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Bucks Co. Controller Accuses Democratic Commissioners of Retaliation

Tensions between the Bucks County controller and the two Democratic county commissioners boiled over at the April 3 Salary Board meeting.

Democratic Commissioners Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Vice Chair Bob Harvie voted against a request from Controller Pamela Van Blunk, a Republican, to give merit bonuses to some of her employees.

A motion for the bonuses failed 2-2, with minority Republican Commissioner Gene DiGiralomo voting with Van Blunk. Van Blunk, who is a lawyer, ran against Ellis-Marseglia and Harvie in 2023.

Ellis-Marseglia called Van Blunk “heartless” and accused her of “mismanagement” for making her employees work so hard and not hiring additional people.

Harvie told her to “decrease overtime. It’s not fair to them” and to hire more people, saying her department has seven unfilled positions.

Van Blunk said the county had not budgeted for those positions.

At the meeting, Van Blunk criticized the two Democrats for trying to get the county taxpayers to pay for a private luncheon.

“The county government is this wonderful system of checks and balances. The controller is a check and balance on the commissioners’ spending,” said Van Blunk. “I was asked to pay for an invoice to pay for over $1,700 for this administration’s inauguration private luncheon. And I denied it. Why? Because we protect the county. How would that look to the county?

“If the newspapers got ahold of that, the county paying $1,700 for a private political party would not look good. We check for fraud, waste, and abuse.”

When DVJournal asked her about the payment for the party, Van Blunk said the caterer removed a $344 service fee. Van Blunk eventually approved $760 for bagels, pastries, and coffee for a breakfast that was available to the public if they happened to come into the building. But she disallowed $780 for the private luncheon.

“The people of Bucks County elected me to be the county’s independent fiscal watchdog, and I take this job very seriously,” Van Blunk said. I’m proud that the Controller’s Office employees are equally dedicated to protecting our taxpayers.

“The personal attacks against me, my office, and my predecessor during a public meeting were, at best, a thinly veiled attempt to retaliate against my office for doing the right thing: denying payment for the commissioners’ private luncheon for their friends and family. At worst, it was an attempt to hamstring our office’s ability to be the independent fiscal watchdog of the county’s spending. However, these personal attacks will not work because as long as I am in office, I will not be intimidated and will continue to protect taxpayer dollars.”

In 2019, Bucks County paid $165,092,733 in employee salaries for 2,422 full-time employees. In the first three years since Marseglia and Harvie took office, ending Dec. 31, 2022, the county paid $179,782 in salaries for 2,374 full-time employees (48 fewer). That is a $14,537,049 increase in salaries, not including increases in pension liability.

During these three years, the commissioners voted to give 2 percent cost-of-living raises.

“This administration has increased salary expenses by $4.3 million in just three years,” said Van Blunk, who did not have the salary figures for 2023 available.

Ellis-Marseglia accused Van Blunk of lying about the luncheon and doubled down on her accusation of mismanagement.

“The entire premise is false. There was no ‘private luncheon.’ Staff and inauguration guests were included. Commissioner DiGirolamo was there with his family and staff as well. Besides that, the controller already paid half the bill. There was no retaliation,” said Ellis-Marseglia.

“If the controller wanted to give her employees raises, she could do so right now, without a salary board action, but has flatly refused,” said Ellis-Marseglia. “Instead, she has allowed a few employees to accrue thousands of hours of overtime, overworking them while leaving seven positions vacant in her office. She also rejected a motion to add a second deputy to ease the burden on her staff and reign in overtime costs. In any business or workplace, this level of overtime would be considered mismanagement, but with taxpayer dollars, it’s even worse,” she said.


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Bucks Commissioners Harvie and Marseglia Miss Mandatory Campaign Finance Date

Bucks County Commissioners Bob Harvie and Diane Marseglia, Democrats who are seeking re-election, failed to file their Oct. 27 campaign report on time as required by law.

The Bucks County Republican Chairwoman Pat Poprik called them out on the state election law violation and asked, “What are they hiding?”

“On Friday, October 27th, the Election Campaign Committee for Bob Harvie and Diane Marseglia violated State Election Laws when it deliberately failed to file mandatory Campaign Finance Reports due on that date.  These mandatory reports disclose both who has been contributing money to their re-election bid, as well as what they spent these funds on,” Poprik said.

“What are they hiding? Bucks County Voters are entitled to know!” she continued. “This flagrant violation of the Pennsylvania Election Code has continued now, without explanation, for more than a week.  This is not the first time that Harvie and Marseglia have been a part of efforts to hide public records from the citizens of Bucks County.

“This year, a Bucks County Judge ordered that telephone and email records belonging to Harvie and Marseglia be turned over to county citizens who lawfully requested them after Harvie and Marseglia fought in Court to keep them secret.

“Now, the Committee to Re-Elect Harvie and Marseglia, called “Bucks United,” is deliberately and flagrantly ignoring the public disclosure requirements of the Pennsylvania Election Code by failing to report and disclose where the money funding their re-election campaign is really coming from,” Poprik said.

“Democrat Party bosses in Philadelphia and Harrisburg are desperate to exert their influence over Bucks County politics. The failures of decades of Philadelphia Democrat politicians and policies are directly impacting our quality of life in Bucks County as Philadelphia crime and criminals continue to creep into our neighborhoods. For them, it’s not about the people they represent – instead, it’s all about politics.  How much of their money and their influence is contributing to the Harvie and Marseglia Campaign?  Bucks County Voters have the right to know,” she added.

The Marseglia and Harvie campaign did not return requests for comment, and the Bucks County Democratic headquarters did not respond to messages.

DVJournal located a filing for Friends of Diane Marseglia, a separate PAC, which had $14,000 in contributions between June and Oct. 23.  Contributors included the Southeast Realtors PAC, the Greater Pennsylvania Carpenters Union, Teamsters Local 0115, and Steamfitters Union Local 420. Friends of Diane Marseglia listed a $5,000 contribution to Bucks United on Oct. 18.

Gene DiGirolamo and Controller Pam Van Blunk, the Republicans running for county commissioner, said in a statement, “We are very disappointed by Commissioners Marseglia and Harvie’s violation of the campaign finance laws by failing to file the campaign finance reports for Bucks United, the committee paying for their campaign.  They have decided that Bucks County voters are not entitled to know who has funded their campaign and what they have spent their campaign money on.   Unfortunately, this is yet another example of a lack of transparency by Commissioners Marseglia and Harvie.  Contrary to Pennsylvania law, Commissioners Marseglia and Harvie appointed a Philadelphia resident (who happened to be a major Democrat donor) to a mandatory Bucks County board position on the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

“Commissioners Marseglia and Harvie have consistently demonstrated they do not follow rules,” they added.  “Whether it is failing to follow a Court Order to release public information to Right to Know Requests made by taxpayers or suing “mothers” who request transparency from our County government, both Commissioners Marseglia and Harvie have flaunted the rules for the last 4 years.  This is just the culmination of what taxpayers have been experiencing under Commissioners Marseglia and Harvie.”

“One thing is clear – in the final days leading up to the November election, the Harvie and Marseglia campaign is breaking the law by its failure, for more than a week, to file its mandatory campaign finance report and its failure to identify who is really funding their campaign,” said Poprik.

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Bucks Sheriff Fred Harran Blasts Dem Commissioners Over Crime

Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran says crime has been steadily rising since the COVID pandemic, and he points the finger at the county’s leadership and its lack of action. In particular, he singled out the county’s two Democratic Commissioners.

“It’s not an ‘R’ and a ‘D’ thing,” said Harran, a 38-year law enforcement professional. “It’s a safety and a police thing. They just don’t want to support the police. I’ve been quiet as long as I can, and I hate to say it, but this is the time for change.”

Since the COVID pandemic ended, “in the last couple of years, we’re seeing a pretty dramatic (crime) increase in Bucks County,” said Harran. Robbery is up 22.7 percent, burglaries are up almost 33 percent, and theft is up 21.8 percent. Auto theft is up over 30 percent.

And he accused the Democratic commissioners of lying about the crime statistics.

While Democratic Commissioners Chair Bob Harvie and Vice Chair Diane Marselgia claim crime is down, “they’re using statistics, comparing pre-COVID days to COVID days.” During the pandemic, most people stayed home, so there were fewer burglaries and car thefts, he said.

“People’s houses don’t get burglarized at night. They get burglarized during the day when they’re at work. Well, if you’re not at work and working from home, it’s hard to burglarize your help,” said Harran, who was the police superintendent in Bensalem before he was elected county sheriff. “But we’re in a post-COVID world and crime is on the rise.”

“And one of the big problems that we’re facing is the amount of drugs that are out there, and now with the new drug Xylazine (Tranq), it poses all kinds of new problems,” said Harran.

One of those problems is how people with medical issues are treated in the county system.

“The issue is the jail does not have a medical component to it,” said Harran. “So the jail will not accept anybody that has any type of medical problem. So, when a police officer arrests somebody, I’ll give you a very simple but true story. So, if your blood pressure is elevated by the time you get to the prison, they won’t take you.  So, who doesn’t get arrested and [experience] high blood pressure?

“So you have high blood pressure, they make you go to the hospital and now you’re taking police officers off the streets to go sit at a hospital while a person gets cleared and you’re posing a potential danger to the hospital,” Harran said.

“We saw what happened years ago with, in Newtown, in St. Mary’s Hospital with Officer(Brian) Gregg when he was fatally shot at  St. Mary’s,” said Harran. Robert Anthony Flor killed Gregg and wounded two other people on Sept. 26, 2005. Flor was sentenced to death.

“Prisoners don’t belong in hospitals unless they have a hospital wing that’s properly secure,” said Harran. “The county’s going to have to pay the piper and they’re going have to get with the times. And, you know, we got some people in county positions right now that just have no interest in doing that,” he said, referring to Harvie and Marseglia.

Harran also disputes claims from the two Democrats that the county is adequately funding the sheriff’s office.

“They keep telling everybody they gave me $1 million. I can’t find it in my budget anywhere.”

Officials told Harran that he can hire two additional deputies now, two later and four in 2024.

“The way they do budgeting is absurd,” said Harran. “I’m trying to get (new) vehicles in my budget. They took them out of my budget and then told me, ‘Well, if you can find the cars, them come back to us and we’ll try to get you the money. Well, I’ve been doing budget for 16 years in Bensalem and I’ve never budgeted that way — ever.

I don’t know what school of budgeting they went to, but I’s nothing I’ve ever learned.”

Harran said he came into office wanting to “play in the sandbox with everyone.”

“Until someone throws the sand in my face. I’ve been in law enforcement 38 years. They came from other professions but they don’t know jack about my job.”

Commissioners Harvie and Marseglia did not respond to requests for comment.

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Weintraub Cries Foul Over Bogus Campaign Signs From Bucks County Dem

When big, banner signs appeared in Bucks County showing popular Republican District Attorney Matt Weintraub campaigning with Democrat County Commissioners Diane Marseglia and Bob Harvie, it was big political news.

Particularly to Matt Weintraub.

“Over the weekend, I was disappointed to learn that my name has been used by the Marseglia-Harvie campaign without my authorization or permission,” Weintraub, who’s running for Common Pleas judge, told DVJournal.

“I can’t allow this, and I won’t stand for it,” Weintraub added.

The signs were paid for by Marseglia’s campaign PAC.

“I’ve worked hard serving the people of Bucks County over the last three decades and have lived here with my family for most of half a century. I’ve earned my reputation, I’m proud of my good name here, and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Bucks County as the next Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.”

Weintraub, whose candidacy is uncontested, will appear on the November ballot on both the Democratic and Republican lines after Democratic voters wrote in his name in the primary. However, Weintraub did not seek the Democratic Party’s nomination.



“Earning the support of Bucks County voters, regardless of their party affiliation, is important to me because judge is not a partisan position,” Weintraub said. “That is why I accepted the will of the Democrat voters who wrote me in during the Primary Election in May. So, now I appear on both sides of the ballot.

“Unfortunately, in typical underhanded politics, the Bucks County Democratic Party seeks to capitalize on my name, and my reputation for their own selfish reasons.”

Marseglia declined to respond to repeated requests for comment, as did the Bucks County Democratic Party.

Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County Republican Committee, said, “I am very disappointed in the recent action of the Bucks County Democratic party. To take and put someone’s name, without their permission or approval, on large signs throughout the county, inferring that they are supporting someone else, is so wrong.  We would never, ever do that to a candidate!”

“The inference or intent is to make it look as if Matt endorses the Democratic candidates, which he absolutely, emphatically states he does not. It is such an underhanded action that I cannot believe they thought it was the right thing to do,” said Poprik.

“I hope they now do the right, ethical action and remove the misleading signs or at least cover Matt’s name. You cannot and should not do that to anyone, let alone someone who’s running for the position of judge,” she added.

Weintraub said, “In February, I neither sought nor received the endorsement of the Bucks County Democrat Committee, despite their endorsement for every other candidate on their slate. I was the only one not endorsed, and it was their choice.”

He added, “ I was never consulted on whether my name could be used, and it has now been misappropriated in a purely political move by the Bucks County Democratic Party. Let me be crystal clear: my name appears on their signs without my endorsement or my permission.  It is the worst kind of underhanded politics.

“I resent it, and I demand that they take my name off their signs immediately,” said Weintraub.

“The Board of Elections Office is a non-partisan government department tasked with administering free, fair and secure elections in Bucks County. It does not weigh in on politics,” said Bucks County James O’Malley, when asked if the board could comment on the sign.

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Sources Allege Falls Township in Bucks Co. Allowed Union Corruption to Flourish, Colluded with Unions

This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

The multi-year FBI investigation in Falls Township is digging into whether the township’s administration contributed to or even actively fostered a culture in which unions — and one union in particular — were able to put pressure on local businesses to hire more unionized labor or, if not, face government harassment through permitting delays, according to multiple sources.

Sources who spoke to Broad + Liberty are well placed to have firsthand knowledge of matters related to both the township, as well as the investigation. All requested to speak anonymously out of concerns of retaliation.

Sources confirmed the union side of the investigation is mainly focused on the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Number 269, based across the river from the township in Trenton, New Jersey. Previous media reports have also indicated that the Local 269 was a focus the investigation.

Previous media reports have also indicated that a federal grand jury has been impaneled on the matter and has been taking testimony, but those reports have not specified the nature of the investigation. Those reports also established that Bucks County Board of Commissioners Chair Bob Harvie, the longtime former chair of Falls Township’s board of supervisors was summoned to testify before the grand jury, raising the specter about whether the ongoing criminal investigation could have an impact on the county’s hotly contested election for county commissioners.

For several years now, two of the township’s longest serving supervisors have been members of IBEW Local 269 — Jeff Dence and Jeff Boraski. But what has seldom, if ever, been reported is the towering influence the IBEW has had over the township through the last dozen years in terms of donations from its federal political action committee to those individuals.

That tally of campaign donations swells even larger if two other township supervisors are included: Bob Harvie and Jeff Rocco. Harvie served as the chairman of the Falls Township Board of Supervisors from 2008 to 2020, according to his online biography. Rocco served on the board from 2012 to 2021. Neither are IBEW members.

Since 2009, the IBEW’s federal PAC (which can donate to local candidates) has given $397,950 to the campaign accounts of those four individuals, according to Federal Election Commission records — a staggering sum for a township of approximately 34,000 persons of whom only 10,500 voted in the most recent general election, and which already has a natural Democratic bent.

The donation figure represents about four-and-a-half percent of all the political money donated by the same IBEW federal PAC to all other Pennsylvania candidates and committees over the same time period, according to a Broad + Liberty analysis of FEC records. Yet, in terms of population, Falls Township represents two-tenths of one percent of Pennsylvania.

The lion’s share of that political money — $214,000 — went to Dence. The rest was mainly split between $80,000 for Harvie and about $76,000 for Boraski.

(The same IBEW PAC has made a small number of donations to others who have served on the Falls Township Board. For example, the IBEW has also made one donation each to Erin Mullen and John Palmer, both of whom are currently serving on the township’s board of supervisors. Some of the donations included in the above tally also include donations made to Harvey while he was running for Bucks County commissioner in 2019 and after.)

The sources indicated the main question in the federal probe was a simple scheme: a business which might be expanding an existing building or starting new construction was approached by someone who urged the business owner to choose union labor. If the business owner refused, various permits needed to keep the project on schedule were held up by the township government.

Broad + Liberty’s sources pointed to one construction project in particular: a massive building project announced in 2015 by KVK Technologies, a specialty pharmaceutical company. In the spring of 2015, the township’s board of supervisors approved a new office and warehouse complex to be built on Cabot Blvd. A request for comment to KVT was not returned or was not successful.

The sources were not able to point to any individual for any specific act, with one exception. That exception is not being published in this story because it was only offered by a single source, and was not independently corroborated by other sources.

Although the investigation has been going on for years including the impaneling of a grand jury in Philadelphia, no indictments have yet been handed up. All persons named in this report are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.

The business manager for IBEW Local 269, Steve Aldrich, said the allegations are false.

When asked by phone for the union’s comment, Aldrich said: “Same thing we told the other paper over there in Bucks County, the same thing — the grand jury, there’s nothing. There never has been. We don’t do that s*** here. That’s not how we operate. That’s it. I don’t have any other comments than there’s nothing there and I can’t believe you’re still asking this from 2010. It’s like there’s got to be some other news that you can — to look for. There’s nothing here. I have no idea. You must be bored.”

The sources also indicated that the alleged wrongdoing was a driving factor in the yo-yo-like employment of the township’s former manager, Peter Gray.

Gray proffered his resignation in September 2019, but then rescinded it when the township offered him a retroactive pay raise, according to a report from Four months later, Gray left the township for good and is currently the borough manager for New Hope.

The sources indicated that Gray kept a book or log of some sort that chronicled the alleged activity. That idea is key, as has reported a year ago that its own sources said “FBI special agents and prosecutors are in possession of a significant number of documents that went through former township manager Gray’s office.”

In September last year, Levittown Now reported that numerous individuals have testified before the grand jury investigating the matter, including Harvie and Gray.

The township is also dealing with two individuals suing it either over whistleblower claims or allegations that they were asked to perform illegal or unethical acts while in office and were then retaliated against when they objected.

“A fired Falls Township police officer claims in a new lawsuit that he has provided information to the FBI as part of an ongoing investigation involving the municipality’s government,” said a report from January.  “He also says he was wrongfully terminated by township officials because he is a whistleblower.”

In 2020, the township’s former code enforcement officer quit and later filed suit, alleging he had been asked by township officials to manipulate an inspection of a specific home. The allegations in the suit are contained to that incident, and seem unlikely to weigh on the FBI investigation.

The IBEW’s interest in Falls Township, as evidenced by its campaign donations, matches a time when the union seemed to be growing its influence in southeast Pennsylvania by leaps and bounds.

Through most of the second decade, the IBEW looked ascendant in the region, emblemized by John Dougherty, the business manager of the IBEW Local 98, based in Philadelphia. Dougherty, more commonly known by the nickname “Johnny Doc” was indisputably one of the most influential political power brokers in the region until he was indicted by the federal government in 2019.

The apex of Dougherty’s influence was on vivid display in 2015, when he marshaled more than $1.5 million in direct and in-kind donations to his brother’s successful run for the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court — an election that helped swing the balance of power at the top court and continues to reverberate politically to this day.

Dougherty also single-handedly funded the election of Bobby Henon, an IBEW member who served for ten years as a member of Philadelphia’s City Council. Henon was charged along with Dougherty with corruption charges in 2019. He was convicted and is currently serving a three-and-a-half years term in federal prison.

Falls Township has an established Democratic political bent, based on election results dating back more than a decade.

For example, in the hotly contested 2010 U.S. Senate election between Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey, Sestak easily carried Falls Township 6,000 to 4,200. Statewide, Toomey eked out a 51-49 win in a Republican wave year.

Four of the five current members of the elected board of supervisors are Democrats.

None of the current members of the Falls Township Board of Supervisors, including Dence and Boraski, responded to a request for comment. Former members of the board, including Commissioner Harvie and Rocco, did not respond to a request for comment. For this outreach, Broad + Liberty used Falls Township government email addresses, personal emails gleaned from campaign finance reports, as well as text messages sent to phone numbers also taken from campaign finance reports.

A request for comment was also not returned from the IBEW national office in Washington D.C. which controls the PAC mentioned in this story, or from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sources with further information on any aspect of this story — governance in Falls Township, knowledge of union activities in the township, etc — are encouraged to reach out to this reporter at [email protected], confidentiality assured.