Published: Summer 2011 (Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice Newspaper)
NOTE TO READER: If anybody finds any statements or assertions to be materially untrue, I ask that they use contact E mail address at the bottom of the page as a tool for notification. If necessary corrections and/or retractions will be made. Thank you for your consideration to this matter. The article below is from the Citizen's Voice Newspaper.
When it comes to government ethics, Tom Leighton is the Rip Van Winkle of local politics.
Documents obtained by The Citizens' Voice this week revealed the mayor hired at least one of his three children every year since he took office in 2004, finding his son and two daughters paid summer jobs as a lifeguard, a parks laborer and city hall intern on 14 occasions.
Leighton must have been slumbering. He must have snored through that federal corruption sweep that netted more than 30 government officials and contractors.
He must have snoozed while outraged voters upended county government and approved a home-rule charter that will impose strict hiring, contracting and ethics rules. Well good morning, Mayor Tom. It's a new day and voters don't look kindly on politicians who use their positions to benefit their relatives.
As reported Friday by Citizens' Voice Staff Writer Andrew Staub, Leighton approved the hiring of his 20-year-old daughter and 20-year-old niece for $10-per-hour summer jobs with city government. More than 100 other people who applied for 76 summer positions with the city were turned away.
Leighton defended the hirings, arguing his daughter and niece "should be considered as everyone else in considered."
No, they shouldn't. Elected officials have a duty to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and to promote public confidence in government. The PA State Ethics Act bars public officials from using the authority of their offices for the financial gain of immediate family members - including children - Tom Leighton has stood behind his hiring.
If Leighton wants to help his daughter and niece find work during their summer vacations from college, he should give them jobs in his real-estate firm. Or, if they are as dependable and hard-working as he says they are, they could find summer work on their own.
The city is full of disadvantaged young people who would love to have a summer job at City Hall to pay tuition, help with household expenses or build a resume that will help them become productive adults.
Two of them won't have that chance because Leighton decided to use the power granted to him by voters to help his own household.
The hirings, coupled with Leighton's letter to a federal judge on behalf of a former city official facing prison in a corruption case, show the mayor is clueless when it comes to the unraveling culture of corruption in Luzerne County.
That culture is a continuum that begins with ethically questionable acts like hiring your relatives and ends with out-and-out criminality.
It must be rooted out from start to finish.
Wake up, Mayor Leighton. Our city government is not your family business
Post Script (Summer 2011) The summer program often benefited residents with existing city ties - especially those who lived in Barney Farms, the small riverside development the mayor and many other politically connected residents call home. The program first came under scrutiny when The Citizens' Voice reported Leighton hired his daughter and niece to paid summer jobs this year. They resigned after the hires were negatively publicized through the press in early summer 2011.