$1.61 MILLION GIVEN & RECEIVED IN SECRET
REQUEST FOR CITY INVESTIGATION of WILKES-BARRE MAYOR LEIGHTON
I Synopsis & Summary Pg 2 & Pg 3
IA People of Interest Pg 4
II Over 1 Million Dollars Hidden Pg 7
III Over 1 Million Dollars Discovered Pg 13
IV Kids for the Kingdom Charity Letter Pg 17
9) Leighton to explain purchase of fire engines (Times Leader) p 44
10) City can find only one fire truck bid request (Times Leader) p 46
12) Union head differs over fire trucks (Times Leader) p 50
13) W-B must turn over bid records (Times Leader) p 52
14) W-B City officials can't explain need for patented fire trucks (Times Leader) p 53
15) Recap of city's latest explanations (Times Leader) p 55
Bottom of Page 1
I Synopsis Mayor Thomas Leighton accepted $1.25 million for the city from Bill Haas in years 2004-2006. The money remained hidden until 2012 when it was discovered by Karen Hirko Ceppa (Masters in Accounting; candidate for Mayor and Controller of Wilkes-Barre). Bill Haas, a devout Christian, is also one of the wealthiest men in our area with a net worth near a $1 Billion (Rohm & Haas Chemical; plexiglass was the star product). The money was given in secret and received in secret. According to a charitys letter, it was not supposed to be received in secret. The money was funneled / laundered through a California charity (Kids for the Kingdom). The charity requested in a letter (06/07/2006; See pg 17) that the donation be made public so that the charity would receive publicity and which would hopefully lead to donations. On page 6 I describe why I believe Leighton bears near 100% responsibility.
One must ask, Why did the Haass choose Wilkes-Barre? The Haass do not live in Wilkes-Barre. They live in Bear Creek. The most logical answer is that the Haass needed something of extreme value from Wilkes-Barre. They needed votes. More specifically, they needed votes from the W-B School Board. The Board had previously denied approval of the Bear Creek Community Charter School. This school was important to the Haass for many reasons (not the least of which was so the Haas children could attend the school and Bear Creek residents could avoid long bus rides to less favored public city schools). Approval was granted for the Charter School in the same year that the $ 250,000 was donated to the city (with $1 million more to follow).
Please investigate: Possible Bribery Extortion Bid rigging Theft Violation of city charter Fraud Fraudulent bookkeeping Conspiracy to commit fraud Malfeasance
Please do not share this information with any regulatory bodies within Wilkes-Barre or close to the city. This would include the Luzerne County District Attorneys office, the Scranton branch of the FBI, and the State Police in Wyoming, Pa. The cronyism and nepotism here is so rampant that these bodies bear fraternal relationships with one another. They dont act independently. Past experience has shown that they have spread confidential information literally within minutes to the wrong people. Some say that the corruption here resembles that of 3rd world countries. This isnt a stretch. Assumption: Since evidence so clearly indicates illegality, henceforth I will often refer to the $1.25 million donation as a bribe or as extortion.
2006 $860 k for W-B fire trucks (taken from $1,000,000 check; funneled thru charity)
2006 $140 k for Fire House improvements (taken from $1,000,000 check; funneled thru charity)
$1 million sub total
2009 $ 360 k payment to secure Haas son-in-law Dan Block with job at the Chamber of Commerce.
2004 $250 k initially used to upgrade the Wilkes-Barre police station (see pg 69 and pg 71)
TOTAL $1.61 million
SENDER: BILL HAAS (Former President of Board of Trustees of Bear Creek Community Charter School; heir to Rohm and Haas Chemical; net worth estimated near $ 1Billion)
RECEIVER: MAYOR THOMAS LEIGHTON (and/or city employee(s))
CONDUIT that was used to funnel / launder $1 million in 2006: Kids for the Kingdom Charity
(Citizens Voice 09/24/2009) In reference to his job as Exec Director of Community and Economic Devt at the W-B Chamber of Commerce, Dan Block said (09/24/09), The program is funded by an anonymous donor who pledged $360k. The donor? Bill Haas. Dan Blocks father-in-law. The program was also funded by a sur-tax on businesses.
Bottom of Page 2
Summary From what I have stated in the synopsis, it may not seem like the transactions add up to an entirely bad deal for the city or the Haass. But this is the nature of a bribe. Both sides benefit. The Haas donation (bribe) procured building improvements and three fire trucks. In return Bill Haas received influence. In 2004, Haass $250,000 (and $1 million to follow) received the influence he needed to garner the school boards approval (and later he offered up $360,000 to create a job for his son-in law.) Total Contributions? $1.61 Million.
It is logical to assume that the charitys request for publicity was a ruse. The charity was the puppet on a string. The letter they sent was insincere. It was a charade to throw people off. The letter existed for a specific purpose. The purpose was, if caught, both parties could point to the letter saying See we werent trying to hide anything. It says it right here in the letter. Yet the Mayor and Bill Haas were complicit in their silence. Either person could have seen that the letter (and the money and the charity) was publicized. They could have done this easily. Instead they chose to keep it secret. It was a choice. A choice of silence. A cover-up.
THE CHRISTIAN ANGLE I submit two paragraphs to this subject since Bill Haass faith does enter into the picture. The Haas family are very committed Christians. They go on missionary trips. I consider myself committed as well (in fact I am writing a Christian book see Grateful Hands.net). But it appears that the Bill Haas has come to expect blanket protection while hiding behind Bible scripture that asks us to give in secret. Mathew 6:4 says, Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. That verse is all well and good but now we are in the midst of a full-fledged scandal. He needs to give a true account of what happened. The Bible also tells us to walk justly. The verse does not justify keeping secrets when performing an illegal act.
What is also of interest is why money was diverted from a charity that supposedly helps the neediest people of the world to pay for the much less critical concern of W-B fire trucks and building improvements. The money given to W-B completely deviates from the normal mission of helping children and families in Third-World countries across the globe. Nothing here passes the smell test.
Thus I dont consider Bill Haass demand for anonymity to be legitimate. Mayor Leighton is also using the secrecy clause to remain tight-lipped himself. Silence at this point is a perversion of scripture rather than a faithful adherence to it. Put more bluntly the Mayor and the Haass are in CYA mode. The New Testament defense holds no standing here. Paying $250,000 for influence is a bribe. They have no footing on moral ground, religious ground, or legal ground. Mathew 23:28 befits their circumstances. It says, Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Truth be told, Bill Haas is twice the man that Leighton is. It is unfortunate he made a few bad decisions. This is why I hold out the possibility that he was extorted. The school was important to him and people knew he had money.
Bottom of Page 3
At stake for Bill Haas: The highly irregular money flow makes little sense until one understands what was at stake. The Bear Creek School closed in 2002 (decaying building). Children of wealthy families (Bear Creek area) were forced to take long bus rides (over an hour) to attend lesser quality city public schools. The W-B School Board was not granting approval of the Charter School due to expenses associated with the school.
THE CITY AND THE SCHOOL BOARD Though the school board is not the same as the city all entities in Wilkes-Barre are incestuous and/or fraternal in nature. The Bear Creek Charter School was suddenly approved when money was put in the right place. $250,000 went to improve the police station. A million dollars more was on its way. I have Right to know requests submitted for all donation related documents.
IA. PEOPLE OF INTEREST Here are some players. I italicize the names of those who likely knew of the scheme. I am not an investigator, but if I were, I would like to ask these people lots of questions.
- JJ Murphy is a huge player. He was the City Administrator for the city from 2004 to 2010. In section I.4. (pgs 10-12) two pages are devoted to him. He was used by the Haass to try and placate me and was used by the Mayor and police chief as well. He serves as the intersection between the briber (the Haass) and the bribee (Leighton). He was to charm me and make me go away. It failed.
- Then-Deputy City Administrator Marie McCormick in 2004, the now current City Administrator. (See pg 76). McCormick said that a local (Dallas, Pa) company was installing carpet in the police station. She mentioned the anonymous donation as afunding source for police station renovations. No other details, such as the price of the carpet, were reported. This is important because it shows that Haass money was being used by the city prior to the Charter School opening on Sep 29, 2004.
- Officer James Fisher was both a police officer and on the Wilkes-Barre School Board in 2004. He obviously knew of the police HQ renovations, where the money was coming from, and how to vote on the charter school. As an officer, he was not to be on the school board but was allowed to because of strings pulled by Judge Michael Conahan. Conahan is now in jail for the Kids for cash scandal. He was also partners with James Fisher in an ambulance company called Trans Med. Since Conahan is in jail, Fisher is now partners with Conahans wife. Fisher has also been implicated as the protector of a W-B drug house. See my web site Gratefulhands.net and click on Protected Drug House # 2. He is bad all the way around.
- Police Chief Dessoyes children currently attend the Bear Creek Community Charter School. He is related to Mayor Thomas Leighton by marriage. He certainly had to know. I provide in great detail how he has protected a drug house on McClean Street in W-B. See Protected Drug House # 1 on GratefulHands.net. My web site has had thousands of hits. To ensure that my data is accurate, I post a disclaimer on each topic (tab). Despite my disclaimers I have yet to have anyone dispute my facts. Not one person.
- Controller Bernie Mengeringhausen (newly retired) was the Controller in 2004. Since all the payment of city bills must be approved by the Controller, and since The Finance Manager (John Koval; see below)
Bottom of Page 4
knew, Bernie Mengeringhausen must have known as well. To give you an indication of his scruples, I copy from the recent 01/22/12 Citizens Voice: Former controller Bernie Mengeringhausen was among four city officials who attended a taxpayer-funded trip to a convention in Phoenix in November, despite the fact both men had only one month left in office. A city resident commented, He and his friends just sponged one more trip off of the tax payers. Its nonsense. Mengeringhausen, as controller, signed off on his own trip.
- Finance Manager John Koval definitely knew of the million dollar payment because the Charitys letter was addressed to him (see pg 17). Koval resigned suddenly in 2011 after 15 years on the job and in the teeth of a recession. It would be interesting to know if he resigned because of what he was asked to do or what he may have done or even what he knew about.
- Greg Dabel is the International Director of Kids for Kingdom. I have doubts about the charity because it seems impossible that they accomplish so much with such little money. Their strategy of finding indigenous people to trust with their money if different areas sounds to me like a recipe for theft.
- Greg Dabels, son, Eric Dabel, is also quoted in the paper. Again, for a two man show they cover a lot of ground from psychiatric wards in Russia to hungry children in Guatemala!
- Attorney William Vinsko doubles as the W-B city attorney and the attorney for the Charter School. I do not know who the city attorney was in 2004 but they would obviously know something. Bill Vinsko flat out lied at a city council meetings as he tried to make excuses for the cover-up of the $1 million. His lies couldnt stand up to the truth as his they were quickly debunked by the papers within 48 hours.
- Attorney Anthony Lupas was the WB School Board Solicitor (Attorney) at the time. He has since been arrested for running a massive pyramid scheme.
- Bill Haas was Head of the Board of Trustees of the Bear Creek Community Charter School.
- Raymond McHugh acknowledged that a huge sum of money was put into a little used long term investment account. He is the Deputy Controller in Wilkes-Barre
- 2006 Fire Chief Jacob Lisman claimed to know nothing of the money. Current firemen challenge this. There was sneaky business going on when Lisman threw out low bidder!... American LaFrance and went with KME Kovatch. The majority of firemen did not want KME Kovatch and have even called their fire engines crap. Lisman made up the excuse that American LaFrance was in danger of going out of business and there would be warranty problems. The CEO of American LaFrance flatly denied this. There was clearly an undisclosed reason why KME Kovatch was picked as they were neither the lowest bidder nor were they considered the best company by the firemen. More corruption.
- Dan Block was handed a new position by virtue of Bill Haas donating $360 k (anonymously of course) to the Chamber of Commerce. What is so upsetting about this is that at least one revenue-producing
Bottom of Page 5
employee (fundraiser, salesman etc.) has been laid off while Dan Block gets to keep his made up job. Yes indeed bribes do hurt people.
- 2006 (and current) city councilman Bill Barrett claimed ignorance of the whole affair.
A) Extortion... I believe this is what happened. In the Haas zeal to start a new Charter school, I contend that Bill Haas was squeezed into coughing up money. The city took advantage of the Haas wealth. They twisted the arm of Bill Haas. Haas could either comply or say goodbye to the Charter school. A million dollars wouldnt hurt him. As a public official, this would obviously be illegal for Leighton to do. Bill Haas knew it was wrong as well hence the silence for years. But as the victim here I see him as far less culpable (hopefully the authorities will as well). I contend that Leighton was the perpetrator and Haas was forced to pay to play over something at stake for his children (a school). Leightons lying and dissembling after the money was found paint him as the perpetrator.
B) Bribery... A willing trade was made. A quid pro quo. Money for votes. Hence the silence.
C) Donation Under this scenario, Haas would have to make a donation that miraculously and magically happened to coincide with getting what he wanted so badly approval of the Charter School. The Haass have the resources to give anything anywhere in the world Food to kids in Ghana? No. Medicine to India? No. Instead they chose to give fire trucks to a city they dont live in. Obviously there is no coincidence here.
BILL HAAS IS OUTED See News article # 1 (pg 27). The Times Leader (02/10/12) ran a story revealing the donor to be Bill Haas. I also have confirmation from both a reporter and the editor of the Citizens Voice Newspaper. In addition, you can read the e mails (see pgs 20-26) sent between me and Bill/Jeanie Haas. At one point Bill Haas said that I deserved a brief explanation. Then he backed out. If they didnt give the money a denial would be oh so easy. Instead they beat around the bush. They provided extreme vagueness and warnings and what I considered to be a threat. I called the FBI after I felt threatened.
OTHER NOTES OF INTEREST:
Donations to a city cannot be treated any differently than other city money. City money is city money.
Bottom of Page 6
Who is Dan Block? Another benefit for the Haass: He is the son-in-law of Bill Haas. He married Sarah Haas. He was given a made-up job. He is the Executive Director of Operations of the Business Improvement District for the W-B Chamber of Commerce. He is paid $70,000 to oversee a four man cleaning crew. He is also on the United Way Board. Not bad for a newcomer from Missouri whose experience was just that of a police officer. Not surprisingly, Bill Haas gave the Chamber of Commerce $360,000 over three years (anonymous donor; again this is not in line with what the Bible says about giving in secret). Giving in secret does not apply to giving when strings are attached.
II. OVER Million Dollars Hidden Years 2004 and 2006
I copy again for you the table of donations. I then ask you a series of questions which, when answered logically and verifiably, lead only to an assumption of corruption.
2006 $860 k for W-B fire trucks (taken from $1,000,000 check; funneled thru charity)
2006 $140 k for Fire House improvements (taken from $1,000,000 check; funneled thru charity)
$1 million sub total
2004 $250 k initially used to upgrade the Wilkes-Barre police station
2009 $360 k given to W-B Chamber of Commerce to secure son-in-law with job
$1.61 million TOTAL
A) Questions and Logical Answers
Was the initial $250,000 forced upon Bill Haas part of an extortion attempt by Leighton? Possibly. It could have been a pay for play forced upon Bill Haas by the Mayor and school board to enrich themselves and Wilkes-Barre. Or it could be a mutually agreed upon bribe.
Was the million dollars that was funneled through the charity part of a contract that included the $250,000? It would seem logical that contracts would be in place when moving this amount of money from Bill Haas to the charity to the city. Maybe this million dollars was agreed upon to help pay for school costs. Or something we dont know about. I have asked in a right-to-know all documents pertaining to all transactions.
B) Questions and Logical Answers
Bottom of Page 7
Would a family buy fire trucks in a city they didn't live in with no strings attached? No. Wilkes-Barre was chosen for a reason.
Why would this family allow one million dollars to sit in a California charity set up for hungry African children... and then redirect the money for Wilkes-Barre fire engines/ firehouse improvements? Because they wanted something from this city. Approval of the Charter School makes the most sense. But its possible there was something else they wanted. I very recently heard that their son-in-law was given a manufactured job at the Chamber of Commerce at 70,000 per year. The cost to Haas? $360,000.
Why did they use the Kids for the Kingdom charity to funnel the money? The Christian answer is that they wanted to remain anonymous (dont let the left hand know what the right hand is doing). The secular answer is they wanted to throw people off.
Do the Haas's Christian motives hold true? No. They dont. There were two things asked for:
A) The donor would remain anonymous. Was Bill Haas truly anonymous? Heck no. They needed information about how many trucks were needed, how much each cost, and what money would remain for Hollenback Fire House. There had to be communication regarding this!! People definitely knew the money was coming! It didnt just float in on a charity fairy.
B) The charity would be publicized by the city. This did not happen. If this Christian motive was important to
the Haass and they wanted this charity to flourish my goodness they could have made this happen after
giving a million bucks! Their Christian story begins to fall apart.
C) Questions and Logical Answers
Since the donation:
A) wasnt made public, and
B) since Bill Haas wasnt truly anonymous
is it fair to say these Christian goals werent met? Yes. That would be a fair statement.
So was funneling the money through the charity a big ruse to throw people off? Yes. Especially when one considers the charitys wishes werent realized and Bill Haas wasnt truly anonymous.
Could the same outcome have been achieved by the Haass giving money directly to the city? I believe so. It would have been simpler than going through a California charity. People in the know knew where the money was coming anyway. If the city didnt make the charitys donation public they certainly could have kept a donation from Bill Haas private as well. It doesnt really matter who signs the million dollar check as long as the recipient is intent upon maintaining silence.
Bottom of Page 8
D) Questions and Logical Answers
As far as anonymity goes, was the goal mainly to keep the donation out of public view? Yes. In fact they did this successfully for 6 years!
Does it appear that using the charity was a way to confuse people and hide the donation? Yes. It appears this tactic was a farce.
1) No children in Africa were helped
2) The donation was kept quiet.
3) No publicity was given to the charity.
In the end, the charity only hurt itself by being seen as a launderer/funneler of money.
Does the ultimate design, execution, secrecy, illegality, and multiple attempts to cover up look like a bribe? Yes. This is the most logical conclusion. Everything points to this.
Did Thomas Leighton and John Koval (charity letter addressed to him; see pg 17), at a minimum, conceal the million dollars? Absolutely. Probably more as I said previously.
In addition to the million dollars, was there also money set aside for these expenditures? According to Thomas Leighton there were (see pg 28 for Citizens Voice article) a number of funding sources. (repeated from earlier):
IMPORTANT: If these funding sources are legitimate, then there would be a million dollars floating around!
Bottom of Page 9
What are we to assume about undisclosed, unaccounted for money floating through the city with at least the Mayor and Finance Manager knowing about it? A combination of the following:
E) The Charm Tour with JJ Murphy
In what can only be described as bizarre, both the
A) Haass, and the
B) Mayor and Police Chief
used JJ Murphy (old City Administrator) to set up meetings with me and these respective people. I had no idea of the million dollar mystery when these meetings were being set up. I especially couldnt figure out why the Haass wanted me to meet with them (Bill and Jeanie Haas) and JJ Murphy. Knowing what I know now, I can understand why the Haas's wanted me to go away. My aggressive investigation of LAG Towing could have led me finding out of other wrongdoings. Well they were right because here I am!
Who is JJ Murphy? JJ Murphy is the old city administrator who lives a few houses from Leighton. Since leaving office we have learned that he used city money (while in office) to buy a very expensive alarm system for his house and spent tens of thousands of travel expenses. In fact, there were missing credit card receipts that were recently found. What was on them? JJ Murphys travel expenses! $5,000 worth. Phoenix, Orlando, San Antonio etc
He has become Leightons (and also the Haass) charmer. It wouldnt surprise me if he gets paid. He is the schmooze man the one who is called upon to appease the righteously angry in the hopes they will go away. They used him on me. It didnt work.
HAASS (Bill and Jeanie) First, let me say I have e mails to back up almost everything I state about the Haass. Some of the very recent e mails (pgs 20-26) are in Section V at the very back of this report.
Bottom of Page 10
When I first introduced the Haass to the "Cars for Cash" scheme last August (re: LAG Towing and the city sponsored auto theft ring), Jeanie Haas wrote me (07/30/11): We agree with you and are going to so some snooping of our own... (see GratefulHands.net and click on Auto Theft Ring and Auto Theft ABCs)
Over time they "strangely" began to support the city and the Mayor. It was strange because they were the only ones heading in this direction. Everyone else rallied against the corruption I was exposing. Looking back it was JJ Murphy who was the City Administrator at the time when the Haas money started flowing in (2004).
Now it all fits together
The Police Chief wanted me to go away.
The Mayor wanted me to go away.
The Haass wanted me to go away.
Before long the Haass were literally insisting that I sit down with them and JJ Murphy. When I told them I wasnt comfortable with this meeting Jeanie accused me of being prideful and stubborn. It was at this point that maybe the Haass felt that I was digging too hard and getting too close to the anonymous donation. They knew I had smarts as the Valedictorian of my MBA class at Lehigh University).
Another strange occurrence happened at a Protest against LAG Towing I initiated at city hall. Obviously we were all of like mind except for one guy who showed up. That person? JJ Murphy. What chutzpah! Many of the protestors were visibly angered by his appearance. This is when I nicknamed him the snake. Again, you can read the e mails in section V to see where I stand with the Haass. My perception is that they clearly see me as a threat. I tried to remain polite and civil but at the same time I am not backing down (hence this report).
They have twice now asked me to stop e mailing them.
Leo Glodzik (LAG Towing), Police Chief Dessoye, and Mayor Thomas Leighton JJ Murphyweren't done with me. The meeting with the Haas's never happened so Murphy set his sights on meeting with Leo Glodzik. At this point I was talking with Murphy on the phone. So I met with Leo Glodzik with JJ for dinner. There wasnt much to it. Polite conversation mostly.
The interesting aspect of the meeting was that Leo Glodzik brought in stacks of records that he claimed were one months worth. I kid you not they were two feet tall. I had sent in a right-to-know request for his records. He was trying to intimidate me by the volumes I would have to sift through. It was all a fake. It turns out he has NO records.
Sound unbelievable? then do a google search for: January 1 2012 Citizens Voice Glodzik and you will see the first sentence reads: Wilkes-Barre's towing contractor has no record of what he charged or why he towed vehicles for nearly all seven years he's been on the job.
Bottom of Page 11
The next meeting was to be with Police Chief Dessoye (and then Leighton). It was at this point the charm tour ended. I knew the plan and I wasnt selling myself to the devil. It was at this time too that I learned of some horrible, immoral, illegal sex and drug activity at a protected drug house (see Protected drug house # 1 on GratefulHands.net) involving both the Chiefs activity and influence. Dessoye has fallen into a degenerate lifestyle.
It is not surprising how unprofessional and unresponsive the city cops are when their leader is not closing down a drug house which has invoked over one hundred 911 calls. Dessoye, a married man, was meeting in clandestine fashion with Catherine Meehan, one of the houses dealers. Meehan is a 90 pound two time felon (attempted murder) who uses and sells pain pills and heroin. What good reason would Dessoye have to meet with her if not for drugs, sex, or both? Its as about as low as one can go.
Everything on my site has been carefully selected. I also have a disclaimer in case I get something wrong. People can e mail me through the site. After about 5,000 hits there has not one person who has refuted me in any material way. NOT ONE. What you read is true.
Is it a coincidence that both the Haass and the city hired JJ Murphy to make me go away? Answer: No
Can you see now how the city can be compared to a rogue third world country?
Wilkes-Barre is in the process of a moral, ethical, and legal free fall!
F) Louis DeNaples? DeNaples name surfaced immediately when the million dollars was found. Many people assumed that this money was his gift/donation/bribe to the city to ensure that
1) His then son-in-law Leo Glodzik could illegally wrest the city towing contract.
2) His then son-in-law could illegally run LAG Towing free from contractual obligations.
3) His then son-in-law could operate LAG Towing on DeNaples property.
4) His then son-in-law could run what amounts to an auto theft ring.
5) His then son-in-law could provide cars and parts to DeNaples many businesses.
6) His then son-in-law would be able to take advantage of a perfect business model.
7) Glodzik could sell cars and parts that he paid $0.00 for since he seized the cars and impounded them at illegal, monopoly prices.
Bottom of Page 12
DeNaples may have had a role in city affairs at some point. But he is not responsible for the $ 1.25 million funneled through the Kids for the Kingdom charity.
III Over 1 Million Dollars Discovered (Lies and Cover-ups)
The million dollars (from 2006) was found missing by Karen Ceppa Hirko (former Mayoral and Controller candidate; Masters in Accounting). The money was found missing around 01/01/2012. The million dollars was funneled/laundered through a California charity called Kids for the Kingdom. A letter was included with the charity stating that the charity could be publicized but not the donor (see page 17). Soon thereafter it was also disclosed that $250,000 had been given by the Haass (through the charity) to upgrade the police station. This was in 2004.
SUMMARY Lots wrong here!
1) The million dollars went undetected for 6 years. Leighton hid it well.
2) Leighton kept the donation secret despite the charity indicating that it should be made public.
3) Leighton deliberately misled the public as to the source of the money in 2006 by falsely claiming the money came from grants, the general fund, and emergency service taxes.
4) Leighton furthered his lies by claiming (& propping himself up) that the money came from city savings. He turned it into his personal glory quest.
5) A good and honest donor would never sanction such a mischaracterization of the money... especially after requesting publicity (pg 17). They would be appalled. The Haass lack of righteous indignation indicates a deal was in place.
6) A briber, however, could live with such a mischaracterization in their aim to remain hidden.
7) A donation would be celebrated. A bribe would be hidden. This was hidden.
8) Very few knew of the money. Probably just the Mayor, his Administrator, his Deputy Administrator, the Controller, the Finance Manager, the police chief, and the city attorney. The people of interest are described in the summary.
9) No invoices nor receipts. No Bill of sale. No paper trail except the change in charitys asset balance of $1 million and a little used Long Term Investment Account in the city. (And who would ever tie a California based African charity with W-B fire trucks?). The lack of a paper trail is startling. I have requested documents.
10) Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association, said the city should have acknowledged the donation when it was received, and City Council should have voted on the disbursement of the money. (pgs 32-33)
Bottom of Page 13
Lies and Deception (26 examples)
1. Celebration? Believe it or not 6 years after the fact (and getting caught) Leighton now says it is time to celebrate the donation (I swear I am not making this up). Is he sincere in this request? Should we have a parade? (See pg 40)
2. Leighton initially claimed the trucks were bought through the states COSTARS program (state agency used to get competitive bids). The Time Leader quotes Leighton as saying Based upon the best recollections of fire department officials, both retired and present, the engines were purchased through the COSTARS program. The state, however, refuted this (pg 32) by stating the city did not use this program. Leighton lied.
3. Contradictions everywhere Leighton claimed that the purchases from KME KOVATCH (engine company) were legitimate because council and the administration had no discretionary authority of the disbursement of the funding since it was a private donation held in trust by the city that was earmarked for the specific purpose of purchasing fire engines. Leighton claimed that regular procedures were not necessary because it was not public money. Leighton lied again. Whose money could it be? Privately earmarking a donation is a fancy way of describing a bribe.
4. Another Leighton Lie City records show that Wilkes-Barre spent $860,408 from its long-term investment account to buy the three fire engines from the KME-Kovatch Organization in Nesquehoning. If, as Leighton said, the money wasnt public money, then what was it doing in a city asset account?
5. Controllers office involved The city's deputy controller, Raymond McHugh, sent activist Karen Ceppa Hirko an e mail indicating there had been little activity in the fund in recent years (long-term investment account), but he noted the city used a $1 million "public safety grant" (pg 29) to buy fire equipment in 2006.
This is a lie as we know that this money was not a grant but rather a private donation. THIS IS CRITICAL IN THAT WE NOW KNOW THE CONTROLLERS OFFICE IS WILLING TO LIE FOR LEIGHTON.
6. Attorney William Vinsko (Congressional candidate) was willing to lie publicly for the Mayor (pg 44). At a city council meeting he tried to cover the Mayors tracks by claiming that bidding for the fire trucks under the city charter was unnecessary because of specific patented items. He then refused to name the patent, he refused questions, and literally hauled ass (literally left the building and drove off).
7. Vinskos patent explanation proved to be a prevarication because:
a. Vinsko failed to name the specific patented items.
b. All complex pieces of equipment have 100s of patents. To arbitrarily pick one is nonsense.
c. The policy is intended for a specifically patented product (not patents of components within)
d. Taking this argument to its logical end would mean that no product would ever need to be bid on as almost everything has some sort of patent within.
Bottom of Page 14
e. Nowhere can the city verify that they were looking for specific patented items in 2006. This was something Solicitor Vinsko fabricated to pathetically try and find a loophole and justification for the Mayors deceptive and dishonest behavior.
f. The patent loophole is meaningless because there was only one patented item the firemen were interested in. This was a foam and water mixer. This patent, however, doesnt exist on any of the fire trucks that were purchased.
g. The firemen themselves preferred a company besides KME-KOVATCH (who had the patent)
8. Another contradiction Leighton contradicted Vinsko in the January 11 Times Leader (pg 41). Leighton made no mention of patents. Instead he said that KME Kovatch (the manufacturer) was recommended to the administration by the fire department committee as the highest-quality vendor. As you can see the story keeps changing. Nothing said about patents here! A Lie.
9. Another contradiction Contrary to Leightons statement, the favored engine company (according to the firemen committee) was American LeFrance and not KME Kovatch.
10. Another contradiction Karen Ceppa Hirko (anti-corruption activist) was told by city hall that no specifications, bids, contracts or invoices for the $860,000 cost of the fire engines exists. This is a lie because Pierce and Glick Fire Equipment claims it placed a bid in 2006.
11. No Specifications? From # 10 above, if there were no specifications, then how, as Attorney Vinsko said, could there be specific patented items requested? Yet another lie.
12. Contradicted again Jacob Lisman (2005 fire chief) and Drew McLaughlin (current City Spokesman) both claimed that the COSTARS State Cooperative was used to buy the fire engines. Then Leighton later claimed that they couldnt have (but he wouldnt say why!). The state itself said COSTARS wasnt used. Somebody here is lying.
13. Lying in a sworn affidavit In a sworn affidavit submitted to the state Office of Open Records, City Spokesman Drew McLaughlin said the city had no documentation of bid specifications, original advertisements, change orders or meeting minutes approving the lowest bidder for the trucks. Yet two companies that manufacture fire engines have said they submitted bids or proposals to Wilkes-Barre in an attempt to secure the contract (this would have been unnecessary if the city used COSTARS program as the city initially claimed). Two companies claimed to submit bids. City Spokesman Drew McLaughlin claims no documentation. It looks like somebody is lying and taking a bullet for Tommy!
15. Not public money (Pg 34) A cover-up was suggested by Judy Nadler, a senior fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, said, "Anything that's donated to the city is public money," said Nadler, the former mayor of Santa Clara. "Boy, that really raises questions that they don't think it's public money."
Bottom of Page 15
16. No Documentation Nadler added, The fact the money was donated is "no excuse" for a lack of public documentation of city spending, especially for the purchase of such big-ticket items as fire trucks. Many cities document donations as small as a park bench or a donation to a city art museum.
17. Residents misled Leighton's statements that the city used funds from the emergency services tax when a donation might have funded the trucks could also misled residents about how their money is being spent, said Nadler, who also questioned where the leftover funds from the original $1 million gift went ($140k).
18. Hide the true source of money Nadler mentioned, "Transparency is absolutely fundamental to a well-run and ethical city," Nadler said. "In this case, there is no documentation, no transparency and, in fact, what looks like an attempt to make up a story or hide the true source of this money."
19. Violation of Charter Karen Ceppa Hirko (activist and Masters in Accounting) has called for greater accountability from the city and questioned whether Wilkes-Barre violated its own charter that requires competitive bidding for purchases of $4,000 or more.
20. Approval needed Karen Ceppa Hirko also added that expenditures of $10,000 or more require city council approval. City Councilman Bill Barrett (at the time and currently) said he knew nothing about how the trucks were paid for. Karen Ceppa Hirko claimed, "It's an ongoing lie where they're trying to cover their butts."
21. What about the funneler of the money? Tim Dabel, Operations Director for the Kids for the Kingdom charity said. I cant tell you why this foundation was used to disburse the money. Doesnt it seem odd that he wouldnt know when the charity is being used for something entirely contradictory to its mission? There is an obvious cover-up occurring. A million dollars is more than the total assets of this charity!
22. In the dark The donation appeared to be a secret even among city hall employees. Former fire Chief Jacob Lisman, Operations Director Butch Frati and Councilman Bill Barrett have all said they did not know about the $1 million windfall. Neither did Mike Bilski (pg 48), president of the city's firefighters' union. Firefighters who learned of it this week were "amazed," he said. He believes the city bought them under "false pretenses." Tom Makar, the former union president, said, Leighton's administration never made a mention of the donation!!!
22. What about the remaining $140,000? Different stories exist. This is the amount remaining after the fire trucks ($860k) were paid for. As with everything else, confusion reigns.
A) The city's deputy controller, Raymond McHugh, indicated it was unclear how the city spent the nearly $140,000 remainder of the donation.
B) Leighton said the council authorized the spending of the remaining $140,000 of the donation. The city put the funds to complete the construction of the Hollenback Fire Station, and council approved the expenditure at its Sept. 8, 2005, and Aug. 10, 2006, meetings.
OK fair enough. But didnt they ask about the other $860,000? Or where the $140,000 came from?
Bottom of Page 16
23. Did Leighton take the $140k in 2006?
A) Meeting minutes back then do not mention spending money from a private donation. This can only mean that the council members were misled.
24. Leighton claimed that the completion of the Hollenback Fire Station was said to have hinged on:
A) the release of funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
B) further aid from "community development monies and emergency services monies
Both of these statements are lies because we know it came out of the million dollar donation.
25. No ties? No contract? Leighton told the paper the following about the donor. He said, the benefactor has no ties to any current or retired city officials or employees and has never received a city contract as a result of the donation. Who fits under this umbrella that we know had an interest in W-B? Louis DeNaples and Bill Haas come to mind. But even here there is subterfuge. It is hard to believe that the Haass came up with $1.25 million, used an intermediary to pass it through, and ultimately purchased items for WB all based on a handshake! Something had to be written down. Plus, paying $1.25 million for votes is a contract. An oral contract. It need not be written down.
26. Most bizarre comment of all: Leighton told the paper Its not who you think it is. Huh? Say what?
Bottom of Page 17
Bottom of Page 18
Bottom of Page 19
V E mails between me (Mark Robbins) and Bill and Jeanie Haas (Late February, 2012)
The E mails will make more sense if you read them from the bottom up!
FROM: Mark Robbins To: Jeanie Haas
Sunday, February 26, 2012 7:51 PM Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone
Amen. I really want things to be in your favor. I may do a retraction to the FBI (regarding the threat). Please be well. Mark.
FROM: Jeanie Haas To: Mark Robbins
Sunday, February 26, 2012 2:26 PM
Obviously Bill intended no threat. He is the genuinely nicest guy that I know, although not a billionaire.
He was, and I am, simply trying to get you off the erroneous path that you are on. None of the accusations/statements that you've made about us on your website have been accurate (except that I called you stubborn/willful, but I wasn't angry.....) and we just hate to see you look foolish. But we have said all that we can, and are sure that the FBI will get to the bottom of it.
We would never participate in any kind of cover up, and are sorry that you would imply such a thing.
We hope and pray the very best for you.
For our own peace of mind and heart, we will no longer be reading any emails that you send to either of us.
On Feb 26, 2012, at 5:39 AM, Mark Robbins wrote:
FROM: Mark Robbins To: Bill Haas
I WILL TOLERATE NO THREATS like the last e mail. I have to let authorities know in case something happens to me. I actually didn't mean to copy you on the other message but I did by accident. At least you know where I stand. To be honest... you don't sound very innocent.
Please do the right thing. Confess. Tell what happened.
Accept consequences if any and move on. It's not the end of the world.
This is your surest and quickest way out of this. I hope that you are the one that goes first.
I could be giving Leighton the same recommendation but I am giving it to you because on balance I feel you are a far better man.
Bottom of Page 20
Stop protecting Leighton. You must understand that this is not going to fade away. There is too much money. Have you given serious thought to the cars he let LAG steal? I find it almost amusing how you worry about serenity in their lives and not the lives they have destroyed with corruption. Also how it is God's will when you go after corruption but when it is aimed at you it becomes self will and "self infliction."
This has taken on a life much bigger than me and I can't stop it. I have no power over this. In fact I wasn't even the one who started this! The FBI has had this for months. So please stop assuming that this has been "my baby." It hasn't been.
A potential $ 1.25 million bribe (or whatever it was) is not going away. Hiding it and funneling through a charity is highly suspicious. Of course they will look. Wouldn't you if you were them?
Make it simple. Do the honorable thing and claim that you messed up, albeit with good intentions, and that you need to set things straight.
What has me distressed is not the event itself... but the way you likely emboldened Leighton to run the city like Little Italy. Two protected drug houses, Dessoye privately meeting with a heroin addict, LAG auto theft ring etc.. Did it start with you?
I think if you become rigorously honest with the right officials it should work out for you. I really do.
Sunday, February 26, 2012 2:37 AM
To: Philadelphia FBI (Philadelphia.email@example.com)
From: Mark M Robbins
99 Slocum Street
Forty Fort PA 18704
See my web site for many details: http://gratefulhands.net... Click on Million dollar cover-up
Please contact me regarding a threat received by me by a man (Bill Haas) who has the means and motive to carry it out.
BEFORE I SAY ANYTHING... please do not discuss this with the Scranton FBI. Other calls made to them regarding local officials have been mocked by your agents in Scranton and immediately leaked. They have even humiliated callers. It is widespread knowledge that their office is completely unprofessional. They gossip to officials (like W-B Police Chief Dessoye) like a bunch of little girls.
A newspaper report placed them all together at a party. I have heard that they go to firing ranges together with Chief Dessoye of Wilkes-Barre and they drink together. By telling them what I write below you could be endangering me. and my two adopted sons. I AM NOT JOKING. PLEASE DO NOT DISCUSS WITH THEM. Thank you.
There should be an OPEN CASE on what I describe below with whomever has been in touch with Karen Ceppa Hirko. I do not know who this person is but I do know that Karen has been impressed by him. The players here are Karen Ceppa Hirko (Master's in Accounting), myself (MBA from Lehigh University), and
1) W-B Mayor Thomas Leighton
2) W-B Police Chief Gerard Dessoye
3) Current Billionaire Bill Haas
Bottom of Page 21
Based on all that I know, it appears that
A) Bill Haas was extorted (by the Mayor) out of $1.25 million (so he could get his charter school)
B) More likely, he simply offered a bribe to the Mayor (a million is nothing to a Billionaire)
I have the whole case described in many details at http://gratefulhands.net/million_dollars_hidden_by_leighton For now at least... I use an alias for Bill Haas... Will Meyer. I would like to change it to whom it really is once I feel safe. I don't like a threat hanging over me.
I would like to report what I take to be a threat below. The e mail comes from Bill Haas (heir to Rohm and Haas Chemical... reported to be a Billionaire).
I have been active in Wilkes-Barre Pa anti-corruption for about 8 months. It appears that $1.25 million was funneled (laundered) through a California charity ("Kids for the Kingdom") and was given secretly to the city of Wilkes-Barre. This was recently uncovered in January. Some of what the money went for was improvements to the police station and a firehouse and fire engines. It appears that this was a bribe to allow to allow the Bear Creek School to become a charter school. This $1.25 million was discovered by Karen Ceppa Hirko this January and made front page headlines back then.
1) W-B Mayor Thomas Leighton
2) W-B Police Chief Gerard Dessoye
3) Current Billionaire Bill Haas
Haas has the money to "knock off" me and a thousand like me. I have adopted twin boys to worry about. Below Bill Haas says "and Mark believe me when I say you should quit." OR WHAT???
Please see http://gratefulhands.net/million_dollars_hidden_by_leighton For now at least... I use an alias for Bill Haas... Wll Meyer. I would like to change it to whom it really is once I feel safe.
FROM: Bill Haas To: Mark Robbins
To: Mark Robbins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 9:42 PM
Subject: Re: contacting me...
I do not feel God has you here... against corruption... for a reason. I believe you have the right to do what you might want to do but you cannot say God has you doing something or say you feel that God has you somewhere for a reason when the reason is almost purely personal or self inflicted. I believe you have put yourself right where you are, period.
Bottom of Page 22
It makes all the sense in the world to quit whenever one should and Mark believe me when I say you should quit. Leave people alone, leave Wilkes-Barre alone and let families live their lives in peace and quiet with the privacy they want or deserve, whether they deserve it or not. DeNaples; Miracle; Smith; Jones; Haas; Blacksmith... whatever their name may be. (my (Mark's) note: DeNaples is mob related; Miracle is a convicted felon related to the "Kids for Cash" scandal).
People want to save you the pain of embarrassment of what is not yours. It is not anybody's. That is why people do what they do: to live in peace and quiet and privacy; no matter who they are, where they live or what they do for a living...
Saturday, February 25, 2012 7:57 PM
FROM: Mark Robbins To: Bill Haas
Jeanie mentioned how in the past people have "taken shots" at you (and family).
I want to share a story with you that happened.... as I mentioned in a previous E mail, a few months ago I bought a SBM2 (Single black Mother of two) a "new" used car. She has a part time job that pays 9 dollars per hour. I then took the car in for repairs three times because there were more issues with the car.
The Times Leader did a story on her old car that was effectively stolen. LAG Towing wanted $3200 for her old $1,000 car. On my web site I detail how this scam works (Gratefulhands.net... "ABC's of Auto Theft Ring")
In any event, the Times Leader ran a story about this lady's car and I was amazed at the venom I received. People were slandering this lady who they never met! I couldn't believe it. It was pure evil ("the principalities and powers of darkness").
PLEASE KNOW I DO NOT REPRESENT THESE "PRINICPALITIES!!!"
I judge you on your body of work as a Christian over a lifetime. If I had to choose between your character and Leighton's... whose do you think I would pick?
CUT TO THE CHASE
Most people originally thought that DeNaples was behind the money because it was around the time that his "then" son-in-law received the city towing contract.
As far as your involvement, it would seem that the Charter school was something important to you. Although it was technically a school board decision... with Wilkes-Barre's nepotism and cronyism we know it can be difficult to separate one body from another.
A few links:
I know that Policeman J Fisher was on the school board
I know also that Attorney Vinsko represents both the school board and the city. I can tell you that me and others who have dealt with him find him very dishonest.
Bottom of Page 23
- He lied about the "million dollar mystery" at a city council meeting (claiming the purchase of trucks had to do with patents... later deemed untrue).
- When Bob Kadulboski brought up your name, Vinsko said, "You better be careful about who you bring up" (implying of course he knew it was you). When asked if he knew who was, he said, "I don't know." This was a lie.
And of course both you and Jeanie wanted me to meet with JJ Murphy. I also met with Glodzik and Murphy and meetings were being set up to meet with the chief and the Mayor. Murphy is "so slippery" he makes my skin crawl. How did you ever surround yourself with these jokers?
And how did I become so important?
So... it would seem to me that a logical explanation for all this would be that the "city" (ie; school board) had something that was dear to you (a school). Closing the school would create hardship for many. It would also close a school that apparently is a true gem. Lots at stake.
It is logical that people know you are wealthy and may be led to coerce/force/extort you to pay a handsome sum for something that has extreme value to you.
In this logical scenario... you would be the victim and not the perpetrator.
A) Exortion... Perpetrator and victim
B) Bribery... Both parties are perpetrators
So from my standpoint, it would seem that you fall under "A" above. If "A" is true then you are innocent and were cruelly taken advantage of.
Obviously (the city) hiding a million dollars raises a million red flags. Anybody would agree to that here. But, again, this could happen as a result of "A" above.
So this is how I will frame it.
If this IS NOT how I should frame it... please tell me!!! Since I don't want to "re-victimize" a victim I will keep the alias ("Will Meyer") on my web site.
It may make sense for you to state for the record what happened as it has been reported to the FBI months ago by another person (and I am not talking about the corrupted Scranton FBI).
I would like to hear from you the explanation as you suggested. I am sorry that the trail I started months ago ended up here... but is is what it is. Might as well put the truth out.
Since I really respect and like your family... if there is a chance to get out in front of the story... I would hope you would avail yourself of this opportunity. Never, ever "take a bullet" for Leighton. He won't take one for you.
God Bless Mark
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Bottom of Page 24
FROM: Mark Robbins To: Bill Haas
On Feb 24, 2012, at 11:38 PM, Mark Robbins wrote:
> Hi Bill
> Hope your travels are safe.
> As stated, I do not think you are the "wrongdoer" here...but may have been forced to not "play the game" that (extortion recipient) you wouldn't do if not for not for something very big at stake (a school would fall under this category).
> The truth is usually short and flows easily so why don't you just tell me what happened.
> I have seen 1st hand the devastating effects of corruption. Can you imagine trying to exist in Wilkes-Barre making 9 dollars per hour with two kids after LAG Towing "prices" you out of your car with insane impound fees? It is enough to break one's spirit.
> I only speak to you now because this is where the trail led. It certainly is not personal (in fact I thought it was Denaples). I do feel that God has me here (against corruption) for a reason. It makes no sense to quit in the middle of the game.
> Thanks Mark
> Forwarded Message -----
> From: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> To: Bill Haas <email@example.com>
> Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 5:37 PM
> Subject: Re: contacting me...
> Ok thanks bill... I didn't realize that was you request. I will honor that.
> ----- Reply message -----
> From: "Bill Haas"
> Date: Fri, Feb 24, 2012 7:37 am
> Subject: contacting me...
> To: "Robbins Mark"
> I meant to be clear with you in my last email that I wanted you to only write to me and no one else in my family. I would expect nothing less from you than for you to respect my wishes. Do not email Jeanie.
> I cannot call right now but I think a brief summary of what you are talking about is a fair request.
Bottom of Page 25
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Date: February 23, 2012 3:44:03 PM EST
> To: Jeanie Haas
> Subject: Re: You need to contact me.
> Too much to write about... Can u call me? Thanks. Mark. 592. 3246
> ----- Reply message -----
> From: "Jeanie Haas"
> Date: Thu, Feb 23, 2012 12:08 pm
> Subject: You need to contact me.
> To: "Mark Robbins"
> hey Mark-
> what's up?
> We're heading out of town next week....
FROM: Mark Robbins To: Jeanie Haas
On Feb 23, 2012, at 2:00 AM, Mark Robbins wrote:
You need to contact me. I don't want to see you in trouble which is where this is heading. Thanks Mark
Bottom of Page 26
1) Ex-city Tower names donor to be thanked (Donor revealed!!)
BILL O BOYLE email@example.com
WILKES-BARRE Former city towing contractor Bob Kadluboski asked City Council on Thursday to send a letter to the Haas family, thanking them for a $1 million donation that was used to purchase three new fire engines in 2005-06.
Kadluboski said the family is from Bear Creek Township. There are several Haas listings in the phone book; none could be reached for comment Thursday night.
The rumor of the Haas familys involvement has been circulating for weeks. A family member contacted two weeks ago declined to speak for publication about the donation.
Kadluboski claims the family donated $1 million to the city for the fire department, directing it through the Kids for the Kingdom charity in California.
Mayor Tom Leighton did not announce receipt of the donation when it was made. It was revealed recently by Karen Ceppa Hirko, who requested documents from the city regarding the fire engine purchases.
The charity sent a letter to the city informing it of the donation and the donors request for anonymity. The charity said the donation could be announced and the charity be given publicity. Leighton chose not to do so. Kadluboski said his information came from a very reliable source someone who knows.
Kadluboski asked council and assistant city attorney Bill Vinsko if it was true that the donors name was Haas. Vinsko said he didnt know. Councilman Bill Barrett said he had no idea who the donor was.
Kadluboski said he plans to visit the Luzerne County District Attorneys Office on Monday to request an investigation into the purchase of the fire engines.
Once that money was placed in a city account it became public money, Kadluboski said. The fire engines should have been bid out and council should have approved it.
After the meeting, Leighton refused to confirm the donors name. He said revealing the name could discourage potential donors.
Kadluboski called Leighton a sneak for not revealing the donation and said he was not insinuating that the donor did anything wrong.
They should be thanked, he said. This is something that could have been nice. It should have been celebrated. But it was done in a sneaky way to make the mayor look good.
Bottom of Page 27
The city has been ordered to provide all bids, or requests for proposals, that were submitted in 2005 and 2006 when the city was purchasing the three fire engines, the state Office of Open records ruled in January. The city could appeal the ruling to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. Last month city officials said the proposals are not available and the city did not keep copies of them.
The city bought the engines in 2006 from KME-Kovach of Nesquehoning for $860,000. The other $140,000 was used for renovations to the Hollenback Fire House, Leighton has stated.
The city has produced one RFP -- from KME-Kovach. Two other reported bids from American LaFrance of Summerville, S.C., and Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisc. were not found by the City Clerks Office.
MY POSTED COMMENT TO ARTICLE: What sets this apart from a normal donation is that the money ended up in the city. Some Christian donors wish to remain anonymous. But bribers do too! Should we respect that?
If this was a bribe, it was a win-win if looked at up and close. A charter school and fire trucks were obtained. The horrible residual, however, is the feeling of invincibility of King Tommy Leighton felt after scoring a bribe with a Billionaire family. Was this event of the corrupt pay for plays to follow. Like the sordid towing company L.A.G. They pay a yearly fee and are given a license to steal cars. So Bill Haas I say to you you truly have done irreparable harm by what you set in motion.
It is a shame however that Leighton hid this money to "prop himself up." You can look very fiscally responsible with a hidden million dollars. The charity wanted publicity to feed hungry mouths in Africa. Clearly people would have donated had Leighton not "pulled a fast one" on the Haas's He took advantage of the Haas's generosity. As a result... less children were fed. How low can this man go?
By Andrew Staub (staff writer) Citizens Voice
Published: January 8, 2012
It's the million-dollar mystery.
More than five years ago, Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton led city residents to believe money from a grant, the city's general fund, community development coffers and emergency services tax bankrolled the $860,000 purchase of three new fire engines.
In reality, an anonymous donor stepped forward with a $1 million gift specifically earmarked for the new fire equipment, according to interviews with city officials and documents reviewed by The Citizens' Voice.
A generous and still unnamed stranger funneled the donation through Kids for the Kingdom, a Graton, Calif.-based Christian charity that helps children and families in third-world countries.
The city received notice of the donation in a letter dated June 7, 2006. Leighton never made mention of the gift when he unveiled the fire engines a month later, despite receiving permission from the charity's international director, Greg Dabel, to announce the donation.
"We realize you will want to publicize the arrival of the new fire trucks and the fact that a generous local donor provided the money. Feel free to do so," Dabel wrote in the letter. "However, please keep the donor identity confidential."
Some city officials, including Councilman Bill Barrett, said they learned of the donation only recently. Barrett, a member of council since 2004, said he originally thought the city received a grant to purchase the fire engines. Another council member told him of the donation, Barrett said.
"It's certainly unusual," Barrett said, adding that he did not know the donor's identity.
Request reveals gift
Karen Ceppa, a former Republican candidate for city controller, uncovered the letter detailing the donation through an open-records request. She asked for documents related to the purchase of the fire engines, including bid specifications, advertisements, change orders and meeting minutes detailing the approval of the expenditure.
In addition to the letter from the charity, the city provided a sworn affidavit dated Jan. 3 and signed by Drew McLaughlin, a city spokesman and aide to the mayor. McLaughlin wrote that none of the documents Ceppa requested existed because the fire engines were purchased with a donation.
City records show Wilkes-Barre spent $860,408 from its long-term investment account to buy the three fire engines from the KME-Kovatch Organization in Nesquehoning.
The city's deputy controller, Raymond McHugh, sent Ceppa an email Tuesday indicating there had been little activity in the fund in recent years, but he noted the city used a $1 million "public safety grant" to buy fire equipment in 2006. It's unclear how the city spent the nearly $140,000 remainder of the donation.
The city purchased the fire trucks through COSTARS, a state "piggyback" purchasing program that eliminated the need for a public bidding process, McLaughlin said Friday. Council also did not approve the expenditure at a public meeting because the city used a donation to buy the engines, McLaughlin said.
"It wasn't public money," he said. (MY NOTE: The Mayor is dead wrong here. Donated money goes into the general fund.)
Bottom of Page 29
Council normally must approve expenditures of $10,000 or more and, at its public meetings, routinely authorizes the purchase of emergency vehicles through the state piggyback program. Because the donor specifically earmarked the $1 million for three fire engines, that protocol was likely unnecessary when buying the vehicles, Barrett said.
"If they say, 'Here's $1 million, put it in the general fund and spend it the way you want,' it's a little different, I guess," Barrett said.
Ceppa disagreed. The city charter does not allow Wilkes-Barre officials to treat donations differently than other funds, she said, calling the purchase of the fire engines "illegal."
Ceppa, who has a master's degree in accounting, said she's concerned about whether the city is "doing everything by the book legally without giving special favors to certain people."
"That's my bottom line: I don't want to see favoritism or giving more of the work to somebody because they made a specific amount of donations," Ceppa said. "A million dollars is a lot of money."
A solid secret
Those around city hall on Friday offered shrugged shoulders when asked about the mystery money.
"I honestly don't know much about that at all," said Butch Frati, the city's operations director. "Very nice person, though, whoever it is."
Fire Chief Jay Delaney could not be reached for comment, but a woman who answered the phone at his office said she "never heard" of the donation.
Even Jacob Lisman, the city's fire chief from 2004 to late 2008, said he did not know about the $1 million or who donated it even though, during his tenure, the city formed a committee of firefighters to write specifications for the engines.
"I don't know that answer," Lisman said. "I wasn't involved with the financing at all."
The donor's identity might never be revealed. Whoever earmarked the money for Wilkes-Barre seemed to know the city needed an upgrade of its decades-old engines, but wanted none of the publicity that would accompany such a donation.
"The donors wish to remain anonymous and out of the limelight," Dabel, the charity's international director, wrote in the 2006 letter. "They have a heartfelt desire to see their community well-served by the latest and best fire-fighting and life-saving equipment."
The charity's tax returns reflected the donation, but did not identify the donor. In 2005, the charity collected $1,872,213. The next year, Kids for the Kingdom received $825,021.
Tim Dabel, Greg Dabel's son and the operations director for Kids for the Kingdom, would not identify the donor Friday. He worried that, if named, the donor or donors would be inundated with attention and requests from people who might not realize they had such wealth.
"All of a sudden, somebody has something they need," Tim Dabel said.
The donor lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Tim Dabel said. He added that he was unsure if the donor had any connection to the city fire department.
Bottom of Page 30
Leighton could not be reached for comment about the donation. When a reporter visited city hall Friday afternoon, the mayor's receptionist said he was in a meeting. Leighton did not return a cellphone message.
Records that identify anonymous donors who lawfully contribute to an agency cannot be obtained under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law unless the donation is intended as payment for services or employment, or as a "personal tangible benefit to a named public official or employee of that agency."
That means unless the donor comes forward - or his or her identity is leaked - the million-dollar gift will likely remain a mystery.
"The city's hiding, trust me," Ceppa said. "And they know who the donor is."
Published: January 8, 2012 Citizens Voice
Wilkes-Barre's newest ambulance joined the city fleet Friday and primarily will serve Public Square/Market Street to the Hanover Township line. The vehicle, which replaces a 2006 Braun ambulance that logged 106,431 miles, was bought through COSTARS, the state's piggyback purchasing program, with $177,000 in community development funds, according to a city news release.
The city routinely uses COSTARS to purchase emergency vehicles and said it purchased three fire engines in 2006 using the program. (MY NOTE: THIS IS A FALSE STATEMENT)
Source: City of Wilkes-Barre
Bottom of Page 31
By Andrew Staub (Staff Writer) Citizens Voice
Published: January 10, 2012
The intrigue surrounding an anonymous $1 million donation Wilkes-Barre used to purchase three fire engines in 2006 deepened Monday as evidence surfaced that the city, despite a claim to the contrary, never used a state purchasing cooperative that would have insulated it from competitive bidding requirements.
The Pennsylvania Department of General Services has no record that Wilkes-Barre bought the $860,000 engines through COSTARS, which would have provided access to more competitive prices.
"It appears that they must have gotten (the fire engines) in a way different than the COSTARS contract," said Troy Thompson, a department spokesman.
Two companies that manufacture fire engines have also said they submitted bids or proposals to Wilkes-Barre in an attempt to secure the contract, which would have been unnecessary if the city used COSTARS.
Bottom of Page 32
The developments call into question statements city spokesman Drew McLaughlin made last week, when he said the city used COSTARS to buy the fire engines. In a sworn affidavit submitted to the state Office of Open Records, McLaughlin also said the city had no documentation of bid specifications, original advertisements, change orders or meeting minutes approving the lowest bidder for the trucks.
Mayor Tom Leighton, out sick Monday, did not return a telephone message seeking comment about the COSTARS discrepancy. McLaughlin said he would have to "look into it."
"What I said to you Friday is what I knew at that point," he said.
The new information further complicates the mysterious $1 million donation an anonymous benefactor bestowed upon the city more than five years ago. The donor funneled the gift through Kids for the Kingdom, a California charity that normally works with families and children in Third World countries.
While the charity granted the city permission to say the funding came from an anonymous local donor, Leighton pointed to other funding sources - the city's general fund, community development money, the city's emergency services tax and grants - when unveiling the fire engines in July 2006. The next year, Leighton said a 2005 city auction also helped pay for the engines.
Though council has authorized several COSTARS purchases since 2006, it never approved the $860,000 expenditure for the fire engines because the donation "wasn't public money," McLaughlin said.
Karen Ceppa, a former Republican candidate for city controller, first discovered the donation last month through an open-records request.
Ceppa has called for greater accountability from the city and questioned whether Wilkes-Barre violated its own charter that requires competitive bidding for purchases of $4,000 or more and council approval for expenditures of $10,000 or more. She also questioned whether the city could show favoritism to the donor.
"It's an ongoing lie where they're trying to cover their butts," Ceppa said.
KME-Kovatch Organization, the Carbon County company that sold the fire engines to Wilkes-Barre, submitted a proposal to the city in September 2005 and signed a sales agreement the following month, corporate attorney Steven Cormier said.
Another manufacturer, Pierce and Glick Fire Equipment, said Monday it bid in 2006 for the chance to build the engines.
Even as holes formed in the city's explanation of how it purchased the fire engines, Leighton issued a Monday afternoon statement defending Wilkes-Barre's actions.
The city "will uphold the agreement to not reveal the identity of the donor," Leighton said, adding the benefactor has no ties to any current or retired city officials or employees and has never received a city contract as a result of the donation.
"Proper procedures from the receipt of the grant to the purchase of the fire engines were strictly followed," Leighton said in the statement. "The public was not misled at any time."
The donation, though, appeared to be a secret even among city hall employees. Former fire Chief Jacob Lisman, Operations Director Butch Frati and Councilman Bill Barrett have all said they did not know about the $1 million windfall.
Neither did Mike Bilski, president of the city's firefighters' union. Firefighters who learned of it this week were "amazed," he said.
Tom Makar, the former union president, said Leighton's administration often leaned on the purchase of fire engines as proof the city supported the fire department, but never made a mention of the donation.
Bottom of Page 33
While Bilski said he couldn't be "angry" about the purchase of the engines, he believes the city bought them under "false pretenses." And though the vehicles are a vast upgrade over the city's previous fire engines, they routinely must be sent to KME-Kovatch Organization for repairs of leaky radiators or brake adjustments, Bilski said.
The vehicles also were the subject of a personal injury lawsuit filed in 2007 after a folding step on one of the engines failed as Capt. Christopher Hughes was trying to get into the bed of the truck Dec. 30, 2006.
Hughes fell and struck his head, causing brain injury, vision and speech impairment and "agonizing headaches," according to the lawsuit. Hughes asked for more than $50,000 in damages, and the case was settled out of court.
By Andrew Staub (Staff Writer) Citizens Voice
Published: January 10, 2012
The story of an anonymous benefactor earmarking a $1 million gift for badly needed fire engines in Wilkes-Barre lost any inspirational charm the moment Mayor Tom Leighton decided to be less than forthcoming, ethics experts said.
Leighton in July 2006 stood in front of three new fire engines and said the city bought them using various sources of money, including funds it had squirreled away for years. He never mentioned the $1 million donation Wilkes-Barre received the month before, even though the city had permission to say it came from an anonymous local donor.
The true story began to emerge in recent weeks, when city resident Karen Ceppa obtained documents detailing the donation through an open-records request.
But more than five years of secrecy and Wilkes-Barre's lack of accounting of the gift have already damaged what could have been a heartwarming story, said Martha Perego, director of ethics for the International City/County Management Association.
"The lack of transparency about something that may have potentially just been a gift out of someone's heart with the best of intentions now is tainted because they weren't transparent from Day 1," Perego said.
The donation was a well-kept secret, even in city hall. The decision to spend $860,000 on fire engines also went virtually unnoticed by the public until Leighton unveiled the trucks, largely because city council never approved the measure and the city, through its own admission, never publicly advertised for bids.
Soliciting bids and other public accountability measures - such as the state's Right-to-Know Law and its open-meetings law - provide safeguards against impropriety, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association media law counsel Melissa Melewsky said in an email.
"Donations can create ethical issues," Melewsky said, "but that's why the agency is required to conduct its business in public; the fact that deliberations, votes and records are subject to public scrutiny should serve as a deterrent for anyone wishing to curry favor, although there are no guarantees."
Bottom of Page 34
City officials have said that, because the money was donated, it should not be considered "public" and therefore subject to normal scrutiny. That interpretation troubled Perego and Judy Nadler, a senior fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California.
"Anything that's donated to the city is public money," said Nadler, the former mayor of Santa Clara. "Boy, that really raises questions that they don't think it's public money."
The fact the money was donated is "no excuse" for a lack of public documentation of city spending, especially for the purchase of such big-ticket items as fire trucks, Nadler said. Many cities document donations as small as a park bench or a donation to a city art museum, she said.
Leighton's statements that the city used funds from the emergency services tax when a donation might have funded the trucks could also mislead residents about how their money is being spent, said Nadler, who also questioned where the leftover funds from the original $1 million gift went.
"Transparency is absolutely fundamental to a well-run and ethical city," Nadler said. "In this case, there is no documentation, no transparency and, in fact, what looks like an attempt to make up a story or hide the true source of this money."
And "subterfuge," Perego said, should be avoided - especially when dealing with such a large donation from an anonymous source.
"It could be a very good person who just doesn't want credit for it," Perego said. "On the opposite side, it could be somebody that has ill intent. You just shouldn't be in this position where people are asking all these questions."
Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/ethics-experts-donations-to-city-is-public-money-1.1255465#ixzz1nqkCFQuo
6) WHO IS THE SUGAR DADDY?
January 08, 2012
PUREBUNKUM.com (by Betty Roccograndi; former award winning News reporter for Times Leader)
In our continuing Money Makes The World Go Round series, it appears that the city had a Secret Santa, who, five years ago, donated enough money to buy three new fire engines.
It wasnt Robert Mericle, was it? Hes the only one we know who throws around millions of dollars like theres no tomorrow.
Million-Dollar Mystery: City mislead public on funding for three fire trucks, screamed the blockbluster headline in Sundays Citizens Voice.
And all we can ask is what else are city officials hiding?
Bottom of Page 35
We didnt expect that city Mayor Tom Leighton would be available for comment, even though, clearly, he has some explaining to do. The mayor was in a meeting when Voice reporter Andrew Staub came calling and then didnt return his phone calls. Staub broke earlier stories that Leightons kids were hired for summer jobs and that the city sprung for home alarm systems for the mayor and former city administrator J.J. Murphy, without the publics knowledge.
The officials Staub talked to gave some interesting answers regarding the mystery donor who paid for the firetrucks. Bill Barrett, a councilman since 2004, said he only recently learned about the donation. He said he thought the fire engines were paid for with a grant. Apparently, so did the public. Its certainly unusual, Barrett said. You could say that.
City operations director Butch Frati said he honestly didnt know much about it. Very nice person, though, whoever it is. Flippant isnt an appropriate response here, Butch.
Karen Ceppa, who unsuccessfully ran for city controller, and who discovered the donation (kudos to her) was a little more on target. The citys hiding (something). Trust me. She also expressed concern that there could be favoritism shown to someone who donated $1 million for city fire engines.
Shes got a point. Leo Glodzick donates $50,050 a year to the city for an exclusive towing contract, and Mayor Leighton, until he got caught, almost sold him the Old River Road Bakery site for $38,000 when its assessed at more than $400,000.
So, Leighton has to come out of hiding eventually and inform the public why he kept this $1 million a secret. And if a donor paid for the fire engines, does that mean the city has an extra million in the bank?
Whats even more bizarre is that the city had permission to reveal the donation, but not the donor. And this is where this mystery gets really murky.
Although the citys sugar daddy is from Northeastern PA, the donation was funneled through a California-based organization called Kids for the Kingdom, a Christian charity which helps third-world children and families, The Voice reported. Why was that necessary? It kind of brings to mind Mericle and Robert Powell funneling payoffs to two county judges from a Jupiter, Florida condo fund and other businesses. And we all know how that turned out.
All things considered, a $1 million donation to the city originating from a group that helps third-world children raises a lot of questions, as does the citys keeping its surprise windfall hush hush.
Bottom of Page 36
The Voice cited a June 7, 2006 letter, which gave the city permission to announce the $1 million payment toward the new fire engines.
We realize you will want to publicize the arrival of the new fire trucks and the fact that a generous local donor provided the money. Feel free to do so, wrote the Kids for the Kingdoms international director Greg Dabel.
But the city didnt, and its high time Leighton and whoever else knew about this tells us why they didnt.
And why theyre at it, since the fire engines cost a reported $860,000, they might want to tell us what became of the $140,000 balance of the mystery donors charitable contribution because this story has set off more alarms than would three firetrucks speeding down West Market Street.
- Betty Roccograndi
Sugar Daddy? Sounds like a biased characterization. Secret Santa? A little closer, if you believe in Santa. How about Angel? A little closer to the truth. The bible says when the right hand gives, the left hand shouldnt know about it. But that doesnt seem to be good enough for a person out to get the mayor. The Citizens Voice story bleeds with bias against the mayor. Dont fall into the trap of chasing this non-story. If he did his homework, he would have known this. But people like dirt, and that is what the media does best. Theres enough real dirt to use your ink on. This is not one of them. You are a great writer. Please dont be fooled by a hack writing a biased story started by a biased source.
Fair enough, John. You know the donor, so Ill concede that Sugar Daddy may not be the best characterization for this very generous person. But too much has gone on in this Valley for any of us to not be suspicious when city officials let us believe that three city fire engines were paid for with grants and general fund appropriations when, in fact, they were not.
Remember, convicted felon Robert Mericle characterized his payoff to two county judges as a legitimate finders fee, and those two judges are now in prison. The big question is why did the mayor feel the need to conceal that three fire engines were paid for by a very generous benefactor, who wished to remain anonymous, when he had permission to do just that?
I agree with John. The CV continues to try to go after Leighton and even a good news story becomes a conspiracy. Ms Ceppa married a firefighter who I read on FB had not such a good employment record. Seems like she now has an ax to grind and you fell for it just like the CV.
Matt, I agree with you that a $1 million donation to purchase fire engines for the city was a great story. Mayor Leighton could have held a press conference to share the citys good fortune with its residents. So why didnt he? Maybe he had a good reason. Well have to wait and see. Maybe The Times Leader, a Leighton ally, will tell us.
Nancy Drewski says:
Sounds like John and Matt are attempting some damage control for the mayor here and trying to deflect attention away and blame the messenger (C.V.) for exposing this and telling the public the truth about this. One has to wonder what else is City Hall hiding ??? And if its a NON story, then why no comment from the mayor, and why not just tell us right from the start of a generous donation? Did the person(s)who donated this money receive any special favors from the city or get any contracts to do business in the city? Im not getting any GOOD VIBRATIONS from this one!! wink wink
This is without a doubt a bizarre story that no one could make up. Really. As far as the one assertion that this is a non-story? Biased source? Hack writer? Really? I sense a personal attack by someone who quotes the bible?
I seem to remember a story in the good book about a figure who was incensed at the sight of moneychangers in the temple doing business in a holy place. He trashed their gear and threw them out even though they were operating under the favor of the high priests. Those guys later hung him out to dry.
If there is really and truly a good honest soul out there who just handed the City of W-B a million dollars as a Good Christian, then perhaps they should just come forward. Clear the air about this whole thing before any more damage is done to an organization that by all accounts does good work in the third world.
Gotta love this. This one doesnt pass the smell test. TML takes a bundle of money, doesnt use it all for what it was intended for, goes well out of his way to hide it all, has his staff fighting a request under the Open Records Law based on the fact that the money to fund this came from an anonymous source, doesnt follow the provisions of the City Charter even remotely.why just not do it all above board in the first place?
Why the cloak and dagger?
As for some of these comments I have read, its nice to see the TML drones hard at work attacking the messenger and then throwing dirt around concerning her spouse and his employment. Nice. Lets not ask why things werent done the right waywhy we hid thingslets bash the lady who had the nerve to ask about it in the first place and her husband.
Nice job JJ, JK, TML and Company. Attack the citizens who dare to question what you and your friends did back in 06.
Gotta Love It. Pass me another Tums for my heartburn. God Bless America.
To follow onan individual can make a contribution to a government in the commonwealth if they choose to. It is tax deductible. You can still keep your name anonymous if you choose.
So why the deception? Why the obfuscation and attacks on citizens who dare to ask?
This is a real story. Dont give up.
By Andrew Staub (Staff Writer) Citizens Voice
Published: January 11, 2012
WILKES-BARRE - An anonymous $1 million donation to pay for three fire engines in 2006 should be celebrated, Mayor Tom Leighton said Tuesday, adding that "any attempt to misconstrue this act of generosity is highly misguided."
Yet for more than five years, the city never publicly recognized the donation. Leighton had an opportunity to laud the generosity of a local benefactor when unveiling the fire engines in July 2006, but instead ticked off a list of alternate funding sources, including the general fund, community development money and the city's emergency services tax.
After Leighton outlined the donation in a prepared statement at the city council's work session, he initially evaded questions of why he never mentioned the donor despite receiving permission to do so, as long the city granted the benefactor anonymity.
As reporters crowded around Leighton as he rode the city hall elevator from the fourth floor, where his office is, to the ground floor, Leighton finally offered his logic.
"'Cause respect," he said.
Bottom of Page 41
After getting off the elevator, Leighton headed directly for the exit. He did not say when he first learned of the donation and would not reveal the donor's identity.
"It's not who you think it is, trust me," Leighton said, even though a name was not posed to him. (What is this supposed to mean?)
From there, Leighton walked to his car and refused to take further questions. He waved as he drove away.
Leighton's statement reiterated the city's belief that because it purchased the fire engines with a specifically earmarked donation, it did not need to have council's approval of the expenditure.
The city had no "discretionary authority" in disbursing the $1 million specifically earmarked for the vehicles, Leighton said as he explained the lack of public approval.
The city charter, though, states that the council must approve expenditures of $10,000 or more and that the city, after proper advertisement, must competitively bid contracts of $4,000 or more.
The charter does not indicate that spending a private donation eliminates the bidding requirement.
Still, Leighton said the receipt of the donation and the purchasing of the fire engines "were confined to the city charter, city policies, applicable state and, most importantly, the terms and conditions of the donation," Leighton said.
The council did authorize the spending of the remaining $140,000 of the donation, Leighton said. The city put the funds to complete the construction of the Hollenback Fire Station, and council approved the expenditure at its Sept. 8, 2005, and Aug. 10, 2006, meetings, Leighton said.
Meeting minutes for those dates do not mention spending money from a private donation, however.
Council on Sept. 8, 2005, struck a deal with Champion Builders to construct the Hollenback Fire House, according to meeting minutes.
The agreement, not to exceed $668,000, hinged upon the release of funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and included further aid from "community development monies and emergency services monies," according to the minutes.
On Aug. 10, 2006, council approved closing out the contract with Champion Builders, tabbing the final amount of the contract, including change orders, at $739,121, according to the meeting minutes.
There was no indication in either set of meeting minutes that council approved the use of the remaining $140,000 of the private donation to fund the fire station's construction.
Councilman Bill Barrett, who has served since 2004, also said last week he learned about the donation only within the past few weeks and originally thought the money for the fire engines came from a grant.
Leighton, in his statement, also did not directly address the state Department of General Services' assertion the city did not use a state cooperative known as COSTARS to purchase the fire engines.
The mayor in his statement said that KME-Kovatch Organization, which built the fire engines, was a COSTARS vendor in 2005, when Leighton said the city received the donation. The mayor's statement did not say whether the city used the program, which would have relieved the city of normal public bidding requirements.
Outside city hall, Leighton said the city could not use COSTARS for the purchase, but would not explain why.
Former fire Chief Jacob Lisman, in office at the time of the purchase, said last week the city used COSTARS. A city spokesman, Drew McLaughlin, also said Friday that the city bought the engines through COSTARS.
Bottom of Page 42
McLaughlin refused to comment on the discrepancy Tuesday.
"I think the mayor addressed that in his statement," he said.
Leighton also offered a different description of documents the city released to a Wilkes-Barre resident who filed an open-records request seeking information about the purchase of the fire engines.
While the mayor pointed out the city provided the donation notification - dated June 7, 2006 - he said the city also provided a response that it had no record of bid advertisements or bid documents because, upon the "best recollection" of the fire department, the city used COSTARS to buy the engines.
A sworn affidavit signed by McLaughlin and given to the requestor, Karen Ceppa, attributes the lack of documentation to the fact the engines were purchased with a donation. The affidavit does not mention COSTARS, and Ceppa said Tuesday that none of the city's responses to her brought up the program.
It's unknown if another city resident requested similar information and received a different response from the city.
The city's continued lack of clarity, though, further muddled the already mysterious story of the $1 million donation.
Government ethicists have already said the contribution is strange in its own right, considering the anonymous benefactor funneled the donation through a California charity that normally helps children and families of third-world countries.
Michael R. Sisak, staff writer, contributed to this report.
Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/leighton-1m-donation-should-be-celebrated-1.1256073#ixzz1nqmf8IKv
Published: January 15, 2012 Citizens Voice
The Leighton administration's confusing and contradictory explanations for its handling of a $1 million private donation used to purchase three fire engines raise troubling questions about truthfulness and transparency at Wilkes-Barre City Hall.
In announcing the fire-engine purchase in 2006, Mayor Tom Leighton made no reference to the donation, which was funneled through a California charity for reasons that have yet to be made totally clear. In fact, one could conclude that Leighton deliberately misled the public and news media by claiming the money came from unspecified grants, the city's general fund and revenues from the city's emergency services tax.
The donor did not want his or her name released, according to an official at the charity, but had no objection to the city publicly acknowledging its receipt of the gift.
The donation only recently became public through a resident's request for documents related to the fire-engine purchase under the state Right-to-Know Law. In responding to the request, the Leighton administration admitted that it did not follow normal bidding procedures mandated by the City Charter in awarding the $860,000 purchase contract.
City Hall has given three different explanations for its failure to follow those procedures.
Bottom of Page 43
First it claimed the engines were purchased as part of a "piggyback" program in which the state negotiates prices for items that may be purchased by any municipal or county government. City officials had to retract that claim after the state revealed it had no record of such a purchase.
Then the administration maintained the bidding procedures were unnecessary because the purchase did not involve government funds, although the money had passed through city accounts.
The latest justification for skirting the rules came Thursday from City Attorney William Vinsko, who told City Council that the purchase involved "specific patented items" and was therefore exempt from bidding under the charter.
Vinsko left the council meeting without explaining what those items might be.
As has been his practice when addressing alleged lapses by his administration, Leighton issued a defensive and accusatory statement aimed at those "misguided" enough to question "this act of generosity," which, he said, should be "celebrated."
But the mayor still has not explained why he didn't celebrate the donation five years ago.
And his reticence raises myriad questions.
Was the donor a political supporter of Leighton's or a city contractor? What criteria were used to select the provider of the engines? Why were other key city officials, including apparently the fire chief and members of City Council, not made aware of the donation? What were the "terms and conditions" of the donation Leighton alluded to in his statement?
There is also a mystery surrounding the balance of the donation - $140,000, which Leighton says was appropriated by the council to help pay for the construction of the Hollenback Fire Station, an appropriation noted nowhere in the council's meeting minutes.
The mayor, already the target of a state Ethics Commission inquiry surrounding his repeated hiring of his children for summer jobs with the city, cannot afford to allow these questions to linger if city residents are to have any trust in the honesty and integrity of his administration.
January 10, 2012 TIMES LEADER
WILKES-BARRE Mayor Tom Leighton will read a statement at tonights City Council meeting that he says will put to rest the perceived controversy surround the purchase of three fire engines in 2006.
In the statement, Leighton explains the process that began with a $1 million private donation and ended with the purchase of the new fire trucks.
Nothing illegal was done here, Leighton said.
In the statement, Leighton says the donation was received from a private donor and a committee prepared RFPs requests for proposals per the citys specifications.
Bottom of Page 44
KME Corp. of Nesquehoning was selected to build the three fire engines, which was and still is a COSTARS vendor. Leighton said City Council did not need to authorize the purchases from KME.
Read Wednesdays Times Leader for the entire story.
Luzerne_County_Truth 1 month ago
If the donation was received by the city then Bernie mengeringhausen (former Controller who recently retired). the City Controller, should have known about it and APPROVED any expenditure from whatever account in which the money ws deposited. Checks would also have been signed by John Koval , Finance Officer, if neither of them say this money or did see it and sign checks then there may be a consipracy to avoid bid requirements, maybe that is why John Koval left the City. By NOT competively bidding the fire engines and issuing an Request for Proposals is a violation of state law. It is giving the City officials ( the mayor) the descretion to pick who they want to give the contract to without following the state stautues governing procedures for awarding contracts and it cut City Council completely out of the process or so they say.
Competitive bidding was designed to prevent officials from awarding contracts to friends, supporters etc and to give everyone a fair shot at the contract. The mayor DID NOT follow this laws according to his own statements "we issued an RFP and awarded the contract" . City Council MUST award the contract after it is competively bid and the "lowest responisible bidder's" documents and bid reviewed by City Attorney to see if they meet the bid specifications.
Leighton is violating state law and just brushing it off by saying everything was done correctly. Chiverella is still saying he did evertything correctly!
Clintin Top 501 month ago
This guy, Leighton is dillusional. Then why even have City Council. Council most certainly does have to approve a purchase of this magnitude. And, this should have been put out for bid as required by law. Not "Requests for Proposal":, but BID. This is illegal as the day is long. And, McLaughlin obviously lied when he said on Friday that the purchase was made under COSTARS. This should be a good meeting tonight.
1 person liked this. Like ReplyReply
Bottom of Page 45
I don't believe your statement is true. While it is true council almost always has to approve such a purchase when using City funds, this is different. The money used was from a private donation and as such takes council out of the equation.
WRONG! If donor gave actual fire engines then fine. However, they gave money, once money is deposited into ANY City account it becomes public money, even with restrictions on how it can be used, it falls under ALL government laws. RFP 's are allowed only for Professional Services any purchase over $10,000.00 MUST be publicly bid!
Where is the City Attorneys opinion stating they did not have to bid the engines?
1 person liked this. Like ReplyReply
Perhaps, you should read the contradictory article posted in the other paper. COSTARS officially stated that this purchase was not part of their program. Furthermore, another article was produced explaining impropriety in not considering a donation to a municipal entity. Lastly, why would Leighton mislead city residents as to the source of funding?
1 person liked
January 20, 2012 TIMES LEADER
Officials didnt save copies of other RFPs for trucks bought with secret $1M donation.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton has said the city solicited proposals from various vendors before purchasing three new fire engines in 2006. But only one is available to review from KME-Kovatch Organization the company the city paid $840,000 to for the new trucks.
Kids of kingdom letter (see section IV in this packet... page 17)
Leighton also chose to conceal the donation from council and the taxpayers. He said he was concerned that had he not done so, the identity of the donor might be revealed.
City officials said Thursday the other proposals are not available the city did not keep copies of them.
City Clerk Jim Ryan said Thursday his office didnt have copies of other proposals for the fire engines.
Youll have to get that from the administration, Ryan said.
William Vinsko, assistant city attorney, said he doesnt have the information.
All I know is that there was more than one response to the RFP (request for proposal), Vinsko said. I was not involved in the RFP draft or decision.
Vinsko said he has been advised that there were three bidders.
But I am looking to confirm that, he said. My role was only to confirm that an RFP was necessary, which I did. Regardless, I will get you something. You are welcome to look at whatever they have on the bids.
Since it became known last week that a $1 million donation was used to fund the purchase, Leighton has stood by his decision to conceal the name of the donor. He also had not said publicly the purchase was made with a donation until this year.
Bottom of Page 47
Karen Ceppa Hirko, the woman who first inquired about the fire engine purchases through a right-to-know request, said two other RFPs were received from American LaFrance of Summerville, S.C., and Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisc. Neither company returned calls requesting information.
Drew McLaughlin, the citys administrative coordinator and spokesman for Leighton, said the city did a search and could not locate any documents concerning the other two RFPs.
Leighton told City Council at its last meeting that an exhaustive and thorough search was conducted by city and fire department personnel to locate any and all documents pertaining to the purchase of the fire engines.
The city was able to locate invoices and payment documents as well as a proposal from KME for three fire engines subsequent to the initial right to know response, but any other documents were not able to be found.
What happened to those records? asked Hirko, the wife of a city firefighter.
Transparency and good record-keeping is an essential part of being a good steward of taxpayer money, said Jay Ostrich, director of public affairs at the Commonwealth Foundation Public Policy Center in Harrisburg. When either of those elements is lost, its incumbent upon the elected officials to correct it immediately.
The purchase of the three fire engines has been surrounded by controversy since Hirko brought the issue to light. Hirko said she remains concerned about why the matter was concealed from City Council and the public.
When Leighton addressed council, he cited donor-requested anonymity as a condition of the donation.
The city to this day will uphold the agreement to not reveal the identity of the donor, he told council.
The mayor also chose to conceal the donation from council and the taxpayers. He said he was concerned that had he not done so, the identity of the donor might be revealed.
Although that was Leightons concern, it was not a concern of the donors. In the letter sent to then-city finance director John Koval on June 7, 2006, Greg Dabel, then the international director for Kids for the Kingdom the charity that disbursed the funds encouraged the city to celebrate the donation.
In the letter, Dabel wrote:
The donors wish to remain anonymous and out of the limelight. They have a heartfelt desire to see their community well-served by the latest and best fire-fighting and life-saving equipment.
We realize you will want to publicize the arrival of the new fire trucks and the fact that a generous local donor provided the money. Feel free to do so. However, please keep the donor identity confidential.
The letter goes on to urge the city to promote and mention Kids for the Kingdom in any press release or public ceremony.
Dabel said any such publicity would aid the charity in its primary mission to help children in need worldwide. Dabel requested copies of news clippings of the dedication of the new fire trucks.
Bottom of Page 48
Kids for the Kingdom is based in Graton, Calif.
Leighton has said that despite allegations to the contrary, the donor has no ties to any city employee or city elected official, current or retired, and has never received a city contract, project, or other considerations as a result of the contribution.
Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association, said agencies (cities) usually celebrate donations anonymous or otherwise.
Agencies are usually very happy to say they received money from an anonymous donor and the amounts, she said. Press releases are usually sent out. I really cant venture a guess as to why this was concealed. Ive never heard of it before.
Melewsky said the matter was an issue about government process that for whatever reason didnt involve public scrutiny.
Well probably never learn the reasons why, she said.
Published: January 22, 2012 CITIZENs VOICE
The Leighton administration continues to twist itself into knots trying to explain why it didn't follow bidding procedures spelled out in the city charter when buying three fire engines in 2006.
City officials have offered various justifications for exempting the $860,000 purchase from bidding rules: the purchase was made through a "piggyback" program in which the state negotiated the price, the money came from an undisclosed donor and was therefore not city funds, the engines included unspecified patented items and were therefore exempt under language in the charter.
Bottom of Page 49
The first explanation turned out to be patently false and it was retracted after the state could find no record of a "piggyback" purchase.
The second explanation is debatable. How can money that passes through city accounts not be city funds? The city collects cash from a variety of sources including taxes, fees and payments in lieu of taxes from tax-exempt nonprofits. The last are technically donations. Are they not treated as city funds?
The third explanation is hard to assess because the city official who offered it, city attorney William Vinsko, has repeatedly failed to respond to questions involving the nature of the patents.
Lately the administration has tried to argue that it issued a "request for proposals" for the fire engines and received proposals from at least three fire-engine companies, making the process competitive. But the "request for proposal" process, unlike the bidding process, does not require the city to accept the lowest offer that meets its pre-bid specifications. In any case, the city has been unable to produce proposals from the two companies who did not win the fire-engine contract.
The mystery surrounding the fire-engine purchase is only deepened by questions about the use of the balance of the $1 million donation - $140,000 the administration says was spent on the construction of a fire station, although it has yet to offer any documentation of the claim.
And, The Citizens' Voice has learned that donation wasn't the only anonymous one funneled to the city through a California charity. The newly discovered donation, spent on renovations at the police station, was, like the fire-engine gift, apparently never revealed to the public by the Leighton Administration.
Mayor Tom Leighton's only statement on the controversy surrounding the fire-engine donation was aimed more at chiding those asking legitimate questions than at properly informing citizens about the actions taken under his administration.
All of this follows a troubling pattern. Again and again on important issues Leighton has misled the public, evaded questions and tried to portray himself as the victim of some sort of political or media conspiracy.
He did it when questions arose about a letter he drafted urging clemency for a corrupt political operative. He did it again when his repeated hiring of his children for summer jobs with the city government led to an inquiry by the state Ethics Commission. He did it once again when it was revealed the city had spent thousands of dollars to equip his home with a security system.
Leighton has scored some notable successes in his time in office, particularly in revitalizing the downtown and putting the city's finances in order.
But that reputation for competence is endangered by the somewhat paranoid style of his governance.
Many residents of the city feel their mayor isn't being forthright.
Only you can fix that, Mr. Mayor.
January 19, 2012 TIMES LEADER
He says committee wanted different company to build engines using $1M donation.
Bottom of Page 50
WILKES-BARRE The president of the city firefighters union said a special committee of firefighters wanted the city to purchase three new fire engines from a different company than the one selected back in 2005-06.
Union President Mike Bilski said this week he spoke to some of the men who served on the committee, and he was told they favored American LaFrance of Summerville, S.C., not KME-Kovatch Organization of Nesquehoning.
These guys are mechanically inclined; they know about heavy equipment, Bilski said. They liked features offered by American LaFrance, like turning radius. But I guess KME offered the same things.
Since it became known last week that a $1 million donation was used to fund the purchase, Mayor Tom Leighton has stood by his decision to conceal the name of the donor. He has offered no explanation of why he did not reveal the donation itself.
Bilski said the fire department never knew the origin of the money used to purchase the trucks.
We had no clue for years, he said. It was always mentioned how much money was being spent on the new engines. All I know is the committee made its recommendation, and somebody after that made the decision to go with KME.
Drew McLaughlin, the citys administrative coordinator, issued a response on behalf of Leighton:
Despite any firefighters contention to the contrary, seven years later, these are the facts: Chief Jacob Lisman organized a committee to request and review RFPs (requests for proposal). Chief Lisman worked with that committee, and the committee recommended to the administration to purchase the engines from KME. The city acted on their recommendation.
At last Thursdays City Council meeting, City Attorney Bill Vinsko read a statement that addressed the citys decision to purchase the fire engines from KME-Kovatch.
Vinsko said bid proposals were received and KME was selected for several reasons, including KME was recommended by the committee that prepared the RFPs and that KME owned certain patents for preferred equipment.
Earlier this week, Vinsko said other RFPs were solicited and received. He said he would provide copies of those proposals, but he did not respond to inquiries about them Wednesday.
Karen Ceppa Hirko, the woman who brought the issue to public light, said the only patent she is aware of that KME holds is for an on-board system that blends special foam with water to aid in dousing fires.
That feature is not contained in any of the three fire engines purchased with the donation money, she said. Hirko is married to a city firefighter.
Bottom of Page 51
Sources in the city fire department, who requested anonymity, said the fire engines replaced in 2005-06 did have the foaming system, but because of repeated malfunctions the equipment was not asked for in the new trucks. The city uses an external system to mix the foam, the sources said.
Mr. Vinsko said at the council meeting that everything was done legally, and he claimed KME had a patent that they wanted or used on the trucks, Hirko said. But thats not the case.
Lisman, the city fire chief at the time and now retired, did not return calls made to his home.
Steve Cormier, general counsel for KME, said the company built the engines to the citys specifications. He said he had no knowledge of where the funding came from.
Leighton has said he didnt reveal the $1 million donation used to purchase the trucks because he didnt want to risk revealing the anonymous donors identity.
However, the operations director for the Kids for the Kingdom charity used to make the donation said donors did not require concealing the donation they just didnt want their names revealed.
As far as I know, it would have been perfectly OK for the city to reveal a $1 million donation was made, said Tim Dabel, operations director for Kids for the Kingdom. I dont know of any restrictions that would have required the city to conceal the donation was made and the amount.
When pressed for an explanation, McLaughlin, who routinely fields questions for Leighton, issued a terse response.
In my two email responses below, as well as the mayors quote for attribution, Ive answered your question, McLaughlin wrote in the email. The mayor was presented with an option by the charity/donor and he exercised his judgment and he has stated why he judged the situation as he did.
Several people are questioning the citys decision to conceal the donation when it was given.
In 2005-06, the city was in financial difficulty. The mayor said repeatedly it was faced with a $10 million deficit when he assumed office in 2004, and the city had lost its credit rating.
Thats why when Leighton addressed council at last weeks work session stating this type of philanthropy should be celebrated by the community and not the subject of persistent gossip and conspiracy theories he raised political observers concerns.
I still dont know why he didnt celebrate it in 2005-06, Hirko said.
Bottom of Page 52
State agency says city has 30 days to comply or appeal the ruling regarding fire truck purchases.
February 2, 2012 TIMES LEADER
WILKES-BARRE The city has 30 days to provide all bids, or requests for proposals (RFPs), that were submitted in 2005 and 2006 when the city was purchasing three fire engines, a state agency has ruled.
Last month city officials said the proposals are not available and the city did not keep copies of them.
The state Office of Open records ruled last week the city must turn over the RFPs to petitioner Karen Ceppa Hirko within 30 days or appeal the ruling to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.
Last month city officials said the proposals are not available and the city did not keep copies of them.
The city bought the engines in 2006 from KME-Kovach of Nesquehoning for $860,000. The money came from an anonymous $1 million donation that Mayor Tom Leighton concealed from the public.
Hirko and others have questioned the decision to conceal the donation that came to the city through the Kids for the Kingdom Foundation in California.
BIDs from 3 Companies!!
The only RFP available is from KME-Kovach of Nesquehoning for $860,000. Two other bids from
William Vinsko, assistant city attorney, said last month he doesnt have the information, but he was aware of more than one response to the RFP request. He said he was advised that there were three bidders. Vinsko said he was going to confirm that information, but he has yet to provide documentation.
Terry Mutchler, executive director of the state Office of Open Records, provided a copy Wednesday of her agencys report on Hirkos filing. The office found the city, while unable to locate the RFPs, failed to meet its burden that these records do not exist and is required to disclose lists of bids and prices of bids received.
The city must provide the records or appeal the state decision to county court.
Leighton said Wednesday the city submitted a revised affidavit stating one proposal was found from KME and made it available to the respondent.
Bottom of Page 53
The citys right to know officer notified her that it was available, he said. I dont believe that the revised affidavit was factored into the OORs decision.
The court may have to ferret this out, Mutchler said. But there is a picturesque history of folks saying they dont have things and then they show up.
If the city contends that it does not have the records, Mutchler said, the court could compel the city to produce them. That could mean getting them from the vendors.
By Andrew Staub (Staff Writer) CITIZENs VOICE
Published: January 20, 2012
So what made Wilkes-Barre's three newest fire engines so special the city could circumvent its normal public purchasing procedures using the reasoning the vehicles included specific patented items?
There's still no answer to that question a week after the city introduced the exemption as an explanation for its decision to issue requests-for-proposals rather than publicly advertise for bids to build the fire engines.
Bottom of Page 54
Records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office pointed to the possibility the patent-protected item was a foam proportioning system, the only patent assigned to KME-Kovatch Organization, the manufacturer of fire engines. But nobody from the city, including fire Chief Jay Delaney, has said whether that particular system was included on the fire engines.
Kovatch's 56-page proposal, dated Aug. 12, 2005, does not specifically mention a foam proportioning system and makes reference to foam only when indicating what tanks would be included on the fire trucks.
Steven Cormier, Kovatch's corporate attorney, said Thursday he could not recall whether the fire engines included the foam proportioning system and said the company probably would not research the issue unless a lawsuit arises.
"I can also say that it's doubtful that would have been the sole determining factor," Cormier said of Wilkes-Barre's decision to purchase the fire engines. "It may have been something that would have been considered. Normally, it would not have been the sole determining factor."
Told of the city's explanation regarding patented items, Cormier said, "if that's the case, I don't know what the answer would be."
Reached Wednesday, Delaney said he knows "absolutely what foam is on the fire engines," but referred further comment to city spokesman Drew McLaughlin when asked if it was the Kovatch system.
"I don't know if the existence of the foam apparatus would have been exclusively germane to how the city acted," said McLaughlin, who was not with the city in 2005 when the fire engines were purchased.
One city firefighter posted on a blog recently that the fire engines do not include the foam proportioning system.
Bill Vinsko, the assistant city attorney who raised the patent exemption at last week's council meeting, said the city had past discussions about buying fire engines with patented items on them, but could not pinpoint the specific item.
"I don't know enough about fire engines to comment on what they had," Vinsko said. "That's why I would have to rely on what the fire department would say. They're the professionals in that industry."
The city's charter indicates that expenditures in excess of $4,000 must be competitively bid after proper advertisement. The governing document offers four exceptions to that rule - expenditures for professional services, the purchase of insurance or bonds, expenditures necessitated by an emergency and an expenditure for patented items.
The patent exemption is "very rarely used," Vinsko said, adding the fire engine situation marks the only time Wilkes-Barre has enacted the patent exemption during his decade with the city.
A 1974 case from Mercer County, though, casts doubt upon the city's patent argument regarding the fire engines. In that instance, a county controller tried to block payment for a $3,157 Plymouth police vehicle, arguing county purchases in excess of $1,500 required public bidding and advertising.
County commissioners argued the rule didn't apply because they were buying an item that included "patented and manufactured or copyrighted products."
A Court of Common Pleas judge found the bidding exemption "inapplicable." The loophole "should be limited to situations where there is no competition in the manufacture of the product desired," the judge wrote.
In the ruling, the judge pointed out the county also solicited a proposal from Ford, showing competition existed and reinforcing the fact the contract should have been competitively bid.
Bottom of Page 55
A second manufacturer, Pierce and Glick Fire Equipment, also submitted a proposal to build Wilkes-Barre's fire engines. But the 1974 case, even with its parallels to Wilkes-Barre's fire engine purchase, did not apply to the city in part because an anonymous $1 million donation paid for the fire engines, McLaughlin said in an emailed statement.
"The referenced 1974 Common Pleas Court decision in Mercer County is legally irrelevant to the City of Wilkes-Barre's actions since the city put out RFPs and the purchase did not include an expenditure of public tax dollars," McLaughlin wrote.
McLaughlin did not respond to a follow-up email asking what part of the fire engine constituted a "patented item."
Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/w-b-city-officials-can-t-explain-need-for-patented-fire-trucks-1.1260036#ixzz1nqvLK8WH---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Published: January 20, 2012 Citizens Voice
Wilkes-Barre officials have offered several explanations for why the city did not publicly solicit bids when it bought three new fire engines for $860,000 in 2005.
The changing accounts have complicated a story that began when an anonymous donor funneled $1 million to the city through a California charity that works with children and families in Third World countries.
> The city's first explanation centered around the fact the city used a private donation to buy the engines. In a sworn affidavit dated Jan. 3, city spokesman Drew McLaughlin cited the gift as the reason why Wilkes-Barre had no documents related to bid specifications, advertisements, change orders and meeting minutes detailing the approval of the expenditure.
> The second explanation said the city bought the engines through a state cooperative that gives municipalities access to more competitive pricing while eliminating the need to bid contracts. The state reported having no records of the city using the cooperate to buy the fire engines.
> The city has seemingly settled on the explanation that a broad exemption in the city charter allows for the circumvention of the public bidding process for purchases that include "patented items." The city, though, has said that because it issued requests-for-proposals for the fire engines, it technically used a competitive bidding process.
Bottom of Page 56
January 10, 2012
PUREBUNKUM.com (by Betty Roccograndi; former award winning News reporter for Times Leader)
Wilkes-Barre City Mayor Tom Leighton was out sick Monday, possibly with a throbbing migraine after the explosive story in The Citizens Voice about the purchase of three fire engines five years ago.
There were no public bids, as required by law, for the $860,000 expenditure because they were purchased through a state program called COSTARS, a city official said. Not quite true, the Voice reports today.
City spokesman Drew McLaughlin said, What I said to you Friday is what I knew at that point. He said hed have to look into it further.
And contrary to Leightons pronouncement that the city purchased the fire engines with various city funds, an un-named local resident donated the money to pay for them, the Voice reported Sunday.
The public was not misled at any time, Leighton said in a statement to the newspaper from his sick bed. He might want to re-phrase that because until now, the public didnt have a clue that someone generously donated $1 million solely for the purpose of buying three new fire engines.
And, incredibly, Leighton is still calling this donation a grant.
Proper procedures from the receipt of the grant to the purchase of the fire engines were stricly followed, his statement said. Wed like to think so because if they werent, the city could be in big trouble.
We still dont understand why the mayor kept this great news from the public, which he could have done while respecting the requested privacy of the benefactor. The windfall was indirectly deposited into city coffers through a Christian organization called Kids for the Kingdom.
While that could very well be a legitimate transaction, one has to wonder how money targeted for third-world children and families ends up in Wilkes-Barre for fire trucks.
Karen Ceppa, who ran for city controller, discovered the donation after filing an open records request regarding the purchase of the fire engines, but only after she was told there were no bidding specs, advertisements or meeting minutes approving the purchase. If she hadnt persisted, the public might still be in the dark.
And as far as the city strictly following procedures for the fire engine purchases, whose procedures were they?
A Pennsylvania Department of General Services spokesman told Voice reporter Andrew Staub that there is no record of the city of Wilkes-Barre purchasing these vehicles through the state purchasing cooperative, which is the only way it could have by-passed bidding requirements.
Then theres McLaughlins ridiculous claim that the city council didnt authorize spending $860,000 for the fire engines because the donation wasnt public money, Staub reported.
So what was it then, Monopoly money?
Drew McLauglin is adding fuel to the fire with remarks such as that, and Mayor Leighton would be wise to put out this firestorm as soon as possible if he can.
And if he cant, state investigators need to pay a visit to City Hall. How was that $1 million listed on the citys books? And from what account was the $860,000 purchase documented. And is there a balance on file for $140,000, we wonder?
We wholeheartedly agree with Martha Perego, of the International City/County Management Association, who told the Voice that what may have been a well-intentioned gift to the city has now been tainted by the citys lack of transparency.
You just shouldnt be in this position where people are asking all these questions, she said.
Shes got that right, and its not the first time Mayor Leighton has found himself in this predicament.
- Betty Roccograndi
Bottom line on this non-story as one of your readers termed it yesterday is that regardless of who the donor isGood Christian or Personal Benefactor, the Mayor misled everyone from Day 1 on this. For Ceppa and StaubJob Well Done!
The son of the charitys director has stated that he has no idea why they chose their charity to funnel the money through. Bet theyre sorry as heck they ever didbut it was simply to provide distance and build a wall in front of the donors identitywhich based on the Mayors Press Release he has known the whole time.
The Mayor has been touting how he has worked to beef up a Fire Department that he indeed slashed by 30% by repeatedly pointing to these equipment purchases. I have heard him do it at public meetings myself.AND ITS NOT A GRANTITS A GIFT!!!!
a) Protect the donor? b) Personal largesse? c) Deflect the complaints of his protagonists? d) All of the above?
Oh and yes since when does a government take a check, cash it, put it in their account and spend it with none of the rules applying? Try selling that to the IRS at home if you ever get audited! Proper procedures were followed? I read that, and I was incredulous. To be honest with you the whole press release reads like an attempt to get out from in front of an ethics investigation.
On that pointDrew McLaughlin? Dude, your bosses are SO playing you and leaving you to hang out and dry. Really. Better polish up that resume, man.
As for the $140,000 they didnt spend on the Fire DepartmentIll betcha they peed it away over Kirby Park with the Beach Boys fiasco that summer. Remember the big beer party with Gov. Rendell?
At this point, I dont really care who the donor isunless they benefited somehow. Gives you a little insight into how the Professional Experienced Leadership down at City Hall does business though.
RULES? WE DONT NEED NO STINKING RULES!
This whole deal is like Watergate. The crime that started it was minorthe coverup that followed got everyone hanged.
God Bless America. No Honor Among Thieves.
Bottom of Page 59
Nancy Drewski says:
I cant wait till someones fitted for a bright orange jumpsuit
Bottom of Page 60
January 11, 2012
PUREBUNKUM.com (by Betty Roccograndi; former award winning News reporter for Times Leader)
Its one thing for compliant city council members to bob their heads and allow Mayor Tom Leighton to unsatisfactorily explain away, in prepared remarks, a $1 million donation he kept from the public for five years.
Its quite another for a newspaper to accept hook, line and sinker the spoon-fed spiel he dished out Tuesday night. But thats what weve come to expect from the Leighton-friendly Times Leader.
Before making a quick exit from City Hall, Leighton said the donation to buy three fire engines was something to be celebrated and that anyone who tries to find something unsavory about it is highly misguided.
Yes, it is something to be celebrated, but how do you celebrate a generous gift of $1 million when you were never told you received it.
Just celebrate our good fortune, and shut up.
Times Leader: Okay, your honor.
City Council: You got it, Tom.
Before driving away and waving bye bye to the Voice reporter, who tried to ask more questions, Leighton said, Its not who you think it is, trust me.
How can we trust him when he never told us whom he thinks we think the donor is?
Lets forget about the donor because thats not the issue so much. Its why Mayor Leighton, when unveiling the three new city fire engines in 2006, failed to mention they were a gift from a generous benefactor, who wished to remain anonymous. Instead, he said they were paid for with community development money, the general fund and the citys emergency services tax, the Voice reported.
But no one was misled? Trust him?
City Council and Times Leader: Okay.
And what about the explanation that there are no bid documents or advertisements on file because the vehicles were purchased through a state cooperative called COSTARS?
Cornered outside City Hall by a Voice reporter, Leighton said the city could not use COSTARS even though the citys fire chief at the time, Jacob Lisman, and city spokesman, Drew McLaughlin, both said the city did use COSTARS.
Why couldnt the city use the organization? Leighton didnt say. It just couldnt. Trust him.
Bottom of Page 61
City council and Times Leader: Okay.
So McLaughlin said the city did use COSTARS, and the mayor said it couldnt. Whats with that?
I think the mayor addressed that in his statement, he said. If you say so, Drew.
What the mayor said was that the company which built the fire engines was a COSTARS vendor. What he didnt say was whether that allowed the city to spend $860,000 on fire engines without obtaining public bids.
What about that, City Council? I dunno.
Leighton also said the council didnt have to approve the costly purchase because the city had no discretionary authority in spending the $1 million because it was specifically earmarked for the vehicles. So why wasnt the public informed of the good news that now it had an extra $1 million of its own money to spend on something else?
He also said the council did approve spending the $140,000 balance of the donation toward the construction of the Hollenback Fire Station. However, the Voice checked the meeting minutes in question (The Times Leader did not) and reported that they make no mention of spending money from a donation.
The Times Leader pointed out in its article that none of the council members expressed concern over the purchases.
Well then, if the mayors scripted explanation is good enough for them, it should be good enough for everyone else.
Bottom of Page 62
So why did he dash out of City Hall, refusing to answer further questions?
Mayor Leighton, our new county council and all public officials need to understand that its hard not to be suspicious when we learn that even good news was shrouded in secrecy. Because not sharing it with the public made no sense whatsoever.
- Betty Roccograndi
January 12, 2012
PUREBUNKUM.com (by Betty Roccograndi; former award winning News reporter for Times Leader)
Does Wilkes-Barre City Mayor Tom Leighton even know, after two terms in office, what requires a public vote and what doesnt?
He didnt believe one was needed for the city to spend more than $10,000 of taxpayers money for home alarm systems for himself and former city administrator, J.J. Murphy.
He didnt believe one was needed for the city to spend $860,000 on three fire engines because he didnt believe city residents needed to know that someone donated $1 million for them.
He didnt believe that the almost $1 million contract for said fire engines had to be put out for bid.
Mayor Leighton is taking his motto, I believe to a whole new level.
Well, The Times Leader reports today on its front page that spending the $1 million donation did indeed require a vote. The paper spoke with Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association.
A significant amount of money was being spent. The vote should have been public, the lawyer said.
Bottom of Page 63
No it shouldnt, the mayor said, because the windfall was specifically targeted for fire engines. Another city official actually had the gall to say that this wasnt public money.
Well see about that.
Now were wondering, were there any other donations made to the city that Leighton kept to himself?
What other purchases, in addition to home alarm systems and fire engines, were made without council approval and public knowledge because the mayor didnt believe it was necessary.
Why is the city allowing LAG Towing, which pays the city $50,000 a year for an exclusive contract, to not keep records?
What other secrets are hidden in Wilkes-Barre City Hall?
As much as Mayor Leighton would like to put out this fire by characterizing the donation revelation as a perceived controversy, he cant. There are far too many questions and contradictions.
Did the city purchase the fire engines through a state cooperative, allowing it to bypass bidding requirements, or not? City officials have contradicted each other on this one.
And where were the city solicitor and controller when this money was donated and spent? Or did Leighton not tell them of the citys good fortune either?
Maybe well get to the bottom of this. The Times Leader has joined The Citizens Voice in submitting a right-to-know request regarding the purchase of the fire engines. And I know first-hand that when the TL takes a story seriously, it pulls out all the stops.
But the newspapers have to get in line. City clerk Jim Ryan told the TL that his office has been inundated with right-to-know requests. Wonder why.
Leighton said the $1 million donation should be celebrated. End of story. Well see about that too.
Of course when anyone makes a charitable contribution to the city, it should be celebrated (if were told about it), and so should those city residents who care enough to file right-to-know requests when they believe something is not quite kosher in City Hall.
Bottom of Page 64
That includes Karen Ceppa, former city controller candidate, who discovered the $1 million donation through such a request while looking into the purchases of the fire engines.
Lets hope that Kathy Kane, the woman who beat her and whos a long-time City Hall insider, is as vigilant.
- Betty Roccograndi
19) NO INVOICES?
January 13, 2012 PUREBUNKUM.com (by Betty Roccograndi; former award winning News reporter for Times Leader)
Wilkes-Barre City Mayor Tom Leighton and assistant city solicitor William Vinsko have stated in prepared statements that there was nothing illegal about the purchase of three fire engines with an anonymous $1 million donation which no one knew about until now.
Then they fled, answering no further questions. Is that any way to douse a firestorm that seems to get hotter as new details emerge?
What jumped out of the Times Leaders front page article Friday was that there is no invoice or contract available in City Hall for the $860,000 purchase of three fire engines. Thats what city resident Karen Ceppa, who ran unsuccessfully for city controller, said. Ceppa, who discovered the donation, told the newspaper that a member of the city administration and the city attorneys office said no specifications, invoices or contracts exist.
And further, even if they do exist, I was told I have no right to see them as the money came from an anonymous source, she told the TL.
Really? If there is no invoice, how do we even know that the city paid $860,000 for the fire engines and not, say, $700,000? An invoice is a bill submitted for payment. It lists the amount owed, the due date and where to remit the payment. City officials already said they hand-picked KME-Kovach Corp. of Nesquehoning to build the fire engines. There is no invoice from them on file for this costly purchase or a cancelled city check to verify when and to whom it was paid?
Just how was this business transaction executed - with a handshake?
Bottom of Page 65
Pressed for an explanation by Times Leader reporter Bill OBoyle, councilman Bill Barrett, a former city police chief, said, The fact that it was concealed raises suspicions. Then as fast as you could say, HUH!, Barrett said, At this point, I dont see any reason to (investigate). HUH!!!!!
Barrett had no answer when OBoyle asked him why neither he nor any council member questioned where the exorbitant amount of money came from to purchase three fire engines back then.
Duh, we were just tickled pink that the mayor saw fit to buy them and protect the city.
Is it any wonder that City Hall lately is being bombarded with right-to-know requests from city taxpayers who ARE curious about how elected officials are spending their money?
Another oddity is this. Vinsko, who is aspiring to be a U.S. congressman and with his polished evasiveness he would probably fit right in, said the council did vote on the $140,000 balance of the $1 million donation. Why, though, if it wasnt necessary because it was a donation? Why didnt the council have to vote on spending the largest chunk of the donation, $860,000, but made a point of voting on the smaller balance of $140,000?
And the Citizens Voice reported this week that meeting minutes do not reflect that the $140,000 spent was from an anonymous donor.
Nothing illegal was done here?
Thats good to know, but please forgive us if we need a little more proof than the prepared statements of the mayor and his solicitor.
- Betty Roccograndi
Bottom of Page 66
One lie after another lie after another lieamounts to one big fat lie! Unbelievablethen again maybe not.
I just have to say that listening to Barrett, hed better get his act together. The more he talks and prevaricates on this subject the more of awellDOLT he sounds like. Barrett, a former Police Chief, along with George, another former Police Chief, better get their act together. But no worriesits all coolas long as they take care of their good buddy and benefactorTom Leighton.
City Council could easily have passed a resolution asking an outside agency to fully investigate the matterbut the puppetmaster wont allow them. As far as a legal opinion from Vinskoif that is who the mayor is banking on, then hed better get ready to GO TO JAIL.
As far as Council voting to use that $140,000 to pay off the bill for the Anonymous Donor Hollenback Fire Station constructionIll bet you will find that whole thing is a farce too.
I have to wonderjust wonderhow the Attorney overhearing Ceppas appeal is taking all of this in. I for one hope he hammers the crap out of the City and refers the whole thing to the State Attorney General for further action.
Last nights inaction proved that the members new and old of Wilkes-Barre City Council have no souls. Theyve already sold them to their bald-headed svengali.
January 19, 2012 PUREBUNKUM.com (by Betty Roccograndi; former award winning News reporter for Times Leader)
Wilkes-Barre City Mayor Tom Leighton and his spokesman seem to be growing increasingly testy over the controversial purchase of three fire engines.
Did they ever consider how we might feel? As new information comes out of Pandoras Box, more questions are raised, and the citys justification for not bidding out the $860,000 purchase goes up in smoke.
For instance, last week, City Attorney William Vinsko, reading from a prepared statement, which is the administrations modus operandi on this issue, said the city hand-picked a company to build the engines because it had a patented feature the city needed.
Sounded kind of logical. Then lo and behold, The Times Leader reported today that the three new fire engines do not utilize this patented feature.
Tsk, tsk, tsk, Attorney Vinsko. You are adding fuel to the fire.
Bottom of Page 67
Weve heard in the past that the no-bid contract was legit because the purchase went through a state cooperative. Turns out, it didnt.
We were told the city purchased the fire engines with a variety of city funds. Turns out, it didnt.
Mayor Leighton scolded anyone who dared to read anything sinister into the generous donation, which did pay for the engines. He said we should celebrate. Turns out, we couldnt because we didnt know about it.
We probably would have toasted the generous benefactor had we known, but Mayor Leighton apparently enjoyed basking in the limelight and taking the credit for finding the funds for three new fire engines while the city was struggling financially. That sure makes for some good future re-election campaign ads.
Turns out he wasnt the hero after all. It was someone we have yet to meet. Maybe we never will, so well have to keep on wondering. The benefactor did not want to be identified, and that is his, her or their right. But the organization through which the donation flowed told the city it could have announced that it did receive the $1 million.
But that would have rained on Mayor Leightons parade.
Now the president of the firefighters union, Mike Bilski, has entered the fray. He told TL reporter Bill OBoyle that a special committee selected a South Carolina company to build the fire engines. But how can that be when city officials said the committee recommended KME-Kovatch Organization, of Nesquehoning, the company with the patented feature the city couldnt live without, but actually does?
Despite any firefighters contention to the contrary, seven years later, these are the facts: Chief Jacob Lisman organized a committee to request and review requests for proposal, and the committee recommended KME, said Drew McLaughlin on behalf of Mayor Leighton, who prefers to not speak for himself.
When OBoyle persisted in asking why the city did not reveal that it received a $1 million donation when it had permission to, Mc-Laugh-lin seemed to get hot under the collar.
In my two e-mail responses below, as well as the mayors quote for attribution, Ive answered your question, he said. He said the mayor exercised his judgement and has already stated why he judged the situation as he did. The TL said Leighton didnt want to risk revealing the donors identity.
That could happen, we suppose.
Bottom of Page 68
Ladies and gentlemen, as I stand before you on Public Square, I am happy to announce that a generous philanthropist has given the city $1 million to purchase three much-needed fire engines. How can we ever thank Mr. Kirby. Oops.
Stay tuned. More facts will undoubtedly be forthcoming because you know what they say, where theres smoke, theres fire.
- Betty Roccograndi
January 20, 2012 PUREBUNKUM.com (by Betty Roccograndi; former award winning News reporter for Times Leader)
After an exhaustive search, Wilkes-Barre City officials cannot find all of the proposals they said they solicited before spending $860,000 for three new fire engines.
There has to be a logical reason why the only one found was from the company the city hand-picked for the sizeable contract.
1. The dog ate the other ones for breakfast.
2. They were put in the Hotel Sterling for safekeeping near one of several smashed windows and got waterlogged.
3. Someone stored them in the Thomas C. Thomas building with Luzerne Countys records, and pigeons flew through the reported hole in the wall and poked at them with their beaks, rendering them unrecognizeable.
4. The city took its lead from its exclusive tower, Leo Glodzik, who doesnt keep records.
5. They dont exist?
Didnt I tell you yesterday that more revolving facts would emerge on this very strange tale of the $1 million anonymous donation to the city that Mayor Tom Leighton chose to keep to himself and possibly to his inner circle.
Well, this morning The Times Leader informs us that city officials are beside themselves trying to locate the other proposals they said they received before buying the fire engines.
Bottom of Page 69
Did the TL make a mistake because in its opening paragraph it said the engines cost $840,000 and all along weve been told they cost $860,00?
But weve been told a lot of things by city officials, which turned out to be false, like the fire engines were purchased with city funds and that the $1 million donation was not public money.
Youll have to get (the other proposals) from the administration, City Clerk Jim Ryan told TL reporter Bill OBoyle.
All I know is that there was more than one response, said assistant city attorney, Willliam Vinsko. He said he had been advised that there were three bidders. But I am looking to confirm that. If he learns there were not three, hopefully hell tell us who advised him that there were.
City spokesman and administrative coordinator Drew Mc-Laugh-lin said the city searched for the two other proposals but could not find them.
Is this any way to run City Hall?
Transparency and good record-keeping is an essential part of being a good steward of taxpayer money, Jay Ostrich, the director of public affairs at the Commonwealth Foundation Public Policy Center in Harrisburg, told the TL.
You would think so. But Jay probably didnt understand that the $1 million was not taxpayer money. At least thats what Mc-Laugh-lin indicated when he said a donation to the city is not public money.
Mayor Leighton assured everyone after telling us we should celebrate this gift even though we only learned about it five years after the fact - that the donor has no ties to city officials and has never received a city contract as a result of the contribution.
Aha, but did he or she receive one as a result of something else?
Sorry, but after Bill Clintons testimony in the Monica Lewinsky affair that it depends on what the meaning of is is, one cant be too careful when interpreting statements from public officials.
Stay tuned. This fire engine firestorm is far from over.
P.S. Times Leader, please let us know if the fire engines cost $840,000 or $860,000 because if your article today is correct, then we need to account for $20,000.
Bottom of Page 70
- Betty Roccograndi
The total cost paid for these was $860,408. The dollar amount left over from the mystery million was JUST enough to pay the close out cost of the Holllenback Fire Station. Check it outREALLY.
This is so convenient. They can plan the spending of the mystery million almost to the dollarbut just cant find any of that pesky paperwork they are supposed to hang on to.
So did they lie to Ceppa the FIRST time? The SECOND time? The THIRD time? Ah thats right they told her she had NO RIGHT TO KNOW because the mystery millionaire paid for it all. What a bunch of baloney.
I guess by extension that means that NONE OF US have a right to know what the high and almight King of W-B is up to. Heymaybe at his Inaugural Ball at the Westmorleand Club they can park a nice bright red fire engine out front with the lights goingjust for safety!
ENOUGH! I am getting nauseous just thinking about this.
City Council? Ceppa told you that to knowingly not report crimnal activity is in itself a crime. Oh thats rightBarrett said he was satisified and there would be no more questions. Amen.
One last timeNo Honor Among Thieves. God Bless America.
Mark Robbins says:
Betty you are a true public servant. Thank you for all of your articles that help simplify this complicated mess. Mark
Bottom of Page 71
22) Wilkes-Barre City Hall has an immediate need for a filing clerk.
January 21, 2012 PUREBUNKUM.com (by Betty Roccograndi; former award winning News reporter for Times Leader)
For starters, the successful candidate must be proficient in placing credit card statements in their proper files and not misplacing requests for proposals for $860,000 worth of fire engines. No experience necessary because it really doesnt take any to properly file city documents, even though weve been having some problems of late.
Actually, if youre a trained monkey, wed love to hear from you.
As city Mayor Tom Leighton said - after blaming Bank of America for not having the citys credit card statements on file - City Hall receives voluminous stacks of bills each year.
The credit card statements city residents requested but could not be found could have been attached to something else by mistake, said Mayor Leighton. We get thousands of vouchers ranging from paving streets to buying a hammer or a shovel, he added.
And lets not forget buying $860,000 worth of fire engines. Maybe someone put those missing proposals with the shovel bills by mistake. If theyre not there, check the hammer invoices file.
For those of you not up to speed with City Halls somewhat lacking filing system, it all began when Karen Ceppa asked for information regarding the purchase of three fire engines. Much to her surprise and to everyone elses, she learned that five years ago the city received a $1 million donation to pay for them.
City officials swear three requests for proposals were received, but sadly, two are MIA. Maybe someone should look for them in the paving streets file because that file is likely pretty sparse.
Adding to the citys frustration, residents Joseph Wielgosz and Charlotte Raup asked to see credit card statements, which detail charges officials billed to city taxpayers. A reasonable request by anyones standards, with the possible exception of city officials and council members, who would prefer that their trips to Orlando and Reno to attend conventions remain out of the publics view.
But they cant hide from The Times Leader, which published its findings on Sunday and Monday.
Bottom of Page 72
For some reason, a handful of city watchdogs believe they have the right to see what taxpayers are paying for. Well, as any good journalist knows, there are always two sides to every story.
So lets hear what city officials have to say.
We dont believe, and the city council will back us on this, that these pests, er, watchdogs, need to know that we like to go on junkets from time to time to gather important information on running the city. I promise you that if there is a National League of Cities convention on how to not misplace important city documents or, worse, lose them, we will fly five to six of us there, but only if its in Reno or, at the very least, Atlantic City. Those meetings are grueling, and we, like you, like to spend our down time in a casino or at the pool basking in the warm Florida sun.
Furthermore, we can assure you that former city controller Bernie Mengeringhausen and former city councilman Tony Thomas will be available to attend. How do we know that? Dedicated public servants that they are, they flew to a Phoenix convention with only one month left in their terms. Now, THATs dedication.
Thomas actually said that the knowledge he gleaned from that convention in Phoenix will be beneficial to the city even though he is no longer on the council. Hes not a ghost, he said. He really did tell the Times Leader that, putting to rest any rumors that he was.
Its not like Im a ghost. Im not leaving, Thomas said. As for Mengeringhausen, we dont know if hes a ghost, but he very well may be, because, since retiring, he seems to have disappeared. Over several days, the TL called him, and he didnt return any of the calls.
So, considering all of this, we are hoping that the city hires a file clerk without delay.
And just a friendly warning, Mayor Leighton, dont even think of hiring your daughter or nephew. City taxpayers are now paying attention.
- Betty Roccograndi
Bottom of Page 73
23) Charity also helped renovate police station
By Andrew Staub (Staff Writer) CITIZENS VOICE
Published: January 21, 2012
Greg Dabel runs Kids for the Kingdom from his barn at his California chestnut ranch, but the charity's reach extends all the way to orphanages in Nicaragua to a Christian camp ministry in Turkey and a children's psychiatric hospital in Russia.
And sometimes, the charity's long arms even land in Wilkes-Barre, the Wyoming Valley city situated more than 2,000 miles from Kids for the Kingdom's Graton, Calif., headquarters.
Most notably, the charity served as a pass-through for an anonymous $1 million gift the city used in 2005 to purchase three new fire engines. IRS records obtained by The Citizens' Voice this week also show Kids for the Kingdom provided services to the City of Wilkes-Barre a total of three times since 2004.
Aside from the fire engines, the charity in 2004 "provided services, equipment, youth facilities and building renovations for the Wilkes-Barre Police Department," according to its IRS 990 report from that year. While the IRS form does not indicate how much Kids for the Kingdom spent on the police department, the charity doled out $270,590 across the United States for a variety of services in 2004. The work includes ministering and prison outreach in multiple locations, as well as the service to Wilkes-Barre.
The city spent nearly $800,000 to rehabilitate its police station, Mayor Tom Leighton said in 2004, when he recalled the building's cracking brick walls, leaky ceilings and problematic air-conditioning systems.
A combination of city and state funds - as well as a "generous" donation from an anonymous benefactor - funded the repair efforts, Leighton said at the time.
Dabel, the international director of Kids for the Kingdom, said Friday he could not recall the 2004 contribution to Wilkes-Barre or whether the same donor who funded the fire engines also contributed toward services for the police station.
"I plead ignorance. I don't remember," Dabel said, though he added his charity keeps "fastidiously accurate" records for the IRS.
Leighton, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., did not return a message left on his cellphone Friday. Wilkes-Barre's spokesman, Drew McLaughlin, also declined to release an official comment about Kids for the Kingdom's involvement in the police station repairs.
"No one from the city's going to comment until we have an opportunity to thoroughly research this," McLaughlin said. (My Note: It has been 47 days and the public has yet to hear an explanation.)
J.J. Murphy, the city administrator in 2004, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
IRS records from Kids for the Kingdom also mention the "City of Wilkes-Barre" in its notes to financial statements in 2005. The filing doesn't indicate what portion of the $10,360 the charity spent in the United States that year went to Wilkes-Barre or for what purpose.
Bottom of Page 74
The charity's 2006 IRS filing notes the $1 million donation to Wilkes-Barre.
The case of the fire engines and police station repairs deviate from Kids for the Kingdom's normal mission of helping children and families in Third-World countries across the globe.
While Dabel could not recall the services for the Wilkes-Barre Police Department, he remembered the donation for the fire engines and said nothing about the donation should be construed as "shady."
"The entity that donates to us for a variety of overseas projects knows us well and chose to use us to make a gift to the City of Wilkes-Barre," Dabel said. "It's simple logic. They know us, they trust us."
Wilkes-Barre's handling of the money once it arrived at the city, though, has raised several questions.
While Leighton acknowledged an anonymous donation contributed to repairs of the police station in 2004, he never mentioned the $1 million gift when unveiling the city's three new fire engines in July 2006. Kids for the Kingdom granted the city permission to acknowledge the donation, as long as the donor was not identified.
Instead, Leighton said money from a grant, the city's general fund, community development coffers and emergency services tax bankrolled the $860,000 purchase. The city also never publicly bid out the contract to build the fire engines and did not bring the expenditure before city council for approval.
The city charter mandates that purchases of contracts in excess of $4,000 be competitively bid after proper advertisement and states that council must approve expenditures in excess of $10,000.
The remaining $140,000 of the donation went toward construction of the Hollenback Fire Station, an expenditure Leighton said was authorized by council. Some city council members, though, have said they did not learn of the donation until recently, and meeting minutes do not mention the donation in relation to funding for the fire station.
The furor over the city's secret treatment of the money has created a furor, but Dabel said "that's a different deal that has nothing to do with us."
Kids for the Kingdom has grown significantly over the past 20 years, Dabel said. The charity has its roots in Dabel's three decades of experience in nonprofit management combined with his 15 years of work as a correspondent for WORLD Magazine, a Christian news outlet, he said.
When Dabel traveled to war-torn countries such as Rwanda, he sought out indigenous Christians who helped the poor or needy, he said. From there, the charity has grown to an organization that provided services for 184,000 people last year, Dabel said.
The charity does not host fundraisers, but relies on word-of-mouth for its donations and does not take an administrative fee from its designated contributions, Dabel said.
Kids for the Kingdom's website names feeding programs in India, Kenya, Nicaragua and Ghana; blankets for orphans in Zimbabwe; and "indigenous staff support" in China, Russia and Pakistan among its list of "current needs and giving opportunities."
Besides its connection to the City of Wilkes-Barre, Kids for the Kingdom has also lent financial support to His Resting Place, a maternity home in Exeter.
Bottom of Page 75
The California charity's IRS reports also show it provided services to myriad people in the Kingston and Wilkes-Barre region in the past. The list includes at-risk children, prisoners, families of prisoners, according to the IRS forms.
The Luzerne Foundation, a charitable organization headquartered in Northeastern Pennsylvania, also has ties to Kids for the Kingdom. The foundation in 2010 contributed $170,000 to Kids for the Kingdom and earmarked the funds for programs in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Zimbabwe and His Resting Place in Exeter.
Kids for the Kingdom has been supporting His Resting Place for a few years, said Juanita Sarnak, director of the maternity home. She called the California charity "wonderful."
"We live on the donations of good-hearted people," Sarnak said. "I don't know what else to tell you, other than they have been a blessing to us and helped us to help others."
Published: January 21, 2012 Citizens Voice
Wilkes-Barre used city and state funds, as well as a donation from an anonymous benefactor, to fund $800,000 in rehabilitations to its police station in 2004, Mayor Tom Leighton said.
According to city council meeting minutes, the following work, though possibly not a full picture of the renovations, was done to the police station during the same time period.
In June 2004, then-Deputy City Administrator Marie McCormick (NOW CURRENT Administrator) said a Dallas (Pa) company was installing carpet in the police station. She mentioned the anonymous donation as a funding source for police station renovations. This was $250,000! No other details, such as the price of the carpet, were reported.
In September 2004, the city awarded a $61,800 contract to Hartley and Esgro Waterproofing for masonry repairs to the police station. The city also approved a $10,700 deal with G.C. Wall for ceiling block replacement in the police station. In both instances, city documents indicate the funding was "contingent upon approval of the project budget from the state Department of Community and Economic Development."
In October 2005, the city agreed to a contract with Samir Maroun Construction and John L. Schenck Construction for environmental abatement related to the HVAC replacement and repair. The contract, not to exceed $40,000, was paid for using the city's general fund.
Bottom of Page 76
In June 2005, the city agreed to a contract with E.J. Rogan and Sons for the replacement and repair of the police station's HVAC system. The resolution approving the $344,825 project did not indicate a funding source.
Bottom of Page 77
NOTE TO READER: If anybody finds any statements or assertions to be materially untrue, I ask that they use theE 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.