Thursday, April 23, 2009

State probing Hazleton for its resale of untaxed gas- Who's Probing The Reporting?

There was a movie which starred Paul Newman and Sally Field called "Absence of Malice". It was great drama depicting corruption in the Justice Department intending, on the surface, to solve a crime, but, beneath the waters, to further political careers.

James Wells (played by actor Wilford Brimley) had some great lines that made the famous quote section. "Now we'll talk all day if you want to. But, come sundown, there's gonna be two things true that ain't true now. One is that the United States Department of Justice is goin' to know what in the good Christ - e'scuse me, Angie - is goin' on around here. And the other's I'm gonna have somebody's ass in muh briefcase."

The New York Times published a movie review by Janet Maslin. Here are some excerpts from that article. "Its heroine, Megan Carter, violates so many basic rules of journalism—from neglecting to check her story to sleeping with the man it is about—that it becomes impossible to view her behavior as representative. And yet, through Megan, the movie is able to raise a number of questions about reportorial tactics and the difference between what is accurate and what is true."

Megan (Sally Field) erroneously reports that Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman), a Florida liquor wholesaler whose father was a gangster, is implicated in the disappearance of a local labor leader. She has been tricked into doing this by a too-eager Government investigator (Bob Balaban) who knows that Gallagher is innocent but would like to pressure him into naming names.

So what does that movie have to do with the headline? Steve Mocarsky wrote an article in the Times Leader yesterday without fully checking the facts, misreporting the facts he did have, adding flare to the description of his source, and overall violation of the basic rules of journalism.

He reports that the Department of Revenue is "investigating" the City of Hazleton "sale of untaxed gasoline and diesel fuel to for-profit companies". That fact is almost true. There is no investigation. The Department asked for information from the City which fully cooperated in providing that information to help the Department determine whether a practice that has been ongoing since at least 1999 was according to its rules. Had Mocarsky checked the facts he would have realized this practice by the City of Hazleton was occurring way before Lou Barletta took office.

In 1999 under former Mayor Michael Marsicano the City of Hazleton was supplying Operation Overcome, a non-profit, with fuel from its purchasing contract without collecting any taxes owed on the sale. The Administrator for the City allowed the non-profit to purchase the fuel. The Admininstrator was not the same person who is administrator under Lou Barletta's terms as Mayor.

As part of a continuing practice the Hazleton Community Ambulance Association was allowed to purchase fuel under the City of Hazleton's fuel agreement during Barletta's administration. The ambulance association lost the right to be first responder under the Barletta administration. Members of the association were not happy with the Mayor, opposed him at election time, yet the City allowed the sale of fuel to continue as before. That fact should dispell any notion that the sale of fuel was based on political considerations although Mr. Mocarsky wants his readers to believe it was.

He describes his source this way. "City watchdog Dee Deakos said she believes the two private companies received an unfair advantage over their competitors." Dee Deakos ran against Lou Barletta for Mayor and garnered a whooping 84 votes. Folks, it takes a hundred signatures to get on the ballot.

A more correct description of Dee Deakos might be "political operative", "political opponent", or "political detractor" but certainly not a watchdog. Dee, are you violating Hazleton law by renting to a church in a zoning district that does not permit that type of rental? Dee, did you allow political signs in the last election to be posted in front of your Broad Street property in violation of a Hazleton Ordinance? Mocarsky why don't you check those situations out? Some watchdog, political opportunist is more like it or political pendejo.

In response to charges by Dee Deakos that political contributions were the motive for the fuel purchase Dr. William Pavlick, current president of APTS, said that if Deakos “bothered to get her facts straight,” she would have found that APTS was first responder for basic and advanced life support “long before we bought the company.” He issued a written statement stressing that APTS will no longer buy fuel from the city. Mocarsky, why did you print her comment when it was plain wrong? It gives a slant to the article that is totally inaccurate.

In another inaccurate statement Deakos said former city administrator Sam Monticello “should have known it was illegal.” Go back to my paragraph where I describe the Administrator before Monticello who started the practice. Why would Monticello question it when there seemed to be no problem for a previous administration?

Mascaro was the only bidder for the 2008-2012 contract. The city received a letter from competitor Waste Management of Pennsylvania declining to bid for the contract. Mocarsky, did you ever see the scope of the Hazleton contract? Do you know that its size prevents many companies from bidding because they do not have the bond capacity or the manpower to meet the terms of the contract? Did you bother to see if Mascaro donated to Barletta? Here, I did it for you. Why slant the story otherwise??

Deakos said the companies were “cheating the state” and “cheating us because we get part of the gasoline tax for highway aid. When it’s not collected, there’s less money for pothole repairs,” Deakos said. Since the investigation has not concluded and no determination has been made how does Deakos know her statement that the companies CHEATED is true? Mocarsky how can you print such a statement that is not factual? Are you innocent until proven guilty in this country or does that rule not apply to Republicans?

Luzerne County Commissioner Steve Urban said the county was also “being short-changed” because the county receives liquid fuels money from the state based partly on fuel sales. Both companies have agreed to pay any monies owed plus penalties. In the end no one is going to be short-changed or cheated.

Finally, Mr. Mocarsky answer these questions? If you purchase an item out of the state of Pennsylvania and fail to pay the sales tax due is it up to the retailer to collect the sales tax due or do you have to voluntarily submit the tax to the state? Have you ever heard of the Use Tax Volutnary Program or the Voluntary Disclosure Program? Some of the laziest reporting I ever saw, slanted for a political purpose is my opinion.

1 comment:

Dee said...

I would like to know what laws I am breaking and would like to have you be MAN ENOUGH to deal with me personally rather than an unknown name. PS Check your facts!!!!!

Dee Deakos