The LuLac Edition #790, Apr. 22nd, 2009
WHAT A JOB!
Okay, picture this….your politically connected friend tries to get you a job with a claims insurance company. They decide you’re pretty much a doofus and decide not to hire you. Your politically connected friend then hires you to do the same type of contract work that turned you down in the first place. The average taxpayer in Lackawanna County is wondering, “Where oh where do you get friends like that?” Apparently if you were Chuck Costanzo from 2004 to 2007, you were blessed. Even if your friend did a Claude Rains and was “shocked, shocked” by the way you ran the company, you have to admit it was a pretty good run. The background scoop on this is simple: FBI agents raided Charles Costanzo ‘s office. He said the raid was politically motivated. I bet a lot of people are using that line in LuLac land this spring! Constanzo was not shy about identifying his patrron, then County Commissioner Chair Bob Cordaro. Costanzo is accused of stealing $650,000 during his reign as CEO of Executive Claims Administration, a company created to oversee the county’s workers’ compensation fund. An FBI agent testified that when the agency arrived at Mr. Costanzo's Abington offices in September 2007, Mr. Costanzo "said he approached Mr. Cordaro after (the commissioner) was elected and that Mr. Cordaro promised him a job in county government," the agent said. It is alleged that Cordaro attempted to get Costanzo a job at Hennigan Ferrario Inc., then the county's workers' compensation administrator. When that failed, Mr. Costanzo told FBI agents, Mr. Cordaro gave the entire workers compensation contract to Mr. Costanzo's firm, Executive Claims Administration. Another witness testified that Mr. Constanzo was not much of a worker. The LuLac Political Letter's investigative reporter, LuLu LaMouur obtained a copy of Mr. Costanzo’s day planner. This is reportedly how he spent his time.
10:00AM Arrive at office.
10:20AM Eat donuts. Smoke cigar.
10:30AM Watch some porn. Smoke cigar.
12noon Lunch. Smoke cigar. Discuss porn.
2:30PM Nap. Dream of cigars and porn.
2:50PM Meet with aides to figure out how the hell to spend all this money.
3:00PM Call mom.
3:01PM Watch porn. Smoke cigar.
3:45PM Discuss porn.
3:59PM Set schedule for next day. Priorities, which porn to watch and when. Gather cigars.
4:01PM Leave office.
4:05PM Shop for Escalade.
Wilkes-Barre Area School Director Brian Dunn was charged by federal authorities with accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange with hiring teachers and awarding of contracts within the school district. Dunn appeared at the federal courthouse in Wilkes Barre and was released on his own recognizance. Dunn is the second area school official to be federally charged within the past week. Last week, Pittston Area Superintendent Ross Scarantino was charged with accepting thousands of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for helping a person secure a contract with the district. The charges stem from an ongoing federal investigation into area districts that is focusing on hiring practices and the awarding of contracts. Dunn was first elected to the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board in 1997, and has won re-election every four years since. He has served as Board President. His current term expires at the end of this year and he did not seek re-election. This was not the first brush with the law for Dunn. According to the Times Leader, in 2005, Dunn was charged with Driving Under the Influence after he slid his car into a building in snowy conditions and hit Michael Togher in the process. Tests showed Dunn’s blood alcohol level was 0.186, more than twice the limit at which a driver is considered intoxicated. In Pennsylvania, that level is 0.80. The accident occurred about 8:30 p.m. when Dunn hit Togher, who was on a South Main St. Sidewalk in Wilkes-Barre. Dunn told police he was driving northbound when his car started to fishtail and he lost control. The car jumped the curb and struck an abandoned building. He said when he got out to check damage, he saw Togher on the ground in front of the car. Dunn appeared before then Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Conahan and entered the Luzerne County Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program as a result of the charges, a common outcome for first time DUI offenders. Among other things, Dunn was ordered to pay court costs, $50 per month to defray cost of supervision, enroll in and complete safe-driving school, participate in treatment and rehabilitation, surrender his driver’s license for one month and do 25 hours community service. I had a professional associate who got a DUI, his license was suspended for one year. But he wasn’t a school board director either. The news of Dunn’s arrest comes as no surprise to past Wilkes Bare Area School Board members. Two I spoke with said there had been rumors about Dunn for years but no one could ever get a confirmation on it. Apparently, the FBI did and that’s why there was an arrest today.
George Cosgrove was named interim superintendent at last night’s Pittston Area School Board meeting. Cosgrove replaced recently arrested PA school office Ross Scarantino. Cosgrove was a renowned swimmer in high school as well as a well respected swim coach. His new job will certainly have choppy waters ahead. We wish him luck.
PA. BUDGET BATTLE
All the state legislature members agree on how huge the state’s financial hole is, legislative leaders now get to figure out how to dig themselves out. There are 11 weeks leading up to the expiration of Pennsylvania state government’s current budget and it holds many tough decisions for legislators as they struggle to adjust to the biggest money crisis of many, if not all, of their careers in the Capitol. The course to an agreement on a new spending plan will be fraught with careful political calculations, charged-up rhetoric and closed-door negotiations that — if past years are any guide — all parties will emerge from declaring victory. The big problem: Most years Gov. Rendell and legislative leaders got to divide the surplus for their pet causes. This year they might have to dish out more pain than money. Monday, the Legislature returned from a two-week break to Harrisburg, where they will hold session for nine of the 11 weeks until June 30, the deadline to approve a budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year. Legislative leaders have begun meeting earlier than in other years (every Wednesday when the Legislature has been in Harrisburg) and say the discussions were cordial and put them in a position to begin shaping an agreement. Let's hope they get it done by the appointed time so that when they do make painful cuts, those agencies involved can make some contingency plans.
Today's Earth Day. Try not to be a slob and pick up after yourself. And for those of you who are tempted to leave that old mattress or recliner on the side of the road, I have one word for you: DON'T!