Saturday, August 03, 2013

The LuLac Edition #2487, August 3rd, 2013


When I was growing up, my uncle on my mother’s side were golfers. The Pribula Brothers, Timmy, “Lefty” (Joe) and Lenny would golf at the Happy Valley Golf course in Exeter for various Knights of Columbus tourneys. Once when I was very young, I was allowed to tag along. Even at that young age, I was struck by the sportsmanship of the people who played there. A few times, while my uncles were traveling to their next hole, another golfer would hit a spectacular shot. And invariably, one of the Pribula brothers would exclaim “Wish I did that!” I felt the same way this week when I saw two articles by fellow bloggers online this week. The first was from Pittston’s Politics Joe Valenti who did a piece on the Thursday night meeting of the Pittston Area School Board. That’s the meeting where Red O’Brien, the runner up in the Pittston District Justice race got his consolation prize in the form of a job with the Board. Valenti presciently wrote that Red would get something. And he did. Why anyone, after reading this would not vote for Gerald Mecadon (pictured below) for District Justice is mystifying to me. (Photo:

Here’s what Valenti wrote. In the words of Michael Corleone in Godfather I “All family business was settled” at Thursday night’s Pittston Area board meeting. 
The board appointed a total of 19. This was quite the train wreck, however. First, as expected, Red O’Brien was hired at an annual salary of $50,000. Please recall Red narrowly lost a Democratic nomination to Alexandra Kokura by nine votes for District Judge. 
Please also keep in mind Board President Charlie Sciandra is Kokura’s cousin and was the key to Kokura’s victory. She will be squaring off in the fall against Jerry Mecadon who won Republican nod. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Red will be key in the District Judge Race and Sciandra knows this. For this reason, I’m sure he’s taking credit for this hire. 
Now so fast though. Again, to quote Michael Corleone “Treachery is everywhere.” 
The vote went down six in favor, two no and one abstention. Joe Kelly abstained, Marylyn Starna and Rich Gorzkowski voted no. Those who voted in favor were Kent Bratlee, Bruce Knick, Casey Donahue, Tony Guariglia, Charlie Sciandra and Bob Linskey. 
Yes, you read correctly, Bob Linskey voted to hire Red O’Brien. You see, Linskey is running against Coreen Milazzo for Jenkins Twp Supervisor. And, while Linskey may be the biggest pain in the keester to the majority, he ain’t stupid. He understands Red has juice throughout the district and wants to stay on his good side. 
Which brings me to my “treachery” comment. You see, all six who voted for Red are taking credit for Red’s hire. They all have elections to win and most likely are taking credit for Red’s hire. Lurking in the background of all this pulling some strings is former and soon to be new Pittston Area Board Member Marty Quinn. 
Reading the tea leaves, I don’t think Quinn and Sciandra are on the same page. In fact, come January 2014 you could see Sciandra and Quinn at odds. And, one of Quinn’s closest confidants is Red O’Bien. I guess we’ll have to see where Red lines up in the coming weeks. Next, like I said, the meeting was a train wreck. In fact Bob Linskey and Joe Kelly got up and walked out at one point. When it came to appointing new administrators, Linskey and Kelly along with Gorzkowski and Starna claimed they were in the dark and completely unaware of the six appointments. All felt the hiring policy was not followed nor did were they made aware of any of the other applicants. 
Two observations I made during the train wreck. First, for Marilyn Starna to make this claim gives it some credibility. Second, for as long as I’ve been covering Pittston Area politics, I’ve never witnessed Rich Gorzkowski lose his cool. Another thing that makes you go hmmm…. Oh, by the way, it got so ugly Sciandra recessed the meeting to go into executive session. Finally, the Janet Donavan debacle reared its head again. First she was appointed to be the Principal of the Intermediate Center. Then it came time to hire the Principal of Curriculum which the majority tabled. The minority attempted to appoint Donovan, however, it never came to a vote because it was tabled. Under new business the minority made the motion to appoint Donovan to Director of Curriculum. Before the roll call, District Superintendent Mike Garzella surprised many by giving Donovan a glowing endorsement. To a round of applause, Donovan was appointed. Those who voted in favor were Joe Kelly, Bob Linskey, Rich Gorzkowski, Marilyn Starna, Charlie Sciandra and Bruce Knick. Those who voted no were Tony Guariglia, Kent Bratlee and Casey Donahue.
The following were the nine appointments. You can connect the political dots:
Katelin Hopkins – Speech Therapist 
William Milz – Psychologist 
Jenifer Stone – Social Worker 
Maria Piaca – Special Education Teacher 
Mike Servokus - Special Education Teacher 
Amy Oliveri - Special Education Teacher 
Heather McAndrew - Special Education Teacher 
Christa McGlynn - Special Education Teacher 
Jared Lokuta - Special Education Teacher 
Gabriel Laskath - Special Education Teacher 
James “Red” O’Brien – Warehouse/Supervisor 
Brad Hankey – Network Administrator 
Art Savokinas – Principal Primary Center 
Coreen Millazzo – Principal 
Intermediate Center Kevin Booth
Principal in Charge of Human Resources Janet Donovan
Director of Curriculum Chris Lazurek – Vice Principal –
High School Joe Giamber – Principal Middle School 

ANOTHER HANDOUT ?????????????

Blogger Betty Roccograndi wrote this week in one of her posts about the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority being approached by the Historical Society to renovate the train station. That building falling down that was “sold” to businessman Tom Greco for nearly 6 million dollars. Hotelier Gus Genetti is trying to spearhead plans to have the Historical Society “save” the structure and charge rent to some county agencies. On the surface, you’d think that the Historical Society might be able to swing that financially. And maybe with endowments from “their” money, not taxpayers they can. But the agency is no powerhouse. The building itself is maintained and funded by the Osterhout Library on a condition of Isaac Osterhout’s will. If a furnace breaks, the Historical Society does not pay, the Library does. Sweet deal for them but my point here is this, does the agency have the wherewithal to support this endeavor? Plus, after Luzerne County taxpayers already put nearly 6 million dollars into the hands of someone already. Bob Lawton refused to put more money into it and I understand that action. Look, I understand the need for preservation. I had an uncle who worked at that building for most of his working life. But to handover the building just because Gus Genetti has a grand vision should not happen now. The Community Development Organization and the County have a bad track record. 
If Genetti and the Historical Society want the building, start a private fundraising campaign but do not use any tax money for this project. As I said on TV Friday night, if they are going to have a campaign maybe they should get the first million from the beneficiary of the 6 million dollar sale, Tom Greco. But people tell me if that happens, they should ask for it in cash. The County right now is digging out from under a terrible financial burden. Every dollar counts and saving the train station (for as much as I love it) is a luxury for Luzerne County taxpayers. When I was working in Development for WVIA FM, I approached Gus Genetti to sponsor a program on both radio and TV at the behest of my boss Bill Kelly. Genetti’s facility was recovering from a major fire. His response to me was this as best I could remember, “You represent a worthy cause. But we are trying to rebuild. When we can afford it we’ll be good guys but we just can’t now”. I think that fits right now with the County still rebounding. Here’s Betty Roccograndi’s take on it from her blog, PureBunkum. 
THIS is how the Loserne County Redevelopment Authority protects taxpayers’ $6.1 million investment? 
On Tuesday, some local officials toured the former Market Street Square train wreck station in Wilkes-Barre, which lucky Thom Greco was able to unload onto county taxpayers a few years back. 
The then county commissioners foolishly gave the redevelopment authority the money to purchase it, apparently not remembering that everything this authority touches seems to turn to mud. Now, the county Historical Society may be interested in taking over the property. More on that later. 
Amazingly, nothing crashed down on any of the society members’ heads as they walked through the decaying property. As of press time, we also didn’t hear of any of them falling through the second floor to the first as they sidestepped ”busted bricks and floor tiles and food containers left from squatters,” which is how The Citizens’ Voice described the inside. 
We paid $6.1 million for this place, which was supposed to include initial restoration costs, and the Redevelopment Authority, like a bad tenant, trashed our investment. Now they’ll be the ones to decide whether to hand it over – for free – to the Historical Society? 
We bought this wreck partly because Greco was a lot smarter than former county Commissioner Greg Skrepenak. Greco bought a few TVs for Skrepenak’s father’s sports bar and roped in a sucker to support the purchase of his dilapidated train station for a cool $5.8 million. Coincidence? 
So the Redevelopment Authority became the proud new owner of the 6-acre site but had no money to renovate the train station. So it sat there decaying year after year. The pictures published in the CV were nauseating. 
Local hotel owner Gus Genetti has pitched the idea of the Historical Society taking over the complex and raising the estimated $2 million to restore the station. After that, the society would lease part of it to the Loserne County Convention and Visitors Bureau. 
So we’re expected to simply hand over a property that cost taxpayers $6.1 million to the Historical Society? Shouldn’t taxpayers have a say here? Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton, with the county council’s consent, nixed spending another $2 million on the place, arguing that jobs would be created only if a private developer purchased and developed it. The Times Leader reported today that the Redevelopment Authority never requested proposals from developers in order to obtain an appraisal of the site. Did it? 
Will it? – before handing it over on a silver platter to the Historical Society? 
And keep in mind it is this same authority which had a bridge to sell and did so to Leo Glodzik for $500. That was one heck of a ”deal” as now taxpayers may have to spend $614,600 to tear it down, according to published reports. 
Andrew Reilly, the county’s community development director and interim director of the redevelopment authority, told the TL there was an understanding that when Glodzik bought the dilapidated bridge, he would tear it down. 
An understanding? This is how the redevelopment authority does business? With a handshake? Oh, and Reilly also told the paper that no contract was found stipulating that the demolition must be completed. 
Well, that’s what you get when you substitute a contract for an understanding. 
We also understood that for $6 million, CityVest was going to find a developer for the Hotel Sterling. 
We understood that for $6.1 million, the county Redevelopment Authority was going to find a developer for the train station complex. 
That’s what happens when no one is held accountable for defaulting on county loans and incompetent municipal authorities are the custodians of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. 
At least, that’s our understanding.
Betty Roccograndi
That building falling down that was “sold” to businessman Tom Greco for nearly 6 million dollars. 
CORRECTION (from my part of this article)
A correction to the blog regarding the county Redevelopment Authority. The railroad station was not "sold" to Greco for 6 million dollars, it was BOUGHT from him for that amount. That's a huge difference.


At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is my sincere hope that Mecadon will win this election, since Alexandra Kokura is Lackawanna County's veiled attempt to try and consume Luzerne County in the same way that Louis Barletta has consumed the 11th district. Make no mistake. Lackawanna County wants to take over a very vulnerable Wilkes Barre.

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if you saw what happened on the boardwalk at venice beach in california, but i think, much like happens after every gun crime, we need to have a conversation about banning or at least regulating and having background checks and psych evals for anyone who wants blue dodge avengers; because obviously the car being the weapon of choice was responsible and not the person driving.

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Junction said...

Business as usual at the PA school board meeting. They all talk the talk when running for election, but don't walk the walk when they get in. No wonder why taxes never stop going up with such a group as we have now. Must be rough sleeping at night for most of them is all I have to say.

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A correction to the blog regarding the county Redevelopment Authority. The railroad station was not "sold" to Greco for 6 million dollars, it was BOUGHT from him for that amount. That's a huge difference.

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I have never disagreed with yhou so strongly as I do with yhour suggestion that Pittston Area voters cast their ballot for Mecadon. I have very strong personal reasons for not voting for Mecadon but that's not my point here. My point is that you just dragged a quality professional woman into the mud of politics and in my opinion you did it without considdering some p;olitical reasoning. I ;posted a re;ply to P:ittston :Politics and I will follow this note with a copy of that p;osting which I think is good political knowledge. You wwere truly unfair to a shirt tail relative of Board member Sciandra and I always respected your p;olitical opinons because I thought they were based on sound p;olitical reasoning, not knee jerk reactions. Nuff said, here is my post to Joe Valenti's blog.

Joe, I just read your PA story and you did get my attention.

I won't argue that politics is always a consideration or at the very least, SOME consideration but I have a different take on the Red O'Brien/Sciandra connection.

I fully understand that Charlie Sciandra is a cousin to Alexandra Kokura but I don't see the advantage of Sciandra trying to make peace before the November election for District Justice. There are two trains of thought on this. First, Now that Red has the job it would be another political mess if he were to go against Kokura in the election because if retaliation was made, Red would have a law suit hanging in the air. So I don't see the advantage of appointing him before the election. But second and most important, if Sciandra really wanted to play politics and guarantee Red's support in the election, he would have held off the appointment of Red till after the election and Red had proved his worth to Kokura. My thoughts on this are right out of the old Doc Dorris, Marty Murry/Bob Loftus book of politics. People get after they prove their worth,not before. So my conclusion is that I honestly believe that the weight of the Kokura election played a very little role in Sciandra's decision and support. By the way, if their is some sort of rift between Sciandra and Marty Quinn, this appointment will go a long way in healing it.

Personally, I'm very impressed with the energy Kokura put into the Primary election and I give her the credit for getting herself elected. With all those who I personally know gave her their support, none of them could have pulled it off without the work put in by the candidate herself. In fact, Kukura has not yet stopped working. I was at the Pittston City council meeting last week and Alexandra Kokura was present. The woman does not know the words, stop or rest. When it comes to campaigning, she is truly the Pittston Area Energizer Bunny. She works and works and works.

Just thought I would share my thoughts on Red's appointment as it partners with Kokura's election. Wil (Toole

At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before we turn Mecadon into the second coming of Pope Francis, let's remember how he got the GOP nomination. The award winning phony that won't go away, that still has to have his hands in everything Pat Solano backed him. That's old time politics that I thought we were rid of!

At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:41, excellent post.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, have to tell you that I'm grateful you shared this information about the Redevelopment Authority via Ms. Roccograndi's excellent piece. Andy Reilly is a political loser rewarded by the party because he got his ass handed to him by the late Steve Flood. I long for the days of professionalism when Gary LaMonmt ran it.

At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:29, Are you nuts? Kokua has been a residient of Dupont all he life and being the greater Pittston magistrate has nothing to do with Wilkes Barre. Mecadon was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and people like you want to convert it to gold. He has a law practice in Pittston, he was given his building by his father and now he wants tax dollars while he works his private practice.

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:42, anyone who saw the grilling of Andy Reilly by Conty Councilman Williams would have to be imporessed with the knowledge demonstrated by Reilly. Reilly had the the answers and Williams could not stump him. Very impresssive. By the way, when did losing an election make you a political animal? Flood took the county for a very long ride with the money he lost the pension fund and the huge legal fees he paid to the Philly law firm. Urban was also a part of that b ut then Flood stuck his foot in his ow mouth while campaigning for county commisioner and had a law suit filed against him which he got the county to pay for. THE MORE THESE SAVIORS SCREW THE PEOPLE THE BETTER SOME TAXPAYERS LIKE IT. STUPID.

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the tragic Venice Beach incident is concerned, no we should not ban cars. I am certain that this wacko was under the influence of alcohol at the time of this madness.
Tens of thousands die at the hands of drunk drivers each year...and the band plays on.
And, in fact, if one has possession of a firearm in his home the chances of him blowing his mother-in-law away over the burned Thanksgiving Turkey are quite good, as opposed to him NOT having a gun in the house.
Most murders involving firearms and most fatal accidents involve alcohol.
I call on the President and the Congress to NOT ban firearms but to OUTLAW ALCOHOL>
Lives will be saved.

At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

obviously, you did not read the story. This was not a traffic accident, he used his car as a weapon just as a gun is used as a weapon you moron

At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

obviously, you did not read the story. This was not a traffic accident, he used his car as a weapon just as a gun is used as a weapon you moron

At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ray Musto's shadow Andy Reilly got the ball rolling in the wrong direction once again for Luzerne County. If anyone should be blamed as to why we got Steve Urban, Skrep and Vonderheid, its the Tom Makowski/Pizano/Reilly era - the worst of the worst. I am so glad Steve Flood put him to the fire and yes of course Reilly was rewarded with a job for bad behavior. Disgraceful!!!

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