The LuLac Edition #101, Nov 29, 2006
PICTURE INDEX: WBRE TV'S WEATHERCASTER JOSH HODELL, WBRE TV MEMBER "I TEAM MEMBER JOSH HODELL, AND JUDGE ANN LOKUTA.
Thanks to all those who e mailed me and spoke to me in person regarding my absence for the last few days. When one blogs, you really don’t get a fair representation of how many people read you or look for you until you go away for a few days. So, I appreciate the comments. Know this though: I am a Christmas freak so during that time between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ll be inflicting the holidays on anyone standing still.
Thanksgiving weekend was spent eating a lot of turkey, Polish foods from visiting relatives from New England, baked goods from my favorite bakery, The Sanitary, in Nanticoke, a nice chilled bottle of German Reisling, some Coors Lite, a few mind stupefying videos featuring tall red haired actresses and of course the NFL. So by the time the weekend was over, so was my motivation.
Tuesday I took 6, (count ‘em) Civil Service tests and on Wednesday I did some consulting for entities that needed my experience and help. GO FIGURE!! So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
GO JOE GO!!!
Watching TV on Thanksgiving night, I saw “I Team” member Joe Holden anchoring all the broadcasts. He was very poised and really did a great job. (This was before the bottle of wine too). Holden carried on very well for the regular team, most likely off for the holiday.
Speaking of WBRE TV, we hear that Josh Hodell will be featured in an episode of “The Office” this Thursday. It’s good to know that the research people at NBC picked an affiliate. (Sound too basic for you? Remember the Kerry staffer in ’04 who wanted to send Teddy Kennedy to Nanticoke just a few stone’s throw away from Mary Jo Kepechne’s grave????) Hodell loves his job and it is a great coup for him professionally. The only thing up in the air is whether or not he will be sporting a suit or that black car coat (Donna Karan is my guess) he favors when the weather gets cold.
THE LOKUTA MATTER
In late 1979, after it was clear that embattled Congressman Daniel J. Flood would resign, the local Democrats began to scramble to replace him in a special election to be held in the spring of 1980. The names that came to the surface were Paul Kanjorski, local King’s College professor Attorney Frank Harrison, group home consultant Richard Adams, aide to Dan Flood Thomas Makowski, State Representative Ray Musto as well as Edward Mitchell who had run for Congress in 1976 against incumbent Joseph McDade. Everyone had their favorite and because the race was going to be so wide open, the Democratic endorsement was going to be of great value.
At that time I was working for a social service agency downtown as its fundraiser and public relations person. Exiting the building I worked in on South Franklin Street, I encountered then Attorney Ann Lokuta who I had not seen since college. At King’s, Lokuta was a bright, engaging, somewhat intimidating force in our government classes. She’d debate points with the professors and truth be told, (much to the delight of the class) would eat up a lot of period time with her opinions. But they were interesting and if not agreeable to us, at least cogent and principled.
On this cold winter day, Lokuta instantly accosted me demanding to know who I was going to back for Congress. I told her I knew Dick Adams since 1968 when he ran for State Representative and figured I’d back him. Just then, an elderly man wearing a tan overcoat and fedora crossed the street and walked in front of us. “You have to back Frank Harrison, Dave,” she said. “He’s family, he’s King’s College, he’s the most qualified and can win”. I nodded. She then proceeded to tell me that the local Democratic organization endorsed Ray Musto. At that point I realized the man walking in front of us was State Senator Martin L. Murray, then defacto Chairman of the Democratic party in the 11th Congressional District. Lokuta railed at what a bad choice the endorsement was and how the Democratic party lost a golden opportunity to do something Kennedyesque. I began to motion to her that the loud conversation she was conducting with me was being overheard by the big Kahuna of the local party. The former shoe salesman, Martin L. Murray could make or break any attorney politically with a flick of his toothbrush and not even break a sweat. Despite my body language and pleadings (I appeared to be a chunky mime that day) Lokuta went on railing against the local party establishment without regard to what this kingpin thought of her or her opinions.
I tell you this story now because with Ann Lokuta, what you always saw was what you got. There never was a hidden veneer of forced gentility that you can see on a daily basis at any local Chamber of Commerce meeting. Lokuta was going to be in your face and if you couldn’t handle it, then…boohoo on you. Lokuta has been elected judge twice and has been badly mistreated by a series of President Judges through the years. When one is ostracized or given poorer quarters than other newer jurists, why wouldn’t they get annoyed and cranky?
Now some of the charges are serious like having a staffer clean her house or wash her floors. But keep in mind they are only charges. And they need to be proved. The court system will do that in due time.
It is interesting though that this is still another investigation into the first female Judge in the county. Some will say that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Others might say that Lokuta has a target on her back. We elect judges not for their demeanor or how nice they are to lawyers, but to serve justice. I have known many fine local Attorneys. I have known just as many who are prima donnas who want their butt kissed constantly because they are officers of the court. Some of these lawyers take only the “sure thing” cases, work banker’s hours, come unprepared to court and preen around the community as “future leaders” when in fact they are nothing more than empty suits. If Lokuta’s greatest crime is being rude to the “Poor babies”, then tough luck. Again, I am not including all Luzerne County lawyers, but I’m sure you’ve encountered one or two who will tell you they can get out of any traffic violation because they have an “officer of the court id badge” or go “drinking at Christmas with the judges”. My favorite lawyer story is an Attorney I had dinner with years ago. She told me she would pay for dinner because prior to joining me, she had run a background check on me and knew I made three times less money than her. Can anyone say “invasion of privacy” here? If Lokuta hurt the feelings of some of the arrogant, ball less, incompetent lawyers (of which there are many in Luzerne County) then good for her. If that’s the best they could do, accuse her of hurting their feelings, then just leave her alone.
On her staff’s accusations, here’s my take. If she’s rude, crude and not nice to you, leave. I worked for a guy who terrorized his staff, family and customers. I stayed less than a year and never put myself in the position of doing something I couldn’t live with. But I knew what he was like going in, put up with all I could and then left. I did not go running “wee wee wee all the way home” when things did not go my way. He had the power, I did not. I made the choice to leave when I felt there was nothing more I could do. A staff’s first obligation is to the boss. If that boss serves the general public, and there are no proven facts yet to say Judge Lokuta did not, then the staff, despite the boss’s erratic behavior and eccentric demeanor has to show support and loyalty, if not to the person, then the office. And if they can’t: leave.
On the personal allegations, office romances are a dangerous territory. But again, it boils down to whom you choose to be involved with. My rule of thumb has always been to become involved with someone who years later would never embarrass me or even think of it. We pick the people we become passionate about carelessly sometimes. The heart overrules the mind. The Judge, but also those becoming involved with her had a greater responsibility than two non descript local people hooking up at Jitterbugs. Judge Lokuta should never have trusted her personal relationships to those she worked with, but on the other hand, those people getting involved with her now show lack of class, civility and dare I say chivalry in stabbing her in the back. Their motivations must be questioned.
Finally, Lokuta tells us she’s a coal miner’s daughter. A few snicker at that, saying the Judge is playing the ethnic card. Having lived, been educated and worked in this area most of my life, my experience has been that if you don’t have the right look, the right last name, the proper connections, run in the right circles, join the right organization (even if you do, the elite will find a way to shunt you aside so you don’t get any visibility) or act the preferred way, despite being chosen by the people, there will be a process to derail you. It is significant that Lokuta faces this investigation again. I can’t help but think if she was not short haired, near sighted Annie from Dupont, and educated first generation at King’s but rather long blond tennis playing Bitsy from Harvey’s Lake, third generation pledge at Cabrini College at Phoenixville, none of this would be going on. Speak your mind and act differently in Luzerne County at your own risk if you aren’t one of the chosen.
FOOTNOTE: In the 1980 race for Congressman’s Flood’s seat, Ray Musto won the special election and served out the term. He was defeated in November by James Nelligan of Harvey’s Lake in the Reagan landslide. In 1982 during a huge recession, Democrat Frank Harrison beat Nelligan. Lokuta was right, just two years too late. Harrison was defeated in the 1984 Democratic primary by under 2,000 votes by Paul Kanjorski who has held the seat since then.
Guess who’s no longer Speaker of the Pennsylvania House? Arrogant GOP leader John Perzel that’s who. Seems the Democrats have a one vote majority because of a 23 vote election win in Chester County. Bill DeWeese, Minority Leader is expected to replace the classless little dictator who refuses to answer the most basic press questions regarding his job. Last I heard that was supposed to be serving the public!