ 750,000.00
Business Development Loan Program (BDLP)  $250,000.00
Total Project Cost     $2,000.000.00

The first application was signed by Norbert O'Donnell, Chairman and Richard J. Ammon, Secretary and Treasurer.  The second agreement executed December 18,1995 was signed by Norbert O'Donnell, Chairman.  In less than a year the total project cost drops by $660,000.00 and nobody questions it.

In this document it is important to note that the $250,000.00 was specifically earmarked in item 1. for the Developer to perform:

Improvement of the fire safety system as per PA Dept of Labor and Industry and City of Hazleton Codes

On October 27, 1995 the Hazleton City Authority purchased the Northeastern Building from Northeastern Realty Inc. for the sum of $390, 321.95 according to a deed filed in the Recorder's Office of Luzerne County Book 2544 page 666 on October 31, 1995.  It is interesting to note that the Realty Transfer Tax Statement of Value lists a Fair Market Value for the building $820,480.00 despite the fact that of a PNC appraisal listing the amount of $195,000.00 and an previous auction that failed to get a bid above $100,000.00.

As part of the BDLP Agreement HCAID informed the Office of Community Development that they engaged a private developer, M.H.T. Holdings, Inc located at 37 Holloway Blvd. Buffalo, New York for the Northeastern Bank Building. 

For some reason, then Mayor John Quigley agreed to incumber the City of Hazleton to a IRREVOCABLE STANDBY LETTER OF CREDIT in the amount of $250,000.00 for the benefit of M.H.T. Holdings, Inc.  In his Opinion of Counsel, Attorney George Hluzdzik opined "It is my opinion that the CITY OF HAZLETON, upon execution of said Irrevocable Standby Letter of Credit, will be irrevocably committed, pursuant to the terms of said Letter of Credit, and that the said Letter of Credit, and all of the terms and conditions contained therein, are a binding, lawful, and legally enforceable contract under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," dated 12-27-1995.

The source of funds for this loan was contained in a "Contract For Enterprise Zone Program" between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Department of Community Affairs and the City of Hazleton.  The date of that agreement was 12-27-1995.  As collateral for this loan M.H.T. Holdings offered this property located in Buffalo, New York.

The blog "fix Buffalo" writes this piece about Mark H. Trammell of M.H.T. Holdings and the associated property.

In response to my previous post regarding the diocesen dis-investment plans, I received this comment from one of the most astute critics of Buffalo's mis-management and decline, Dick Kern.

"Thanks for taking up my longtime concern about Catholic abuse of power & use of govt funds to dispose of surplus property. . . now proposing to build more "new" while abandoning "old. Go look at the new Catholic church on the site of the old German Orphanage at Dodge & Northampton, surrounded by "Catholic" blight, which they sequentially dumped to corrupt Mark Trammell, son of corrupt City Court Judge Wilbur Trammell, who dumped to the city of Hazelton as bum security for a HUD loan, then to (Scott) Wizig of Houston, now to CAO. All while keeping the "shovel ready" center of the parcel for their own cheap use."
You can find pictures of the old German Orphanage by clicking here.  Dick Kern, mentioned in that blog post left this comment on another post.

That followed another scandal when disgraced Judge Wilbur Trammell's son bought the long-derelict parcel (564' X 355') from the Catholic Diocese for $25K - $30K. However, the Diocese cut a 'donut hole' for a new Catholic Church.

Trammell originally planned to develop HUD subsidized property on the site, calling it "Kimberly Park" (after his wife) as I recall. That plan encountered great community resistance in an area suffering massive vacancies.

Then Trammell went off to Hazelton PA & used the parcel as security on a $50,000 development loan to turn an abandoned building in downtown Hazelton into HUD-subsidized apartments. He alleged the parcel was worth several thousand dollars, its assessed value at the time.

He defaulted on the loan, so Hazelton took control of the property until it reverted to the City, eventually sold at tax auction to Wizig, along with his 300 to 400 other distressed tax-foreclosed parcels.

After causing mahem, Wizig was ultimately banned from Buffalo by Housing Court, so he "gifted" the parcel CAO since nobody else acceptable to the court wanted it.

Whether the Catholic Diocese should have managed their 'surplus' property in this manner is open to debate.

In a memo to City Council dated December 19,1995 , John H. Quigley, Mayor asks the Council to consider forgiving $150,000.00 of Community Block Grant money advanced to the HCAID for a parking feasibility study and a feasibility study of saving the Northeastern Building.  By resolution 95-140 and 95-141 the Council abided by the Mayor's request albeit the vote was 2-2.

The City of Hazleton entered into a Business Development Loan Program Agreement with M.H.T. Holdings Inc. on December 27, 1995.

In a letter to Ronald Slusser dated May 22, 1996 from the Hazleton City Authority Industrial Division, Mr. Charles F. Buckley, III, Executive Director informs the City of Hazleton that M.H.T. Holdings, Inc had relinquished their interest in the $250,000.00 BDLP loan.

Mark H. Trammell sent Charles Buckley, III a letter dated May 8, 1996 that stated "Due to recent project-related events, I, as president of MHT Holdings, Inc. relinquish our corporate interest in the loan referenced above [ Re: BDLP Agreement of 27 December 1995 ($250,000)].

Said loan is to be assigned back to the HCA-ID immediately without interruption."

Yet on October 21, 1996 Charles Buckley, III, Executive Director of the HCAID sent Ronald Slusser, City of Hazleton a letter that states in part  "The Northeastern Building is currently under an Agreement of Sale with MHT Holdings, Inc. of Buffalo, New York which has until November 30, 1996 to close on the Northeastern Building.  As per our agreement with M"HT Holdings, Inc. the HCAID has the right to pursue other potential developers for the Northeastern Building until they actually close on the property, and we are actively engaged in this process."  He goes on to explain that the Authority needs to advertise and award a construction bid so that the improvements mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry must at a minimum be in progress by December 31, 1996. 

However there is no question that the contents of his letter were at the least misleading to the City since Trammell indicated that he was no longer involved as of May 8, 1996.

It is worth noting that from the beginning the original owner of the building was told he could never recoup his investment if he plunked down $1,400,000.00.  Yet, for some reason the Board of the Hazleton City Authority Industrial Division in 1995 though they knew better.

In the next of this series SOP will discuss how the Board of the HCA put its finances in peril by defaulting on that $500,000 loan from PNC.