Monday, January 04, 2016

The LuLac Edition #3112, January 4th, 2016


Evie Refalko McNulty and this guy. (Photo: Scranton Times Tribune) 
Commissioner Pat O'Malley at last summer's Matt Cartwright fundraiser. (Photo: LuLac archives).
The swearing in of the first woman Commissioner ever elected in Lackawanna County was overshadowed by a political back stabbing that will go down in Lackawanna County history as one of the most cowardly I have ever seen. 
First off, Laureen Cummings, (a 2014 Women We Love award winner) was sworn in. Shortly thereafter a controversy ensued when Pat “The Statesman” O’Malley elected with Jerry Jerry Notarianni in the General as Democrats got Cummings to vote with him to “unhire” Evie Refalko McNulty (another former LuLac Woman We Love winner) as the Lackawanna County’s new Chief of Staff. Refalko McNulty the Recorder of Deeds for Lackawanna County for decades and a person who ran the National Council of Mayors in the 80s is no stranger to government and how it runs. It was supposed to be a done deal until she got a phone call Sunday night telling her to unpack her office. Today she was denied the job by “The Statesman” and Cummings. Jerry Jerry Notarianni voted for her to have the job.
See, something happened on Sunday night to move O’Malley. Then he goes on TV looking like a scared deer in the headlights and says to WBRE’s Eric Deabill, “She’s not the person for the job!” Did not or could not elaborate.
Then Cummings goes on TV and after being named Vice Chairman and says to the WBRE reporter when he asks if she sees Lackawanna County going Republican, she answers in the affirmative. O’Malley ran as a Republican to get in office. Then when it looked like Cummings would cream him in the primary, he turns Democratic. O’Malley even came to the Mayor McNulty Birthday party in February 2015 and worked the room to get his petitions signed! Talk about an ingrate.
What’s going on? Who can be more qualified than a current office holder with years of experience?
Wait, I’ll tell ya!
Refalko McNulty luckily did not resign her position knowing that perhaps O’Malley’s word was say “questionable”. She will go back to her job and continue to serve the citizens in The Lac with distinction.
But there is another politico not so fortunate as Refalko McNulty. Former Representative Jim Wansacz does not have a public job. During the primary when Wansacz lost, O’Malley looked like he was going to take the Harrison Avenue Bridge. Usually an out of work politico gets a job. But Wolf isn’t hiring and the Legislature is filled with Republicans not inclined to give any Democrat a break.
If Evie was the person for the job up until Sunday night, maybe a friend of “The Statesman” phoned and called in a favor. Let’s see who “is the person for the job”.
As for Laureen Cummings, watch your back.
As for Jerry Notarianni, coming in first for a three way Commissioner race doesn’t mean a thing. Somewhere in the great beyond, the late Luzerne County Commissioner Frank Crossin Senior is shaking his head in agreement.

Here’s a wrap of some of the Swearing In ceremonies that were less tame today in LuLac land.

Wilkes Barre Mayor Tony Geoirge and spouse as well as Judge Bill Amesbury. (Photo: Times Leader)
Tony George was sworn in as Wilkes Barre’s newest Mayor. Judge Bill Amesbury did the honors. Also sworn in were new City Council members Mike Belusko in District A, Republican Tony Brooks in District B, Beth Gilbert in District C. Returning members in District D and D was Bill Barrett and Mike Merritt in District E.

Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat. (Photo: Cloudpoliticspa)
Jeff Cusat becomes the new Mayor as one of the Democratric candidates who ran for Mayor in the primary Grace Cuozzo takes over Cusat’s seat. The eventual winner of the Democratic primary and loser to Cusat Jack Mundie returns to Council along with Dr. Davi Sosar Robert Gavio and Jean Mope.

Mario Fiorucci at his "State of The World" event a few years back. (Photo: LuLac archives).
Best of luck in the little hamlet of Sugar Notch as our former co-worker Mario Fiorucci returns to Council.This just in from Fiorucci, The mayor refused to swear me in after he swore in everyone else, in front of all the council members.  Rich Ashton, was the only one in the audience, a long time ally of Fiorucci, said he just could not believe it. More to come.

Former County Council Chair Rick Morell. (Photo: LuLac archives) 
Outgoing Luzerne County Council member Rick Morelli reflected on his year as one of the founding members of the Luzerne County Council.
Dear Editor,
As my term on Luzerne County Council comes to an end, I would like to share my thoughts and perspective that I have gained over the last six years working for and as a Councilman in the Luzerne County Home Rule government.
Although 6 years ago does not seem so long ago, I feel some people forget too easily as to where Luzerne County was before Home Rule. The county was at the height of one of the biggest corruption scandals Pennsylvania has ever seen – “Kids for Cash.” Judges, commissioners, lawyers, employees & developers ended up going to prison because of dirty deals and bribes. The big question back then on everyone’s minds was sadly “who’s going to jail next”? It got to the point that each new indictment was less and less surprising. Unfortunately, the corruption scandal was only part of the dysfunction - our county’s debt surpassed $450 million dollars and in 2009 & 2010 County taxes increased by 25%. The County was a dumping ground for political jobs. Contracts and leases with political friends that were mostly paid for by just borrowing more money were standard practice.
The County voters had enough of this and voted in the Home Rule Government. I stand firmly in the same position as I did 6 years ago – this government is the right thing for the citizens of Luzerne County.
Under Home Rule, Luzerne County scandals from bribes or back room deals are a thing of the past. The new County merit hiring system immediately halted the hiring of friends and family. County contracts were closely scrutinized and many were opened for public proposals. The size of County government was given a hard look and right-sized when close to 200 positions were removed. For the first time in recent history, the County was able to maintain a credit rating which in turn allowed us to refinance our debt and save millions of dollars each year. County real estate holdings were reviewed and excess properties were sold. Although taxes have increased some over the years, the Luzerne County Charter protects the citizens from having massive tax hikes as what took place 6 years ago and our mountain of debt has been reduced. In summary, the Luzerne County Home Rule Charter provides a government with more checks and balances and protections against the blatant mishandling of your tax dollars. In short - it’s working!
Now I fully understand that this government is not perfect. Everyone has different expectations as to where we should be now – mine included. However, when looking back and remembering where we came from only four years ago, there is no question that we are in better shape today then where we were before Home Rule.
I am saddened to hear there is already a group from the old guard who are planning a campaign in 2017 to go back to the old ways. Can you blame them? They are the forgotten few. There are no jobs to hand out or unfair contracts to be given under Home Rule and they want them back. It’s obviously easier to control two commissioners with a wink and a nod then a majority of council members out in a public meeting.
With that being said, I am in full favor of some refinements to the Charter. Some of the public believes that Home Rule government is an “all or nothing” entity with either 3 Commissioners or 11 Council Members. The Home Rule Charter can be reviewed and changed where it needs to be changed. For example, I am in full support now as I was on the Study Commission in reducing the number of council members from 11 to 7. Council can be more efficient and would certainly allow the voters to elect the best of the best candidates. My point is that the Charter needs to be fine tuned, not thrown out after only five years.
One of the problems I noticed with this new government is the public perception. Why? For one thing any person can now either attend or watch the meetings live on television or streaming to your computer. So why is that a problem? The public now can tune in to see the municipal meetings that are sometimes long, boring and filled with grandstanding. Let me remind you that only four years ago the commissioner meetings were held during the day and were not televised. The point I am making is that Luzerne County government is now much more transparent than before – every citizen has the right to see it and be involved. If you take the time to really see what is happening with Luzerne County government, you will see that it is so much more than a couple of Councilmembers arguing. It’s real change that happened deliberately and for the betterment of our community.
Since the county and other municipalities spend your tax dollars, the public has the right to be vocal and involved. But please remember that serving the public is not an easy job and more time than not, it is a thankless job. Elected officials are human beings with families and children. This is a job that a lot of people won’t do or can’t do. I am continually frustrated by some negative people in our community who will not take the hard steps to make a positive change – instead, they would rather be a naysayer and bash every idea without ever offering a solution to a problem. These negative people will not me, they will not stop progress, and I would hope that when the citizens of Luzerne County look at the successes of the Home Rule government, these negative individuals will not stop us from doing the right thing either.
Let me close by saying that we have a great county with great people and great county employees. It has been an honor and privilege to work for the people of this county and trying to make our area a better place to live. My style may be different than other elected officials. I make no apologies – I am a no nonsense, lay it on the line and tell it the way it is kind of guy. I may have ruffled some feathers over my term, but as an old professor once said, you may not like what I say but you will respect it. Whether you agreed or not with me on any issues, I leave my council post with clear conscience knowing that I tried my best and made every decision in the best interest of the people of this county.
Thank you again for allowing me to serve and try to make things better for our area.
Rick Morelli
Luzerne County Council


At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're like freaking mary tyler moore!!!
who can take a nothing day.....and turn it into YIKES!!!! terrible move in the Lac. Refalko McNulty would have been great but O'Malley thinks he is freaking packy cummings!!!

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So has Cummings formed an alliance with O'Malley?
If so, how does this bode for those like Corbett who were behind her because she was going to be an independent watchdog?
She can't be that if she is part of the majority bloc.

At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a good memory and vast knowledge of local politics. Commissioner Ed Wideman routinely sided with the minority commissioners (both Crossin and Wideman were democrats). Crossin eventually ran his own ticket picking Ed Brominski as his running mate and also bringing Morreale for treasurer along on his coattails. I believe he ran without the party endorsement. Chink Crossin was a very popular politician.

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WTF happened with Laureen?
Either she is more shrewd than anyone thought, or more naïve.
She needs to watch her back. They could be setting her up and getting ready to Lokutaize her.

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And out of left field, Steve Corbett has decided to embrace O'Malley.
I nearly threw up in my mouth listening to the love fest. Corbett has spent years denegrating this man, and trying to make him look worse than he does in the above picture.
Who is behind this new union. Who has enough clout to turn our Evie, relegate Nortoriani to the sidelines, get Cummings to go from outsider to insider before being sworn in and get Steve Corbett to toss aside years of animus?

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey 5:19,

think initials JB


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