Bethlehem City Hall sign

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez issued a statement Tuesday in response to a Bethlehem councilman's request for a probe into a city department that he contends may have slowed down work in a ploy to gain more staff.

Councilman Bryan Callahan had called for the administration to review his contention that the department of community and economic development may have ordered staff to "slow, delay and stall all permits" so contractors and developers would complain and more workers could be hired. Callahan did not claim his information is correct, just that it should be looked into.

Callahan punctuated his remarks about the potential permit issue several times with, "If it's true." He said he learned of the potential problems from city employees he could not name and their claims were backed up by a news blog. Callahan also said contractors called him to complain that permits were delayed for months. He said he had no other evidence.

"It's up to the mayor now," Callahan said during an hour-long discussion with 10 members of the media and public at City Hall. "If nothing happens from here, you will never hear it from me again."

Donchez said while he takes Callahan's concerns seriously, he took issue with how he has handled the situation and his refusal of requests for information. The mayor said he had asked Callahan for documentation, emails, names available from Callahan's sources, and that the information was not provided.

Donchez said the city would need documentation in order to assess the reliability and quality of the information.

Donchez said Callahan should cooperate with his staff to provide the documentation; meet with city Business Administrator Eric Evans and City Solicitor William Leeson and answer their questions; to "show regard for confidentiality and respect for the employee's privacy"; and announce his intention to fully cooperate with the city.

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