(570) 592 3246
Julian Jones Media Rep
The Chief Executive Officer
The Chief Financial Officer
Senior Sales Representative
300 601 W. Cordova Street
Vancouver, BC, V6B 1G1
To the attention of the individual(s) who have shown interest in Wilkes-Barre Pas parking facilities:
I write to you as a concerned citizen in regards to the potential privatization of Wilkes-Barre parking.
I would like to alert you to some serious non-disclosures (from W-B) which I feel misrepresent the Request for Qualifications that was issued. It is information that you should know this materialin order to make a fair and equitable decision.
Incestuous cash grab The representatives on behalf of Wilkes-Barre are not the most qualified in their areas. They are cronies andnot legitimate consultants. Their common link is that they are all verified contributors to Mayor Thomas Leighton. As such, these insiders have named their own pay at rates of $300 - $400 per hour while the cash balance of the parking authority is drained (approximately $120,000 has been spent). As you will see further below, I have more qualifications at valuations than anyone involved (I have 11 letters behind my name).
- JJ Murphy is the former city administrator. He is not an expert in parking or finance.
- JJ Murphy urged the Mayor to select his brothers law firm (Fox Rothschild in Philly!)
- Alan Wohlstetter represents Fox Rothschild. By his own admission he is not the pre-eminent consultant for the job. He is on record for asserting that Desman is the top consultant.
- The Parking solicitor is Murray Ufberg. He and his firm contributed to Leighton as well. He is sitting by as these consultants drain from the Parking Authority. He is obviously paid as well.
- Council members of the parking authority are all hand-picked by Leighton
- Yet even the council members weren't informed that JJ Murphy's brother worked for the firm that was hired nor were they initially informed that JJ's pay was embedded in Fox Rothschild's pay.
- Bluntly stated, it isan incestuous cash grab.
The lie of omission regardingDesman Consultants.This is the consultant that both Alan Wohlstetter and the PR firm Shelley (out of Harrisburg) raved about. They are quoted in the local paper as saying so.Desman obviously wasn't hired as the single consultant because Leighton's cronies would have had to forego their jackpots.
A conference call took place. Desman quoted a valuation number. Leighton didnt like it. So he put a gag order on it and withheld this number from the public and from YOU.
City spokesman Drew McLaughlin lied to the public. He said that Desman was on board with the $ 20 million number. Upon hearing this Desman made this retort to a local paper: Wilkes-Barre's parking consultant made clear Wednesday that it does not endorse - nor agree with - the city's decision to place a $20 million minimum bid on a lease of parking garages, lots and meters. "We did not validate the $20 million." I give you this information because it came from a paid, respected source. It was stated. It was clearly material. And it was quashed. I think the right and legal thing to do is to offer all material information otherwise it could be considered fraud.
Illegal procedure When hiring a professional services firm, the city is required to send out an RFP (Request for Professional Services). This was not done. Instead Mayor Leighton chose Fox Rothschild from Philadelphia. This was done at the urging of JJ Murphy whose brother works for the firm. This was kept quiet. Four months into the project even the Parking Authority board members were shocked to learn of the JJ Murphy / Patrick Murphy connection.
Information about Wilkes-Barre I question much of the information in the RFQ regarding the vibrancy of Wilkes-Barre. Much did not seem believable to me. I advise that you take these statements with a grain of salt.
Motivations of the Mayor It appears that the Mayor is hoping he hits the lottery with the $20,000,000 minimum bid. He has told city workers that they may not be paid by the end of the year if this deal doesn't go through (while he pays his cronies between $300 and $525 per hour). Citizens have rationalized that Leighton is desparate because if the city falls into distressed city status or bankruptcy then an outside independent observer could be called in to oversee operations. This Leighton does not want. He was caught earlier this year with hiding a million dollars so who knows what other financial shenanigans have taken place. It may not be a pretty picture.
No Bona Fide Analysis
I have told people the $20M figure is like fairy dust from heaven. This number was pulled out of the sky. It represents only wishful thinking. I know what I am talking about because I used to do this work!!
The process to get a valuation is called the discounted cash flow method. From this you get Net Present Value, Internal Rate of Return, and Payback period. NOBODY has come close to doing this. The $20 M figure is nothing but a hope. Proper analysis has not been done. I havent even seen full income statements.
The depth of their research is something like this: "If Indianapolis got x, then I think we could get y." This isnt research. It'sa stab in the dark. Not surprisingly, the only legitimate consultant (Desman) gave a number nowhere near $20 M. We cant mortgage Wilkes-Barres future on 10th grade analyses and gag orders!
See the next page for my analysis. This is what I came up with using the resources available
After that I copied a local newspaper article for you.
Want more information? Go to Gratefulhands.net Click Parking scam
Cash Flow /
Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority - Discounted Cash Flow Analysis
Ann Cash Flow
Prime rate = 3.25 %
Opportunity cost of foregoing bond
on your investment
Future earnings are worth less
than today when you consider inflation
and what you could get from a bond
Very generous cash flow assumptions
Demand is elastic. That is, a price increase
would be met with a reduced qty demand.
Plus you can't force private lots such
as Genetti's to go out of business.
(Min Price) Disc Cash Flow
Net Present Value
Net Present Value is what this deal would
be worth today if $20M was paid.
Given the generous assumptions
a buyer should pay no more than
in order to avoid losing money
$ 20 Million would only be paid if:
1) One is completely financially illiterate
2) The $20 M serves as a bribe
WILKES-BARRE A representative of one of the five companies that responded to the Request for Qualifications to lease the citys parking assets says $20 million up front is not gonna happen.
We have to find a financial partner, said the representative, who requested anonymity. But its been very difficult to find anyone interested in this deal.
He suggested a more reasonable initial payment would be $10 million or less.
Drew McLaughlin, the citys administrative coordinator, declined to respond to the comment.
The city received five responses last week to its RFQ; no details have been released.
Behind closed doors, several city administrators gathered Monday to discuss the plan to lease the parking garages, lots and spaces owned by the city and the Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority.
Attending were McLaughlin; Jim Ryan, city clerk; Greg Barrouk, economic development director; Marie McCormick, city administrator; Tim Henry, city attorney, and Jim Casey, who was appointed to the parking authority Thursday.
Also participating were Alan Wohlstetter, the attorney from the Philadelphia law firm Fox Rothschild, and J.J. Murphy of Goals Consulting. Fox Rothschild has been retained by the parking authority to lead the RFQ process. Murphy, whose brother is a partner at Fox Rothschild, was hired by Fox Rothschild as a consultant.
Casey said afterward that he was brought up to speed on parking authority business and given several documents to review. Other attendees would not comment on what was discussed at the meeting that lasted from 2 p.m. to about 4:30.
None of the attendees would respond when asked who was paying for Wohlstetter and Murphy to be at the meeting. Wohlstetter is paid $400 per hour by the parking authority and Murphys rate is $300 per hour. Both have said in the past that these are lower rates than normally charged.
McLaughlin said the city will not pursue a lease agreement at any price.
The mayor will execute a lease agreement if and only if a deal will improve the operation of parking assets in the city and benefit Wilkes-Barre taxpayers, he said. The parking lease is not essential to meeting our debt obligations on the garages. The city and authority would be able to retire debt through a lease transaction; however, current end-of-year debt payments can and will be made by sufficient parking revenues through the operation of the facilities.
Mayor Tom Leighton approved the RFQ to include a minimum upfront payment of $20 million to bid on leasing the parking assets for 30 years or 50 years. Jerry Salzman, of Desman Associates, a Chicago-based parking consulting firm retained by the parking authority, did not disclose what figure he recommended, but said the firm did not endorse the citys $20 million figure.
In a letter to The Times Leader, Salzman said Desman did not in any way validate the $20 million figure, noting, it is important to clarify that Desman has not concurred with the value. Salzman wrote. It is a clear misinterpretation of our opinion and absolutely incorrect.
The rep of the RFQ respondent said Wilkes-Barre did not offer enough potential return to justify $20 million up front.
Its one thing to invest if the deal will be worth hundreds of millions, but for this deal (in Wilkes-Barre), its not gonna happen, the representative said.
Leighton did not attend Mondays meeting and could not be reached for comment.
Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority
Discounted Cash Flow Analysis
Mark M Robbins
June 07, 2012
|Cash Flow /|
|1 Dollar||Cumul Interest|
|NOTES||Yr||Cash Flow||Interest||Cash flow|
|Prime rate = 3.25 %||1||$400,000||$1.06||$377,358|
|Int rate assumption||3||$400,000||$1.19||$335,848|
|over 30 years is||6%||4||$400,000||$1.26||$316,837|
|Future earnings are worth less||6||$400,000||$1.42||$281,984|
|than today when you consider inflation||7||$400,000||$1.50||$266,023|
|and what you could get from a bond||8||$400,000||$1.59||$250,965|
|Very generous cash flow assumptions||10||$400,000||$1.79||$223,358|
|Demand is elastic. That is, a price increase||11||$500,000||$1.90||$263,394|
|would be met with aproportionalreduced quanity demand.||12||$500,000||$2.01||$248,485|
|Plus you can't force private lots such||13||$500,000||$2.13||$234,420|
as Genetti's to go out of business.
|Disc Cash Flow||$6,605,389||15||$500,000||$2.40||$208,633|
|Selling Price||$ 20,000,000||16||$500,000||$2.54||$196,823|
|Net Present Value||- $13,394,611||17||$500,000||$2.69||$185,682|
|Net Present Value is what this deal would||18||$500,000||$2.85||$175,172|
|be worth today if $20M was paid.||19||$500,000||$3.03||$165,257|
|Given the generous assumptions||23||$700,000||$3.82||$183,258|
|a buyer should pay no more than||24||$700,000||$4.05||$172,885|
|in order to avoid losing money||26||$700,000||$4.55||$153,867|
|$ 20 Million would only be paid if:||28||$700,000||$5.11||$136,941|
|1) One is completely financially illiterate||29||$700,000||$5.42||$129,190|
|2) The $20 M serves as a bribe||30||$700,000||$5.74||$121,877|
Link to News article confirming much of what I wrote below:http://citizensvoice.com/news/parking-consultant-disputes-city-s-claims-1.1319469
Link to "Wake up Wilkes-Barre" site: http://wakeupwilkesbarre.blogspot.com/2012/05/parking-leasing-or-fleecing.html
Fraud, deceit, and Leighton's gag orders
Link to see RFQ report (proposal to sell city parking): http://www.wilkes-barre.pa.us/forms/parkRFQ.pdf
Link to Citizen's Voice Article highlighting the horrors of "selling the city." http://citizensvoice.com/news/proposed-w-b-parking-deal-could-reverberate-for-years-1.1311217
Letter to Attorney General, officials, and other authorities:
I am asking you to step in, stop, or provide a legal injunction regarding the activities in Wilkes-Barre, Pa concerning the proposed lease of the parking authority (to include garages and metered parking). As you will soon read, the project has been fraught with fraud, concealment, and virtually no over-site. In fact, the proper financial tools and instruments to perform a valuation have not been used. This is a corrupted, amateurish mess.
At stake is the next century (literally 50 years) of downtown W-B and the privatization of its parking. Mayor Leighton is looking to sell out Wilkes-Barre for short term satisfaction. Research from Indianapolis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh reveal that sale of the parking assets brings on unmitigated disasters. (Google Citizens Voice proposed parking deal for very thorough article)
Mayor Thomas M Leighton
W-B Spokesman Drew McLaughlin (Leightons mouthpiece)
Other players and Contributors to Mayor Leightons campaign
JJ Murphy who snuck (literally) a deal through his brothers law firm that would pay him $300/hour (verified Contributor to Mayor Leighton). This went undetected for months. See my web site for his time sheets.
Alan Wolstetter of Fox and Rothschild Law firm in Philadelphia where Patrick Murphy (JJs brother) is a partner (the firm is verified as a Contributor to Mayor Leighton).
Murray Ufberg who serves as solicitor to the Parking Authority (verified Contributor to Mayor Leighton).
Murray Ufbergs firm of Rosen Jenkins and Greenwald in W-B (verified Contributor to Mayor Leighton).
Cronies taken care of !!
$1200 per hour? Note: "Phase 2"...$400/hr (JJ Murphy)and $535/hr Fox Rothschild (Patrick Murphy's firm)plus payments to Murray Ufberg (Parking Authority solicitor).
Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority Board members (who hadnt realized they were paying JJ Murphy $300/hr).
W-B City Council members (5) who have the final vote on the proposed 30 -50 year lease.
In the last 72 hours, Desman and Associates was hired as a parking consultant to put a value on W-Bs parking assets. The figure (according to several sources) came in much lower than the $20 M Leighton has been touting (and a number I have vehemently disagreed with). But Leighton has put a gag order on those who know results.
Leighton wont tell anyone what the number is (despite the study being paid for with taxpayer dollars).
Murray Ufberg wont tell anyone what the number is.
The Parking Authority wont tell anyone what the number is (and at least one person knows). Thus we have a:
COVER-UP: Leighton will not disclose the results of a taxpayer funded study to value the city's parking.
COLLUSION: He has put a gag order on everyone that knows the result (see Times Leader article).
FRAUD: By withholding this study from potential bidders, the city is intentionally distorting known, material facts from these people. The Request for Qualifications is nothing but a fraudulent document. similar to a homeowner not revealing a test that shows radon. Whats predictable is a lawsuit will be filed in the future id there is not full disclosure and when abuyer realizes he has been lied to.
Other Lies and/or Distortions
Here is link to see RFQ report: http://www.wilkes-barre.pa.us/forms/parkRFQ.pdf
- The report claims there will be no collusion but they have already colluded by virtue of the gag order put on the Desman (Consulting) reports.
- The report claims 15,000 workers in downtown W-B. For a city of $42,000? I dont think so.
- The report claims there is a "remarkable turnaround" in WB. Is this why the Chamber has laid off?
- The report claims that W-B has the 4th largest downtown workforce in state (OK... LSD anyone?)
All of these lies are critical in that a buyer could turn around and sue the city for misrepresentation (fraud).
I have told people the $20M figure is like fairy dust from heaven. This number was pulled out of the sky. It represents nothing more than wishful thinking. I know what I am talking about because I used to do this work!!
The process to get a valuation is called the discounted cash flow method. From this you get Net Present Value, Internal Rate of Return, and Payback period. NOBODY has come close to doing this. The $20 M figure is nothing but a hope. Nobody involved has done a proper analysis. I havent even seen full income statements.
So what is it?
Leighton has no interest in setting a market price to move the assets. Nothing appears legitimate. In my opinion, this deal has a greater chance of being a bribe (or possible extortion) than it does of being a "clean" deal.
Many have suggested that the buyer is already picked. There is soundness to this suggestion.
A) This would allow the bills to be run up in the meantime so cronies can fatten their wallet by virtue of mindless meetings and activities (ie; from JJ Murphy time sheet moving things forward. See my web site for all his time sheets).
B) This is consistent with the gag order because it would be nearly impossible to explain how the (pre-selected) buyer would pay $20 M for something, say, worth $3 million.
C) A (pre-selected) buyer may have been promised another deal (hired to build another school, perhaps?). This deal would then of course serve as a bribe.
What I do know is that with Leighton, when the dots do not connect and people start fibbing theres a reason. It is called corruption.
Letter requesting resignation of Murray Ufberg of Rosen Jenkins and Greenwald
Re: PATRICK MURPHY, JJ MURPHY, and MAYOR THOMAS LEIGHTON
FIRST LETTER I SENT TO AUTHORITIES
Dear Ms. Kelly of the Attorney General, the Phil FBI, and other esteemed authorities:
Thank you for reviewing this urgent matter regarding the proposed sale of the W-B parking authority for an astonishing - and unrealistic fee - of $ 20 M. Seen clearly, this staggering price tag ONLY makes sense in lieu of something else being promised to the buyer. As a stand-alone deal it is sheer lunacy. In this way it can be seen as a bribe.
Remember the Million Dollar Mystery? A million dollars was funneled through a California charity to buy Wilkes-Barre fire trucks? That turned out to be an elaborate bribe and this deal shapes up the same way (see Gratefulhands.net). You might label this letter as a pre-emptive strike against what is quickly blooming into a corruption hail storm. Very seriously, with the numbers in play, this has the potential to be areas biggest bribe scheme EVER! With the numbers making no sense and with JJ Murphy (former administrator) getting paid $ 5 per minute (thats $300 per hour with a BA degree) this train wreck needs to be stopped now!!
The Players: Patrick Murphy (Attorney General Candidate) and JJ Murphy (his brother):
Patrick Murphy is the Managing partner of Fox Rothschild law firm in Philadelphia. This law firm firm hired was hired by the Wilkes-Barre at the urging of JJ Murphy to oversee the sale of the parking authority. JJ Murphy claims it was all a coincidence. The firm then turned around and hired JJ Murphy as a consultant - despite never doing business with him.
A) JJ Murphy told Leighton to hire this Philly law firm to the exclusion of local and city (W-B) attorneys. Why is Leighton listening to JJ Murphy who is two years out of office as W-B City Administrator?
B) The firm agreed to pay JJ Murphy $300/hr - to be paid by W-B ($8,100 total so far) How does that work? How can a law firm tell a client who to hire as a consultant and what they must pay? Makes no sense.
C) The law firm has recommended a 2nd consultant to do valuations for $5,000. Are you kidding me? I have an MBA and worked in Corporate finance. A discounted cash flow evaluation might take 10 minutes.
D) The law firm even recommended a 3rd consultant to do more work but the W-B Parking Authority resisted.
E) The total to date is $8,100. He has charged $5 per minute! Many in this city only make $9 per hour.
Nobody seems to know exactly what JJ Murphy has done for $ 8,100
The conflict of interests and these payments have been kept super quiet until now. I wonder why?
F) JJ Murphy was also part of a charm campaign headed by Leighton/Dessoye last fall to make me go away after I exposed massive corruption in Wilkes-Barre. See GratefulHands.net / $1 M Cover-up by Leighton (p 10)
G) The $ 5 per minute contract was not by properly put up for bid among qualified candidates
Mayor Leighton has abdicated responsibility. He blames it on the Parking Authority because technically, they hired the firm. But according to one member (Ed Katarsky) of the Parking Authority (Citizens Voice), He (Leighton) was pushing us, pressuring us to do it. Katarsky and others are clearly frustrated. The cost was to be around $175,000. Now we are worried it will top $300,000.
Leighton wants to sell the parking authority in W-B. As you can see on the next page I dont think they turn a profit now. He wants $20 million and he wants the buyer to assume more than $ 10 million in debt. His idea is so wildly stupid you will have to read the next page to see for yourself. A person that would pay this much would be if it served as a bribe for a far bigger project. Yet he talks about this lease which sounds like he has someone in mind. One thing I know as a stand-alone deal it is preposterous. I also dont believe that all $300 per hour that JJ Murphy makes. Like the Cars for Cash scam Leighton skims from the take. Bribery and/or kickbacks stands as the best explanation for what he does.
HOW YOU CAN HELP (to the extent that you can):
A) Since the agreement with Fox Rothschild was set up under obvious duress it should be nullified.
B) Leighton needs to be suspended while an investigation takes place. There is too much evidence of corruption.
C) Cars for Cash Million dollar cover-up Two protected drug houses there is so much to fix! See http://gratefulhands.net/
Lastly, let me say I am the best person to point out corruption. I am completely independent and am beholden to nobody.
PRO FORMA INCOME STATEMENT
W-B PARKING AUTHORITY
Prepared by Mark M Robbins MarkRobbins56@yahoo.com
GratefulHands.net (presented at W-B Council meeting)
Pro Forma Income Statement (Annual; in thousands ($ k))
$900 k Revenue (taken from actual parking figures)
Price Constraints in effect (hurts potential buyer)
Fines for metered parking goes to the city (hurts potential buyer)
72 8 % fee to city of Wilkes-Barre
350 Interest on $7 million bond (assumes very low 5 %)
100 Interest on outstanding debt on Intermodal (estimate dont have exact figure)
150 Salaries for Labor (2 shifts; 3 workers per shift very conservative estimate)
50 Managers Salary
80 Benefits expense (very conservative at Harris Corp equaled 51% of payroll)
30 Liability Insurance
100 Modernization (to be paid for by buyer look at conditions at Boscov Park-ade)
-32 ($ Loss in thousands)
Annual Income of takes this many years to pay back $20M + $7M debt
$250 k 108 years
$500 k 54 years
$750 k 36 years
$ 1 Million 27 years
(NOTE: I came across some actual statements which indicated an avg annual loss of -$50,000... I came very close.)
Anybody with a sound mind would pass on this. The city has a duty to tell any buyer that there is no likelihood that they will get their money back in their life time. Not disclosing this fact would be like not telling a buyer of a home that their house sits on a sink hole. It is fraud. If the city ever sold this to a legitimate (but gullible) person the city would find itself in court for years.
Minimally, the public needs to see the income statements for the Parking Authority. Council members and whoever will vote on this please demand to see the Parking Authority Income Statements. It is the bottom line that is of interest not the top line. Yet, these statements must be looked at from the buyers viewpoint. Does it make sense? Or is it nonsense? The better the deal is for Wilkes-Barre the more chance is that it is a bribe.
As it stands now, nobody with even a modicum of business acumen would touch this. This is a completely bogus business deal. Completely illegitimate. The question becomes: Who is willing to funnel $20 million plus the $ 7 million in debt into the city and what are they getting in return? This has the prints of the Million dollar mystery all over it. Back then it was the purchase fire trucks for a charter school. Here we have a non-income producing parking authority. I am going on record to say this has corruption written all over it. This looks, acts, and smells like a bribe. What big contracts are in the pipeline that would have someone pay $20M and take on massive debt? Any buyer needs to be completely scrutinized.
SECOND LETTER I SENT TO AUTHORITIES
I am trying to alert you and others about developments in the unfolding parking scam in Wilkes-Barre. The scam involves Mayor Leighton attempting to sell the parking authority for $2,000,000. There are a number of issues:
1) In no uncertain terms, the income (if any) derived from the parking authority would in no way attract a buyer willing to pay $2,000,000. There is something amiss here. It is this something that has me worried.
I have the following certifications/ experience:
MBA Lehigh University (4.0 GPA) CMA Certification in Management Accounting (similar to CPA format)
BA Wake Forest University Economics CFM Certification in Financial Management (similar to CPA format)
Sr Financial Analyst Fortune 200 Co (Harris) Sr Financial Analyst national retailer
Business Analyst for non-profit that helped develop start-ups
Extensive experience with VALUATIONS Net Present Value, discounted cash flows, IRR, Payback periods etc.
The revenues of the parking authority have been publicly given (the highest around $950k). When I make logical assumptions regarding expenses, I see the parking authority as a break-even entity possibly NI as high as $200,000.
To pay $20,000,000 for this would prove financial illiteracy. There arent many people or companies that have $20,000,000 and are financially illiterate. The payback period would be around 100 years (and 8% of sales, the parking meter fines, and the ability to raise prices would still be under the predilection of the city). For someone to pay this amount there must be something else we dont know about.
2) JJ MURPHY (former WB City Administrator; BA from Kings College) Did you know that were getting J.J. Murphy at a bargain price (as a consultant)? It turns out that his normal consulting fee is $400 an hour (just for this endeavor), but, for now, hes only charging city taxpayers $300. The $400 per hour kicks in when the lease plan hits high gear (what the heck does that mean?).
3) PATRICKS MURPHYS (brother to JJ) firm (Fox Rothschild) fee goes from $400 to $500 per hour as well. Thus if Murphy calls the law firm W-B will be charged $900 per hour.
4) One time sheet shows JJ Murphy getting paid $8130 for 27 hours of work. Other time sheets are out there, but neither Murphy, nor the law firm, nor the parking authority will produce them. Why the secrecy?
5) Another consultant is involved: Nationally-known parking consultant, Desman Associates of Chicago, $5,000 for an initial 20 hours of consulting services, The Times Leader reported. But if you think thats a bargain after learning that J.J., who is not a nationally-known parking expert, just turned in a bill for $8,130 for 27 hours of work, think again. Desman wanted a $75,000 retainer and will likely get it sooner rather than later.
Lastly, what is this Mayor trying to do to our city? Word has it that he has signed a lease with someone or is about to. Consider what he has hid from the city already? How can we make it stop?
Sincerely Mark M Robbins
By Josh Moyer (Staff writer) Published: April 13, 2012
Residents are paying former city administrator J.J. Murphy $300 an hour as a consultant while the city explores whether to lease its parking assets, according to the Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority. Murphy has already received $8,130 for 27.1 hours of work and has billed the Parking Authority for times ranging from 12-minute periods to seven hours, according to a March 19 time sheet that was obtained by The Citizens' Voice.
Murphy, who left the city in January 2010, said he recommended to Mayor Tom Leighton that Wilkes-Barre hire the Fox Rothschild law firm to put together proposals and oversee the process. One of Fox Rothschild's partners is Patrick Murphy, J.J. Murphy's brother who is running for the state attorney general.
Leighton denied responsibility for the law firm hiring Murphy as a consultant, saying the Parking Authority ultimately approved hiring Fox Rothschild. But one Parking Authority board member pointed the finger at Leighton. "He was pushing us, pressuring us to do it," board member Ed Katarsky said Thursday." And we just kind of gave in." Board members at Thursday's Parking Authority meeting expressed frustration at the snowballing costs of the consulting fees.
Initially, the total cost was expected to be in the range of $175,000. Now, Katarsky and others worried the authority could be on the hook for more than $300,000. "It's not right," said G. Terry Madonna, Franklin & Marshall's director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs. "I hate to say this, but it sort of sounds like business as usual in cities and governments across the country."
Leighton acknowledged Thursday afternoon he talked with Murphy last winter about leasing the city's parking assets, but he said he was not responsible for hiring his friend. "It's an absolute coincidence," J.J. Murphy said in a telephone interview, explaining his brother is not involved in the project. After getting the contract in January, Fox Rothschild turned around and hired J.J. Murphy, who formed GOALS Consulting, and they settled on a $300-per-hour fee. (to be paid by W-B of course!) The Parking Authority, which gets its funding from the city's parking garages, is paying that fee. Asked whether his law firm had ever before hired GOALS Consulting, the attorney representing Fox Rothschild, Alan Wohlstetter, paused for 15 seconds before saying no.
J.J. Murphy said he would have recommended any law firm that employed Wohlstetter. It is purely a coincidence his brother works at the same firm, he said. (yea right!!) Fox Rothschild has hired as a second consultant Shelly Communications and on Thursday tried to hire a third consultant. After a small uproar from the board, the attorney representing the firm instead settled on a $5,000 retainer for DESMAN Associates, who would work on the valuations.
"They're hiring all these consultants," Katarsky added. "We knew they had the right to do it, but it's kind of getting out of hand here a little bit." Wilkes-Barre's City Council voted Thursday night to continue to the second phase of the project, which would solicit proposals. Council members Bill Barrett and Tony George expressed surprise after the meeting that J.J. Murphy was hired as a consultant. (This is true Leighton often leaves city council members in the dark). But, they said, they had no control over that. City council will face a more important vote later this year on whether to actually lease the city's parking assets to a private entity. Thursday's vote just gave the Parking Authority approval to seek more information. "If it's not going to benefit the city," George said, "I'm not going to vote for it."
Leighton said he, too, would not recommend the city approve a lease if it wouldn't be beneficial. He also believed J.J. Murphy's hiring wasn't unusual because the city hires former Department of Public Works employees to plow snow and mow lawns. (for $300 per hour?) This situation, he said, is similar. This wasn't hidden," Leighton said. "If there was a conflict, I would not have done it. If (J.J.) retired last month and we're doing it now, that's a conflict. He was on his own for two years now."
TWO E MAILSSENT
SOURCE: JJ MURPHY TIME SHEETS
How many people does it take to sell parking spaces?
1) The city (Leighton, McCormick, McLauglin, City Attorney Henry
2) Greg Barouk WB Director of Economic Devt.
3) WB Parking Authority
4) Fox Rothschild law firm (Patrick Murphy's)
5) Goals Consulting (JJ Murphy)
6) Desman and Associates Parking Consulting Firm
7) Shelly Consultants (Public Relations firm) (Are they supposed to look for bidders?)
8) Carlyle Group Consulting
9) Bond Counsel with TML (I guess we couldn't have used the city counsel W-B pays already pays for)
10) Spent 3 hours total ($900) with "Mendy"... met with and evaluated their financials (can we see these evaluations?)
11) Spent 7hrs ($2100) with RBC on refinancing (Is this parking related? or did Murphy call in and leave phone off hook for 7 hours.
12) PA Solicitor (as opposed to city solicitor)
13) Meeting with Rosen Jenkins and Greenwald, Desman Consulting, and Murphy (A $1,600 2 hr meeting to taxpayers?) (A TRIPLE DIP? Desman, RJG, and Murphy all get paid?).
14) Times Leader I assume they were billed when they questioned Murphy's pay
15) Citizen's Voice I assume they were billed when they questioned Murphy's pay
NOTE: The conference calls are the most insidious form of looting from the city. EVERYONE on the call is being paid simultaneously!!
E Mail I sent on April 30 to city hall workers:
Just wondering how the "regular" city hall folks feel about ex-city employee JJ Murphy getting paid 12 times the average city hall worker?
$50,000 / 50 weeks / 40 hrs = $25 per hour
JJ MURPHY = $300 per hour and entitled to $400 per hour.
Are you content with the fact that Leighton tried to hide it all from all of you?
Are you fed up? Don't hold it in. There are outlets. Completely confidential.
Division of Political Corruption
600 Arch St 8th Floor
Phil, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 418-4000
Fax: (215) 418-4232
Post Office Building, Room 203
N. Washington Avenue & Linden Street
Scranton, PA 18503
Phone: (570) 344-2404
Fax: (570) 344-5610
E-mail: scranton email@example.com
Attorney General Linda L Kelly
Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank G Fina
Criminal Prosecutions Section
Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
16th Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Commisioner Frank Noonan (he is from Mountaintop)
Pennsylvania State Police Department Headquarters
(Business Hours7:00 am 4:30 pm)
1800 Elmerton Ave.
Harrisburg, Pa 17110
By Josh Moyer (Staff writer) The Citizens' Voice
Published: April 14, 2012
Fox Rothschild attorney Alan Wohlstetter and his firm contributed more than $6,000 toward Mayor Tom Leighton's campaign before the firm in January received a no-bid contract to help the city lease its parking assets, campaign records show. Leighton strongly advocated the Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority hire Fox Rothschild - one board member said he felt pressured - and bids were not open to other law firms. Fox Rothschild is expected to receive about $175,000 for less than a year's work.
"There's no legal requirement for those to be bid," city spokesman Drew McLaughlin said. "The mayor spoke to the board about (Fox Rothschild's) professional credentials, and he had no involvement with the contract." McLaughlin would not directly address whether the mayor should have recommended opening up the bidding process. The board approved Leighton's recommendation to hire the firm in January.
Fox Rothschild first donated to Leighton's campaign on May 3, 2010, when he ran for state Senate. The firm gave $1,500 - before the brother of former city administrator J.J. Murphy, Patrick, became a partner and before Fox Rothschild directly did any business with City Hall. Fox Rothschild's only involvement with Wilkes-Barre came when it worked with the nonprofit group Hawkeye Security Solutions, which oversees the city's surveillance program.
When McLaughlin was asked whether he could name another instance when a company donated to Leighton without directly working with him, he said, "I can't speak to motivation for why anyone donates to any specific candidate. I'm not an expert in what's typical in campaign financing." Craig Holman, a governmental affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, an organization founded by Ralph Nader, is an expert. He's worked as a senior policy analyst for NYU's Brennan Center for Justice and has authored several studies on campaign finance.
Holman said Wilkes-Barre's situation "sadly wasn't all that unusual." "Making campaign contributions is part of the culture," he said. "Many believe that this gives them an inside track to landing contracts, and it does." McLaughlin denied Leighton's recommendation was swayed by Fox Rothschild's contributions to his state Senate and mayoral campaigns. Neither Fox Rothschild nor Wohlstetter returned messages seeking comment.
After initially donating to Leighton, Fox Rothschild did not contribute again for eight months. It then offered Leighton $500, seven days after Patrick Murphy became a partner, and donated $2,500 on Sept. 15, 2011. Leighton and J.J. Murphy acknowledged in interviews Thursday they discussed hiring Fox Rothschild during the winter of 2011.
Through a spokesperson, Patrick Murphy said Friday he had no involvement with the city's contract with his firm or with his firm hiring his brother at $300 an hour, which is being billed to the parking authority. According to campaign records,
Fox Rothschild's Philadelphia-based firm contributed to 11 races in the state Senate and State House of Representatives between Jan. 1, 2010, and April 13, 2012. Only two of those candidates - Josh Shapiro and Matt Bradford - received more than Leighton during his state Senate race, and they're both located within 20 miles of Fox Rothschild's offices.
All but two candidates are located within 35 miles of Fox Rothschild's firm. Leighton received $1,500 and resides more than 100 miles away. State Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Monroeville, received $500 and lives more than 250 miles away.
Published: April 15, 2012 CITIZENS VOICE EDITORIAL
It all must be a coincidence.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton says he had nothing to do with former city administrator and Leighton ally J.J. Murphy landing a lucrative $300-per-hour consulting job with the city Parking Authority.
Sure, Murphy is conducting research to determine if the authority should lease its garages and parking meters to a private firm - a study Murphy recommended to Leighton last winter.
Just coincidence. And the fact that Murphy touted his brother's law firm, Fox Rothschild, to oversee the study?
Come on, it's a coincidence. So Leighton reportedly pressures the semi-autonomous authority to hire Fox Rothschild, which turns around and hires Murphy? Just quit with the crazy conspiracy theories already.
Leighton would never play such political games to benefit his political allies. And he'd do everything out in the open just to ensure there's no funny business. Like the time he hired his kids and all those other nice kids from his neighborhood in South Wilkes-Barre for city summer jobs without advertising them. The state Ethics Commission said that was OK because he had an underling do the actual hiring.
Or the time he spent more than $14,000 in city money to install high-tech security systems at his house and Murphy's without any public disclosure. The state Attorney General's Office said no harm, no foul, and you know the city can be a dangerous place. Or the time he bought three fire engines with $860,000 from an anonymous donor, but told the press and public the money came from the general fund, community development money and the city's emergency services tax. Well, nobody's been able to figure that one out, but those engines are still protecting you and your property, so don't be ungrateful.
Anyway, leasing the garages and meters to a for-profit entity might be good for Wilkes-Barre's bottom line. And it would be awfully mean to suggest that the thousands of dollars in campaign cash Leighton got from Fox Rothschild would play any role in his, uh, urging the parking authority to hire the firm. Don't be such a cynic.
Published: April 11, 2012
Wilkes-Barre could start accepting bids to lease the city's parking assets May 15 if the city council votes Thursday to move forward with the process. The council would still have to vote again, likely between Aug. 15 and Nov. 30, to accept or reject any offers.
Mayor Tom Leighton announced during Tuesday's council work session that the process of accepting bids and "right to qualifications" - information that would allow the city to evaluate companies' expertise - would last three months and end Aug. 15.
The city is asking for a minimum bid of $20 million. Privatizing parking services would likely raise the price of parking but would allow the city to invest in police, infrastructure and anti-blight initiatives.
The city's parking assets include 2,113 garage spaces, 160 surface-flat spaces and 800 on-street parking meter
An attorney who previously donated to Mayor Tom Leighton's campaign and is working on Wilkes-Barre's proposal to lease its parking assets is making $535 per hour, according to the contract obtained by The Citizens' Voice.
Although it was already known the firm, Fox Rothschild, was set to make about $175,000, the hourly rates were previously unknown.
Alan Wohlstetter, the attorney making $535 per hour, donated more than $1,000 to Mayor Tom Leighton's campaign, while his law firm has donated $4,500 since 2010.
Former City Administrator J.J. Murphy advised Leighton last winter to recommend Fox Rothschild to help the city generate bids for leasing its assets. Murphy's brother, Patrick Murphy, is a partner at the firm.
The Parking Authority approved Leighton's recommendation, and Fox Rothschild in turn hired J.J. Murphy at $300 per hour, which is also being billed to the Parking Authority.
Below are postings made by award winning reporter BettyRoccograndi (her site is called "Purebunkum.com")
April 25 2012 (by Betty Roccograndi)
The Wilkes-Barre City Parking Authority must be expecting a crowd, and we hope its not disappointed.
The authority, city Mayor Tom Leighton and former city administrator, now $300-per-hour consultant J.J. Murphy, are pursuing a plan to lease to a private vendor, the citys parking meters and garages, including its Taj Mahal, commonly known as the $28 million Intermodal Transportation Center.
Along the way, the bills have been piling up.
The authority meets Thursday at noon and has requested a change of venue from its regular meeting quarters at the Park & Lock North garage on North Main St. to the Imperial Ballroom at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center at 77 E. Market St.
Considering that the authority and city officials have been dancing around the specifics of this multi-million dollar endeavor, the Genetti ballroom is definitely a more fitting setting.
The parking authority, which has unfortunately gone unnoticed until now, has already approved $83,000 in payments since December to the Philadelphia law firm of Fox Rothschild.
We dont know what they did because we havent seen those bills.
The only bill the parking authority did release to our local newspapers was J.J. Murphys March 19th Timesheet, listing 27.1 hours of services for $8,130. That bill included $300 for Prep for 6th project meeting and $600 for Prep for 7th project meeting.
Murphy billed city residents $2,100 to attend 6th project meeting at Fox/Rothschild and Finance call, and another $2,100 to attend 7th project meeting @Fox-Conf call with TML, Marie, Bond counsel and RBC on refinancing plans.
Pretty informal time sheet, wouldnt you say, to support an $8,130 bill? We know TML is Leighton. We have to guess who RBC is. The parking authority members apparently dont care. J.J. prepares his own time sheet, presumably on the honor system.
Maybe at Thursdays meeting, the authority will tell us what J.J. charged for preparing and attending meetings 1 through 5, and whether were paying him $300 per hour to travel to and from his brothers law firm in Philadelphia or whether those two meetings actually lasted 7 hours each.
When The Times Leader asked about meetings 1 to 5, J.J. said he didnt have his files handy, so I cant tell you how much was billed. Fox Rothschild attorney Alan Wohlstetter said, Im not going to respond to those specific questions. So there, taxpayers.
Maybe theyll tell us tomorrow, as well as whether meetings 8 or 9 took place and how much they cost us.
- Betty Roccograndi
April 23 2012
From Wilkes-Barre to Harrisburg to Washington, we dutifully send in our taxes, but for what? For a handful of greedy, shameless power-mongers and public servants, to squander?
The Times Leader asked this month to see the contract between the Wilkes-Barre City Parking Authority and Philadelphia law firm Fox Rothschild and was told its request would be reviewed. This contract was signed in December.
We can see why the authority paused. As though paying a politically-connected consultant $300 per hour wasnt enough of an affront, the contract revealed that once the plan to lease the citys parking assets moves to phase two, J.J. Murphys hourly rate will leap to $400 an hour. Fox Rothschilds, where his brother is a partner, will rise from $400 to $500 per hour.
When J.J. phones his brothers law firm, our bill will climb from $700 to $900 per hour.
The parking authority has already spent $83,000 of the publics money to pursue this multi-million dollar take-over of the citys parking garages and meters, but that will be a drop in the bucket when all is said and done.
If J.J. decides to put in a 40-hour work week, including calls to his neighbor and buddy, Mayor Tom M. Leighton, or TML, as he lists him on his time sheet, he could bill city taxpayers $16,000 a week. Are you okay with that, taxpayers?
Maybe J.J. Murphy has decided to take advantage of this too-good-to-be-true deal, as did General Services Administration Commissioner Jeff Neely. Neely arranged an $822,000 convention in Las Vegas in 2010, which a U.S. Congressional committee is now investigating, and he said this: Why not enjoy it while we have it.
This despicable government official was photographed sitting in a hot tub with two glasses of red wine within reach. Hes enjoying it all right at our expense and with no shame.
The spineless Neely took the fifth when members of Congress questioned his involvement in this wholesale squandering of taxpayers dollars.
And as though that was not already enough to make taxpayers sick to their stomachs the week they sent their tax bills to Uncle Sam, we learned that Neely extended a one-hour ribbon cutting ceremony in Hawaii into a nine-day vacation and organized a four-day trip to Napa Valley in Northern California, racking up a tab of more than $40,000, USA Today reported.
Why not enjoy it while we have it.
President Barack Obama attends a summit meeting in Columbia and tells that countrys president that part of his job when he attends official meetings is to scout out vacation spots in which to return with his jet-setting wife, Michelle, as though she needs any help. Since December, she vacationed in Hawaii, Aspen and Las Vegas.
Then theres Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who made 27 trips to his home in Carmel Valley at an astounding cost of $32,000 per round trip, or a total of $860,00 since his appointment last July, the Associated Press reported. Panetta reimbursed the government $17,000 of that cost. But Panetta felt bad, saying, I regret that, you know, that it does add costs that the taxpayer has to pick up. But in his defense, Panetta said its important just to get your mind straight and your perspective straight.
So back to our own little neck of the woods, where the Wilkes-Barre City Parking Authority, with Mayor Tom Leightons blessing, has the sheer audacity to approve paying a former city administrator $300 an hour to prepare for meetings and chat on the phone with TML.
Remember the movie, Network? In it, anchor Howard Beale, pushed to the edge, had a meltdown on the air and shouted, Were mad as hell, and were not going to take it any more.
From the GSA to Washington DC to Wilkes-Barre City Hall and the Parking Authority, taxpayers should be shouting the same thing.
Or as U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Pennsylvania Republican, recently put it: Its so easy to spend someones money, especially when youre not held accountable. I think its absolutely ridiculous that the American people have to sit back and watch this.
Yes, it is easy to spend other peoples money, isnt it?
The reason that these government leeches dont think twice about convening a meeting in Las Vegas or paying a consultant $300 an hour is because its NOT their money.
Why not enjoy it while we have it, says the shameless GSA honcho who lived it up on the publics dime.
Do you think for one minute that Leon Panetta would fly home as often just to get (his) mind straight at $32,000 per round trip if it was coming out of his own pocket?
Do you think for one minute that Tom Leighton or Parking Authority Chairman Paul Maher would ever pay J.J. Murphy between $300 to $400 an hour if they were the ones paying that bill?
Yeah, were mad as hell, but were also powerless, that is, unless we band together and demand that it stop.
Considering that only half the country pays income taxes, wouldnt it be nice if all of us who do, simply refused to send another dime of our hard-money to our local, state and federal governments until they stopped squandering it and spitting in our faces as they do.
- Betty Roccograndi
Did you know that were getting J.J. Murphy at a bargain price? It turns out that his normal consulting fee is $400 an hour, but, for now, hes only charging city taxpayers $300. We didnt really know that before because like J.J. likes to say, You didnt ask, but then The Times Leader did ask to see the contract the city Parking Authority signed in December with Philadelphia law firm, Fox Rothschild, and we learned that J.J. and his brothers law firm are only charging 75-percent of their normal rates to pursue a multi-million dollar lease for Wilkes-Barre Citys parking assets.
Their discounted rates are $300 per hour for J.J. and $400 per hour for his brother Patricks law firm. When the lease plan shifts into high gear, J.J.s rate will as well, to $400 per hour, or by 33-percent. It seems J.J. has found himsef a golden goose since leaving City Hall to help his brother in his quest for state Attorney General.
As for Fox Rothschild, its rates will jump from $400 per hour to $500 per hour, the TL reported, or by 25-percent. If J.J. calls the Philadelphia law firm to talk shop, Wilkes-Barre will ultimately be billed $900 an hour, and that doesnt include billings from the other consultants helping Mayor Tom Leighton with his plan to privatize the citys valuable parking assets.
But fear not, city taxpayers, J.J. and Fox Rothschild attorney, Alan Wohlstetter are both pretty quick talkers, Wohlstetter told TL Staff Writer Bill OBoyle. Some might argue, smooth talkers. Wohlstetter, whose firm has been paid $83,000 so far, refused to say how much J.J. Murphy has been paid to date. And J.J. cant remember. Hes probably still giddy over landing this lucrative gig. The only bill the parking authority has made public is Murphys $8,130 Timesheet for 27 hours of services. It must be nice to compile your own timesheet, submit it and get paid, no questions asked. That first bill included prep for project meetings 6 and 7. So sometime before Feb. 21, there were meetings 1 to 5. Murphy confirmed there were.
I dont have my file with me, so I cant tell you how much was billed, smooth-talking J.J. told OBoyle. Times Leader, please find another photo of this guy. As we read these arrogant answers next to his smiling face, he looks like the cat who swallowed the canary, and, frankly, its pretty galling. So now were, in part, at the mercy of the city Parking Authority, which we suspect will pay whatever bills land on its desk. Long time political operative Paul Maher is the chairman of the authority and is the one who signed the deal with Fox Rothschild, of Philly, which, in turn, hired J.J. Philadelphia is, after all, the city of brotherly love.
And, lets not forget the warning from Richard Little, director of the Keston Institute of Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the University of Southern California: These deals are rarely done under the bright light of public scrutiny. Often the facts come out long after the deal is done. I earlier referenced Mr. Littles comments, which were posted in Urbanophile, a blog by urban affairs analyst Aaron M. Renn.
In other words, the powers that be will tell us of any new developments in this multi-million dollar endeavor when theyre good and ready. So lets see. Last winter TML and J.J. hatched the plan to lease the citys parking garages and meters. We just learned of it this month. The city parking authority has already paid Fox Rothschild $83,000. We just learned of it this month.
At $300 per hour, J.J. Murphy has been paid $8,130 for 27 hours of services, from Feb. 21 to March 15. We just learned of it this month. His brothers law firm will not disclose any other $300-per-hour bills hes submitted.
Im not going to respond to those specific questions, said the city Parking Authoritys Philadelphia attorney.
I cant tell you how much was billed, said J.J. Murphy.
Often the facts come out long after the deal is done, said Richard Little.
Chilling words, that are playing out, or more accurately, leaching out.
- Betty Roccograndi
April 17 2012 Wilkes-Barre Would Be Wise To Look Before It Leaps.
Wilkes-Barre City Mayor Tom Leighton is pretty excited about leasing the citys parking garages and meters to a private vendor for the next 30 to 50 years. The vendor would pay the city a minimum $20 million up front and assume a $7 million city debt.
Who wouldnt love to get their hands on that kind of money to re-invest in the city? Leighton and the city council; however, might want to talk to Aaron M. Renn before it takes the plunge. Renn is a leading urban affairs analyst, entrepreneur, speaker and writer on a mission to help Americas cities thrive in the 21st century, according to his blog, Urbanophile. A concerned city resident sent me a link to his site as well as other pertinent information regarding the mayors grandiose plan.
In a September 7, 2010 post, Renn wrote that the parking meter lease Indianapolis signed with ACS is so bad and so one-sided, it almost defies comprehension. City officials are citing that lease as a guiding light for Wilkes-Barre. Renn also noted that Indianapolis has claimed it will receive $400 million over the term of the lease, but that according to The Indianapolis Business Journal, the vendor will take in between $724 million and $1.2 billion. The first and most fundamental question is why the city needs to pay a third-party vendor so much for something as basic as running a parking meter system? Renn asked back in 2010. How about that, Parking Authority? Isnt that your job? Apparently there is big money to be made from leasing a citys parking assets. Now, were wondering, as tempting as $20 million is, will Wilkes-Barre be shortchanged in the long run?
IndyStar.com had reported that about one-third of the $20 million up front payment for the Indianapolis deal went to advisers during negotiations, auditors, transition expenses and parking enforcement by Indianapolis police. One third? Thats $6.66 million. So, who may benefit here if such a deal goes through? One firm we know of is Fox Rothschild, of Philadelphia, which is providing the city parking authority legal representation and will help with the bidding process. Another beneficiary is former city administrator, J.J. Murphy, who - by sheer coincidence - landed himself a $300 per hour position after he recommended brother Patricks law firm, Fox Rothschild, for the city job. Who knew there was a pot of gold waiting for J.J. after he left his City Hall job two years ago?
Both Fox and J.J. were on the city dole months before the city council even voted to pursue this plan. J.J. Murphy has already billed the city Parking Authority $8,130 for 27 hours of services, including preparing for a 6th and 7th project meeting. Who prepared for meetings 1 to 5? The Parking Authority only released one Timesheet from J.J. But, according to published reports, Leighton and J.J. hatched this plan last winter. So who, we wonder, got paid to prepare for meetings 1 to 5? Someone must have. You dont just hop to project meetings 6 and 7. Up until now, no one paid much attention to the city Parking Authority. It is time to start. Theres way too much money involved here, including an allocated $175,000 to study whether leasing the citys parking assets would be in the citys best interest. However, authority member Ed Katarsky complained that that figure could be $300k.
IndyStar.com also reported that Democrats on the city council were leery of leasing their parking meters to a private vendor but that the Republican mayor had the support to push it through. Wilkes-Barre is a different story. The council and the mayor always seem to be on the same page, depriving residents of any meaningful debate on major issues. And Katarsky candidly told The Citizens Voice that Leighton pressured the authority to hire J.J. Murphys brothers Philadelphia law firm. After all, that firm has scratched Leightons back in the past with campaign contributions. Aaron Renn, the urban analyst, also quoted in his blog an observation from Richard Little, director of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the University of Southern California. We should be alarmed. Little said, These deals are rarely done under the bright light of public scrutiny. Often the facts come out long after the deal is done. Weve already gotten a taste of that here. The city council only last week voted to explore this plan, yet $83,000 has already been spent pursuing it, The Times Leader reported.
Hopefully, Mayor Leighton is simply acting in the best interests of the city, but we have good reason to be a little wary. For years he kept secret a $1 million gift from an un-named benefactor and took credit for finding the money to buy new fire engines. And he had installed, on the sly, costly security alarm systems at his home and at Murphys. So pay close attention to this parking plan because it would affect city taxpayers for possibly the next 30 to 50 years. Some will reap the benefits a lot sooner. We need to know who they are and how much theyre being paid. Luzerne Countys behind-the-scenes, public be damned, 20-year, $58-million lease for a privately-owned juvenile detention center comes disturbingly to mind. - Betty Roccograndi
April 15 2012 Hey, TML (Leighton), Its J.J. Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick
Are taxed- to-death Wilkes-Barre City residents really going to stand for this? Now, every time J.J. Murphy picks up the phone to talk to TML (Mayor Tom M. Leighton, for you outsiders) about parking meters, he will bill the city $300 per hour.
Murphy, the citys former administrator, has found himself a cash cow in the planned leasing of the citys parking assets and has already been milking it for all its worth.
In addition to paying Murphy $300 an hour, the city Parking Authority is paying a nationally-known parking consultant, Desman Associates of Chicago, $5,000 for an initial 20 hours of consulting services, The Times Leader reported. But if you think thats a bargain after learning that J.J., who is not a nationally-known parking expert, just turned in a bill for $8,130 for 27 hours of work, think again. Desman wanted a $75,000 retainer and will likely get it sooner rather than later.
Interesting, isnt it, that a nationally-known parking consultant is initially working for $250 per hour while J.J. Murphy, whos neither nationally-known nor a parking expert, is being paid $300. But thats how things go when you recommend your brothers Philadelphia law firm for a big city contract and then your brothers law firm returns the favor and puts you back on the city dole at $300 an hour.
Patrick Murphy, who is running for state Attorney General, found it amusing when he appeared Friday on Steve Corbetts radio talk show to address the controversy over his law firm hiring his brother to join the parking lease planning team. Oh, that. Yuk, yuk, yuk. Im not involved, he said, and agreed with brother J.J. that this is a sheer coincidence. Hee, Hee, Hee. Both apparently also agree that the rest of us are saps.
To date, the Parking Authority has spent $83,000 pursuing a plan to lease the citys parking assets, the TL reported Saturday. And that was before the city council even voted to pursue this endeavor, which was only late last week. God help taxpayers from here on out.
And dont count on the lackeys on that parking authority to carefully oversee city funds. Theyll just do what theyre told if member Ed Katarsky is any indication, and hes the only one The Times Leader was able to reach for comment.
We put the cart before the horse, I guess, Katarsky said, responding to escalating and multiple consulting fees. Ah, shucks. Regarding the liklihood that an original $175,000 estimate to pursue a parking lot lease may leap to $300,000, Katarsky said, And just for a damn study.
How much do you want to bet the Parking Authority did not set any caps on legal and consulting fees? The skys the limit, taxpayers. Just wait and see what happens if the city ever gets its hands on the $20 million minimum it will demand up front from any private vendor willing to lease the citys parking garages and meters for the next 30 to 50 years.
And the best quote and most telling of all last week?
When TL Staff Writer Bill OBoyle asked J.J. why he didnt disclose that he was a consultant on this project when he discussed it last week, smooth-talking J.J. said, You didnt ask. Okay, J.J., maybe you could tell the taxpayers of Wilkes-Barre why they should pay you $300 an hour every time you talk shop with your buddy TML, or for prep for a meeting, or for moving things forward, (whatever that entails), or for phoning your brothers law firm in Philly - at which time the clock starts ticking on both ends. Considering you are not a nationally-known parking consultant, wed sure love to hear what makes you worth $300 an hour. - Betty Roccograndi
April 13, 2012 J.J.Murphy Takes Us For Fools
The mother of coincidences.
J.J. Murphy, in need of work since leaving Wilke-Barre City Hall two years ago, and his former boss, city Mayor Tom Leighton, had a brainstorm. So last winter, the two had a chat about possibly leasing the citys parking garages and meters to a private vendor. Theres a lot of money to be made here, and, apparently, J.J., who was getting a brand new consulting business off the ground, thought he could be of service.
The best part is that J.J. just happened to know of a Philadelphia law firm which was perfect for helping the city generate bids.
No, actually, the best part was that it was a total coincidence that J.J.s brother was a partner in that law firm.
Its an absolute coincidence, is what J.J. shamelessly told The Citizens Voice.
But this gets better. The Philadelphia law firm, Fox Rothschild, just happened to know a consultant who would be perfect for this planned venture. Youll never guess in a million years who that was. Why it was J.J. What another absolute coincidence.
So Patrick Murphys Philadelphia law firm lands a contract with the city and, surprise, J.J. lands a $300-per-hour gig a princely sum by anyones standards. So considering that most lawyers dont get paid $300 per hour, we can only imagine how much the city is paying the law firm of J.J.s brother, who is running for Pennsylvania Attorney General.
This entire deal is abhorrent. The citys former administrator is taking taxpayers for a ride, with Mayor Tom Leightons blessing.
This wasnt hidden, Leighton said. J.J.s been gone for two years, he said. This was about as not hidden as those two security alarm systems that were installed years ago in the homes of Leighton and Murphy at a cost of around $15,000 of taxpayers money. Murphy had argued that the alarm systems were warranted because his family had been threatened. That did not explain; however, why that purchase was not made public until The Citizens Voice exposed it.
Mayor Tom Leighton has some explaining to do. The city is tens of millions of dollars in debt, and he has no problem with a city authority paying a consultant $300 an hour and an undoubtedly high-priced law firm much more to pursue his plan to lease the citys parking assets for a minimum $20 million in up front cash? Everybodys probably going to bed at night with visions of that $20 million dancing in their heads, and how they can get a piece of the pie. The plan is only in the preliminary stages, and J.J. Murphy and his brothers law firm are already getting a cut of the action. Of course, in a familiar refrain, Leighton said he didnt hire Fox Rothschild; the parking authority did. And J.J. being hired isnt that unusual because the city hires former public works employees to mow the lawn. At $300 per hour?
Parking Authority board member Ed Katarsky told the CV that Leighton pressured the board to hire Patrick Murphys law firm. And we just kind of gave in. Well isnt that nice to know. Will the board also cave in if those consulting fees actually do approach $300,000 to pursue a lease? Katarsky said the parking authority expected consulting fees to be around $175,000 but that there are concerns they could amount to $300,000. Why should anyone be concerned?
Just because J.J. Murphy has already billed the authority $8,130 for 27.1 hours of work, according to the Citizens Voice? At that rate, someone needs to check on whether hes billing the authority to prepare his bills and deliver them, like Attorney Angela Stevens did to the county.
Theyre hiring all these consultants, Katarsky said. We knew they had the right to do it, but its kind of getting out of hand here a little bit. A little bit? This is pathetic. If its getting a little bit out of hand - and paying one consultant $300 an hour is a lot more than a little bit out of hand - put your foot down, parking authority. But like most authorities, others pull the strings and authority members are no match for the lawyers, engineers, mayors, commissioners and others who dictate what they do.
This wasnt hidden? Its an absolute coincidence?
Theres a new taxpayers group in town. Its members would be wise to attend every parking authority meeting and to scrutinize its every move regarding this plan to lease the citys parking garages and meters. They might want to begin by checking each and every bill this authority approves for consulting and legal services.
- Betty Roccograndi
Apr 11 2012 WOW! $20 Million. Just Like That!
Could it be that Wilkes-Barre City Mayor Tom Leighton just purchased a new pair of rose-colored glasses?
Leighton has unveiled a plan to lease the citys parking garages and meters for a minimum bid of $20 million.
The successful bidder must pay the money up front for a 30-year lease. We can see the stampede of interested bidders making their way to City Hall as we speak.
And guess whos helping the city generate the proposed bids? The Philadelphia law firm of Patrick Murphy, brother of former city administrator J.J. Murphy. What a coincidence. The mayor had nothing to do with this, city Administrative Coordinator Drew Mc-Laugh lin assured The Citizens Voice. The city parking authority, and not Leighton, made the decision to hire Fox Rothschild, he said.
Why does that have a familiar ring? Oh, right, last summer, Leighton had nothing to do with hiring his kids. It was former city human resources director Christine Jensen who recommended them, and the mayor simply signed the executive order putting them on the city payroll.
The reason the city chose Patrick Murphys Philadelphia law firm to help the city realize a sizeable windfall is because it hired that firm before, Mc Laugh- lin said. Hmmm. When J.J. was city administrator? If so, were guessing he had nothing to do with it.
Wed love to know why a Philadelphia law firm is representing a Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority in the first place, how long its been doing so and how much its been paid to date. Who knew there was a shortage of lawyers in Wilkes-Barre?
Patrick Murphy, a partner in that firm, according to our local newspapers, is running for state Attorney General and has the support of President Barack Obama strategist David Axelrod. After leaving City Hall, J.J. Murphy started his own consulting firm. Dont get us wrong. A $20 million infusion of cash to Wilkes-Barre would be just what the doctor ordered. It could use some of it to tear down the dilapidated Hotel Sterling, a building it condemned but expects the county to demolish. And city residents and businesses could maybe get some tax relief.
The only problem is how many businesses or wealthy individuals would actually be willing to pay $20 million up front to lease the citys parking garages and meters for 30 years, especially when the city last year took in $967,618 in parking fees, and thats revenue, not net profit?
But Mayor Leighton is a believer so well just have to trust his instincts on this one.
We believe that this lease provides the city an opportunity to inject a significant amount of funding into vital city initiatives, Mayor Leighton said. Which begs the question, what lease? The one hes dreaming about?
We all know the old adage, be careful what you wish for.
In addition to agreeing to pay a minimum bid of $20 million, the successful bidder would also have to agree to assume the citys $7 million debt on the citys parking garages, The Times Leader also reported. Now, who wouldnt agree to do that?
Do we hear $20 million? $30 million?
This proposed deal sounds almost too good to be true, and you know what they say about such deals.
- Betty Roccograndi