Monday, April 02, 2012

The LuLac Edition #2006, April 2nd, 2012

The late Bill James. I'll miss him at those GOP 6th District meetups.


Luzerne County lost a very good citizen last night at 11PM. Bill James died after a short illness. James could have been a very good public servant as a State Representative and Luzerne County Commissioner. He ran very good and active campaigns that highlighted his common sense and patriotic philosophy of what government could become. But he was mired in the ineptitude and games of the modern day Republican party that really never supported a candidacy like his on a financial and foot soldier basis. I always wondered how better our government could have been if Bill James had the opportunity to serve in some capacity. Still he remained loyal to the basic principles of his party. He made a run for County Council in the primary last year. I watched some of his thoughts on You Tube the other night and his interview with the Times Leader was a veritable civics lesson. On the campaign trail, he was friendly, funny, engaging and someone, despite any differences you’d be proud to know. Our condolences go out to his family, his Coast Guard brethren (my friend Wil Toole also a Coast Guard vet informed us this weekend of his illness) his neighbors, friends and Republican party stalwarts. It is customary for people to nod and say, “He was a good man” when one hears of a passing. Sometimes a comment like that is just lip service, but in the case of Bill James, it was the God’s truth. He will be missed.

Simpson vs. Griffith, Round 2?


Bruce Simpson has tendered his resignation as a member of the Ethics Board. In a scathing e mail to the Council, Simpson has again taken issue with one of the members of the Ethics Board, Walter Griffith, the Controller. To recap, from LuLac last week;
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.
After this was made public. County Council member Gene Kelleher sent an e mail regarding Simpson’s actions and his (Simpson’s attack on Walter Griffith.) Kelleher was Griffith’s campaign manager in 2009). Most Rev. Bruce Simpson stated, "Next election, let's put someone in there who is capable of doing an audit himself or herself is necessary!" I find that statement at the very least inappropriate for someone on the Luzerne County Ethic's Commission. If Mr. Simpson has a problem with Mr. Griffith, he should deal with Mr. Griffith. Mr. Simpson owes all of us he has publicly involved in this personal disagreement an apology.
The County Council is celebrating it's 3 month anniversary today. We have a county manager who was appointed about 1 month ago. We have a new ethics commission which is fortunate to have a member whose educational and experience background is exceptional, and she and other members are volunteering their time to give the council welcome input on an Ethics Code draft. Now is not the time to make political statements.
Let's make a comparison. One man on an ethic's commission makes a public political statement about an election which will not take place until 2013. A woman on the ethic's commission in an unpretentious, humble manner volunteers her time to help a neophyte council. A man with impeccable credentials, Dr. Thomas Baldino (a member of the election board) said in a County Council meeting he will not make any public statements about Luzerne County politics. Our goal should be to provide Luzerne County Taxpayers the most ethical, efficient government possible by working together in a spirit of cooperation.
Now Kelleher has been pretty reasonable and courageous on Council. He was one of the gutsy members to vote for a tax increase. He was going to take Griffith’s side. This e mail prompted the resignation from Simpson:
To Council and Ace:
Mr. Kelleher donated $500 to Walter Griffiths election efforts that transformed a mechanic into the controller of Luzerne County. Both the "unpretentious, humble" woman and this overrated mechanic tried to take the issue of my compliance with the Council's wishes public as a way to embarrass me. I owe no one an apology for that, or for giving my opinion as a taxpayer. This is Luzerne politics as usual. Might I remind Mr. Kelleher, this "personal disagreement," started when I complied with the directions of the Council!
I hereby submit my resignation as a member of the Ethics Commission. My main goal now is to ensure Walter Griffith goes back to the auto shop where he belongs. Hopefully next year, this sad county will have someone in the Controller's job that will actually be capable of carrying out the duties of the office. If you want to muzzle free speech for citizens that try and serve this county, then make that plain up front. I have more than earned my right to express my views by the service which I have given this country. The fact that Mr. Kelleher and friends don't like that, is just too bad. Oh, how are those audits coming? Please give me ONE example of where anyone with sanity, would allow someone that has cheated a government entity out of tax dollars, to name their own auditor to conduct the audit that Council ordered? If Griffith was qualified or the last two people he fired were qualified, his office would be conducting the audit.
Thank you and good bye.
Most Reverend Bruce J. Simpson, OSB
Two things here, losing Simpson to the Ethics Commission is going to be one big loss to Luzerne County. His experience as well as his straightforward common sense will be a great loss. It’s too bad there could not be an accommodation met with all the parties. That said, hurling insults at Griffith’s occupation is not going to hold political water. I went to those GOP meetings during the Spring 2009 primary and heard the sniffing and tut tutting of the Luzerne County GOP elite about “the auto mechanic”. Former Commissioner Mary Anne Petrilla was also not blameless in her criticism of Griffith’s occupation. In a time when no one trusts government, Griffith has made himself a working class hero. And the people who like and support him don’t care about the audits. That’s too complex a problem to wrap their minds around. What they do understand is that someone else is attacking a former working man that made good. And there are more working stiffs around getting their hands dirty that understand Griffith’s attack on spending. If Griffith decides to run in 2013, he will need to answer some tough questions about those audits and how he missed the billings from Angela Stevens’ law firm. But going after him for a prior occupation will backfire.
My hope is that someone will referee this confrontation. The fact that the Chairwoman of the Ethics Commission has not said anything publicly tells me she does not want to solve this issue. I hope I’m wrong but I think all parties involved should have a meeting. Because at the very core, Simpson was following the Charter. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

11th Congressional candidate Bill Vinsko.


Bill Vinsko, Democratic Candidate for Congress, has again been endorsed for Congress in the 11th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. The Vinsko for Congress Campaign announces that the Central Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Northumberland, Perry and Montour Counties of the 11th District, endorsed Bill Vinsko based on his support of and ideas for the working families of Pennsylvania. The Council consists of the following organizations: Asbestos Workers; Bricklayers; Boilermakers; Carpenters; Cement Masons; Elevator Constructors; IBEW; Ironworkers; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Laborers; Heavy Highway Laborers; Operating Engineers; Pipefitters; Teamsters and Roofers.
Bill Vinsko was recently endorsed by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council.
From Bill Vinsko:
“I am truly honored to be recognized by the hard-working people of Central Pennsylvania, and I pledge to work just as hard for them as their Congressman. Pennsylvania needs jobs, and Congress needs to get things done. The people of Central Pennsylvania know how vital it is to improve our highways and bridges and to make them safer for our families. The 11th District is a new community, and I am proud to have support from the working families from all nine counties.”


At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RIP Bill James. I had the opportunity to know him through the County Council race last year. He was a good man, and always energetic and friendly. I saw this headline and it broke my heart.

Goodbye Bill, you will be missed.

Casey Evans

At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The LuLac Edition #2006, April 2nd, 2012":

I knew Bill James and he absolutely would have made a good public official. I will miss our conversations and the people will miss the opportunity to have had a real quality guy in office.

I am amazed at the blind loyalty of Mr Kelleher as he defends Griffith. I've read what has been posted and I heard some rumblings on the street. It caused me to read the Charter with regard to the ACE responsibilities and Mr. Simpson was exactly right. It is clear that it is the Manager's responsibility to write the rules of opperation and the Council did have the right to demand the work in progress to be turned over to them for review .. review is the responsibility of the Council. Mr. Kelleher has proven to be a man with a backbone and he proved that when he put Brominski the vote switcher to shame by being man enough to stand up to public pressure. I admire Mr. Kelleher for that. I don't think Mr Simpson was degrading the profession of automobile mechanic, it seems to me that he was saying to you don't take your car to an auditor to have it fixed and you should not hire a mechanic to do county audits. I have read many posts with regard to Griffith not being open and transparent with regard to the audits, he has failed to practice what he preached by not making a public report on the state of the audits. I have a major problem with the privacy of the audits because there is no way Lawton as the county manger can do his job if he doesn't have a clear picture of the county finances and that can only be done via the audits. I'm disappointed in the media as well as all of the bloggs who supported Griffith's candidacy in that they have rolled over and closed their eyes and not held his feet to the fire. He has made some major mistakes and refuses to take responsibility. He pays the bills and has made issue of other bills but he let Stevens get away with highway robbery. Shame on him and shame on the media who do not demand a current report on county audits. It is a shame that Griffith has driven a quality guy such as Mr. Simpson out of our new government. Griffith is a bully and the media protects him. Do what's right Yonk and demand an audit report.

At 3:46 AM, Anonymous Bruce J. Simpson said...

To 12:33 AM, you are absolutely correct. I wasn't demeaning car mechanics. The only thing I know about a car is that it needs gas to go and costs a lot to keep going. My point was precisely as you interpreted. You don't take an audit to a mechanic, or a car to an auditor! There is more to this story than has been publicized to date. Both Griffith and Kelleher were apparently saying things about me where they could be overheard and what they were saying may land them in court. I signed on to investigate, something that I have received awards from Police Departments and the Federal Government for doing. I never got the chance to investigate anything but I would suggest that the Office of the Controller needs investigation. A very large dead rate is stinking up the place.
Thank you for your kind words; this has not been easy on men and I'm disappointed that I won't have a chance to serve the County.
Bruce J. Simpson

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is the word "ethics".
It clearly is foreign to the politicians and residents of Luzerene County. Bottom line is "ethics" dont exist around here
at least in politics. As a matter of fact "ethics" pretty much are out of fashion. As to demeaning the mechanics profession, I really respect my mechanic on matters regarding my car.

Carey Ave Jack

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Mr. Griffith also was a factor in driving Tom Pribula from Luzerne County government. If anyone could have provided Lawton with a clear picture of the county's financial position and a strategic plan for correcting the sins of the past, it would be Mr. Pribula. It appears that after Mr. Griffith cried to Mike Buffer of the Citizens Voice and Mr. Lawton basically coddled Walter about Mr. Pribula continuing to be employed by the county, Tom has vanished from the scene. Griffith has outlived his usefullness. He may be a good watch dog, but he is a weak link in the administration. Furthermore, Council is over stepping its authority. Put some real teeth in the Ethics Policy with ample punishment. The faces have changed, but the game is the same.

At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill James was a good and decent man. We were not social friends but I did get to know him through the County Council race. He and I were on different ends of the political philosophy stick but we shared many emails and had many friendly political sparing sessions. Bill respected my positions and I his. He had planned to join our Coast Guard veteran's association but time ran out on Bill. We will honor his as our Association makes it a practice to attend every Cost Guard Veteran's wake but this will be special to me. I will surely miss Bill's emails. God rest and bless the soul of Bill James.
Wil Toole

At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Brian Shiner said...

Who watches the watchers? One member of the Council requested the revised code be turned over as is. That request should have been fulfilled by the real Chairperson not by an acting Chair and not after that acting Chair was directed by the real Chair to not comply.

When Mr. Griffith, as a fellow ACE Commission member, questioned Mr. Simpson's decision he became the brunt of attacks by Mr. Simpson. To me, Bruce Simpson became/is a bully who abused his position. I am glad he chose to resign. After witnessing his behavior in this matter I would not want him deciding the fate and punishment of others accused of Ethical Missteps or Charter Violations. It would be like pot calling the kettle black.

At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Bruce J. Simpson said...

Brian Shiner has his information wrong but that never stopped anyone before in politics.

Shiner is from Kingston and no doubt one of Griffiths minions. We are conducting an investigation into a certain matter and if it proves out, Griffith and a councilman will end up in court.

Bruce J. Simpson

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Brian Shiner said...

And I believe it won't stop you either, Mr. Simpson.

As far as ending up in court because of comments overheard there is an old expression. 'Believe half of what you see and none of what your hear.' It was your choice to resign. If you expected the Council to beg you to reconsider, well, I guess that didn't happen.

You say my info is wrong, so now you question not only me but the writer of this blog, Mr. Yonki. Because I live in Kingston and am not siding with you in this matter you peg me as one of 'Griffith's minions'. I sometimes find the need to simply 'agree to disagree' and move on. Your philosophy seems to be 'my way or the highway' so goodbye and good luck.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Bruce J. Simpson said...

Once more Mr. Shiner fails to correctly evaluate the situation. Multiple members of the Council already asked me repeatedly to reconsider my resignation. I want NOTHING to do with County government with the exception of organizing a campaign to unseat Griffith next election. Let someone call YOU a pedophile and see how you handle it. If you say you'd just shake it off, then you have no honor or self respect. BTW, don't send me any more emails. They will just be trashed.

At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beginning to sound like a hissy fit cat fight to me. Why dont you all act like adults and make some effort to work things out. Back and forth e-mails and postings and he said she said are pretty much meaningless not that LULAC isnt a good forum for discussion, but come on fellas. Re read what you have written and tell me that you dont sound sound childlike and foolish.

At 12:10 AM, Blogger JimboBillyBob said...

I had many occasions over the years to talk with Bill James. When I went to one of my first events as a GOP committee person and didn't know a soul, he sat down and introduced himself to put me at ease. He was always a gentleman and always easy to talk with. Bill, you will be missed.

At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a pleasure and a honor to be running for County Council on the same ticket with Bill James...I will miss his wisdom, his easy smile and his jokes.

God bless you Billy and my condolences to your family.

Blythe H Evans III

At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Mr. Evans. You too were an honor to meet on the campaign

At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand this bashing of Bruce Simpson. The law which is the County Council required the rules of the ACE be put into the hands of the Council and just because the Chair said to disregard the Charter and not release the work does not mean her illegal demand should be followed. It seems to me that the wrong person resigned. The Chair was legally wrong as was Griffith. Both need to publicly apologize to Mr. Simpson because he did the right thing. This is a perfect examplele of two wrongs not making a right.

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simpson was trying to do the right thing here and he got screwed big time...Kelleher and Griffith dont like him for personal reasons..they should get out of playing with peoples lives in Luzerne County politics and keep to their church boards where they can bully the poor little old ladies around the kitchen at the pot luck dinners and push the men around at the snow removal saturday pancake breakfast


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