LEHIGH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
The computer consultant company Computer Aid, Inc., based in Allentown, finally saw a contract amendment approved 6-1 when Lehigh County Commissioners met May 23.
Commissioner Amanda Holt voted “no” on the amendment.
Commissioner President and Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives Marty Nothstein abstained from the vote. He had been closely linked with the contract since he received a campaign contribution from Computer Aid, Inc. The company later disclosed the contribution on a form required in connection with getting contracts with the county, according to Lehigh County Solicitor Sarah Murray.
Previously, Nothstein had returned the contribution made in violation of Lehigh County’s anti “pay-to-play” law enacted after Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was indicted by federal authorities in connection with illegal campaign contributions.
Also speaking in favor of approval, Commissioner Dr. Percy Dougherty said, “We hired Computer Aid to wean ourselves of that dependency. They have provided very good service.”
Washington Township resident Mary Hazzard, a retired Lehigh County employee, objected to approving the amendment. She said since Computer Aid, Inc. had made an illegal campaign contribution, they should not be granted the contract.
Speaking in support of approving the contract amendment, Commissioner Dan Hartzell said he had to go with the decision of the Lehigh County legal staff’s decision that since all the money had been returned by Nothstein, there was “no harm, no foul.”
Murray confirmed the contribution issue was resolved or, in her words, “cured of the defect” when Nothstein returned the money.
Two employees of Computer Aid, Inc. who attended the meeting, left the meeting immediately after the vote, refusing to make a comment or to identify themselves to The Press when asked.
Computer Aid, Inc. will continue to provide information technology management services until July 1 to Lehigh County to include Cedarbrook Nursing Home.
The amendment also added new language to the contract’s non-discrimination clause addressing “gender identity or expression,” a provision championed by Commissioner Amy Zanelli.
According to Lehigh County Fiscal Officer Timothy Reeves, Computer Aid, Inc. has three separate contracts with the county. One is an information technology management contract which earns the company $62,250 per month or $627,000 per year. Three people work full time under this contract.
A second contract is the enterprise resource planning contract for software which supports the county’s fiscal office, human resources office and payroll services. This contract, according to Reeves, is worth $16,500 per month or $198,000 per year.
The third contract with Computer Aid, Inc. supports Lehigh County’s Regional Intelligence Investigation Center established in 2013. This contract is not to exceed $2.8 million over three years.
The controversy over the “pay-to-play” ramifications of the campaign contribution connected to the history of the Computer Aid, Inc. contract sparked dialog among the commissioners of a possible need to establish an “ethics” board or commission.
The board gave preliminary approval for a donation of $5,000 to the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and another gift of $5,000 to the Pennsylvania Music Preservation Society. The donations were opposed by Emmaus resident John Donches who said he didn’t want “five people” deciding to spend taxpayer money on non-government organizations.
Frank Kane, with the Department of Community and Economic Development, responded to Donches’ complaint saying the source for such donation was not taxpayer money.
In other business, the commissioners accepted a donation from Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. Foundation of $5,000 to the Lehigh County District Attorney to “further goals and objectives of the Veterans’ Mentor Program.”
The Lehigh County Veterans’ Mentor Program was founded in 2011, according to the Lehigh County website, “to address the issues faced by a growing number of veterans involved in the criminal justice system.”
The latest donation by Air Products and Chemicals Foundation brings the total amount donated by the charity to $35,000.
Purchase of an 18.4-acre plot of land from Upper Milford Township for $70,000 was approved by the county commissioners as part “an attempt to implement the goals of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.” The plot is located at 4052 S. Second St., Emmaus. The settlement date for the purchase is July 13.
The commissioners gave tentative approval in a first reading vote to convey Lehigh County ownership of a 24.091-acre plot to South Whitehall Township which is also a joint owner. The property is adjacent to Covered Bridge Park and near the intersection of Herman Lane and Wehr Mill Road. According to the proposed ordinance, South Whitehall Township agrees to use the land for “outdoor recreation and education” which will “benefit the public.”
The commissioners appointed Mark Scott to Lehigh County’s Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities Board. His term will expire Dec. 31, 2020.
Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong reported the lighting of the Soldiers and Sailors monument at Seventh Street and Hamilton Boulevard will be delayed until Sept. 22. The delay is related to problems in getting the lights.