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Bucks County Assures Residents Hacked 911 System Is Operating and Secure

Bucks County officials promise that their 911 system is still operational despite what they call a dayslong “cybersecurity incident.”

“If you call us for an emergency response, our dispatchers will get you the help you need,” said Bucks County Emergency Services Director Audrey Kenny. She assured area citizens that there wouldn’t be any delay if someone called 911 and that the county’s emergency services radios and phones still work.

A cyberattack hit the county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system on Sunday. The county has not said if hackers got into any other systems.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) describes CAD as technology that helps 911 operators and dispatchers “prioritize and record incident calls, identify the status and location of responders in the field, and effectively dispatch responder personnel.” It also stores information, including the length of phone calls and the time they were made.

CAD systems can connect to various databases across the U.S., including the National Crime Information Center and the National Incident-Based Reporter System. It can also take data from license plate readers and jail systems.

DHS has praised CAD for helping police and firefighters prioritize more critical 911 calls. They cited work done by first responders during natural disasters.

However, CAD systems remain vulnerable to cyberattacks. Hackers attacked The City of Dallas’s CAD system last year as part of a ransomware attack. It took two days to restore the program. The city speculated that hackers got into their systems through a service account and by “exploiting legitimate third-party remote management utilities.”

In 2018, Baltimore City’s CAD server was taken down by hackers for 17 hours. A city spokesperson blamed “an internal change to the firewall by a technician who was troubleshooting an unrelated communications issue” with the CAD system.

It’s unknown when Bucks County’s CAD system will return online. Kenny said, “The county has partnered with state and federal agencies and has retained best-in-class incident response professionals to assist in our ongoing investigation.”

In the interim, 911 dispatchers will use phones and radios to communicate with police, firefighters, and EMS.

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PA Dems Demanded Automatic Voter Registration, But the GOP Reaps the Rewards

Two weeks into Pennsylvania’s new automatic voter registration demanded by Democrats, the winner is the state’s GOP.

Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) announced the change in state law, which moves from an “opt-in” system, meaning people getting driver’s licenses or photo identification will be automatically registered to vote (AVR) unless they opt-out. The new system began on Sept. 26. Critics said the governor could not make that change himself; rather, it should go through the state legislature. Lawsuits have been threatened, but so far not filed.

According to state records, from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10, Republicans added 4,730 registered voters; Democrats gained 1,774; and 3,681 registered as independents unaffiliated with any party or a third party. The state is still 45 percent Democrat and 39.9 percent Republican, with 14.9 percent of voters registered with other parties and independents.

The news for Democrats was better in the Delaware Valley, perhaps not surprising in the state’s blue corner.

In Bucks County, Republicans gained 284 new voters, while Democrats garnered only six, and other parties gained 141 voters. In Bucks County, Republicans comprise 41 percent of voters, Democrats are 42 percent, and others are 16.7 percent.

In Chester County, Republicans picked up 104 new voters, Democrats added 115, and others added 72 voters. In Chester County, Republicans make up 39.87 percent of voters; Democrats are 41.94 percent; and others are 18.9 percent.

In Delaware County, Republican voters increased by 93; Democrats increased by 207; and others by 148. There, Democrats comprise 50 percent of the voters, Republicans comprise 35.9 percent, and others are 14 percent.

In Montgomery County, Republicans gained 269 new voters, Democrats gained 189 voters, and 221 registered for other parties. Other parties are 16 percent of the electorate in Montgomery County, while Republicans are 33.7 percent and Democrats are 50 percent.

Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County GOP, said she was not surprised that her county is trending Republican and that Republicans are gaining voters statewide.

“People are so upset with the cost of everything,” said Poprik. “Everything is through the roof when I go to the grocery store, the gas station. People are smart.

“And the border, the fentanyl coming in. This (country) is a ship heading in the wrong direction. Democrats are not standing up to their president,” she said.

Locally, people are concerned about crime increasing coming into Bucks County from Philadelphia. The two Republicans running for commissioner, Gene DiGirolamo and Pamela Van Blunk, were endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and are running on a crime-fighting platform, she said.

People “want our county to be safe,” she said. “People are not happy with what they’re seeing.”

Activist Scott Presler has been staging voter registration drives in Pennsylvania. He defended the AVR policy last month on social media despite fears from others that the GOP would lose voters. Presler suggestedDemocrats “are becoming desperate” and that registered independents might switch to Republican for party primaries.

“I was the first to acknowledge this may backfire (on Democrats),” Presler told DVJournal. “So far, the first two full weeks of AVR have shown that most voters are registering Republican.”

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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 LevittownNow.com. 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 LevittownNow.com 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 LevittownNow.com 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.

Bucks County Breaks Ground at Mental Health Diversion Center Site

Bucks County No Stranger to Severe Flooding

Five people died from flash floods in Upper Makefield Township in Bucks County on Saturday evening. On Monday, searchers continued looking for a missing baby and a 2-year-old child.

“With these five deaths, this is a mass casualty incident the likes of which we have not seen before,” the Upper Makefield Police posted on Facebook. “This has been unbelievably devastating to all the families involved, all of our first responders, and to our community as a whole. We are all grieving over the loss of life we have seen. However, our commitment to finding the two children who are still missing is unwavering as we will do all that we can to bring them home to their loved ones.”

On Monday, first responders used teams on foot and in boats, divers in the Delaware River, as well as drones and sonar technology trying to locate the children.

Police said their mother is among the five victims, and the family was visiting the area from Charleston, S.C.  Officials said the father, a 4-year-old brother, and a grandmother survived.

“I got to thank many of the first responders who have been working around the clock to rescue those caught in a flash flood on Washington Crossing Road in Upper Makefield last night,” State Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) said in a statement.

“I joined Upper Makefield Township Supervisor Ben Weldon, Bucks County Commissioners Bob Harvie and Diane Marseglia, state Rep. Perry Warren, Gov. Josh Shapiro, and Sen. Bob Casey on a tour of the damage to Washington Crossing and Taylorsville roads. Our prayers are for the family, friends, and neighbors of the five who lost their lives and the two young children still missing.

I will continue to work with local, state, and federal officials to restore the roadways.”

Officials, including Gov. Josh Shapiro (center), look at flash flood damage.

Bucks County is no stranger to severe flooding. According to the Neshaminy Valley Watershed Association, historical records cite a terrible flood on July 17, 1865, caused “several deaths,” flooded homes, and washed away thousands of dollars of crops.

According to the Delaware River Basin Commission, another severe flood struck on Oct. 11, 1903, washing away nine wooden bridges across the Delaware River.

Hurricane Diane caused a monumental flood in 1955 on Aug. 19 and 20 of that year. That flood destroyed or damaged several bridges and left 1,000 people homeless.

Other significant Bucks County floods happened in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd hit the area, dumping 10 inches of rain on Doylestown. The Tohickon Creek crested at 11.84 feet in Pipersville, and the Neshaminy Creek in Langhorne crested at 21.91 feet. Floyd killed eight people in southeastern Pennsylvania and flooded 1,000 homes.

In June 2001, Hurricane Allison dumped the most rain on Bucks County since Floyd. The Neshaminy Creek crested at 17 feet, twice its flood stage. There were widespread power outages as well.

In 2021, Hurricane Ida brought three tornadoes and flooding to Bucks County. One person died.

While most severe floods resulted from tropical storms or hurricanes that came up the East Coast, the latest flooding was due to moisture in the atmosphere, said AccuWeather meteorologist Mary Gilbert.

“Too much rain came down too fast,” she explained. She said Saturday evening’s storm resulted in a 500-to-1,000-year flood. “There is a very low chance of it happening again. It was a very abnormal event. It’s something not likely to happen frequently.”

But if people hear news reports of flash flooding, they need to be cautious and avoid those areas.

“It can happen fast when it does happen,” said Gilbert. “It’s incredibly dangerous.”

Upper Makefield Township was declared a disaster emergency. Residents with property damage were asked to call the township, and people were warned not to go around barricades to try to drive on closed roads.

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UPDATE: Bucks County Mom Wins Partial Victory in Open Records Case Over COVID Rules

Bucks County mom Megan Brock won a partial victory over the county government in her open records case Friday before a Common Pleas judge.

Brock, of Richboro, is seeking emails from August 2021, when the county suddenly overrode COVID-19 guidance issued by its own Health Department Director, Dr. David Damsker. He said the science supported more parent-friendly, less-restrictive policies, a view confirmed in the following months. But he was overruled by Bucks County bureaucrats who imposed stricter state guidelines for masking, lockdowns and vaccinations, all unsupported by science.

The state Office of Open Records has already ordered the county to turn emails and other correspondence over to Brock, but Bucks County sued in an attempt to keep information about how they came to the override decision secret from the public. They argued Brock was not entitled to the records, despite the OOR ruling in her favor.

The county claimed the records were either attorney-client privilege or part of a “pre-decisional” process and therefore not subject to the right-to-know act.

Judge Denise Bowman heard the case and reviewed the records in her chambers. She ruled partly in favor of Brock and ordered the county to turn over some of the requested records and to pay her lawyers $1,500.

But the judge also found that the county had the right to keep some records private.

James O’Malley, a spokesman for the county, said the county’s lawyers were still in the process of reviewing the ruling on Friday evening.

After the ruling, Brock said, “This was a win for every person in Bucks County, regardless of political affiliation. Government transparency is a critical component of our constitutional republic. No one should be abused by their government or have their weaponized against them for simply doing their due diligence as a responsible citizen.

“Our kids have been thrown into crisis due to the harsh Covid-19 lockdowns and prolonged school closures. They deserve answers as to why and how these decisions were made, so that we can do better and learn from the mistakes of the past,” said Brock.

“I’m so thankful for this outcome and I can’t adequately express my gratitude to Judicial Watch and my attorneys, Chad Schnee and Meredith DiLiberto, for their exceptional representation,” she added.

Schnee said, “This decision was a victory for accountability and transparency, and we are very pleased that the judge imposed the maximum civil penalty allowed under the Right-to-Know Law.”

Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County Republicans also commented, calling it “a clear victory for transparency and the right of citizens to seek answers from those who should be representing them”.

“For nearly a year now, Democrats Bob Harvie and Diane Ellis-Marseglia have been using county resources to overrule decisions by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records in order to hide communications and documents generated when the county’s guidance for schools related to COVID suddenly changed in the midst of the pandemic.  After a review of the hidden documents, the court sided with Brock.

“Pamela Van Blunk, the county controller, called the litigation the county brought against Brock a ‘waste of taxpayer dollars. Harvie and Ellis-Marseglia are irresponsibly spending taxpayers’ money to hide communications that the public—including Brock—have a right to see,'” said Poprik.

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Court Hears Bucks County Mom’s Open Records Case

After a brief hearing Thursday, a judge delayed ruling on whether Bucks County can continue to hide records declared public by the state Office of Open Records (OOR).

Richboro resident Megan Brock is seeking emails from August 2021, when the county suddenly overrode COVID-19 guidance issued by its own Health Department Director, Dr. David Damsker, who said the science indicated more parent-friendly, less-restrictive policies. Instead, Bucks County bureaucrats replaced Damsker’s rules with stricter state guidelines for masking, quarantines, and vaccinations.

The OOR ordered the county to turn those emails over. Instead, county officials went to court.

Judge Denise Bowman on Thursday did not say when she would issue the final ruling on the matter.

Keith Bidlingmaier, a lawyer for the county, claimed the records Brock seeks are either covered by the attorney-client privilege or else  “pre-decisional” and therefore exempt under the right-to-know law.

Meredith Di Liberto, a lawyer for Judicial Watch, a public interest law firm also representing Brock, told DVJournal the county “relied on boilerplate” for its arguments.

“It boils down to saying they’re exempt (from turning over the documents) because they say so,” said Di Liberto.

Outside the courthouse, Brock was joined by state Sen. Jarrett Coleman (R-Bucks/Lehigh) and Jamie Walker, another mother who is being sued by the county in an attempt to deny her documents the state OOR ruled she should be given.

“When that guidance was abruptly changed after a letter was sent by the Wolf administration to our county commissioners, I myself and another mom, Jamie Walker, started asking questions,” Brock said.

“We came to the (county) commissioners’ meetings. We wanted to know why our kids were suddenly going to be kept out of school through long quarantines, why they were suddenly going to have their faces (covered) by forced masking, and instead of having our questions answered, our county commissioners bullied us, they called us names.”

Brock also claimed that county commissioners “actually blocked my phone number,” preventing her from contacting them.

After a long process, Brock won her right-to-know request at the state level.

“However, instead of giving those records, Bucks County sued me three times and sued Jamie Walker twice to withhold records,” said Brock. “This is a huge issue for every citizen in Bucks County, regardless of political affiliation.”

“Transparency is not a political issue,” Brock said. “It is an issue that protects the foundation of our constitutional republic. And it is a right of every citizen to know what is going on behind closed doors.”

“The public deserves to know how local county and state governments made decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Coleman argued. “As chairman of the Senate intergovernmental operations committee, my primary concern is understanding the decision-making process and how much independence the county health director had.”

DVJournal asked Coleman if his committee plans to subpoena the county commissioners to testify. “We certainly have the ability to do so,” said Coleman.

“Under decades of Republican leadership, this county never sued a citizen to hide the commissioners’ actions,” Walker said. “In a few short years under Democratic leadership, these types of lawsuits have now become commonplace in our county.”

“I asked for the emails under Commissioner (Diane) Marseglia’s second, unpublished county email address,” said Walker. “I won these emails already. The county refuses to release them to me. They’re making me hire an attorney and fight them in court. Bucks County residents’ tax dollars are being used to fund the frivolous lawsuits, and this is not how our government should operate.”

“Commissioner Marseglia herself said she will not stop the appeals because she wants to protect her friends,” said Walker. “All I want is the truth. I want to understand what was going on with our county’s highest elected officials during the creation of the health guidance in 2021. This guidance impacted 80,000 children.”

The guidance “endangered children. It contributed to massive learning loss. And it’s contributing to the current mental health crisis of our children today.”

The commissioners are “asking a judge to change the transparency law. They’re asking a judge to make the entire state of Pennsylvania less transparent for all of its citizens. Citizens are entitled to find out how our elected officials make decisions, especially when those decisions impacted so many children in Bucks County.”

Walker’s case is listed for trial on May 30. She is also represented by Schnee but not by Judicial Watch.

 

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Bucks County Sues Social Media Companies Over Harm to Kids

Bucks County officials filed a class action late Tuesday over the harm they claim Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube are inflicting on kids. The move makes Bucks the first county government entity in the nation to file that kind of litigation.

“It’s very personal to me,” said Solicitor Joseph Kahn, who noted he is also a parent. “What this lawsuit addresses is a mental health crisis that severely impacts children everywhere, particularly in Bucks County. Like parents everywhere, I have been wondering, what am I going to do about this?”

Kahn was joined by Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub, Commissioners Chair Robert Harvie, and Commissioners Diane Marseglia and Gene DiGirolamo.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco claims, “Youth mental health problems have advanced in lockstep with the growth of social media platforms deliberately designed to attract and addict youth to the platforms by amplifying harmful material, dosing users with dopamine hits, and thereby driving youth engagement and advertising revenue.

“Defendants Facebook, Instagram, Snap, TikTok, and YouTube all design, market, promote, and operate social media platforms for which they have especially cultivated a young audience. They have successfully grown their platforms exponentially over the past decade, from millions to billions of users, particularly children, and teens.”

And those young people have suffered, the lawsuit alleges, raising costs for county taxpayers who pay for their mental health and other services.

“Bucks County residents have borne painful witness to all of this, firsthand, to devastating effect,” the lawsuit says. “For instance, in October 2022, a 15-year-old boy in Bucks County was arrested after threatening to ‘shoot up’ Central Bucks High School West via a Snapchat message. The boy also used TikTok to share videos of other mass shootings.”

Meta, the parent company for Facebook and Instagram, released a statement touting its efforts at promoting responsible social media use.

“We want teens to be safe online,” said Meta’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis. “We’ve developed more than 30 tools to support teens and families, including supervision tools that let parents limit the amount of time their teens spend on Instagram, and age verification technology that helps teens have age-appropriate experiences.

“We don’t allow content that promotes suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders, and of the content we remove or take action on, we identify over 99 percent of it before it’s reported to us. We’ll continue to work closely with experts, policymakers, and parents on these important issues.”

Not good enough, Bucks County officials say, pointing to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a surge in depression and suicidal thoughts among American teens between 2011 and 2021. That coincided with the explosion of social media use by teens.

“A Pew Research Study found that almost half of U.S. teenagers aged 13 to 17 say they are online ‘almost constantly,'” the lawsuit reads.

The county is asking for monetary damages and an injunction against the social media companies, officials told DVJournal during Wednesday’s press conference.

The county has a long history of providing mental health services to children and teenagers paid for by taxpayers. The lawsuit asks the court to make the social media companies pay, Kahn explained, adding the companies violate Pennsylvania’s fair trade practices law.

Bucks County isn’t the only government entity to sue social media companies over the alleged harm their products inflict on users. The Seattle public school system is suing several large social media companies. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has announced plans to sue as well.

Given the extremely deep pockets of social media companies like Facebook and YouTube, what chance does Bucks County have of winning this suit?

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said, “I do liken it to a David versus Goliath situation, where we’re David. We’re taking on these enormous companies…They’ve not only taken advantage of our children, but they’ve preyed on our children.”

The mental health agencies have a “literal and figurative line out the door,” said Weintraub. “And it’s filled with our young people. We intend to win. We intend to stake our claim.”

Villanova law Professor and Vice Dean Michael Risch said the David vs. Goliath comparison is overly optimistic.

“David at least had the stone, right? But this David has nothing. The sling is empty,” Risch told DVJournal.

Risch pointed to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which protects internet providers from just this sort of liability for the content that third parties post on their sites. A case recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court claimed that Google is liable for terrorist videos, and the high court appeared unlikely to rule against the search site, he said.

“Here’s something one of your friends posted,” said Risch. “These are not terrorist videos. So, even if Google were to lose in the Supreme Court, it’s unclear whether the behavior of the tech companies is similar to serving up recruitment videos for terrorists because it’s harmful to kids to see other kids primping and doing whatever else they do.”

“This, by the way, is completely accepting these sites are harmful,” he added.

But if the case is allowed to progress, regardless of the final outcome, it could still be problematic for the social media giants.

“I can’t wait to begin discovery,” said Commissioner DiGirolamo. “Where we dig into the emails of the people who work for these companies. They knew what they were doing. ‘Not harmful and not addictive.’ Where have we heard that before? We heard it from the drug companies for many, many years. And (they) pushed these drugs on society.

“I think we’re going to find out these social media platforms knew exactly what they were doing and were preying on our young people. And we’d like to put an end to it, and we’d like to hold them accountable.”

A spokesman for TikTok said he could not comment on litigation but noted the company has various safeguards for underage users including limits on screen time.  Snapchat did not respond to a request for comment.

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Bucks County DA Matt Weintraub Runs for Judge

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub is embarking on a new campaign—for Common Pleas Judge.

The Republican DA was re-elected to his second term in 2021.

“It’s my intention to make my First Assistant Jen Schorn succeed me as Bucks County DA. By running for judge in the middle of my term, she gets to be DA for two full years before she then would stand for election herself. It’s like a live audition for the job. I had this advantage to prove myself as DA,” Weintraub said in a statement.

“This way, the county gets a fantastic District Attorney while I continue to serve the public as a judge. It’s a win-win,” Weintraub added. “I predict that with her leadership and dedication to our mission, Jen will far exceed me as Bucks County District Attorney, and it’s not fair for me to stand in her way any longer. She’s ready, and so am I.”

Weintraub has the support of Bucks County Republican Chair Pat Poprik. “We’re very happy he’s expanding on his legal work. His legal work in Bucks County has been very exemplary and people would like to see him move up and become a judge.”

Weintraub began his career as an intern in the DA’s office while in law school. After he graduated from Temple Law in 1993, he was hired as an assistant district attorney.

Weintraub grew up in Southampton, one of four children. He played basketball for the William Tennent Panthers.

He was born with hearing loss in both ears and wore hearing aids as a child.  According to his biography,  because of that disability, he learned to stick up for himself.

He was greatly affected by the death of four of his high school classmates in a drunk driving accident which led him to become interested in law and justice and, ultimately, embarked on a career as a prosecutor.

Before going to Temple Law, Weintraub attended Ursinus College. He resides in Doylestown Township with his wife Kathleen, daughters Shayna and Chloë, and Buddy the dog.

As Bucks County DA, Weintraub leads a department of about 100 employees. He garnered widespread attention for a murder case where four young men were killed on a farm in Solebury Township.

During his tenure as DA, he’s started many popular programs, including a gun safety program so that parents know the importance of storing guns safely and the availability of gun locks, supplying Narcan to police departments to revive those who overdose, and supporting a countywide criminal DNA database.

His motto is: “We’re here to serve justice.”

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Meet New DelVal State Rep. Kristin Marcell

Now that she has been sworn into her first term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to serve the people of Bucks County, Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro) said she is ready to get to work.

“I’m honored to represent the residents of the 178th District, and I thank them for placing their faith in me to share their concerns and craft legislation to solve those problems,” Marcell said.

Before Marcell was elected to the House, she was a communications professional, Council Rock School Board member, and community volunteer. She is also a lifelong Bucks County resident and graduated from Council Rock High School in 1995.

Rep. Kristin Marcell and family

“As a native of Bucks County, I believe we need to bring people together to find common ground, establish relationships based on trust and respect, and get things done,” Marcell said. “Regardless of policy differences, we can work together to tackle difficult problems and take action to move forward for our communities – all without vitriol and personal attacks.”

Marcell brings extensive experience from both the public and private sectors to Harrisburg. After graduating from college, Marcell worked in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Transportation as the communications director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Marcell’s experience in the private sector included two decades of providing strategic and communications counsel to businesses in the energy, environmental, and utility industries.

“I’m passionate about ensuring people have a voice in government. Unfortunately, that was lost during the pandemic, something we must never lose as a democracy,” Marcell said. “Beyond that, there are many issues important to my constituents, including public safety, improving education, getting our economy moving again, and a host of local issues that I want to focus upon.”

In 2014, Marcell attended her first school board meeting as a concerned parent advocating alongside other community members to save their local elementary school from closure.

“During that community-driven effort, I realized there was more I could do to help all our children,” Marcell said. “That’s why I ran for the Council Rock School Board – to advocate for students, ensure parents have a say in their kids’ education, and focus on real priorities to protect homeowners and taxpayers.”

While on the school board, Marcell learned working together and taking action can make all the difference, whether as a small group like the school board or in a body of 203 members like the Pennsylvania House.

“From my vantage point on the Council Rock School Board, I saw firsthand how decisions in Harrisburg during the pandemic impacted our students, families, and small businesses,” Marcell added. “Our community deserves a strong voice fighting for them in the capital.”

In addition to her work on the school board, Marcell served on the Middle Bucks Institute of Technology’s Executive Council. Marcell’s educational background includes a BA in political science from Penn State and a master’s degree in public policy from George Washington University.

Marcell lives in Wrightstown with her husband, Steve, and their two children. Outside of work, Marcell enjoys spending time with friends. She is an avid Penn State and Philadelphia sports fan.

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