The LuLac Edition #392, Jan. 11th, 2008
PHOTO INDEX: OUR 1968 LOGO, NEW COUNTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE BOARD OF COMMSSIONERS MARYANNE PETRILLA OVERSHADOWING, WHO'S THAT BIG GUY AGAIN? OH YEAH, GREG SKREPENAK. WAS THIS PICTURE A HARBINGER OF THINGS TO COME?
The latest development concerning Maryanne Petrilla’s actions against now former County PR person Kathy Bozinski just screams for analysis. A few months back when Steve Urban suggested Bozinski be fired, the veteran newscaster, educator and PR person told me the knives might be out for her. Being naïve to a point, I couldn’t imagine how that could happen because, silly me, I thought the sum parts of her total experience was worth double her salary. That of course was not to be. Apparently Petrilla is of that generation of women where experience doesn’t matter. The more you have, well the more you have to pay for and “tut, tut, tut” that hurts the bottom line. That myopic view not only holds women back but in reality a seasoned workforce that can actually contribute to the greater good. Petrilla told Bozinski in a meeting that she wanted to revisit the position and make it more about internal posting on the website. Curiously Petrilla also mentioned that Commissioners should be more accessible to the press and did not need an intermediary to speak for the Board of Commissioners. Ever since the days of the late P.J. Clark, Gene Klein and the MIA Jim Torbik, County Commissioners have had people (like those men, a long time county clerk, a former chief of staff to a U.S. Congressman and a longtime veteran newspaper writer/editor) to craft a message. They did a service to the press and to the county by formulating what the Commissioners were doing. If Petrilla thinks there were problems with the message before hand, just wait until Urban and Skrep start having their own sit downs with the press. The fact that county commissioners were never accessible is plainly not true. In the 60s, a reporter could find Frank Crossin, Senior at Fox Hill Country Club on Sundays, Ed Wideman at the Susquehanna Savings and Loan or Steve Yanoshak at his DME supply store on N. Main Street in Wilkes Barre. In the eighties, Frank Trinisewski could be found at his bar or a Phillies game, Jim Phillips counting heads at the Courthouse or Crossin, Junior power walking through the streets of Kingston. The point is that the press, despite the best efforts of Clark, Klein and Torbik, could find those Commissioners. And if they wanted to talk, they did. But when they didn’t, and that was more often than not, they deferred to their spokespeople to promulgate the message. To think that not having a buffer between the press and the County is a good thing is just asking for chaos.
Petrilla also told the press that she gave Bozinski the option to resign so she wouldn’t have a firing on her resume. God, I laughed when I heard that. Getting fired from a job is sometimes a badge of honor, I mean there have been some people, (I won’t name names here ) who have demanded a police escort from their job to make a point. If you haven’t tried that yet in your life, give it a go. For Bozinski to resign would be untrue to herself. She busted her ass for four years making certain Luzerne County got its message out, nationally, and internationally in times of crisis. On a local level, she built unparalleled relationships with the groups and organizations that saw the magnificent Courthouse building as a “home” to all diverse groups. For her to go gently into that goodnight would be a lie to herself and her upbringing. Besides, from a practical purpose, the late Coach and his dear wife didn’t raise no fool, you quit, no Unemployment Compensation. You get fired, well then you have time to regroup and lick your wounds, in this case considerable ones. Keep in mind, successful Attorney Michael Cefalo and Congressional aide Paul Maher were fired from their county jobs in 1980 and that did not hurt their careers, in fact it enhanced them. Bozinski also said she obtained a lawyer, let’s hope it’s some out of town pit bull instead of some of the local pansies who talk tough but then make deals that benefit only them and not their clients. As one of my posters indicated, Bozinski is over 40, a woman, and if the men like Guesto or Hyder are reassigned or not fired, any out of area lawyer worth his or her salt would shred this firing to pieces. There are some who say the Dome had room for only one flashy female in heels and that Petrilla was threatened by Bozinski’s popularity. Uh, who was it who came in first in the election? Did I see a Bozinski on the ballot?
Petrilla also says that she thinks farming out the county website is not a good idea. I have found the county website up to date and filled with information the day it happened. If you get someone to do that at a lower price, you get what you pay for, a young kid looking to move on to the next big thing or a lackey who will not live up to the standards of the current website. And if she is thinking of replacing the spokesperson position and restructuring it, I can almost guarantee you that one of the successful candidates will be one of two Hazleton residents and broadcast veterans (professional friends who I respect and like) who have traded the same non profit jobs in that city for the last twenty years. (Now if she picked my friend L.A. Tarone, now that would be a spectacular amount of fun! But Petrilla doesn't appear to be the fun type, at least not right now with the axe she's wielding!)
Petrilla’s alliance with Steve Urban will change the political landscape in the county. She will be the front person, taking the heat instead of Skrep. Urban for the first time will be in on the decisions and for better or worse for him electorally, will have to defend them. No longer will he be on the sidelines saying “put me in coach” or “if I were in the game”, this baby puts him smack dab on the fifty yard line. The one guy who will benefit from all of this will be Skrepenak. Skrep gets to rebuild some relationships with the voters and do what he does best, articulate the nuances of county government with clarity and an easy manner that doesn’t intimidate the voters. I predict Skrep will find that despite the vigorous attacks made on him by a segment of the voters, he still has a huge likeability factor. When Jill Knopka interviewed Petrilla she came across as the modern day corporate schoolmarm bestowing punishment on the tall Polish girl from Nanticoke, when Jill asked Skrep his opinion, he simply said, “I love Kathy Bozinski.” I mean who hasn’t for more than 30 years on the public scene? Skrep looked like the Teddy Bear the voters know and like.
Petrilla says she wants to be more accessible to the press. Good. Then let the press ask these questions, questions never asked before. What was the real motivation in Petrilla not stepping down as Controller after winning the Democratic nomination for Commissioner? Was she afraid she’d lose and therefore not have an elected position or did she have an inkling that this debit card thing was in the wings? And by staying in the position, did she stay the execution of the news? Either way, as Controller she looked bad. By not knowing, she appeared to be duped. By knowing (and I’m not saying this is the case) she looked complicit in the dealings.
Maryanne Petrilla has some very tough decisions ahead of her. Even though I disagree with her decision on Bozinski, you can tell she is taking the considerable bull by the horns. In the future, she will be scrutinized, her motives will be questioned and she will take the heat any leader who aspires to the position is required to take. I wish her luck and success. Petrilla, whatever her record in the coming years will be working under a hovering cloud shadowing a rainbow. The events of the last 16 years in the Commissioner's office have been chipping away at the credibility of the county system as we know it. Already there are rumblings about a new push for Home Rule. And this time noises are being made from a prominent businessman whose father was President of a local University. People are talking about getting behind it. How ironic would it be for Maryanne Petrilla’s political legacy to be the first and last female Chairman of the Luzerne County Board of Commissioners.
County Clerk of Courts Bob Reilly said that in twenty years as Record of Deeds he only received one raise. It has been said that the county should raise the salaries of the Row Offices. I agree. But the entire County should operate on the Kronos time stamp system where each county worker, from the President Judge all the way down to the newest hire swipes in and out with an accurate accounting of how many hours are worked. If it’s good enough for private business, it should be good enough for the County Courthouse employees. After all, it’s how the real world works.
IN THE LAC
Indictments were handed down in Lackawanna County against Chuckie Costanzo who ran the County Workers Comp unit. Word is that he blatantly stole (it is alleged) over $400,000. I mean even Tony Soprano was smart enough to launder his money. Didn’t Chuckie have HBO with all that extra cash? This will be interesting if any of this trickles down to former County Commissioner Bob Cordaro.
Forty years ago, Senator Joseph Clark, a renowned foe of the Vietnam War was preparing for a run at a third term in the U.S. Senate. The former Mayor of Philadelphia received primary opposition from Western Pennsylvania Congressman John Dent. During this week, both men made their intentions known…..On the county level, machinations were being made to pick a new county chairman of the Democratic party to succeed the late Dr. John Dorris, the mantle would ultimately fall to Pittston Mayor Robert Loftus….Nationally a little known Minnesota Senator named Gene McCarthy and a virtually unknown Brooklyn Congressman named Allard Lowenstein began to plot out a strategy to make a concerted effort to compete in the March 12th (yep, it wasn’t the second week of January back then!) New Hampshire primary…in Pittston, Sister Rosina was thwarted in her effort to impeach 8th Grade St. John the Baptist Class President David Yonki by calling for new elections when Yonki’s best friend, David Dellarte nominated him again in a secret ballot and in this week, forty years ago in 1968 the number one song came from John Fred and the Playboy Band. From YOU TUBE, a tribute to the late John Fred with “Judy In Disguise”.