Thursday, June 30, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1662, June 30th, 2011



Days after the convictions of Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak reasonable doubt still seems to exist in the minds of some of the general public. People I hear on Talk Radio as well as individuals I have encountered are showing different emotions in this corruption trial. When Mark Ciavarella was convicted in February there were no doubts and second thoughts. If anything people thought the former Judge might have gotten off too easy. But in this recent case, people seems bothered by the following:
1.The witnesses who testified all had grants of immunity. It was not lost on the commenting public that Hughes, Kalina, Pasonick and others went home to their lives while Bob and A.J. faced prison.
2. The fact that it was rumored that A.J. Munchak was hit hard by the feds to get him to flip on Cordaro is a matter of great consternation. People in Lackawanna County look at A.J. as a hapless friend loyal to a fault. It is my experience, that counts for a lot with people especially in the Mid Valley. We don’t have to like it but it is a fact.
3. The late School Director Tommy Genova’s killer never has been caught. The person who was convicted of manslaughter in a 1996 slaying in Clarks Summit got 6 years. The fact that both Commissioners could get more than 400 years in jail in comparison to these two cases resonate with people.
4. Notice the lack of outrage over the vandalism to Al Hughes’ Funeral Home. I can’t tell you the number of times I heard this week, “He had it coming”.
5. There are some who feel that the two should have been tried separately because it was evident that Cordaro was calling the shots. All you needed to know about that was the Cordaro association with the New York Yankee deal.
A.J. Munchak and Bob Cordaro were convicted to be sure. They weren’t blameless in the way they ran the County. But the fact is there are real concerns about this conviction. It will be appealed and perhaps then the duo might be granted a new trial. The prosecution said that they won a major victory in weeding out this part of corruption. I agree with them. But unlike the Ciavarella case where there were real victims (children) people are hard pressed to feel sorry for an alcoholic gambler and a philanderer that had two mistresses. Te prosecution might have won the battle but not the war in this case.


A.J. Munchak’s son wrote a letter to Richard Caputo on behalf of his father. In the letter obtained by the Scranton Times.
The younger Munchak refers to the fact that his father never took a deal offered by the Feds. It is a compelling letter.
My name is Anthony Munchak. Please forgive me for the informality of this letter, but I am writing to you only hours after learning the fate of my father AJ Munchak. I am sending this note with both a humble heart and a great respect. And feeling as helpless as I do, this letter serves as both a therapeutic exercise for me as well as aplea to you. As you might guess, our whole family is devastated by the outcome of the trial. Quite simply,when one gets to the heart of the matter, my father will be sent to prison for life based simply upon one man's word -Don Kalina's. As you know, there was no audio evidence, video evidence, corroborating witnesses, search warrants executed, bank deposits, large cash purchases, cashier's checks to pay bills, e-mails,Outlook appointments, phone records, exact dates, credit-card receipts for lunches, or recorded conversations "after the fact"that were presented in this case. Even the 2005 gambling "losses" that the prosecution tried to imply via the "markers" did not exist. My dad's 2005 tax return actually showed small gambling profits. I feel very strongly that no one in this great country of ours should be sent to prison for life as a result of a single "he said - he said" accusation without any evidence. I'll add that it just doesn't make sense that my dad would forgo the "opportunity" (at the time) to pocket $2,500 in cash contributions, yet call Don Kalina on the phone and demand $60,000 and then some. It doesn't make sense that a person who gives blood every six weeks like clockwork (180 pints is top ten in PA)and has over 200 years of community service with 20 organizations would demand money like that. The only explanation for this conviction is that the jury was unduly swayed by the evidence against and the testimony from Bob Cordaro. As such, I don't think the jury followed your instructions correctly in separating each charge and weighing the evidence of each one individually. I believe that Mr.Cordaro's problems played a large role in my dad's conviction. Rhetorically speaking, isn't it reasonable to assume that ifmy dad was tried alone, the trial would have lasted only three or four days, and the outcome would have most likely been different? Instead, the jury I heard damning testimony regarding the more numerous charges against Mr. Cordaro. . Again, I believe the jury failed in adhering to your instructions in separating the evidence in all the charges. Finally, all the proud work that my dad has done for the community over the past 40 years is now irrelevant and is vastly outweighed by the stain of this conviction. My dad rejected a plea deal of 36 months because he had confidence in the system, and he had the truth on his side. On June 21st, the system failed him. He must now resign in shame. It won't necessarily be a sad day because he was convicted. It will be a sad day because he is innocent and was still convicted. I don't know the law, and my letter to you most likely makes that very clear, but I
know what is right and what is wrong... You may read this letter once and easily not think of it again, but my hope is that you read it more than once and give it some further thought. My hope is tha~ at l::ast :;ome of what I have written is reasonable to you, and perhaps it may appeal to your ability to use the extraordinary legal powers that you have as a federal judge to right this wrong in some way. Thank you so much for your consideration. With the very greatest of respect, Anthony J. Munchak, Jr


Arts and culture ultimately were modest winners in the 2011-12 state budget, although the issue was in doubt until nearly the end of the process. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts is likely to end up with about $9 million, or about the same amount that Gov. Corbett proposed. But that was only after experiencing a serious scare in the House, where lawmakers voted to slash PCA funding by 70 percent. The funding, which is mostly used to fund grants for arts projects around the state, was restored in the final budget at the insistence of Senate Republicans
While Gov. Tom Corbett proposed an increase to the Pennsylvania corrections budget to implement reform programs aimed at reducing the number of repeat offenders and long-term costs to taxpayers, the Legislature stripped those increases out and cut the Corrections budget by more than $200,000.
Corrections is one of the fastest-growing costs to taxpayers. Other states have demonstrated that relatively small investments in reform can result in significant savings. Texas spent $250 million and saved nearly $2 billion. Pennsylvania, apparently, will not be following that strategy any time soon.
The new program to pay county jails to house selected inmates near the end of their sentences as they transition back into the community — a strategy aimed both at reducing recidivism and freeing up enough beds to bring Pennsylvania inmates back from Virginia — may have been scrapped.
Inmate education and training — another proven strategy for reducing recidivism that the governor — has been cut by $1.5 million.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development are both taking a hit in the proposed budget.
The business community was handed a win outside of the budget with the enactment of the Fair Share Act, which lessens the financial burden businesses with deep pockets face when they are sued along with other more responsible parties.
Labor and Industry is losing $14.4 million, which is a $13.9 million deeper cut than Gov. Tom Corbett proposed. DCED is facing a $114.6 million cut, which is about an $11 million deeper cut than Corbett proposed.
There are no increases proposed to the corporate net income tax and personal income tax rates. The budget also restores the phase-out of the capital stock and franchise tax, which most in the business community see as a nuisance.
While the agreed-to Pennsylvania budget calls for smaller cuts than Gov. Tom Corbett proposed for school districts, districts are still looking at receiving less in all of their major funding lines.
The budget provides for $5.35 billion for basic education, a reduction of $420 million from this year. This is the first time in two decades public schools will see a drop in basic education aid.
On top of that, it cuts block-grant funding used primarily to fund preschool and full-day kindergarten to $100 million, down $159.5 million from this year. It also eliminates $284 million that districts received to offset the cost of paying charter school tuition, for tutoring and for high school reform.
But Pre-K Counts and Head Start escaped with a 3 percent cut.
When Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled his budget in March, it included an infusion of cash for the Department of Public Welfare. When the final version reaches Corbett’s desk, that money will likely be out of the picture.
The legislature cut $54 million from what the department received last year. It did restore a few programs Corbett placed on the chopping block — notably the Human Services Development Fund — but they will be smaller.
By law, counties will still have to provide the same service in some areas, like child welfare, which gets $45 million less. But programs like behavioral health, which takes a $5 million hit, will likely serve fewer people.
So the bottom line is Governor Corbett got everything he wanted and had a reduction in the budget. Locally taxes may go up in school districts or layoffs will happen because of the education cuts. The cuts in social programs too might have a long term impact. The Democrats are not happy because they feel there was money to restore those cuts but they are not in the majority.
Harrisburg Patriot News/LuLac


11th Congressional District Congressman Lou Barletta gave a 6 month report to his constituents. Here’s what he said he did:
I voted to repeal Obamacare
I voted to cut record amounts of wasteful government spending
I voted to put an end to President Obama’s un-elected czars
I voted for a budget that puts our country on track to a sound fiscal future, and
I even voted to reduce my own budget
We recently won an important victory in the Supreme Court for Hazleton’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act and I’ve been working to put an end to the “Sanctuary” cities that harbor illegal immigrants in this country.


A few more Catholic Churches in the Scranton Diocese were eliminated this week. St. Therese’s on River Road in Wilkes Barre is gone as is the historic Sacred Heart Church in North Wilkes Barre. The Diocese did their usual dance of setting up a committee to “study” the issues. I mean that’s a lot like Mussolini asking his victims of WWII to help him study and come up with a reasonable plan for survival. The dye was already cast. The Sacred Heart Church is the home of Father Joseph Murgas. All he did a century ago was invent the radio. But that didn’t mean a hill of beans to the somber faced bean counters on Wyomng Avenue in Scranton. No regard for history. No regard for ethnic history either. A friend of mine told me that all the churches being leveled are all ethnic. I thought he was crazy to say such a thing but I think he’s right. By the way next weekend St. Patrick’s Parish in WhiteHaven is going to have an annual festival. Festival 2011 from Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10 at 411 Allegheny Street in White Haven. There will be Polish, American, and Italian foods, a flea market, a homemade booth, plant and doll booths, and entertainment. There will be a DJ there on Friday. Saturday is Family Fun Day, with a Fun Run at 2 PM, a Chili Cook-Off at 3 PM, and the Jeziorskis inside from 3 to 5 PM. Flashback will be there at 6:30 PM and Tux from the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins appears at 7 PM. Sunday is Community Day, with emergency services people from noon to 3 PM and much more. The Festival Turkey Dinner will be served on Sunday, July 10 from 2 to 6 PM. Dinner includes turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, apple pie, and a beverage. The cost is $7 for adults, $5 for children age 6 to 12, and free for children under 5 years of age. Take-outs will be available. For tickets or more information, please call the parish office at 443-9944.
Yeah go and support the event. They need to pay off their mortgage. Then presumably after they do that, the Diocese will shut the place down and make the parishioners go 11 miles down the road to St. Jude’s in Mountaintop.




This Week on Sunday Magazine July 3rd
Brian Hughes speaks with Doctor Tony Mills and Jim Howley, the Director of Community Relations at Abbott Labs about the 30thanniversary of the discovery of HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and how far research and understanding has come in the past 3 decades. Frankie in the Morning speaks with Michelle Quinn from HKQ Kids about their annual bike helmet giveaway during the Fourth of July fireworks celebration at Kirby Park in Wilkes Barre. And highlights from the Families USA teleconference on how proposed Medicaid cuts would negatively impact Pennsylvania's economy, featuring remarks from Kathleen Kuck, the CEO of Pocono Health Systems & the Pocono Medical Center.Sunday Magazine, Sunday morning at 5:30am on JR 93.7 & 97BHT, 6am on 97.9X, 6:30am on Magic 93, and 9:30am on WARM 590 AM.


ECTV (Comcast Ch 19) will be off the air for a few days. The station's server, the device that sends the programs out to the cable system, had a malfunction on Monday night. The unit is being sent out for repairs. I'm hoping all is back to normal by July 4th. If so our scheduled guest for ECTV Live will be Diane Boone who will be discussing the upcoming 'Unity Day' celebration in Scranton.


This week Tiffany Cloud welcomes County Council candidate Harry Haas on Storm Politics. Storm Politics can be seen on WYLN TV 35 on Thurs 9:30PM, Sat 5PM, Sun 11AM, Mon 9PM, Tues 4:30PM


Shadoe Steele's guest this week on Saturday Night Live at the Oldies is Leo Sayer. Saturday Night Live at the Oldies can be heard from 7pm to midnight on WILK AM & FM Saturday with ABC News on the top of the hour.


U.S. President Richard Nixon announces that no new draftees will be sent to Vietnam Furman v. Georgia: The Supreme Court of the United States rules that the death penalty is unconstitutional....An extra leap second (23:59:60) is added to end the month……In Pennsylvania National Guard troops help in the clean up of the Agnes Flood……and in Wilkes Barre both the Times Leader and Sunday Independent newspapers get back to publishing on a regular basis after being shut down by the Agnes Flood. In the meantime thousands of Wyoming Valley residents try to deal with the loss and devastation. Even the tranquility of the dead are disturbed from the flood. Cleanup begins at the Forty Fort Cemetery to re bury bodies that were unearthed........
And 39 years ago the number 1 song in America and LuLac land was “I Wanna Be Where You Are” by Michael Jackson.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1661, June 29th, 2011




This week we feature an editorial from The Citizen's Voice regarding fees lawyers took for hearings in Luzerne County. Problem is they didn't show for half of them. Solicitor Vito DeLuca brought this to every one's attention. During the last Judicial campaign DeLuca touted the fact that he fought special interests and questionable practices under the dome. This proves he is continuing that fight long after the campaign fires stopped burning.
Business as usual in Luzerne County
Published: June 26, 2011
Sometimes the dysfunction that is the accepted way of doing business at the Luzerne County Courthouse is just astounding.
Consider, for example, the revelation last week that two attorneys who earned $95,000 annually to handle mental-health issues for the county missed more than one-third of the hearings they were paid to attend over the past year.
Attorneys Michael Butera and Edward Ciarimboli say they had to miss those hearings because they were often scheduled at the same time as motions court, which convenes every weekday at the county courthouse from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m.
Quite a conundrum.
Let's try to make this simple:
Butera and Ciarimboli had two jobs.
Job one was to represent the county at hearings held in treatment centers to determine if patients committed involuntarily should remain in treatment. Those hearings were held before a court-appointed mental health officer with a public defender most often representing the patient.
Job two was to file petitions in motions court in cases in which a mental-health officer ruled continued confinement and treatment were warranted.
Yet in the 20 years Butera handled mental-health cases for the county and in the eight years Ciarimboli worked by his side, it apparently never occurred to them to ask the motions court or the mental-health officers to adjust their schedules to resolve the conflict.
We are not experts in the law, but would it have been possible for one attorney to attend the hearings and the other to go to motions court?
Ciarimboli and Butera say they were only a cellphone call away if there were problems at the hearings they missed. That is hardly reassuring.
The wastefulness and inefficiency in the way the county has handled its legal business for decades is amply illustrated by the solution to this scheduling problem announced last week.
When the one-year contracts held by Butera and Ciarimboli expire July 1, the county solicitor's office will hire a full-time solicitor to handle their work at 56 percent of the cost. We assume he or she will find a way to get to hearings and motions court.
In anticipation of the new home-rule form of government that arrives in January, county Solicitor Vito DeLuca is in the process of preparing to expand his office and take over all the legal work now assigned to dozens of private attorneys who have been earning hefty stipends, and in many cases county health care coverage, for part-time work.
January cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1660, June 28th, 2011



There wasn’t a plume of white smoke emanating from the Lackawanna County Courthouse this afternoon but the imprimatur of the Judiciary of Luzerne County tabbed former County employee Bruce Smallacombe as the interim Commissioner. In one of our previous editions (Edition #1657) we wrote that this would be the wise and prudent choice. The Mayor is seasoned, ran a good race in the primary and at this time has no political ambitions for the seat. Smallacombe served in the very administration that A.J. Munchak occupied as one was of the Majority Commissioners.
This is the report that was filed in the Citizen’s Voice from a compilation of staff reports:
Bruce Smallacombe is Lackawanna County's new minority commissioner.
The county's Common Pleas Court judges this afternoon appointed Smallacombe, 57, the 10-year mayor of Jermyn, to replace former Republican Commissioner A.J. Munchak, who resigned last week after his conviction on federal public corruption charges.
Smallacombe was scheduled to be sworn in later today. The annual salary for the commissioner's post is $76,017.
He will fill out the final six months of Munchak's term. A new board of commissioners will be elected in November and seated in January.
Smallacombe was selected over two other candidates — South Abington Township auditor William T. Jones, 23, and business consultant Steve Scarpetta, 25, of Scranton — who had been recommended by the county Republican executive committee.
President Judge Thomas Munley announced the appointment after all three men were interviewed separately by five other judges acting as the court en banc.
Munley said the decision to name Smallacombe was unanimous.
Smallacombe, who was the county's director of roads and bridges from 2004 until 2008 during the administration of Munchak and former Commissioner Robert C. Cordaro, said he was happy and proud to have a chance to serve the people of Lackawanna County.
"It's a humbling experience just to be in this position," he said.
Smallacombe said he wants to work during the brief time he will have in the commissioners office to bring people together to work for the mutual benefit of the county and its municipalities.

The LuLac Edition #1659, June 28th, 2011



Vice President Biden and the Republican leaders are trying to negotiate the budget. Various interest groups who take care of disabled people like Easter Seals are speaking out about what might be cut. In a message to members Katy Beh Neas outlined the concerns about any change in Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Medicaid and Medicare provide critical often life-saving services to millions of Americans living with disabilities. But as I write this, members of Congress are considering budget proposals that would slash funding and restructure these important programs, potentially eliminating the safety net they provide. Other key disability programs are at risk, including those that:
Support infants with disabilities through therapy and other services;
Provide job training and employment services for low-income people with disabilities and older adults; and Help low-income people with disabilities find housing. The focus sometimes is way too much on the numbers instead of what needs to be addressed in terms of true human services needs.


Leave it to the Republican controlled legislature in Pennsylvania to waste 10 million bucks. I had a conversation with my friend L.A. Tarone on Topic A this past Friday and I think this bill is a pretty bad idea.
An effort is afoot in the General Assembly to pass a bill that will make it harder for many voters to cast their vote while wasting millions of dollars. House Bill 934 is a Republican-sponsored bill which would require every voter to provide unexpired, valid government photo identification in order to vote in each election.
We all want to prevent fraud, but the only thing this bill would prevent is a lot of good people, especially our senior citizens, those with disabilities and our young people, from exercising their right to vote. The League of Women Voters has pointed out that 18 percent of seniors do not have photo ID. In Pennsylvania, that's 340,000 seniors, many of whom have voted for decades.
This bill will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers $10 million. That's more than enough to restore the $6.1 million in state funding cuts proposed to the school districts in my legislative district. It's also legislation in search of a problem. On the program Tarone and I talked about voter fraud. My point was that with all of the electronic voting going on in almost every county, voter fraud would be easier to detect than the old day. As a matter of fact, just FOUR people have been convicted of voter fraud in Pennsylvania since the 2008 election.
Pennsylvania should be making it easier for residents to vote, not making it harder.
I also stated on the program that the Legislature has way better things to do than worry about ID’s at the polls. This is the same GOP that by the way cries all the time that “we have to get government out of our lives”. Except for when they want to benefit their needs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1658, June 27th, 2011



GOP Presidential candidate Michele Bachman had a challenging day yesterday on National TV. On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer told her point blank a few times that she had not answered his questions. But he was very polite and was quite gracious with the Congress woman allowing her to spout her canned response. As a viewer you knew the game she was playing but you were also relieved that Schieffer called her on it. If you are a Bachman fan you are going to stand by her belief systems anyway. If you are a following of politics like I am, you marveled at her skill and the fact that she was so dazzling in her unflappability. For what it was, I thought Bachman’s appearance on “Face The Nation” was quite good. It showed two things, that Bachman could answer and not answer intelligent questions from the big boys and remain cordial even when the moderator (who was also cordial) was essentially saying she was full of crap.
However on Fox TV, Chris Wallace’s line of questioning was curious.He didn’t go after Bachman on the issues like Schieffer did but instead asked her if she “was a flake?” My first thought would be this, would he ask Newt Gingrich is he was a “flake”? Herman Cain? Tim Pawlenty? Oh scratch that one, Pawlenty’s is pretty flakeless in his category. Bachman has compared the Obama government to a bunch of gangster, how about that question?
But “are you a flake?” As a Democrat I think Bachman’s positions on Health Care and the economy are way off base but this woman is an elected Congress woman that can volley with the best of them. I might categorize her positions as dangerous but certainly not “flakey”. I was offended by the tabloid like assertion and especially the bluntness. If he had said, “There are those who say you are a flake” that would have been much more palatable.
Bachman seemed offended by the line of questioning. "I think that would be insulting to say something like that because I'm a serious person," she explained. She then went on to tout all the ways in which she was, indeed, serious.
"I'm 55 years old. I've been married 33 years," she said. "I'm not only a lawyer, I have a post-doctorate degree in federal tax law from William and Mary. I've worked in serious scholarship … my husband and I have raised five kids, we've raised 23 foster children. We've applied ourselves to education reform. We started a charter school for at-risk kids. I've also been a state senator and member of the United States Congress for five years."
So there, she told him. The blow back on this thing was so huge that Wallace wound up apologizing and said “I messed up”. More than likely this incident will get more press than the CBS interview where she was actually called out by Bob Scheffer. And this “flake gate” will give her added exposure. So even though it was a rough day at the outset for Bachman, she easily skated CBS’ line of questioning and did herself proud as a dissembling pol. On Fox, she even did better, she put “The Fair and Balanced” network in the position of first being a bully and then having to apologize for the “mess up”. All in all, it wasn’t a bad day for the duly elected Congresswoman from Minnesota. Even though that’s not the way it seemed when viewers were seeing her on “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday”.


Several emailers wanted to know if there were any women candidates who threw their hat into the ring to replace A.J. Munchak as Lackawanna County Commissioner. I asked Lackawanna County party chair Lance Stange who advised me that Elisabeth Bonczar from Abingtons was one of the applicants vying for the position. Three males were picked, Bill Jones, Bruce Smallcombe and Steven Scarpetti. I understand that the GOP is trying to just get a viable replacement and they can’t do anything about the fact that only one woman applied. But again it should be pointed out that no woman has ever be nominated, elected or appointed a Lackawanna County Commissioner in its entire history. Just saying.


Former Apprentice TV contestant and Governor of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been convicted of 17 of the 20 charges against him, including all 11 charges related to his attempt to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. Jurors deadlocked on one charge of attempted extortion in an alleged shakedown involving funding for a school in the district of then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel. The jury found him not guilty of soliciting bribes in the alleged shakedown of a road-building executive. The panel deadlocked on a charge of attempted extortion on that same case.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1657, June 26th, 2011



Moving swiftly to replace convicted Commissioner A.J. Munchak, the Lackawabnna County GOP accepted more than 25 applications and conducted 18 interviews Saturday. After a day of inquiries, the committee picked Jermyn Mayor Bruce Smallacombe, South Abington Township Auditor and current commissioner candidate Bill Jones, and Scranton businessman Steven Scarpetta. Pat O’Malley the GOP team mate of Bill Jones did not submit his name. The Lackawanna County Court en banc will pick one of the three men. Jones if chosen would be given a tremendous leg up as an incumbent Commissioner perhaps overshadowing O’Malley in the General Election. O’Malley a former Democrat was the top GOP vote getter. Scarpetta brings youthful enthusiasm to the job. But if I were a betting man, I think the court will appoint Smallacombe who ran for the seat in the ’11 primary. That way the political aspects of a Jones pick would be diminished. But hey who said judges are political?


The Lackawanna County Home Rule Charter states, “The executive committee of the political party of the person elected to the office in question shall submit a list of three persons to the judges of the court and bank within five days of the vacancy. The court shall appoint one of the three persons recommended to temporarily fill the vacancy.”


This week former Kingston resident and Denver Colorado professor Jim Gibson was interviewed by the Citizens Voice regarding his intention to apply for the County Manager’s position. Gibson said that openness and transparency are paramount in this new formation of a government. Apparently Transition Committee member and candidate for County Council Rick Morelli has been saying the same thing all along. Here’s a letter he wrote to the local papers:
Dear Editor,
As Luzerne County begins a new future with Home Rule, an important goal of this new government needs to be building and restoring trust with the citizens of this county which has been lost for some time. A great start to building that trust should begin with releasing the names of the applicants to the public regarding the appointment of the new county manager.
I believe by releasing ALL the names of these applicants it will provide full transparency to the public and hopefully prevent any political friends being hired into this top county post. The benefit of releasing ALL the names and not just the finalist’s names is to prevent any highly qualified candidate from being unnoticed so that some political friend can pass up the truly most qualified person for this county manager position. I personally do not believe that politics is dead yet in Luzerne County.
I do understand the argument of why names should not be released. Some say that it will prevent highly qualified candidates from applying to this position and it can put their current jobs at risk. This argument is a valid argument and I respect it but there is also no way that we can prove that will happen either. I believe that this important position of such that will pay over $100,000 in annual salary will still attract many qualified candidates even if they know their names will be made known to the public. The responsibility of county council is to look out for the citizens of Luzerne County not for the jobs of applicants.
I realize that there are people who will have different opinions on this issue which I truly respect. For those who disagree with my stance on this position, please understand that my reasoning for this is solely driven to prevent any person who is highly qualified for this extremely important position to be passed up for some not so qualified political friend. As a member of the Government Study Commission who helped write this Home Rule Charter, I understand the importance of this county manager position and realize that if we do not hire the most qualified person for this position at the start of this new government that the future success of Luzerne County will take that much longer to achieve.
The key of this new Home Rule government is accountability and in order for the public to hold county council accountable, the public needs to be able to see everything, which includes the names of applicants for the county manager position.
Rick Morelli
Home Rule Transition Committee Member
Luzerne County Council Candidate

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1656, June 25th, 2011



We are going to try a little experiment today. Many of our readers are tiring of our regular Interview series. But in a poll taken by us, readers of LuLac wanted to keep the feature. To that end, since I spoke with no one interesting this week, we’ll introduce our “Last Saturday” feature which we will run on the last Saturday of the month.
On this day June 25th, here’s what happened in history.
Long-Haired Hare, starring Bugs Bunny, is released in theaters.
The final page of the comic Krazy Kat was published, exactly two months after its author George Herriman died.
The United States Congress passes the Mann Act, which prohibits interstate transport of females for “immoral purposes”; the ambiguous language would be used to selectively prosecute people for years to come.
Pope Cornelius is executed (beheaded) at Centumcellae.
The Diary of a Young Girl (better known as The Diary of Anne Frank) is published.
In 2009 Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett die on the same day.
Willis Reed, Carly Simon and Jimmie Walker the actor are born on this day.




Friday, June 24, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1655, June 24th, 2011



Maybe I’m Amazed……..that an airline pilot from SouthWest Airlines did a rant on the physical characteristics of his passengers. He did not stop until an Air Traffic Controller broke in on the frequency and told him to stop. An old lesson of broadcasting that I learned from Father Tom Carten is simply this, every microphone is live and be careful what you say.
Maybe I’m Amazed……that the House Republicans and Senate are screaming about the troop withdrawal the President proposed the other night. I guess if he had an “R” in front of his name that might be better. And by the way, aren’t these the guys that funded the diversion into Iraq?
Maybe I’m Amazed……that there is a rumor going around that O.J. Simpson is going to confess to the unofficial “Mother of the country” Oprah Winfrey. He supposedly is going to say he killed his ex wife and Ron Goldman in self defense. See they were trying to steal his Hall of Fame stuff and he had no choice. The only surprise here is that there is no surprise, he killed them. The courts say no but you’d have to be a fool to believe otherwise. And how about Oprah too, is she so desperate to save her silly network that she has to give this guy more fame or infamy?
Maybe I’m Amazed……that Broadway is one of the longest streets in the world spanning 150 miles long.
Maybe I’m Amazed……that Tom Greco is shutting down another fine eatery at the Old Grogge Shoppe building. He should do everyone a favor and just sell that thing because every restaurant chef, co owner, partner that went in there had creative differences.
Maybe I’m Amazed……..Maybe I’m Amazed that the Killer Bees Softball League Reunion I went to at PNC Field brought back so many memories. A few of us even brought our old uniform tops. A few even could fit in those old uniforms too. The operative word here being “few”.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that Jack McKeon returned himself as Manager of the struggling Florida Marlins. McKeon stepped down from the GM’s office once before and won a World Series in 2003. But he’s 80. He’s the second oldest manager after Connie Mack to pilot in the bigs. But I guess if Joe Paterno could do it past 80, so could McKeon. Unlike Paterno, McKeon has no shortage of an ego.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that the older I get, the more annoyed I get with TV commercials. The newest one is that Arby’s commercial where at the end someone bellows “it’s good mood food”. I already stopped going to Burger King because of that freaky King costume. I think the Progressive woman is horrible and I won't buy Jello Pudding or anything related to Jello because of that gross "pudding face" commercial. If only Crispy Kreme had a gross commercial but I guess not.
Maybe I’m Amazed………that there seems to be some progress in the NFL talks. A guy who called Rush yesterday (and I was just dialing by not really listening) made the point that no fans come out and watch and root for the owners. It’s the players they want to see.
Maybe I’m Amazed…….that the people in the Crestwood School District are trying to figure out what to save and what to cut. There are discussions about full day kindergarten and eliminating language classes for middle school students. But no one is talking about eliminating the good old football team are they?
Maybe I’m Amazed…..that the jury came back so soon for the Cordaro/Munchak verdict. Equally amazing is the 10 days the Chicago jury is out in the Rod Blagojevich re-trial.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1654, June 23rd, 2011



I received some information the the Republican Party Chair Lance Stange regarding the process of filling the seat on the Lackawanna County Board of Commissioners. Here’s what he wrote:
The Executive Board of the Republican Party of Lackawanna County will be interviewing candidates to fill the vacant position of Lackawanna County Commissioner. Qualified candidates should be registered Republican electors of Lackawanna County. They shall be at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Lackawanna County at for at least one year. They must be free of conviction of a felony of any degree and/or a conviction of a violation of the Pennsylvania Election Code. The position of County Commissioner is considered a full-time position. A candidate for this position is expected to devote the time and effort to official County business as is required for full time employees of the County Government generally. Please note, a County Commissioner is prohibited from holding any other County Office or County employment for compensation, any other elective public office, any other political employment for compensation during their term of office. Interested candidates that meet the above criteria should forward a letter of intent to or call the Republican Party office to make their intentions known at 570-346-7729. Candidates should present themselves for interview by the Executive Board of the Republican Party of Lackawanna County on: Saturday, June 25, 2011 10:00 AM Ramada Inn Northern Blvd, Clarks Summit, PA 18411

Lance Stange Chairman Republican Party of Lackawanna County


Scranton Attorney Dominic Mastri sent a note this evening indicating he was going to apply for the position. The Scranton Attorney e mailed me a copy of his letter of intent:
Dear Fellow Republicans:
I am writing to express my interest in serving as interim county commissioner to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of A.J. Munchak. Attached to this e-mail, please find this letter of intent and my curriculum vitae.
This is a critical time for Lackawanna County and for its Republican Party. There are less than five months remaining until the general election. In this period of time, the person you choose as the next commissioner will need to work hard to restore the faith of citizens of Lackawanna County in both their government and our beloved GOP. The task ahead is daunting, but it is y firm belief that I have the skills required to do the job.
Because I am not a candidate (nor have I ever run for a political office), I have never accepted a campaign contribution from anyone who is, or may be, doing business with Lackawanna County. This will be an important distinction which will enable me to have the credibility to introduce a more comprehensive ethics code. A new ethics code will be my first priority if I am selected to serve the people of Lackawanna County. I believe the new ethics code must mandate that all commissioners shall disclose any contribution or communication from a county vendor before a contract is considered for a vote.
Fiscal responsibility is a core Republican value. The budget for 2012 will be adopted during these next few months. Since true leaders set the example for others to follow, I will take an immediate 20% reduction in my salary. In the next budget, I will insist on a 5% reduction in the compensation of all department heads and significantly reduce the cost of middle management.
Many of my friends and relatives have been forced to leave our county because there are not enough family-sustaining jobs. I will convene a weekend-long jobs summit in late September or early October. Every elected official in the county, our national and state representatives, as well as key representatives from the non-profit sector will meet with business leaders from around the world to come up with an actionable plan to increase job creation in Lackawanna County. In a county where Republicans are in the extreme minority, it is essential that we take the leadership role in improving life in Lackawanna County.
I view this appointment as opportunity to extend my public service. I have served in two different county administrations as an assistant public defender in the Lackawanna County Public Defender’s Office. In this position, I worked ceaselessly to represent the interests of those who have not enjoyed the same blessings and opportunities that I have had. This position has also provided me with a wealth of knowledge about the inner workings of county government. This real life experience will make these ambitious goals achievable in the next few months.
I have been a life-long Republican. My family held fundraisers for Luger and Pettinato in the 1970’s. In 1984 at age ten, I was the classroom standard bearer for the Reagan/Bush ticket. On the local level, I have supported the candidacies of George Seig, Frank Castellano and many other GOP candidates. Standing on the sidelines at this critical juncture is abhorrent to my values.
We must restore faith in our party on the local level. We need to send a clear message that backroom, corrupt politics holds no place in Lackawanna County’s future. We, the Republican Party of Lackawanna County, must remove the stain of this corruption by acting courageously and swiftly. Nothing would be bolder than placing a hard-working public servant without any political baggage in the office of Commissioner of Lackawanna County.
The reoccurring theme in my life is that I have overcome what many have termed “insurmountable odds.” When I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, many said I would never walk. With perseverance, I did walk. Some years later, many said that I would never learn to read. Eight years ago, I graduated in the top third of my law school class. In the aftermath of the Cordaro/Munchak verdict, many may say that it is “insurmountable odds” for the Republican Party to again become viable in Lackawanna County politics. I would be humbled if you give me the chance to beat those odds.
Dominic J. Mastri, III, Esquire

The LuLac Edition #1653, June 23rd, 2011



Last night the President went on the air and announced he was going to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. This is a welcome relief to certain families that have troops serving there. The war in Afghanistan has lasted twice as long as WWII. That is a significant fact. Only 1 percent of the country is involved in the war effort, the warriors and the families left behind. On either side of the political spectrum there seems to be no passion on a yeah or a nay. The one positive aspect of the prolonged stay in the country is that we have not gotten bogged down in a war like the Soviets did. There is an intelligent exit strategy. Hopefully there will be a covert re-entry component if need be. That need of course being another terrorist attack coming out of that country. The President made the comment that there needs to be nation building, our own. More troop reductions are planned for the future but there will still be a presence kept in case there are conflicts in Pakistan.


Governor Tom Corbett and both his GOP controlled branches of the Legislature are doing a little or a lot of tinkering with the state budget. With the tax revenues increases there is a little extra money to play with. Right now the entities are just debating over semantics. You can be sure that the state party wants a budget on time. This is what Corbett and all the GOP campaigned on and this is a promise they want to keep. It will of course be in stark contrast to the Rendell budgets where the Eddster went 0 for 8 in getting a budget in on time. To put it in an analogy Ed would readily get, that would be like our mutual (me and Ed’s) Richie Ashburn going 0-4 in a twi night double header.


Who will be A.J. Munchak’s successor? The convicted minority Lackawanna County Commissioner resigned effective midnight Thursday June 23rd. The Lackawanna County Court En Banc will choose from 1 of three names to fill out the unexpired term. There are those that are saying the two GOP candidates for Commissioners Pat O’Malley or Bill Jones should get the nod. But that would give either an electoral jump and in effect put them on the same plane of long time former State Legislator Jim Wanscak and incumbent Corey O’Brien. If I were the GOP I’d submit the names of former Scranton Mayor Gene Peters or David Wenszel. Both men served with integrity and honor and might get a tad more respect than your average minority commissioner. Anyway, interviews are set for this Saturday morning.



On the same day Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak were convicted former insurance mogul Brian Murray pleased no contest in an insurance fraud case. This “respected businessman” took people’s insurance premiums and never bought the insurance. I worked in Scranton in the 90s at Rock 107 and you wouldn’t believe the number of people who were willing to suck up to this guy. He smiled at ‘em while he was knifing them in the back. Not to condone it but with politicians at least you expect it.


Ed Rendell has urged New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to lift the moratorium on gas drilling in New York state. The moratorium has been a boon for Pennsylvania but Ed’s doing his part to make sure those drillers don’t move back to Texas. The Marcellus Drilling Newsletter reports, At the Manhattan Institute forum where we released our study, former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell stressed that it was important to "get it right" with regard to rules and regulations—but, at the end of the day, "If Gov. Cuomo asked me my advice about lifting the moratorium, I would tell him the moratorium should be lifted. There’s too much of an upside for New York state and too much of an upside for America." Gov. Cuomo, please give Ed Rendell a call.*


The next big trial in the LuLac area is going to be that of former State Senator Ray Musto. Musto’s trial was delayed a bit but you have to wonder what is going through his mind when he sees the Prosecution scorecard of two trial victories and no losses.



Shadoe Steele’s guest this week on “Saturday Night Live At the Oldies” this Saturday will be Scotty Crane, the son of Hogan’s Hero Star Bob Crane. Saturday Night Live at the Oldies can be heard every Saturday from 7pm to midnight with ABC News on top of the hour.


Tiffany’s Cloud’s guest this week on “Storm Politics” is Luzerne County Controller Walter Griffith. Storm Politics can be seen on WYLN TV 35 on MON @ 9:00 PM • TUES @ 4:30 PM • WED @ 8:00 PM • THURS @ 9:30 PM • SAT @ 5 PM • SUN @ 11 PM.



This Week on Sunday Magazine June 26th Brian Hughes speaks with Andy Mehalshick from WBRE-TV’s “I Team” about the fallout from the Cordaro-Munchak corruption trial verdict, and what’s next in the ongoing federal corruption investigation.
Brian speaks with Charlie Hulsizer, the organizer of the 3rd annual PoconoDragLodge, coming up Saturday August 6th in Bear Creek. Magic 93’s Frankie in the Morning speaks with attorney Michelle Quinn from HKQ Kids, about their annual bicycle helmet giveaway for kids on the Fourth of July at Kirby Park in Wilkes Barre.
Sunday Magazine, Sunday morning at 5:30am on JR 93.7 & 97BHT, 6am on 97.9X, 6:30am on Magic 93, and 9:30am on WARM 590 AM.


While Hurricane Agnes causes havoc up and down the east coast, in the White House President Richard M. Nixon and White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman are taped talking about using the C.I.A. to obstruct the F.B.I.'s investigation into the Watergate break-ins….in Pennsylvania Emergency Management sirens g off as flooding inundates Harrisburg as well as the Wyoming Valley… Wilkes Barre the raging Susquehanna goes over irts banks and floods the surrounding Willkes Baree Area. Communications are shut down and an emergency broadcast network is pieced together by then WMJW’s David DeCosmo. WILK AM, WBAX AM two city stations are knocked off the air. The network is used to pass on vital flood information to people affected y the disaster. Utilizing the transmitter of radio station WYZZ then located in the rolling Mill Hill section of the city. WBRE TV is also knocked off the air as their studios are flooded. The anchor teams are forced to broadcast from the transmitter site. And thirty nine years ago this week in LuLac land amidst all of the chaos, disaster, dirt, pain and suffering, ironically and fittingly the number 1 song was Bill Withers and “Lean On Me”.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1652, June 22nd, 2011




The recent trial of Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak has brought many options on public corruption in LuLac land. One of the most intriguing articles was from my fellow blogger Joe Valenti who wrote a piece this last Sunday that was economical in words but very heavy in message content. Here's what he had to write about stealing.

Lessons learned: Skrep was a piker
By: Joe Valenti
One thing I can tell you, Greg Skrepnak is a piker compared to his counter parts up in Lackawanna County.
And, yes, there are some very valuable lessons to be learned as the Cordaro & Munchak trial winds down.
As the old saying goes, if you’re going to rob and steal, rob and steel big.
For example, Skrepnak got bought off with a few flat screen TVs while Lackawanna County Commissioner Bob Cordaro, at one point allegedly took a $97,000 payoff, went to the car lot and bought a brand new car and SUV.
How ‘bout poor Bobby Rielly?
He was kicked back a measly few hundred bucks for a $3500 remodeling job while Codaro allegedly was kicked back cash with $100 bills stuffed in shoe box. There was even mention that there were bills larger than a hundred.
I didn’t even know they made anything larger than a hundred let alone actually lay my hands one.
Poor Jerry Bonner. He went down for accepting a $1500 suit. During that escapade one prominent power broker said, “Hell, I wish I knew all it took was a suit.”
In the mean time, Lackawanna County Commissioner Bob Codaro was surrounding himself with Playboy Bunnies, smoking cigars, playing golf and partying with Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion.
Boys and Girls: Please let this be a lesson to all the crooks in Luzerne County.

Joe Valenti is administrator of Pittston

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1651, June 21st, 2011



Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Martin and Lewis. Huntley and Brinkley. All great teams had their run. So too with Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak. Except that Bob and A.J. are facing jail.
A jury of 6 men and 6 women came back rather quickly with their verdict this afternoon. It was characterized by the defense team as a “mixed verdict”, by the prosecution as a “win and warning”.
Cordaro spoke to the media and said he was surprised that people believed the stories of the vendors especially Highland Associates Donald Kalina and undertaker Al Hughes. He made it a point to thank his co defendant and co commissioner A.J. Munchak for not turning to immunity like the others did. Munchak I’m sure had the opportunity to do so. He was calm, composed, a little subdued but typical Cordaro. He told the press that this was not the best day in his life, that his first fifty years have been good to him but stated that while this was tough stuff, others had it worse. He and his lawyers indicated there would be an appeal. Cordaro also made a reference to laying with dogs, getting fleas, never thinking he’d become the dog. Typical Cordaro imagery.
A.J. Munchak was defiant and said that he could not believe his story wasn’t sell able to the jury. He questioned the Feds about his indictment and challenged them asking “where is the money?” He had the line of the day saying he went through “a financial colonoscopy” and said his lawyers were going to have to sort things out.
The Lackawanna County Commissioners meet on Wednesday and if Munchak appeals it will be interesting to see if he will resign. You can bet that majority Commissioners Washo and O’Brien will ask for his resignation.
The Times Leader reports that Cordaro and Munchak were convicted of bribery, extortion and conspiracy counts relating to money that prosecutors say was paid by Acker Associates and Highland Associates, two firms that did business with the county. Cordaro was also convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, as well as several counts of money laundering and tax evasion. Both men were acquitted of 12 counts of honest services fraud and mail fraud.
Munchak was also acquitted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges that had been filed against him and Cordaro. He was found guilty of two tax related charges.
There are some who say the two men should have stayed off the witness stand. Cordaro was tripped up by the prosecution when he was caught in a lie saying he always cashed out his paychecks when evidence was produced that the checks were deposited. Munchak’s problems on the stand came when he plead ignorance on campaign contributions. Munchak was a well known tax preparer over the years and that did not ring true either. There are some who say that the two should have asked for separate trials. All of that is hindsight of course.
Cordaro and Munchak came into office in the wake of the Joe Corcoran mini dust up. Corcoran allegedly had prisoners from the Lackawanna County jail doing work at his properties. His warden, Mr. Gilhooley was asked to resign. Cordaro and Munchak won the 2003 election by a mere 200 votes. They mistook the election victory as a mandate. They mistook their ascendancy to higher office an entitlement to more. I’m sure they weren’t helped by the pay for play business vendors that might have suggested some things to them. There was a certain type of hubris that allowed all of this to happen. That came primarily from Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak, older and a bit wiser should have known better. But when you get so close to those stars, it never occurs to you that you could also get burned by the sun.
Sentencing is set for September 28th. Both will appeal. The duo will not be jailed. And they have to stay away from their immunity granted witnesses. Maybe if they did that at the start of their term, things might be different. I bet these two guys who owned radio stations together wish there was a rewind button handy just about now.

The LuLac Edition #1650, June 21st, 2011


IF I WERE……………..

The Jury Foreperson in the Cordaro/Munchak Jury deliberations, here’s what I would do. Keep in mind I have never been asked to be on a jury let alone be a foreman. But here’s what my strategy would be.
1. First off get a sense of the case and get everyone’s opinion on how long they will need to get through the materials.
2. Separate the defendants and start off with the basic question, do you feel he is innocent or guilty? After getting an idea of what type of ballot you will initially have, go over the counts. My first choice would be Munchak because there seemed to be less testimony against him.
3. After deciding the fate of Munchak, then go on to Cordaro. Ask the basic question did the evidence suggest Munchak and Cordaro worked in tandem or were separate cowboys? Try to determine that difference and get to Cordaro.
4. Try to get a unanimous verdict on both. Let everyone have their say but put a window of time on any juror advocacy or defense of a position.
5. Order a lot of cold drinks.
6. Expect the worst, hope for the best.


During the spring primary the candidates for Judge expended a good amount of money to win. 4 candidates spent over $100,000. The leader in the spending was Mike Vough who spent $215, 000. The other four candidates that spent more than $100,000 were Fred Pierantoni, $164,762; Joseph F. Saporito Jr., $160,701; Hughes, $123,979; and Gelb, $106,297. Saporito is the only big spender not to win a nomination. : Joe Sklarosky, one of the dual nominee winners spent, $98,804; Mark Bufalino, $98,189; Michael Blazick, $80,502; Tony Ross, $66,052; Paula Radick, $24,450; and Vito DeLuca, $18,818. Another Dual winner, spent Rogers, $53,224.
Molly Hanlon Mirabito’s committee spent $26,504 and won only the Democratic nomination. She will face off in the fall with Dick Hughes the GOP nominee.
There are candidates that spent their money wisely. Even in losing they built name recognition. Building a political brand is important. But when that brand is being built, a candidate should utilize an ad agency that previously worked successfully, (the key word here being successfully) with candidates in the past.