The LuLac Edition #2002, March 29th, 2012
Bruce Simpson, member of the County Ethics Board and Controller Walter Griffith.
CHARTER FLAP OVER ETHICS
When the new County form of government took shape, one of the hallmarks of the Charter was the establishment of an Ethics Board that would rule on complaints received by the board. Sounds pretty straight forward doesn’t it? You have a body in place that hears a complaint, investigates it, acts on it and passes it on to the appropriate authorities. How hard is that? But only in Luzerne County can this become a big, overblown magilla.
Here’s the scoop…..the Ethics Chair was out of town this past week as was the County Manager. Controller Walter Griffith then informed Ethics Board member Bruce Simpson that he was Acting Chair of the council. Simpson received a directive from the Chairman of the Luzerne County Council to turn over the Ethics Code work that had been done to date, as it was never the intention of Council to have the Ethics Commission write the code. That is plainly the job of the Council. On previous votes by the Commission, it was determined to ignore the requests of the Council for the work product in progress. Simpson complied with the directive of the head of the Luzerne County Government and turned over the draft Ethics document so that the council could do their job. They needed a few days to review what had been done to date in order to be better prepared for the Council work sessions scheduled for April 2, and 3. A message from the Vice-Chair of the County Council to the members of the Ethics Commission thanked the group for their work and welcomed further input as Council moved forward to approving the Code once formally present by the County Manager. Vice-Chair then went on to say, thank you, we have the document now and will begin our work on the document.
Since the ACE Commission was formed to conduct investigations and issue findings, the Commission exceeded its mandate by tying up the Ethics Code beyond the requests to turn it over. The ACE Commission was never meant to write the Code or do a final document. In view of that message, Simpson, Acting Chair, canceled this weeks meeting of the three remaining members of the Commission as technically there was no lawful work for it to do. Both Griffith and the D.A. were informed of the Acting Chairs decision, with which Griffith objected and stated he would show up anyway. Since it takes three to make a quorum, no lawful business could be conducted. During this entire process, the Chair of the ACE Commission threatened to publicly censure Simpson if he turned over the document to Council. Remember, this is a document the Council is entitled too and not some secret report that they are not. Simpson feels that this is one of the problems of government today; a lack of cooperation between government entities.
Since the mission statement of the Ethics Commission was not approved by the Council or the County Manager as written in the code, Simpson felt that there was no need to call a meeting before April 28th. Why is that date important? Since the code will not be passed until on or before April 28th, it isn't possible to gather to investigate anything until such time as there is a final code from County Council, the final drafter of the Code. Simpson has said that he will absent himself from any meetings since there is essentially no work to do. If you look at the County Charter section on the Ethics Commission, he is absolutely right. From the Charter:
Section 9.02 -- PROCEDURE FOR ADOPTION.
"Within four months after the effective dare of the Charter, the County Manager shall propose and submit to County Council an Accountability, Conduct, and Ethics Code for the County government consistent with the provisions, spirit, and purpose of the Charter. County Council shall adopt an Accountability, Conduct, and Ethics Code by ordinance with or without amendments within two months after its submission by the County Manager. If County Council fails to do so, the Accountability, Conduct, and Ethics Code as proposed by the County Manager shall stand adopted and shall become effective immediately. County Council may amend the Accountability, Conduct, and Ethics Code by ordinance."
Controller Walter Griffith has gotten involved in this saying that Simpson was not designated as the acting Chair, even though there are two e-mails in which Griffith makes that conclusion. Griffith then threatened to commandeer any meetings Simpson will attempt to chair. But as mentioned here, Simpson doesn’t think there needs to be a meeting since there are no complaints and no work rules. Griffith I’m told is now petitioning to get Simpson off the Ethics Commission. Why? First he doesn’t want him as Vice Chairman, then the guy (Simpson) says there is no need for a meeting and now Griffith is doing an end run on the Ethics Board to get rid of a duly appointed member? C’mon guys, get out of the sandbox! I like Walter, I gave money to his campaign in 2009 for Controller in the primary when he was being ganged up by the sorry excuse of a political party that he belongs to. But I’m sorry Mr. Simpson and especially Mr. Griffith, there are bigger fish to fry than trying to have a debate on the Ethics Commission which has no complaints and therefore no work to do! How about tackling those audits so the next time an Attorney and crony of a Judge tries to over bill the county you at least notice it. Sheesh!
DUH, I DUNNO!
The new District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis addressed the County Council the other night. It was an interesting insight into the way she thinks. Salavantis gave a report to the county council on her office’s finances and operations. The DA has a loss of $295,935 or 5 percent less than last year. Because of that shortfall, she can’t fill 5 vacant positions for badly needed prosecutors. So Council Chair Jim Bobeck asks whether Salavantis might consider not rehiring the overpaid county detectives in the DA’s office to come up with the money for the prosecutors. And according to the Citizen’s Voice, Salavantis said,
“She attended the meeting to discuss "operations and finances" and was there "really not to discuss whether I should hire, fire or reallocate how my employees are run." I know the DA went to law school, college and high school. And she most likely got her education by making sure she passed her tests, or the tests mandated by her educational superiors. That answer proved what is a hallmark of this generation of twenty somethings, “If it wasn’t on the test or in the script, we’re not going off message”. Impressive politically but really sad for an administrator.
WHAT A CREW!
I support the Affordable Health Care Act passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010. Reluctantly. I think it doesn’t go far enough and wasn’t effectively communicated from the get go by the brain trust in the White House. I was a Hillary Clinton supporter and thought that she was the only Democratic candidate in the 2008 race with a set on her. And Obama, time and time again has proved me right. Yeah I know he killed Bin Laden and yeah I know he saved GM. But this team has to better communicate the reason why this bill is good. Before the freaking Supreme Court of the United States of America , this administration sent a Solicitor General that seemed shocked and surprised that he was arguing before the Supreme Court. When I was on the debate team at St. John’s in the early 1970s, I was told my the Debate Coach, Sister Mary Pio that a debate is won the day you frame an argument advantageous to your side. Why the government did not cite precedents I do not know. The Solicitor General could have said that as far back as the very first administration, more than 235 years ago the very first Congress (which included 20 framers of the Constitution), passed a law requiring shipowners to buy medical insurance for seamen. The law was signed by President George Washington. Congress followed this with a 1792 law requiring all able-bodied citizens to buy a firearm, and a 1798 law requiring seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves. Today, there are a host of affirmative federal duties to buy things. For example, federal law requires corporations to hire independent auditors, and requires unions to buy insurance bonds in case their officers engage in fraud. You could say the federal duty was imposed on persons who are already engaged in some commerce. But that is also true of everyone subject to the health-insurance mandate, because all of us buy or sell something. And yet in each case, Congress required people to enter into commerce in a different market than the one in which they voluntarily operate, which is precisely what the health-care law’s challengers claim makes this mandate “unprecedented.” Just because the opponents say it is unprecedented, does not make it so!
After listening to the audio tapes, I just think the administration should have had the Solicitor General go on the offensive in this matter instead of being scolded and manipulated by all of the Justices on the Court. Bad, bad strategy.
The remnants of the recently torn down Sacred Heart Church in Plains. Was the chair an usher's or a Bishop's? It doesn't much matter now dies it!
The old Sacred Heart Church in Plains as it stood for over 100 years.
SACRED HEART GONE
Well another Catholic Church has bitten the dust. Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, up on North Main Street in Wilkes Barre is gone. Demolished, Kaput. Leveled. The Church was over 100 years old and was part of the Parish Community of Plains which included St. Joseph’s in Hudson and Sts. Peter and Paul in Plains. The church was closed a few years ago, the siding was stripped off and now it is gone. Not a word from anyone about this. Why am I not surprised.
The outside of PNC Field in Moosic blocked off to traffic. This is the only construction we see going on.
Looks like you can’t even go into the Stadium at PNC Field in Moosic. The entry ways are blocked. Too bad the Brylcream Boys didn’t get a deal done with the Yankees so construction on the ballpark could have started now that we had this nice mild winter. I know, they’re too busy hiring their friends.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
OF PIES AND LOOPHOLES
With a pie in one hand and a list of tax loopholes in the other, Pennsylvania citizens delivered a message to state lawmakers this week — we can restore cuts that have hurt seniors, children and families without raising taxes. By closing loopholes and delaying tax cuts for corporations, lawmakers can enact a better budget. “Close the loopholes, grow the revenue pie, and make our tax system fair for all,” said Stephen Drachler, executive director of United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania and co-chair of Better Choices for Pennsylvania. “That way we can meet the needs of all our citizens and improve their lives." Better Choices for Pennsylvania, a coalition of organizations working for a responsible state budget, organized the “grow the revenue pie” event Monday, along with the faith community, and advocates for women, school children, college students, and people with disabilities. Volunteer pie deliverers stopped by each lawmaker’s office to drop off a pie and a handout that contrasts existing tax loopholes with funding cuts that could be restored by closing the loophole. In each case, additional revenue could help fund vital services without raising taxes. The handout shows, for example, that funding could be restored for education, colleges, General Assistance, and other health and human services by closing the Delaware loophole, delaying the planned phase-out of the capital stock and franchise tax, and closing other tax loopholes. After delivering the pies to lawmakers, several citizens gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to share their stories. One of them was Jake Fleming of Philadelphia, who said the small General Assistance benefit he received a few years ago saved his life. Fleming was homeless and sick in 2008. After 30 years of addiction, he decided it was time to get help. “I’ve been clean and sober for four years now,” he said. “I’m employed, I’m paying taxes, I’m supporting myself, I’m supporting my 14-year-old daughter.” Fleming said the Governor’s budget, which eliminates the General Assistance program, would be devastating for communities across the state. “Homelessness will skyrocket,” he said. “People seeking treatment in recovery houses and treatment programs will have nowhere to go.” Joseph Martin of Cumberland County found himself homeless last year. Thankfully, a friend gave him shelter while he got back on his feet, but even today his housing costs are close to half his income. “The citizens of the commonwealth need affordable housing available in their communities,” Martin said. “Without a safe and affordable place to live, recovery is hard to find.” More people will end up being hospitalized or incarcerated at higher costs, he added. Schuylkill Haven School District Superintendent Loraine Felker outlined the dramatic impact that state budget cuts for schools have had on her rural Schuylkill County district. “If the state doesn’t change its support for education right now, within three, if we’re lucky four, years, we will be totally bankrupt,” she said. “Education is our future, our students are our future. If we want to have a thriving state 20 years form now, we need to do right by our children now. And that means we have to educate them well.” Dr. Steve Hicks, President of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, raised concerns about budget cuts putting affordable college out of reach for more and more Pennsylvanians. Peg Dierkers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and co-chair of Better Choices for Pennsylvania, summed up the coalition’s message: “We are here today asking our governor and our state legislature to increase the size of the funding pie. After five years of cuts, families can no longer afford education, get supports they need to go to work every day, to take care of their elderly parents.” Drachler added that it was important that Pennsylvania meet its moral obligation to the hungry and homeless, to people who are sick or disabled, to children and seniors by closing loopholes and funding the services that struggling families need.
Part 3 of Tiffany Cloud’s interview with Michael W. Cutler. Topic: illegal immigration and the ties to terrorism. Only on WYLN TV or live stream online WYLNTV.com. The show can be seen on WYLN TV 35 @ Th 930p, Sat 5p, Sun 11a, Mon 830p, T 930p.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
This week the very best in oldies and rock music can be heard on WILK AM & FM. Tune in to Shadoe Steele’s extravaganza from 7pm to midnight with ABC News on the top of the hour.
Liz Tolan hosts Women Today on WYLN TV 35. The show airs everyday at 10AM and is the only locally produced showed by, for and about women. But it’s okay for us guys to watch too.
This Week on Sunday Magazine: On the 5th anniversary edition of Sunday Magazine. Brian Hughes speaks with Liz Ryan, founder of the Campaign for Youth justice and former prisoner Michael Lawson, who as a teen, spent 3 years in adult prison on whether teens should serve in adult prison.
Brian speaks with Lucia Peregrim about her “Sound for Scoliosis” fundraiser.
And This Week In Harrisburg looks at Women’s History Month, featuring comments from State Rep. Karen Boback, a discussion on the impact of Governor Corbett’s budget cuts on the State Police, and State Senator John Blake introduces legislation that would insure only licensed social workers can provide social work services in Pennsylvania.
Sunday Magazine, Sunday morning at 5am on Great Country 93.7, 5:30am on 97BHT, 6am on 97.9X, and 6:30am on Magic 93 & WARM 590 AM.
ECTV Live host Judge Tom Munley will enjoy a well deserved vacation during the week of April 2nd. Co-host David DeCosmo, who is just returning from a trip to Florida will take over the anchor seat for the week. He'll welcome representatives from the State Department of Transportation who'll be discussing road work and safety considerations as the Summer driving season approaches. ECTV Live is carried of Comcast Ch19 in the area and can be seen each day at Noon and Midnight with selected 6pm show ins throughout the week. DeCosmo hopes to use video recorded during his latest trip for additional segments of his Travel Time Series on ECTV. With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic being marked in April, ECTV is also screening a special edition of People, Places, and Things telling of area people who sailed on the doomed ship.
WRKC FM 88.5 award winners, Pictured are are Paul Ofcharsky, Sarah Scinto, Sue Henry, Kelly Caloway and John Ensslin, president, SPJ.
KING’S RADIO PEOPLE STAR
88.5 WRKC , King's College, was the recipient of three awards this weekend from the Society of Professional Journalists, Region 1. We received first for best newscast and sports feature reporting and third for best in-depth reporting. From the left are Paul Ofcharsky, Sarah Scinto, Sue Henry, Kelly Caloway and John Ensslin, president, SPJ.
Our 1967 logo.
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Consular Treaty. The treaty provides that the Soviet Union must inform the American consulate whenever the Russian government arrests a U.S. citizen--protection which American businessmen and tourists have never before enjoyed. This protective measure is clearly beneficial. American tourists in Russia outnumber Russian visitors to the U.S. 20 to 1, and the Soviet regime often capriciously arrests and detains Americans for ulterior motives. In return, the United States has agreed to grant all Russian consular officials immunity from criminal prosecution, an outlet that offending Russian officials have always had for all practical purposes. Arrests of Russian non-diplomatic personnel in the U.S. usually lead to retaliatory seizures of Americans in the Soviet Union and often to an exchange. The U.S. can still expel Soviet diplomats suspected of espionage, a penalty more swift than criminal prosecution…….In the city of Philadelphia, District Attorney Arlen Specter campaigns relentlessy for the GOP nomination for Mayor. The Democratic organization is behind incumbent James Tate for another term. Specter is criticized for running for the city’s top jonb midway through his first term as DA…..in Luzerne County, the scaffolding is finally removed from the rotunda of the building. The 1.5 million dollar renovation project is nearing completion…..and 45 years ago the number 1 song in America and LuLac land was “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” by the Monkees.
The Tokens revised an old Steve Lawrence song that got plenty of airplay in 1967.
COMO PHOBIA (BE NOT AFRAID)