Carmine Fusco, 55, is the first victim in both Northampton County and the state to be claimed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He died March 18 at St. Luke’s Hospital, Fountain Hill.
Tragically, he is one of four family members who have succumbed to the virus. Fusco’s brother, sister and mother also died recently at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, N.J. Three more family members are infected, with two in critical condition, according to reports.
Amid pomp and circumstance in historic Courtroom No. 1, John Morganelli was officially sworn into office Jan. 31 as a Northampton County Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
The county prison’s honor guard, in dress blues and accompanied by a bagpiper, presented the colors, and Easton Area High School’s Karissa Kresch sang the national anthem.
The entire bench of the county’s judges attended the ceremony, as did U.S. District Court Judges Ed Smith and Joseph Leeson Jr. and numerous other dignitaries. President Judge Michael Koury Jr. administered the oath.
For the first time since 1991, Northampton County has a new district attorney. John Morganelli, who held the office for an unprecedented 28 years, has been succeeded by his first deputy, Terrence Houck, who was sworn into office Jan. 6.
Houck is a career prosecutor who has spent 32 years in the district attorney’s offices of Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton counties. His last 13 years have been spent as Northampton County’s first deputy DA.
Before he became a lawyer, Houck worked as a police officer in Philadelphia and attended Temple Law School at night.
Northampton County property owners will see no county tax hike this year. By an 8-1 vote, county council voted Dec. 5, 2019, to adopt county Executive Lamont McClure’s $445 million spending plan for 2020. The tax rate will remain at 11.8 mills, where it has been for the past five years. A home assessed at $75,000 will receive a tax bill this year for $885.
This is McClure’s second budget as county executive — and the second time he has held the line on taxes.
Provisions of the elections code are strictly followed in every Pennsylvania election. Unfortunately for Northampton County elections officials, another law raised its ugly head during the Nov. 5 municipal election. Murphy’s Law — the epigram that anything that can go wrong will go wrong — was in full force during the county’s roll-out of a brand-new voting system called the Express Vote XL.
Under Pennsylvania’s Election Code, 10 or more citizens have the right to challenge the Department of State’s certification of a voting system. That’s exactly what happened to the ExpressVote XL voting system in Northampton County, a hybrid combining a voter-verified paper trail with the simplicity of a touch screen.
This system was certified by both the federal and state governments in November 2018. Eight months later, a challenge was filed. This triggered an automatic re-examination, which was conducted off-site in August.
During the July 18 meeting, Northampton County Board of Commissioners, by a 7-1 vote, approved a new contract for health care at the jail. The contract is with Primecare, which has spent 19 years with the county. The contract amount is $24 million over seven years, with options to extend it to 10 years for $36 million.
“The seven years struck me as a very long time,” said board member John Cusick, who cast the sole no vote.
Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure has proposed an ambitious $455 million spending plan for 2019 that does not include a tax hike. If approved, the tax rate will stay at 11.8 mills.
This means homes assessed at $75,000 will have a tax bill of $880.
Kenneth J. Cernobyl, 50, of North Catasauqua, was sentenced Oct. 16 to life in prison without parole following a guilty plea to first-degree murder. He was charged in the Dec. 6, 2017, slaying of his wife Holly, 47, at their Fifth Street home.
Judge F.P. Kimberly McFadden, who imposed the sentence, ordered him be moved to state prison as soon as possible.
According to reports, after killing his wife, Cernobyl told family and friends that she was sick or at work. Two days later, his son Nicholas, 25, discovered his mother’s body in his parents’ basement.
Lehigh Valley Congressional candidate Marty Nothstein announced during an Aug. 24 news conference that he has been cleared of undefined sexual misconduct allegations dating back to the year 2000. He said he has been exonerated by SafeSport, an independent nonprofit committed to ending all forms of abuse in sports.
SafeSport generally only reports on its investigations when disciplinary action has been taken.