RANTS  &  RAVES        Jan-Feb 2018

    Westmoreland, Fayette sheriffs in court

    RANTS, as today is not a good day for area sheriffs. First, Westmoreland's is charged with having county workers politic for him on paid work
    time. He denies the charges based on claims by his three high-ranking deputies, however, saying the charges are nothing but a political
    vendetta against him by his political enemies.

    Just one question. Who would would ask his political enemies on the county's payroll to pick up and transport political campaign contributions?

    While the Westmoreland sheriff's troubles don't seem to be going away anytime soon, Fayette County Sheriff James Custer this week  -- as per's "Judge to rule in 1995 homicide" -- spent time in court trying to stop an appeal from a man convicted of murder during
    the sheriff's investigation, then years ago, as a state polic trooper from the Uniontown barracks. That investigation had Custer piecing together
    the details of the murder of a confidential drug informant.

    Hopefully, the Fay sheriff is out of this hot seat soon. RANTS that so many long-time cases have clogged recent courts only because
    prosecutorial misconduct in the same case or other cases involving the same county investigators turned judges seems to be the only needed
    thing in common to get an appeal for a new trial or convert death sentences into life in prison stays. (27 Feb 18)   

    Concerning inmate complaint of isolation for retaliation  
    Fay Co Prison Board email: 5 of 7 undeliverable

    RANTS that a brief email sent to 5 of 7 county prison board members bounced back this morning as being undeliverable because of full
    mailboxes. Given that this type of notice is sometimes attributed to glitches and not true full mailboxes, isn't it time the county fixed the

    Electronic mail to 2 county commissioners, the district attorney, county controller and sheriff was undeliverable, while the same email to the
    court administrator for a judge and Commissioner Dave Lohr, so far, has not bounced back.

    In 2015, former lame duck commissioners Al Ambrosini and Vince Zapotosky entered into a five-year contract with Ford Business Machine to
    manage the county's computer system for $170,000 per year. Prior to that, the county employed its own staff in-house to manage its own

    RANTS if Fay's officials continue to have glitches or other issues with their email accounts for another two years. (25 Feb 18)


    Conn school assembly: Not the usual fluff and circumstance

    RAVES that school district and county law officials so quickly pulled together assemblies for middle and senior high school students in
    Connellsville, in follow up to recent threats of school violence there and in Uniontown and, of course, last week's tragic mass killing of 17 in a
    Florida and this week's suicide in Ohio by a 7th grader who entered school, went immediately to the boy's restroom and shot himself.

    This action today -- to reach out to students to impress upon them that there are people who genuinely care, want to listen and help if they're
    being bullied or want to bully others -- went over well in opinion some of those teens expressed here this evening.  

    "We have metal detectors at school. I feel pretty safe there," one shared, but added that someone, reportedly, also today smuggled in alcohol.  
    Another worried, since an armed Florida school deputy officer failed for four minutes to enter the building to pursue that student shooter, if that
    kind of thing could happen here as well, if an active shooter were inside. Yet another added, in sad commentary of the times, that she now asks
    in daily prayers to keep her school a safe zone.  

    RAVES that the assemblies today reminded students that there are live, real people to reach out to for help, as an alternative to taking their
    frustrations unchecked to social media.

    Those teens polled here seem to think that their time spent in assembly was a good thing and feel comfortable participating in the "lock down"
    drills to follow. Most importantly, they also expressed agreement that they would "make sure" someone in authority did listen and act
    accordingly, if they saw posted threats or heard another student make threats to harm themselves or others.

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAVES for that! (22 Feb 18)  

    And do they care?
    Are Fay Co Prison Board members aware of judge's 2-month-old order?  

    Neither a RANT nor a RAVE, but a note of appreciation once again to the Post-Gazette for enlightening so many unaware citizens that the ACLU
    appears to be taking on Fayette County Debtors' Prison and that a Fayette County judge agreed to additional training of magistrates and
    ordered the release of all indigent inmates incarcerated for having unpaid fines and court costs not serving mandatory sentences.

    Since the publication 24 hours ago of the below piece, "Fayette magistrates sent back to class," this column's mailbag filled with inquiries as to
    whether the order to release some inmates has actually begun. Inquiring minds want to know how many or few this order may impact. Can we
    see a show of hands that no prison board members or just a select few are aware of the judge's order?

    Email was sent to prison board members for an update.  More to follow.  (22 Feb 18)


    "Quote Of The Day" from inside Fay Co Prison

    "In this overcrowded prison, there aren't enough cells for everyone. In turn, not enough toilet facilities for everyone. Usually one cell stays
    open to accommodate people on (unreadable) and those without functioning toilets. For some reason, CO DANNY CAMPBELL has all cells
    closed, denying restroom use to several inmates, myself included. Even going as far as to tell one inmate needing toilet paper that he'll get his
    release papers for him to wipe with. Along with the denial of restroom use is the denial of showers. The shower cell has been locked all
    evening. When the range is open during the day, people in cells have an open shower. In the evenings, people on cots have to shower. So this
    evening, it seems I will not be able to shower. I'll climb my stinky self into my cot tonight, lay down on a mat about as thick as the envelope this
    came in, CO "GUNNY", having taken the plastic off my mat, stripping over half the padding from the inside. So here I am...... Stuck indefinitely,
    no bathroom, no shower, might as well be sleeping on the floor. I'm not as mentally strong as I used to be. Love made me weak and vulnerable.
    I'm scared for the future. I just wanted to get home to my kids and now everything seems pointless. I should have just given up."
    Chris Shellhammer, AKA Chuck U Farley, in an unedited letter sent today, describing the scene from the inside at Fayette County Prison
    as he awaits another rescheduled preliminary hearing for shooting a man in self defense last month

    "So why the hell is he still in jail? Why the hell was court continued again?"
    Dave, yesterday at the diner, asking why Shellhammer isn't released when there's no evidence of murder, only evidence of a justified

    "There's no death certificate yet, is what I was told."
    Moi, in response, as mouths dropped in disbelief


    The Avenue: Tornado Alley
    RAVES that only one or two minor injuries resulted from the wide-spread tornado property damage that seemed to blow apart much of
    Uniontown's Gallatin Avenue section of town last night.

    RAVES that only a few minor injuries resulted when the wicked EF1 level tornado touched down, making it the first February tornado since
    1950 in our south-western corner of the state. Photos of the destruction have seemed to make it to international news wires and news outlets
    just as soon as the sun started to rise this morning.

    RANTS, however, that now many roofs and buildings are destroyed and that more damage may result on the heels of what some tomorrow
    predict will bring torrential rain, ice and snow.

    Please say a prayer for those affected, as some interviewed on television news seem to be clearing, salvaging and staying put in what no
    longer can be considered safe structures. (16 Feb 18)   

    To learn the meaning of indigent
    Fayette's magistrates sent back to class
    RAVES to the Post-Gazette for informing Fay readers in its story, "Modern-day debtors’ prisons? The system that sends Pennsylvanians to jail
    over unpaid court costs and fines," that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last October intervened on behalf of an indigent Fay woman
    jailed for unpaid school truancy fines.

    As a result, Fayette County President Judge John Wagner released the woman from jail and agreed to allow the civil liberties group to train
    Fay's district magistrate judges not to send indigents to jail for missed court payments.

    Even more interesting is the story's statement that Wagner "also ordered people to be released from jail if they weren't there for a mandatory

    Whether or not that group release happened is another story, however. Email is sent to the county jail to see if the order was followed and to
    learn how many additional indigent Fay inmates were released for bench warrant arrests for overdue fines... that is, if the order actually was
    enforced. (16 Feb 18)


    Lohr, Vicites fail to practice what they preach

    RANTS to irony and hypocrisy anyway, but double RANTS when it all comes disguised, under the pretense of religion, in today's "Fayette Faith
    Initiative focuses on social conditions and role of the Church," piece on

    While it seems first off as a noble effort for Fayette County Commissioners Dave Lohr and Vince Vicites to gather 60 or so of the county's
    religious leaders to put their hands on Lohr to pray together for the county, the almost comic hypocrisy takes center stage with Lohr's urging
    the religious leaders to "take a step forward and reach out’’ to help Fay "be a leader for revival across the world" with Vicites watching from
    the second row pew.

    RANTS, however, that the photo op opportunity meeting ends up leaving too many readers with a bad taste in their mouths that morning coffee
    cannot wash away. RANTS that some will do just about anything to get votes these days. Organizing such a movement to urge pastors to visit
    county jail inmates and help parishioners fund adoptions and foster care most certainly is not a bad thing.  

    It only comes off as textbook hypocrisy once readers realize that the two grown men don't practice what they preach when they fail to inform
    and invite their third commissioner to the event. How smug can they be to preach unity and think that they can tackle all of Fay's problems
    without additional prayers from her and her supporters? (1 Feb 18)

    DA agrees to bond reduction
    80 new complaints against former funeral director
    RANTS there now are more concerning reports that authorities received an additional 80 complaints against a former local mortician since the
    big ta-du joint press conference 9 days ago, by the state attorney general and county district attorney, announcing the man's arrest for
    swindling 51 elderly people of $300,000.

    Equally amazing, in today's news report of the man's criminal arraignment, WMBS stated that the county district attorney agreed to allow the
    reduction in the bond of the jailed former mortician, from $500,000 cash to $150,000, if he surrenders his mortician licenses, passes weekly
    drug tests and has no contact with those swindled.

    No criminal plea was entered at today's arraignment, as per the station's news report. Unsaid is that the case seems to be taking on the scent
    of an upcoming plea agreement to avoid the courts.

    The former mortician, at least for the time being, remains incarcerated in the county jail. He is expected to be released from the county jail
    soon. (31 Jan 18)

    oh, and while we're on the subject...

    WMBS exclusives!
    RAVES to WMBS radio news for providing what at times is the only media coverage of an newsworthy issue, arrest, situation, request for a
    reduction in bond, etc.
    Fay SAT score rankings

    RANTS that SAT scores overall in Fayette County aren't nearly as hot as they could be. Connellsville in 402nd place, was Fay's first school
    district to appear on the list, almost half-way down it. Its SAT average score is said to be 1044.

    In comparison, Brownsville came in lowest in Fay, at 566th place among the 705 school districts, with an SAT average score of 953.

    SAT averages in Frazier (1041 SAT, 409 place in 705), were a little better than Uniontown's SAT average of 1027, at 448th place in the standing of
    PA's 705 districts.

    Laurel Highlands student SAT average of 1035, meanwhile, came in at 429th place.  (31 Jan 18)
    Thanks, God!
    Not from Fay County
    RANTS that the disgusting mess ever happened... yet RAVES of relief and appreciation that this mess was not made in Fay.

    RANTS that an Allegheny County orphans court worker is facing felony witness intimidation charges, receiving stolen property, stalking and
    conspiracy, for plotting with her jailed boyfriend awaiting trial for rape, child rape and aggravated assault, to help scare silent his trial witness

    This type of stomach-turning news from WTAE's website could have been worse, only if it happened here instead of there. (29 Jan 18)

    Former county prison developer, planner proven wrong again

    RAVES, once again such grateful RAVES, that Fay dodged the big bullet when it ran away from plans to build an industrial-size county prison
    and rehabilitation center on pyrite in Dunbar Township a few years ago.

    This particular new RAVE follows the state news release in the Post Gazette that state prison population numbers decreased again in 2017. The
    PG story at that link had the Wolf administration saying that the 2017 drop represents the fourth straight year that the total inmate population
    has gone down. In fact, administration officials call last year’s decrease the "largest on record."

    RAVES that former county prison designer and prison consultant Tom Crabtree has been proven wrong for the fourth consecutive year since
    he said, confidentaly in 2013, that county and state prison populations would rise, in spite of the implementation of specialized courts to divert
    incarcerations for those with mental health and/or drug and alcohol issues or veterans status.

    As readers here recall all too well, Crabtree urged county leaders to proceed with the huge, industrial size prison he designed, because prison
    populations, in Crabtree's opinion, soon would swell more to demand incarceration space and rehabilitation space for almost 500 inmates on
    any given day.

    Since ground hasn't been broken yet on a county jail, it's safe to assume that the county really could not and still cannot afford the financial
    burden of the huge, all-new jail that Crabtree pitched, as one of a few options to the county, in his firms' pricey needs assessment report on
    Fay's current and future prison needs.

    RAVES of hope that any future jail planners never take anything but Crabtree's pretty drawings seriously again, since state data proved him
    wrong now, 4 years in a row, since the words first came from his mouth. (22 Jan 18)

    "Quote Of The Day"
    "I have not directed the county solicitor nor the county zoning office to cite him. This will be aggressively defended as I am not going to
    continue to be a scapegoat in lawsuits..."

    Angela Zimmerlink, Fayette County Commissioner, as said, or reported as having said to the Herald Standard, which sought reaction to the
    commissioner, the county and a Lemont Furnace couple being sued by an area man, over zoning issues in which the commissioner has
    no say

    * from Jan. 22, 2018,, "Lemont Furnace business owner files lawsuit against county and neighbors"
    Fay, sadly, all over state-wide poverty list

    Masontown in the 33rd position, Uniontown at 28th place, Bownsville at 26th and German Towmship (McClellandtown, Edenborn, Leckrone,
    Ronco, Footedale, Adah, Palmer, Hibbs, and Lambert) at 21st place, all made PennLive's sad poverty list.

    RANTS because we just know it, that more of Fay towns, boroughs or cities would be named if PennLive's list went to, say 100 or more. (18 Jan

    Ironic "Quote Of The Day" from the employer of the food service vendor caught smuggling in toxic drugs thought to
    have sickened a dozen Allegheny County Jail officers during searches for contraband

    "Our efficient programs, procedures and protocols allow us to provide menus that positively impact inmate behavior, which allows your staff to
    remain focused on managing facility security."
    Summit Food Services, from its website page titled "Food That Drives Positive Behavior," boasting that the company "has the experience
    and resources to provide high quality and value-driven food service programs to meet the daily demands within correctional facilities"

    This 66-degree gift of a day

    RAVES for this glorious, sunny 66-degree gift of a day in between the last and next round of ice, snow, frigid temperatures and frozen pipes.

    Savour the day and any more that we're fortunate enough to get before the winter gear gets pulled back on and Spring really does arrive two
    months down the road. (11 Jan 18)  

    Audacious Al: still embarrassing Fay
    Some Connellsville hotel investors suing fellow investors

    RAVES with applause to the Daily Courier, for digging up an authentic, real news story, on some investors in Connellsville's Cobblestone Hotel
    accusing fellow investors of breach of contract, embezzlement and fraud, in a mouth-dropping, 17-count civil action suit.

    As per the Courier's "Cobblestone embroiled in controversy: F.C. judge orders principals to report hotel finances to limited partners," some
    hotel investors are at legal odds with another handful of other investors, including former county commissioner Al Ambrosini and his former
    campaign staff/courthouse assistant/former Connellsville Redevelopment Authority member Geno Gallo.

    The duo first was sued in Allegheny County courts three months ago, by the same fellow investors, in an action that was later dropped. The
    matter now, however, is in Fayette County courts. The investors suing fellow investors Ambrosini, Gallo and others seek $35,000 for most of
    the 17 different counts, as per the Courier.    

    As per online information about the $5 million hotel, funding for its construction came from private sources and a significant amount of public
    funds as well.

    That said, RANTS that anyone would dare to disregard his or her signed group agreement to include each investor in key business decisions  --
    you know, such as borrowing $200,000, reportedly, to meet basic hotel operational costs.

    This time, after all, it wasn't Zimmerlink kept out of the loop in the next office who didn't get the papers. It was a handful of serious investors
    who deserve to have their investments returned -- i.e., if there was or still is a profit to be returned.  


    RANTS, at a time when Connellsville desperately needs all the jobs it can possibly get, that these ridiculous shenanigans are real but such
    surreal news. Again, we stress appreciation to The Courier for the story. That's not the problem. It should be in the news.

    It's just that the court's time should not have to be wasted insisting that Ambrosini's handful group of principal investors update limited
    investment partners with a monthly fiscal report. This really is ridiculous.

    Any Fay judge who hasn't had time yet in almost one year to hear the county's motions to overturn two of Rants&Raves' Office of Open
    Records appeal wins should be much, much too busy to waste time providing basic 101 business tutorials to Ambrosini and the other
    defendants. A judge should have to order that written advance consent be obtained for future loans or major expenses not previously agreed
    upon by the rest of the investors? Really?

    Does a quacking duck really not echo? (5 Jan 18)

    "Quotes Of The Day"

    "I don't feel sorry for those investors. They should have known not to go into business with someone who lied in a recorded public meeting
    that he created over 120 jobs with the power company on Route 201 paying $60,000-$120,000 salaries. I spent an hour driving 201 looking for
    the place."
    Pete, to all of us, this morning at the diner, as he read The Daily Courier's story referenced above, referencing past dialogue at a county
    commissioner meeting when citizens questioned the validity of the impressive but proven to be untrue whopper

    "I don't believe you! You're making this up!"
    Moi, violating the Think Tank's cardinal rule not to grab away a paper or read over someone's shoulder, needing to get a look at actual
    print, because Pete can jag anyone around convincingly for a while, before he starts to smile and give himself away;
    Moi, shaking my head in disbelief of what was in print before us

    "No (expletive) way!"
    Pete's wife, coming in for a closer read, too, since she, too, thought Pete was joshing

    Meanwhile, 15 minutes later...

    "Look, the paper sold out. Think the people at the paper realize that copies sell off the stands when there's real news on the front page?"
    Pete's observant grandson in his second year of college commenting on the empty newspaper shelf


    RAVES for a beautiful white Christmas after all.  (25 Dec 17)