Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Senator Mellow How About A Mini-Stimulus

Some people fly under the radar. Let's take a look at who donated to Senator Mellow in 2008. According to the state's webstie there were 878 donors. I believe there are 12 million people in Pennsylvania.

If you want to see how much political committees gave take a look at these that made the over $250.00 list.

Cycle 1 with 12 donors for $22,200.00

Cycle 2 with 1 donor for $280.00

Cycle 3 with 7 donors-$10,500.00

Cycle 4 with 60 donors-$48,525.00

Cycle 5 with 28 donors-$43,350.00

Cycle 6 with 15 donors-$36,250.00

Cycle 7 with 15 donors-$36,250.00

I chose Senator Mellow because the Blue Cross board he sits on has a sizable surplus of money. Acoording to Michelle Davidson, Blue Cross of NEPA spokesperson, this Blue is sitting on a $370 million dollar surplus. The state is sitting on $436 million of casino money earmarked for property tax reduction. And Obama said Congress needed to pass an economic stimulus. I found almost $800 million just by surfing the net.

Ciavarella Displays Judicial Chutzpah

In what I would describe is judicial chutzpah Mark Ciavarella has filed a motion seeking dismissal of at least one federal lawsuit filed against him by juveniles who seek compensation for allegedly being unjustly sent to a juvenile detention center. The story is featured on the late edition of the Times Leader.com

Ciavarella cites case law that says judges are not liable for civil actions for judicial acts, even when such acts exceeded their jurisdiction or were alleged to have been done "maliciously and corruptly."

His demeanor on 20/20 appeared arrogant to most viewers including this one. The Hebrew word would be "khatsuf". To openly admit that he could be corrupt and not be sued for his actions offends the descent conscience of any man or woman. You can read Ciavarella's Motion to Dimiss by clicking here. To deny these children from being made whole is reprehensible.

Ciavarella cites this case from 1871 as prescedent for his position.-Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 335 335 (1871)

On a related note a caller to Steve Corbett this evening stated that Luzerne County has $2 million in liability coverage with a $50,000.00 deductible. If Luzerne County lost in a lawsuit and the damages exceed $2 million the county would have to float a bond to make the payment according to information the caller received from Luzerne County Commissioner Steve Urban.

We Could Be On The Hook For $7 Trillion

Obamamessiah, have you been listening to your underlings. The Treasury Department has not resolved its problem with giving and getting an accounting relative to the TARP funds. According to ABCNews.com

"Our concern right now is that we do not seem to be a priority for the Treasury Department," the Congressional Oversight Panel's Elizabeth Warren told a Senate Finance Committee hearing today. "We have sent letters. We have requested that there be someone named so that we can get technical information. And so far, we have not been a first priority."

"I'm talking about accountability in a very real sense of this word," she said later. "As I see it, you really have two options here. Either you get Treasury to get some religion on this point -- and put their own standards in place, or Congress is forced to step in. We will do everything we can on your behalf, as your congressional oversight panel, but what we can best do for you now is to identify and pinpoint that this is precisely where the problem starts. And then the problem has roll down effects all the way through the system of lack of accountability, complexity that no one can figure out what's going on, so that we never identify the place where we need to start the solution."

Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief ProgramB also expressed concerns because his office now has to monitor nearly $3 trillion.

"$2.9 trillion is just short of what the entire federal government spent in fiscal year 2008," noted committee chairman Max Baucus. "It's like having a second United States government budget dedicated solely to saving the financial system, and that is truly surreal."

Baucus cautioned that this number could skyrocket to $7 trillion when other measures are added, such as $3 trillion in Federal Reserve programs, Treasury's $400 billion support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the administration's budget request for a placeholder worth up to $750 billion.

"If all these additional amounts materialize, taxpayers could be on the hook for a total of more than $7 trillion," Baucus said. "This is a huge, unprecedented financial commitment. It strains the comprehension of taxpayers and policy-makers alike."

Former Luzerne County Prison Board Members Were Listed As Full Time Employees In Error

Luzerne County Solicitor Vito DeLucca conducted an investigation into the insurance questions over former Luzerne County Prison Board Members Wister Yuhas and Robert Payne. He found that their applications had them listed as full time employees when in fact they were not thus did not qualify for the insurance. They recieved the benefits since 2005.

DeLuca found the misportrayal as part of his investigation into why former board members Wister Yuhas and Robert Payne received the insurance since 2005. Board members who aren’t full-time employees do not qualify for county health insurance.

DeLuca said he will question the board members and former benefits coordinator A.J. Martinelli to determine who completed that portion of the application.

He plans to finish his investigation within a few days and wants to release it to the public, though he must check to make sure it does not contain confidential information.

Martinelli, who is now county acting controller, said he does not remember the specifics of those applications because they date back four years. He said he will cooperate with DeLuca’s investigation.

Yuhas said he does not believe he filled out the full-time box. He said he was in the process of contacting DeLuca to set up an appointment to discuss the matter. Payne could not be reached for comment Monday.

Read the entire story by Jennifer Learn-Andes in today's Times Leader.

Luzerne County And Probation Official Added As Defendents In One Juvenile Lawsuit

Luzerne County and another former probation department official had their names added as defendants in one of three lawsuits filed in connection with the juvenile rights violations in Luzerne County.

Terry Morgan-Besecker chronicles this latest saga in today's Times Leader.

Attorney Barry Dyller on Monday filed an amended complaint, alleging the county is partly liable because Ciavarella and Conahan were the highest office holders in the county, therefore their decisions constituted county “policy and custom.”

The suit also places part of the blame on the late Michael Loughney, a former chief probation officer, alleging that he and his predecessor, Sandra Brulo, bowed to pressure from the judges and failed to take action to prevent them from violating juveniles’ constitutional rights.

Adding Luzerne County may not work out as well as this attorney sees it. Both judges were employees of the state, not the county. But that is for a court to determine as these cases meander through the legal process.

But county solicitor Vito DeLuca said he believes Dyller is advancing a “novel theory” and the county will have a strong legal basis to seek dismissal from the complaint.

“We had absolutely no supervisory capacity in any shape or form over the judges. We had no right to discipline them and had no right or ability to change policies they instituted,” DeLuca said.

Monday, March 30, 2009

State Office Building Sale- Another Democratic Fiasco

Inquiry launched into State Office Building sale
State auditor general claims taxpayers being 'ripped off'
Thursday, March 26, 2009
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The end of the article pretty much says it all.

Despite Mr. Wagner's complaints about a fire sale, Mr. Piatt said Millcraft is paying $100,000 more for the building than another developer, the Buncher Co., offered last year when the economy was still good. Buncher pulled out of the deal earlier this year.

Mr. Piatt and his father, Millcraft Chairman Jack Piatt, have contributed $221,000 to the campaigns of Gov. Ed Rendell since 2002. But Lucas Piatt and state officials insisted the contributions had nothing to do with the sale, saying it was the result of a competitive bidding process.

"There's never a quid pro quo, you scratch my back, we'll scratch yours," Lucas Piatt said. "To even assume we're a pay-to-play type company is asinine in my mind."

The State Office Building has an assessed value of $14.9 million but Mr. Creedon argued the market itself dictated the $4.6 million selling price through the state's competitive process.

Reminds me of the Security Savings/KNBT mess down in Hazleton with the Luzerne County Commissioners Skrep and Vonderheid.

DeWeese, Stilip, States Ethics Commission and Freedom of Speech

This story by Eric Heyl of the Tribune-Review is quite astounding. Can anyone explain what the State Ethics Commission really does? Is it really effective when it is appointed by the people it is supposed to oversee?

President Judge Muroski Asks That Ciavarella's Seat Be Placed on May Ballot

The Times Leader is reporting that President Judge Chester Muroski has asked Governor Ed Rendell to take whatever steps are necessary to place former Judge Mark Ciavarella's seat on the May ballot.

In a letter to Rendell dated Friday, Muroski says the county court system faces a "tremendous challenge" in staying current with cases given the Supreme Court's ruling last week that prevents former judge Ann Lokuta's seat from being placed on the ballot pending resolution of her appeal of the ruling that removed her from office. That decision means the 17 candidates who filed for judge are vying for two, instead of three seats.

Luzerne County Juvenile Cases and 20/20

If you are looking for the ABC News 20/20 show on the juveniles case in Luzerne County here's the story and here is the links for Part 1 and Part 2 of the TV segment. Mark Ciavarella's attorney must be cringing in a corner. Steve Corbett is featured in the second segment. Marsha Levick calls the entire debacle a situation of silence. Judge Grimm gives a very grim appraisal.

John Murtha Summary

PMA- More here

Murtha doesn't apologize I wonder if he borrowed that phrase from Paul Kanjorski.

Where's Our Property Tax Relief Mr. Eachus?

According to Brad Bumsted over at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review House Majority Leader Todd Eachus raised the question on whether AG Corbett should resign if he decides about a run for governor.

In remarks during a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon, Eachus questioned whether Pennsylvania taxpayers could get their money's worth if Corbett faced the demands of a statewide campaign for governor.

A Classic Game of Wag The Dog. Let's hit back with a little sarcasim. So Todd, how much are the taxpayers getting for their money over the actions that led to Bonusgate? How much do they get every time you send a mailer to your district? How much did they get when you paid off Mike Veon's campaign debt? How much did they get when the taxpayers financed some of the promotional material for the proposed Cargo Airport outside of Hazleton?

How much property tax relief did they get with the casino money? I'll answer the last one. Zip, nadda, nothing. The account had a balance of $456 million as of March 16, according to the Governor's Office of the Budget. Under state law, the fund must contain at least $570 million for the state to distribute money to reduce homeowners' property taxes. Yet, how much money was distributed to municipalities before property owners??? As of February almost $170 million went to the municipalities according to Mary Collins speaking at the PA Gaming Congress. Why didn't municipalities have to wait but almost 3 times as much money is sitting for distribution to taxpayers and the average Joe has to wait??

How much money did they get in the Beavers for Initiative For Growth with Mike Veon? Let's read what Brad Bumsted at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had to say about that.

Attorney General Tom Corbett apparently didn't want to politicize the grand jury presentment against a corrupt Beaver County nonprofit by bringing Gov. Ed Rendell directly into it.

But Rendell's shadow loomed large over the waves of state tax money poured into the Beaver Initiative for Growth, or BIG, the alleged criminal enterprise of the Democrats' former House whip, Mike Veon, a go-to guy for Rendell in the General Assembly.

All of BIG's money came from you -- the taxpayers, Corbett said.

BIG was formed by Veon in 1991 but there wasn't much state money flowing. Veon, however, knew he had hit the jackpot when Rendell, a Democrat, was elected in 2002. Roughly $9.9 million of the $10 million in taxpayer money that BIG would eventually receive came between 2003 and 2006.

Veon allegedly told BIG's former executive director, John Gallo, that "since Edward Rendell had just taken office as governor there were going to be millions of dollars coming to BIG." Gallo cooperated with the grand jury.

At a news conference in Pittsburgh last week, Corbett was asked why BIG all of a sudden got an influx of cash. He told reporters they would have to draw their own conclusions.

I'll do the same with regards to why Corbett became Eachus's target.

Legal Mess Fallout From Juvenile Detention Center Debacle

Michael Rubinkam and Mark Scolforo Of The Associated Press write an article featured in the Allentown Morning Call regarding the legal mess that will remain in reviewing the juvenile cases of Luzerne County's court fiasco. Judge Grimm was ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review some 2,500 cases to determine if there is a remedy needed for lack of legal representation when juveniles appeared in the courtroom of former disgraced Judge Mark Ciavarella.

As Rubikam and Scolforo explain that task will not be an easy one.

The judge handling the matter for the state Supreme Court now faces the more daunting task of figuring out how to restore the legal rights of children convicted of serious offenses without endangering the public's safety or creating new problems of restitution or sentencing.

''It's going to be an extraordinarily difficult matter to conclude,'' Berks County Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, appointed to review thousands of cases handled by a disgraced Luzerne County judge dating to 2003, said Friday. ''At this point, I'm not prepared to tell you what the answer will be, because I don't know.''

Restitution plays an important role in Pennsylvania's juvenile courts and will factor into how the court disposes of the Ciavarella cases, said Jim Anderson, executive director of the state Juvenile Court Judges' Commission.

Also, a juvenile offense can raise the minimum sentence that an adult defendant gets in Pennsylvania, so any conclusions about expungement could, in some cases, result in early release of state prison inmates.

''Juvenile adjudication may prevent someone from being hired for certain kinds of jobs, may prevent someone from owning a firearm, all kinds of things,'' Anderson said.

Grim, who is chairman of the Juvenile Court Judges' Commission, said Friday that in some cases, a new trial might be the best solution. But that raises another problem -- Pennsylvania law prevents retrial of anyone who is at least 22 years old as a juvenile.

What cannot be lost in this process are that some of those cases involve juveniles justly sentenced for offenses like car theft, drug dealing, and assault. And more importantly we cannot lose sight of the affected victims of juvenile offenders in this process.

Employee Free Choice Act- Why Is It Unconstitutional

The Employee Free Choice Act of 2009, more commonly known as Card Check, may be organized labor's dream but you will want to read this Opinion from the Wall Stree Journal why it is unconstitutional.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Driving Decline Means Less Money For PA

Pennsylvania is getting less money from the toll increases placed into effect on the Pennsylvania Turnpike due to people driving less. This one statement from the Pocono Record says it all.

Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike went up 25 percent on Jan. 24. But January revenue was up less than 11 percent from the previous January.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Employee Salaries Higher Than Rendell

Take a good look at your paycheck this week. You may wish you worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Tracie Mauriello of the Harrisburg bureau for the Post-Gazette wrote an interesting piece about the salaries of state workers who are paid more than Governor Rendell.

Here are some of the highlights.

At least 96 state employees are paid more than Gov. Ed Rendell, whose salary is $174,435. All together, at least 656 have salaries in excess of $150,000. At least 3,836 are paid more than $100,000 a year.

That's a big bill footed by taxpayers, and government watchdog groups say high salaries should be scrutinized carefully. The state employees' bosses, of course, say they earn every penny.

John C. Cavanaugh, chancellor of the State System of Higher Education, tops the list with a $327,500 salary. That's 7 Â 1/2 times as much as the average Pennsylvanian makes in a year. Still, it's much less than the $558,378 that the state of Georgia pays the chancellor of its university system.

With a salary of $320,000, James Preston, executive director of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, isn't far behind Mr. Cavanaugh.

Stephen M. Curtis, president of the Community College of Philadelphia, comes in third with compensation of $227,584, including a $37,500 housing and car allowance.

Similar research two years ago by The Patriot-News of Harrisburg found that 79 employees were paid more than the governor in 2007, when his pay was $164,396. At that time, 550 were paid more than $150,000, and 3,030 more than $100,000.

In many cases, employees are being paid tens of thousands more than the executives and administrators who supervise them.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

State of The Sleaze Address

The Post-Gazette published an editorial today titled "State of sleaze: Pennsylvania is ground zero for political scandal."

Saturday, March 28, 2009
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

There's no more denying it: Pennsylvania is polluted by corruption.

Mitchell Rubin and Mike Veon are the latest in a rogues' gallery of tarnished state officials. Then there is Vince Fumo, the "Prince of Philadelphia," staring at up to 10 years in prison. And there are the 12 House officials and employees (including Mr. Veon) indicted last July in the bonus pay scandal, with possibly more to come.

There will be more to come if the state's back-scratching, nest-feathering political culture continues and lawmakers see reform only as a fleeting exercise in damage control. In that case, the turnpike should give its signs a little truth in advertising. Welcome to Pennsylvania: Corruption Ahead.

Maybe the Luzerne County Vacation Bureau can work on the same signs. Actually the untouched county is Lacakwanna but I suspect they won't stay off the radar for too long.


In today's Citizens Voice Michael Sisak writes a great piece about the silence out of the Luzerne County DA's Office over the juvenile detention center scam. The only problem I see with his piece is why he and the media did not ask questions sooner.

Take a look at my post from January 26, 2009 titled "DA Jackie Musto Carroll- Lets Ask You A Question". My post asked the questions at the time of the arrests. Here is a repost.

The Juvenile Law Center released a press release on April 28, 2008 that stated "Luzerne County is Worst Violator of Youth Civil Rights- Juvenile Law Center, a Philadelphia-based public interest law firm, filed a petition to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today requesting immediate, emergency relief on behalf of Luzerne County youth who have been the subject of delinquency hearings without counsel since October 1, 2005 when Pennsylvania adopted the Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure."

The Center issued another press release on June 17,2008 titled "JLC Petitions PA Supreme Court for Extraordinary Relief for Hundreds of Youth Tried Without the Benefit of Lawyers". In the body of the release it states "The Luzerne County District Attorney and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) filed briefs on behalf of the Juvenile Court urging the Supreme Court not to take jurisdiction. JLC filed a response."

A second request was placed before the Supreme Court by the Juvenile Law Center in December. DA Musto-Carroll filed a brief against the Juvenile Law Center's efforts.

DA Musto-Carroll's argument to the court contained the following statement "The Petitioners have not shown that the issue is of such immediate public importance that extraordinary jurisdiction is required. Nor have the Petitioners clearly demonstrate that their rights have been violated. In addition the Petitioners allegations regarding other juveniles who may be similarly situated have not shown that such individuals even exist."

Oh really???

On page 14 of the indictment against Ciavarella and Conahan it reads "It was further a part of the scheme and artifice to defraud that, on numerous occassions, accused juvenile offenders were ordered detained by the defendant Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. even when Juvenile Probation Officers did not recommend detention. The defendant Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., at others operating at his behest, also exherted pressure on staff of the Court of Common Pleas to recommend detention of juvenile offenders. On some occassions, probation officers were pressured to change recommendations of release to recommendations of detention.

Tom Corbett, Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania supported the Juvenile Law Center's efforts to secure Supreme Court review. The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare filed a similar brief supporting a Supreme Court review. Yet, DA Musto-Carroll chose otherwise.

In today's press conference DA Musto-Carroll isquoted as saying "I think this is the beginning of the end of the darkest days of our county. We can look at this as a bright spot that things have been turned around and no longer will these sorts of things be tolerated."

Her brief filed in opposition to the Juvenile Law Center demonstrates an acute ignorance of the investigation going on around her. The Supreme Court's refusal to hear children's complaints of massive rights violations in Luzerne County demands public outrage at the arrogance of the court in light of this indictment.

DA Musto-Carroll- Were you not aware of an investigation into PA ChildCare to the extent that you foiled attempts to protect children from long range mental problems over injustice?

From the press release of U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson dated January 26, 2009 at the bottom of page 4- "Mr. Carlson further noted that Luzerne County District Attorney Jackie Carroll worked closely with federal investigators and the United States Attorney's Office in assisting in the investigation." It is hard to comprehend how DA Carroll could write a brief in opposition knowing the facts she must have known given that statement.

Her statments in today's Citizen's Voice article. “Nobody knew the judge was committing any crimes at the time,” Musto Carroll said. “The judge was considered a zero-tolerance, very strict sentencing judge. There was nothing to indicate the judge was doing anything out of the ordinary.”...“We now know what was happening in Judge Ciavarella’s courtroom and our office is committed to seeing that justice is served,” Musto Carroll said.

I asked similar questions on January 27, 2009 of Judge Lupas when he was District Attorney.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Harrisburg And The BackScratchers

This story from the Lebanon Daily News reminded me of one of my favorite groups when I was in college.

One’s list of both political friends and enemies grows with each passing term in office. It’s important to know whose back one should scratch and who one should expect to reciprocate.

There was plenty of back-scratching, along with an exchange of funds, but Pennsylvania’s citizens never enjoyed any benefit from any of it.

A recent opinion piece by G. Terry Madonna and Michael Young wondered whether Pennsylvania was entering into a new era of corruption — a throwback to the bad old days of state politics some three decades ago or so.

With the new stimulus money there is sure to be an epidemic of corruption that no Merck vaccine will be able to prevent. The FBI is already looking for more agents. Currently the FBI is investigating 2,500 pending public corruption cases, an increase of more than 50 percent since 2003, Mueller said.

(What they do!)

(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)

Do you think DeWeese sings that song when he thinks about Eachus???

Senate To Ban Non-Profits For Members And More On Veon

In response to the charges against Vince Fumo as well as some other practices occuring in the Pennsylvania legislature, the Senate plans to ban their members from "from establishing, incorporating or directing the operation of a nonprofit organization or other entity whose primary purpose is to receive state funds."

Jan Murphy of the Patriot News is running the story on Pennlive.com.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, and Sen. Elder Vogel, R- Beaver County, today announced their intention to introduce a new Senate rule that would restrict senators and Senate employees from establishing, incorporating or directing the operation of a nonprofit organization or other entity whose primary purpose is to receive state funds.

The House put a similar rule in place in 2007.

"We must do everything we can to prevent the kind of wrongdoing alleged by the grand jury," Pileggi said. "In light of Wednesday's announcement by the Attorney General, it is clear that a Senate rule should be in place."

"This last election, my constituents voted for the restoration of character and integrity in the halls of our state Capitol," Vogel said. "This new rule will be yet another step forward in changing the culture of Harrisburg."

Pileggi and Vogel said they expect to introduce the measure in early April.

Closing the barn door after the horse has been let out. Speaking of Veon you have to give the guy credit. He has a set of cajoles.

The Post-Gazette and Tom Barnes are reporting that "Veon's lawyer goes on offensive against Corbett."

Veon's attorney, Joel Sansone, labeled Corbett's investigation Partisongate, not Bonusgate.

"We will prove that this indictment is nothing more than a political assassination," said Mr. Sansone, who is replacing defense lawyer Robert Del Greco. Mr. Sansone also is bringing in a criminal lawyer from Phoenix, Ariz., Dan Raynak, as co-counsel.

Mr. Sansone assailed the attorney general's two-year investigation of Mr. Veon and other Democratic House members and staffers, calling it "amateurish," "shoddy" and "politically motivated."

"Mike Veon was tirelessly devoted to the needs of the people of this state," Mr. Sansone said. "He served his district honestly and faithfully. He worked for better employment opportunities, education and health care."

I am particularly found of this quote- But Mr. Sansone said he thinks it's all part of one overall politically motivated investigation. "This week's indictment is nothing new. It's just more headline-grabbing" by Mr. Corbett, he contended.

Hmmm...and Attorney Sansone, what would you call your display of disaffection?

If you want to read the new grand jury presentment related to BIG, the non-rofit click here. If you want to read last year's grand jury presentment click here.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)

ABC News "20/20" Feature Judges On Jailing Kids For Cash Segment

Read the story and watch the video on their webstie. Watch the story on "20/20" tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

BREAKING NEWS:Justices Dispensing A Sign Of Justice

ABCnews.com is reporting that hundreds of juvenile cases in Luzerne County have been overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania's highest court on Thursday overturned hundreds of juvenile convictions issued by a corrupt judge who took millions of dollars in kickbacks from youth detention centers.

The state Supreme Court ruled that former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella violated the constitutional rights of youth offenders who appeared in his courtroom without lawyers between 2003 and 2008.

"Today's order is not intended to be a quick fix," Chief Justice Ronald Castille said in a statement. "It's going to take some time, but the Supreme Court is committed to righting whatever wrong was perpetrated on Luzerne's juveniles and their families."

Previous reports state Berks County Senior Judge Arthur Grim turned over his preliminary findingsin this case. Evidently the court acted on those findings.

More Troubles For The Pennsylvania Legislature

WTAE-TV, Team 4, and Jim Parsons out of Pittsburgh put together an eye opening report on outside income and financial interests. The investigation found that many of our legislators have conflicting roles due to outside income from private sources that appear to conflict with the public's interest.

Pennsylvania's state Legislature continues its string of bad news that started with the midnight pay raise fiasco several years ago.

After that, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency debacle, then the indictments in Bonusgate, and last week, the conviction of Sen. Vince Fumo on corruption charges.

Now, a Team 4 investigation finds many of our full-time legislators in Harrisburg get outside income from private interests -- and sometimes, those interests can conflict with the public's.

Remember, we pay our state lawmakers a minimum of almost $80,000 each to represent us full-time -- but our Team 4 investigation found a majority of lawmakers report income from at least one other source.

And in reading through this annual financial interest statement for each state lawmaker, we also discovered something else: More than one-third of state senators and a quarter of House members sit on legislative committees that oversee the industries from which those same lawmakers reported receiving income, owning stock or serving on a board of directors.

Can you believe there is no law against these practices.

Here are links to the Senate Excel files and the House of Representative Excel files compiling the Statements of Finanacial Interests for the legislative Members.

AG Corbett Getting Ready To Release Corruption Probe Info

Brad Bumsted over at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Reivew writes that an announcement is forthcoming in a corruption investigation unrelated to Bonusgate.

By Brad Bumsted
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An announcement is forthcoming on a corruption investigation involving the state Legislature, Attorney General Tom Corbett said Monday.

"We have something coming up that's imminent, that when people hear it they'll think it's Bonusgate, but it's not," Corbett told KYW/KDKA radio. "That's about the only way I can put it."

He referred to an announcement "within a few days," but didn't provide details. His office refused to comment.

Widespread rumors have been circulating but we will have to stay tuned to see where this information takes us.

Geithner Wants Broad Powers And Independent Regulator

Steve Bartlett must be laughing his butt off. ABCnews.com is reporting that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner wants to create an independent regulator to oversee the financial institutions.

Refer to my post where I recall Barlett's words before Kanjorski's committee in 2003.

Mr. BARTLETT. Mr. Kanjorski, our organization and our companies have been quite concerned about this from a safety and soundness as well as a mission for the last several years. We have communicated that concern. But recently, that concern seems to have been highlighted by a number of factors.

So, yes, sir, I believe there is an urgency that is to the tune of some $3.3 trillion that is either owned or guaranteed by these two agencies that all the testimony that you have heard today bring in some question as to whether they are being properly regulated. So we think they are not being properly regulated. And we believe that with $3.3 trillion, you do not want to wait too long. And now is the time to act.

Kanjo, why did it take this long?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has halted the election to fill former Judge Ann Lokuta's judicial seat on the Luzerne County Court. Joe Holden of the WBRE newsteam broke the news on this evening's newscast.

The Supreme Court also ordered the Court of Judicial Discipline to consider whether it should reopen Lokuta's case. That's because three of the witnesses against her pleaded guilty in an ongoing federal corruption probe at the Luzerne County Courthouse.

Judicial Conduct Board Chief Counsel Joseph Massa previously argued in court documents about her appeals after her removal from the bench. From an article written by Coulter Jones in the Citizens Voice.

“(Lokuta) has consistently claimed there was a conspiracy of individuals to fabricate evidence of misconduct about her,” Massa wrote. “The fact that certain individuals who testified as part of the board’s group of 31 witnesses have been charged with independently committing crimes, or have been found to have financial connections to each other, does not simultaneously support that they conspired to fabricate evidence of judicial misconduct about (Lokuta).”

Massa wrote that Conahan and Ciavarella were only “two witnesses among a total pool of 31 who testified as part of the board’s case,” and their testimony was no more “key” than any of the other witnesses. Massa also disputed that Lokuta’s appeal is any more complicated than other appeals of this nature.

Lokuta had also objected that Richard Sprague, who served as president judge during her trial, didn’t recuse himself even though a potential conflict existed since he had represented Robert J. Powell and other potential witnesses from the Powell Law Group, P.C. According to court documents filed by federal prosecutors last month, Conahan and Ciavarella took $2.6 million in kickbacks from two individuals — Powell is believed to be one — tied to Pennsylvania Child Care LLC, a company whose juvenile detention centers earned nearly $30 million from county contracts.

Massa argued that during Lokuta’s trial, only one witness from the Powell Law Group, Prothonotary Jill Moran, testified and that didn’t necessitate Sprague stepping down.

You can read about Sprague's 225 page Opinion against Lokuta by clicking here.

That relationship wasn't the only one she raised in her defense. Dave Janoski in the Times-Tribune wrote this information in July, 2008.

Judge Lokuta had asked the court, which is considering sanctions against her, to dismiss the charges or reopen the case because of a recently revealed financial relationship between a key prosecution witness, county Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, and the chairman of the state board that filed the charges, and local auto parts executive Patrick Judge Sr.

Mr. Judge and Judge Conahan are co-investors in a local ambulance company and a Florida real-estate firm. Mr. Judge was chairman of the state Judicial Conduct Board when it approved charges against Judge Lokuta in October 2006. Last year, he was named to the seven-member Court of Judicial Discipline, which has two members who are neither judges nor lawyers.

The one-sentence order denying Judge Lokuta’s request did not give a reason for the denial. Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague, one of three members of the Court of Judicial Discipline who presided over Judge Lokuta’s 12-day trial, signed the order. He did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Her fight is not over but I have to give Ann credit. She is staying her course.


According to the Patriot News AG Tom Corbett announced that additional charges have been filed against former PA House Democratic Whip Mike Veon.

Former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon and a staffer were hit with additional theft and conspiracy charges following a long-term investigation into a Beaver County nonprofit Veon established.

At an afternoon news conference, Attorney General Tom Corbett said the investigating grand jury found that Veon had diverted millions of dollars of state money earmarked for the Beaver Initiative for Growth for his own personal and political benefit.

The investigation was spurred by Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports questioning the contracts with consultants and other spending practices of the non profit.

The Associated Press reports Corbett says only 23 percent of the $4.7 million the nonprofit spent over a two-year period went to program expenses.

Veon faces theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest charges. Former Veon staffer Anna Marie Peretta-Rosepink is also charged.

Veon and Peretta-Rosepink already face charges in a separate corruption investigation related to bonuses allegedly paid state workers for campaign work.

Comments left at this link are extremely interesting.

Posted by agmines on 03/25/09 at 1:30PM
Sorry, I read the Grand Jury Findings, it is clear Bill DeWeese was kept out of the loop by Veon's and Eachus's hirings and employees. It was DeWeese investigators that found out about Manzo's inner workings with Veon and Manzo apologized in public that he let DeWeese down the day he was fired by DeWeese. What needs to be looked at now is how Todd Eachus is still working with Mike Veon as Majority Leader! Projects that were Veon's were alos Eachus's on Brownfields, Casino's, and taking camapaign contributions. Attorney Foreman was working for Eachus not Veon at the time of the Indictments. Something is still rotten in the Caucus but it ain't DeWeese.

Here is more on these latest developments at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

It must sound like a herd of buffalo in Harrisburg when the Indians put their ear to the ground.

Robert Mercile Hires High Profile Team In Civils Rights Case

The Citizen's Voice pulbished an article by Dave Janoski reporting that Robert Mericle, developer involved in the construction of PA ChildCare, hired a law firm from Philadelphia with a reputation for international law to represent himself and his company in two civil rights lawsuits.

Mericle’s Plains Township-based company, Mericle Construction Inc., was the source of nearly half of the $2.6 million in kickbacks paid to two Luzerne County judges who helped secure county contracts for juvenile detention centers Mericle built in Pittston Township and Butler County, federal prosecutors allege.

Although he does not face criminal charges, Mericle and his company have much at stake in the civil-rights claims filed by more than 175 former defendants in the county’s juvenile court. The suits seek millions in damages from Mericle, the judges, and other individuals and companies implicated in the federal case on the grounds that the juveniles were wrongly imprisoned and denied legal representation.

Mericle, 46, has retained Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, which has 1,400 lawyers in 22 offices in the United States and abroad and claims to represent more than 50 of the Fortune 100 companies.

This week, four attorneys from the firm asked U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo for permission to represent Mericle and his company in two of three suits. Caputo’s approval is required because the attorneys normally don’t practice in the U.S. Middle District, which includes Luzerne, Lackawanna and 31 other Pennsylvania counties. Caputo has jurisdiction over all three kids-for-cash cases. The third case has not progressed to the point where defense attorneys have filed notice with the court that they have been retained in the case.

Mericle is featured in the $2.6 Million Money Trail graphic authored by Gary Visgaitis of the Times Leader. It is alleged that over $1.15 million was wired transferred through Mericle Construction to the Pinnacle Group LLC linked to Ciavarella and Conahan. Again, he has not been charged with any crime.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP has some interesting analysis of the 2009 Stimulus package on their site.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Judge Michael Toole's Wife Resigns Part Time $47,436 Per Year Job

In what appears to be more fallout from the federal probe into the judiciary of the Luzerne County court system, Donna Toole, wife of Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Toole has resigned from her job as a law clerk for state Superior Court Judge Correale F. Stevens. Dave Janoski writes about this latest episode in today's Citizen's Voice.

“The reason she gave was with all the coverage about her husband — she knows the Superior Court is not involved in any way — she was concerned with appearances,” Stevens said. ”She said she just didn’t want the court questioned.”

Donna Toole, who is an attorney, declined comment. Her husband could not be reached for comment.

As always the disclaimer that neither has been charged with any offenses in connection with the ongoing investigation.

Profs: Kanjo Subject To Scrutiny Over Financial Mess

Forgive me for not posting yesterday. The media portrayal of Paul Kanjorski has me on a mission. They are out to make him look like a savior with respect to the financial mess when he was actually an accomplice in creating this fiasco.

Andrew Seder of the Times Leader writes a story line yesterday about Paul Kanjorski's vulnerablity to questioning of his role in the financial storm that has wreaked havoc over the entire country.

U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski recently warned the heads of several large banks that took government bailout funds they’ve put themselves in a situation that opens them up to tough questions and criticism.

“You once lived behind a one-way mirror, unaccountable to the public at large,” said Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke, during the Feb. 11 committee hearing. “When you took taxpayer money you moved into a fishbowl.”

Two local professors said Kanjorski needs to heed his own warning.

Kanjo has been just as much a part of this disaster but it appears he hopes the public has a short memory. Rewind the Kanjorski Youtube videos and printed testimony.

Here is one from March, 2008 where he tries to pin the mess on Bush but actually acknowledges that the problems occured in 2006 while he was chairman of the Subcomittee responsible for oversight.- Comment at 1:24 into video. He grandstands for the media asking why the Federal Reserve and the Treasury ask questions. Paul, why didn't you act, forget the questions? He fails to acknowledge that the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 was responsible for the financial mess today. In his typical partisan fashion he tries to lay it at George Bush's doorstep. What a crock.

At 1.:26 he states "We are trying to save the American economy. Had Congress did its job in the first place we wouldn't be in this mess. Asking Paul Kanjorski to fix this mess is like asking the shooter to perform surgery on the patient. How well was the economy saved?

In this video he talks about the bailout legislation. He states to Paulson it "Does primarily what you want it to do but with the protections the public was asking for." Paul, what protections were they asking for, bonus retention perhaps? That' exactly what Christopher Dodd did but I am sure that this bill was rushed through so fast no one really knew about the provision.

In this video he admits knowing about the AIG bonuses over two months ago. Yet in his own press release the following information is provided.

I am therefore extremely disappointed that AIG will move forward with its plans to pay out 2008 bonuses totaling $165 million, on top of the $55 million paid out late last year, for employees at the very business that caused the company to collapse."

Chairman Kanjorski added, "While these bonuses were agreed to in early 2008 before AIG received any taxpayer money, considering the sweeping changes that have occurred since then, further concessions in AIG's contracts must be seriously considered, especially at the Financial Products unit. Although we must effectively and expeditiously wind down the systemic risks caused by AIG Financial Products, we cannot allow individuals who acted irresponsibly to reap undue benefits."

According to the statement he called, he wrote, but what did he actually do to prevent or stop the bonuses? Only after the bonuses were paid did Congress come up with the idea to tax them.

Congress creates messes then tells the American public they are the solution. They hurredly passed the Emergency Economic Stablization Act of 2008 but that didn't stop the economy from taking a nose dive.

Here is a quote from his opening statement on the third Regulatory Oversight Hearing of government sponsored enterprises. "Specifically, if we ultimately decide to alter the safety and soundness regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to move the regulator to the Treasury Department." Paul, the safety and soundness, are you kidding me??? The only thing safe and sound was the money you accepted from Fannie and Freddie. You were like a child getting money from his parents.

Here is the video that shows the real Paul Kanjorski. He is talking about a strong independent regulator being formed to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The transcript of his words can be found here specifically start on page 157.

Mr. KANJORSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Listening to that discussion, I tend to agree that this is a very delicate area on how we handle mission and how we deal with what really independent strong role plus regulation will be and to tailor those two situations to these particular entities, not counting the fact that we have some earlier testimony about throwing in the Federal home loan bank system, which creates an entirely different problem we would have to address.

First of all, is anyone on the panel aware of a crisis situation where we have to do this in the next two or three weeks?

Do you really believe that some of the issues that have been raised here in the discussion with this panel, that this can all be accomplished with deliberative speed in a short period of time, like two or three weeks?

Mr. BARTLETT. Mr. Kanjorski, our organization and our companies have been quite concerned about this from a safety and soundness as well as a mission for the last several years. We have communicated that concern. But recently, that concern seems to have been highlighted by a number of factors.

So, yes, sir, I believe there is an urgency that is to the tune of some $3.3 trillion that is either owned or guaranteed by these two agencies that all the testimony that you have heard today bring in some question as to whether they are being properly regulated. So we think they are not being properly regulated. And we believe that with $3.3 trillion, you do not want to wait too long. And now is the time to act.

Mr. KANJORSKI. I would not suggest that everyone has questioned whether or not we can construct a better regulatory authority than what we presently have. I do not know whether we want to put a qualitative standard on what has existed. But my question is, we have so many fundamental questions, particularly missions and what is a strong independent regulator.

It seems to be we are going to have to wrestle a lot of things. Somebody suggested we write the mission. I think it was Mr. Raines. I venture to say I could anticipate taking weeks and weeks and weeks hammering that around and just what that description in statute should be of what the mission is so that it can be more readily applied.

My problem is I think we have a lot of haste here. We are going to run down and, Steve, having served on this committee before, you know what happens in haste. We sometimes do not dot all of our i's and cross all of our t's. And we can leave some awfully large holes in this mission.

Example, we are just starting to get down to people using the same description of what—you use the term independent and strong independent regulator and gave the example of the OCC and the OTS.

The Secretary, last week, said independent, strong, world-class regulator and gave the example of the IRS. I see a world of difference in that. And he may be more correct than we are or vice versa. But it seems we have to work.

If we are not defining our terms in the same way, we are going to put out a news release that Congress has passed a world-class, strong, independent regulator who cannot come up and talk to Congress, who cannot decide policy questions, who has limitations on supervision, has limitations on prosecutions, et cetera, et cetera, and going right down the line.

Or else, if we all put our minds to it and things do crystallize, we can come up with it.

I am just worried about doing in the limited amount of time left in this session. And I, myself, would like to have the legislation float for a while, so a lot of people could give us critiques of some of the problems that they see every day.

I left this session three or four times and met with people who critiqued me on various things happening here. I find that very informative and helpful, because, obviously, I do not think any of us on the committee are real experts in this area.

We are trying to craft language that will reflect expertise beyond the committee, actually.

With that, I appreciate all of the testimony of the panel. I look forward to hearing from you. As one member of Congress, look, if you see something happening, our names, you just have to call the Capitol operator and get a hold of us, give us some insight and some input as to, you know, how that big truck isn't going to fit in that little garage before we construct the garage.

And other than that, let's hope we can do something really contributory here to this system instead of ending up with just a whitewash on the garage door because there has been some circumstances that have brought this along.

With that, thank you very much for your testimony.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

What did he accomplish? He danced around pretty well but failed the people in the end. This testimony is from 2003 which proves he and the Democrats had plenty of time to attack this problem.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

O'Bailout- Follow The Cash

Obama is going to be doing a media tour this week to get the public behind him after being thrown off track this week. Geithner and the President will be touting the help that will be needed to shore up the banks.

Did Team Obama drop the ball or throw the game?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
By Jack Kelly, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

American International Group, an insurance company that has received about $180 billion in taxpayer funds, this month paid $165 million in bonuses to executives whose bad judgment is largely responsible for the financial mess we're in.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, wants the government to take back the bonuses. This is a change of heart for Mr. Dodd, because it was he who inserted in the "stimulus" bill an amendment which specifically protected from restrictions on executive compensation "contractually obligated bonuses agreed on or before Feb. 11, 2009." The amendment applied principally to AIG.

This apparent hypocrisy was not helpful to Mr. Dodd, who has been criticized for receiving a cut-rate loan from Angelo Mozillo, CEO of Countrywide Mortgage, one of the worst of the subprime mortgage lenders, and for his purchase of a $160,000 Irish "cottage" with the assistance of an insider trading felon for whom Mr. Dodd had arranged a pardon.

But it gets better.

The AIG bailout has been a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already," wrote former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer in Slate Tuesday. "AIG was nothing more than a conduit for huge capital flows to the same old suspects, with no reason or explanation."

Perhaps there's a hint of an explanation in this: Employees of Goldman Sachs contributed $955,473 to the Obama campaign. Employees of CitiGroup contributed $653,468; employees of JPMorgan Chase, $646,058; employees of Morgan Stanley, $485,823

If you want to read about Obama's Crocodile Tears over the AIG bonuses click here.

Is the Grass Really Greener? A Look at International Health Care Systems

President Obama seems hell bent on reforming health care. It is the only industry not looking for a bailout but he wants to mess with it. If our healthcare system is so bad why do people fly to this country for treatment?

Cato Institute scholar Michael Tanner says that
“Obama will certainly find the politics of health-care reform to be tough. But getting the policy right may be an even harder job.”

Listen to his presentation on health care systems around the world by
clicking here.

Universal coverage did not equate with universal access to healthcare.

Universal coverage was actually very hard to come by.

Even those that got close to 100% coverage did not neccesarily mean you had access to healthcare Many of them actually had significant waiting lists or significant lack of access.

Co-payments in France are between 10 and 40 percent.

It's rationed because there is not enough funding in the system

Once Again Barack Obama Plays Wag The Dog

Guess Who Really Pays The Most Taxes In America? Read this article from 2007 by Stephen Moore over at American.com.

What income group pays the most federal income taxes today?

The latest data show that a big portion of the federal income tax burden is shoul­dered by a small group of the very richest Americans. The wealthiest 1 percent of the population earn 19 per­cent of the income but pay 37 percent of the income tax. The top 10 percent pay 68 percent of the tab. Meanwhile, the bottom 50 percent—those below the median income level—now earn 13 percent of the income but pay just 3 percent of the taxes. These are proportions of the income tax alone and don’t include payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare.

Don't be distracted by Obama when he says the rich are not paying their fair share of taxes. Look at the real effect of tax cuts under Bush and how much more that was paid. The source is the U.S. Treasury. PBO will wag the dog when you're not looking.

Thomas Paine Asks "Have We Become A Nation Of Cowards?"

Paul Kanjorski, this one is for you. This article from 1995 written by Doug Bandow over at the CATO Institute concludes that term limits would re-establish a citizen legislature and curb a permanent political class.

Is It Time For A Term Limits Push?

Over at PAWatercooler.com I came across a post from 2007. Due to Vince Fumo's conviction I think it is worth a repost. I have high respect and regard for John Yudichak before I read this post.

Terms Limits February 2 2007
Filed under Pa House, Region - NEPa by Bill Fitz

John Yudichak, the best lawmaker in Northeast PA, has made a great proposal, term limits on legislative leadership.

“Legislative leaders who hold the reins of power from decade to decade … can easily fall victim to errors of human nature and become insulated from public opinion and sound judgment,”

The tendency for House leaders to become entrenched in their posts is a key reason reform has been slow to arrive in the General Assembly, according to Mr. Yudichak. Leaders resistant to change often wield their powers as “insurmountable impediments to meaningful reform,” he said.

I personally know Yuddy (I have affectionatelygiven him a cool nickname) from my time in NEPA, and I can testify that he is an honest hardworking public servant.he voted no on the pay raise, and he has been declining most if not all of the perks since 1998.

The folks over at PAWatercooler do a great job.

Judges Says Donations Aren't Considered In Court Cases

Do campaign contributions donated to Luzerne County judicial candidates or sitting judges seeking retention affect the way they rule in court cases? Jennifer Learn-Andes posed a question to five of seven sitting judges to seek the answer. You will find her report in today's Times Leader.

Two lawyers appear in court. One donated thousands to the judge’s campaign and the other gave nothing. Will they be treated the same?

Absolutely, say five of the seven elected Luzerne County judges who accepted campaign donations from lawyers.

But getting people to believe that is a problem, said Shira Goodman, co-director of the nonprofit Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.

There’s a growing public perception in Pennsylvania and nationally that judges can’t simply be impartial with donors who helped them get elected or pay off campaign debt, Goodman said.

“With the courts, perception is reality. Even if that perception is wrong, people don’t think they’re getting a fair shake. That undermines the whole system,” Goodman said.

“You don’t want anyone to say, ‘I wonder if my lawyer gave money to the judge.’ ”

My personal belief is that campaign donations should be limited. Attorneys like Mike Butera just don't seem to get it. Jerry Lynott of the Times Leader writes the following information in his story yesterday.

When attorney Michael Butera learned the campaign committee to retain Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan was accepting donations from members of the bar in 2003, he contributed $10,000.

The contribution came nearly a year after Conahan awarded Butera $931,452 in a non-jury trial for injuries suffered in a bicycle accident.

It was the largest single amount the Hughestown attorney said he gave to a candidate and was totally voluntary.

It raises no concerns for me,” Butera said Friday. “Judge Conahan never asked me for a penny.”
It may not raise a concern for you Mike, but it certainly taints the public's perception of the judiciary and would appear to cast doubt, something the Judicial Canons try to address.

Previously I wrote how former Judge Ciavarella donated $12,500.00 to the Luzerne County Democratic Party during his retention campaign. How does a Republican feel if he would go before Ciavarella? Would he/she stand a chance? Ask Lou Barletta when Ciavarella ruled on the address of Michael Marsicano during his mayoral campaign in 2007.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mini-Stimulus Plan For Scranton Courtesy of Single Tax Office

Remember the $12 million "found" at the Scranton Single Tax Office. Forensic accoutants are happy to report that the money isn't dead. WNEP is carrying a story by Ryan Leckey, that "Twelve million dollars of taxpayer money has been sitting in an account for years and nearly half of it should have gone to communties years ago."

From 1999 to 2008 investigators from a Philadelphia accounting firm said money was mishandled, tax dollars weren't distributed correctly and it made a giant financial mess.

"We have already started, myself and my team, to make corrections when we knew that things needed to be changed, so we're changing it," explained city tax collector Marilyn Vitali Flynn. She took over from Ken McDowell last year when he was elected as the new Lackawanna County controller. "(We are) really working very diligently to makes sure that the people are being treated fairly and with respect and that they money due to them will be there."

The city, county, and school district will be seeing some of the money released in the coming weeks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

George Bush Was Vilified For His Deficits- Well You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

From KDKA out of Pittsburgh

Mar 20, 2009 5:07 pm US/Eastern

$1 Trillion Deficits Seen For Next 10 Years

Despite new estimates that say President Barack Obama's budget would generate unsustainable large deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year, the White House insisted Friday that the flood of red ink won't swamp its costly agenda.

The Congressional Budget Office figures released Friday predict Obama's budget will produce $9.3 trillion worth of red ink over 2010-2019. That's $2.3 trillion worse than the administration predicted in its budget just last month.

Worst of all, CBO says the deficit under Obama's policies would never go below 4 percent of the size of the economy, figures that economists agree are unsustainable. By the end of the decade, the deficit would exceed 5 percent of gross domestic product, a dangerously high level.

The latest figures throw a major monkey wrench into efforts to enact Obama's budget, which promises universal health care for all and higher spending for domestic programs like education and research into renewable energy.

The dismal deficit figures, if they prove to be accurate, inevitably raise the prospect that Obama and his allies controlling Congress would have to consider raising taxes after the recession ends or else pare back his agenda.

How is Barack Obama going to explain this one? Did he inherit ten years worth of deficits or is he creating them? We all know the latter. He is going to ruin America if Congress doesn't stop him in his tracks.

Two Hazleton Area Hispanic Leaders Removed From Hazleton Area School District Ballot

Luzerne County President Judge Chester B. Muroski in separate court orders removed two Hazleton Area Hispanic leaders(self-proclaimed) from the ballot for a seat on the Hazleton Area School Board.

Elaine Curry, outgoing school director,(it is more than rumored) immediately cried "Racism" after a work session over this development. According to some individuals in attendance, she was visibly annoyed and was described as acting like a child with her comments and actions.

According to writers for the Standard Speaker, Ms. Curry contends the community and local elected officials should’ve embraced Hazleton Area’s first Hispanic candidates — rather than engage in “utterly disgraceful” politics.

“It is so obvious to everyone that this dirty-tricks mentality was orchestrated by a combination of current board members and those willing to do anything to get a seat on the board,” she said Thursday night. “It’s utterly disgraceful. As far as I know, this was the first time there were two Hispanics running for school board. Instead of helping them to contribute, we find technicalities to get them knocked off the ballot.”

Contrast her politcial and childish rhetoric with the gentleman like attitudes of the potential candidates who were stricken from the ballot.

After the hearing, Lopez said the hearing came down to a missed deadline.

“I am disappointed, but I understand that the judge had to rule it that way,” Lopez said. “He couldn’t have any leeway in the time aspect. That’s a rule. We didn’t fulfill a rule.”

Arroyo said the success of a writing campaign hinges on how well the community is acquainted with the electronic voting machines.

He said the court ruling fuels his desire to run for public office.

“It makes me stronger than I was before in my decision to keep running for the school board or maybe another public office in the future,” Arroyo said.

Let's examine Ms. Curry's position. Many people from all over this state have been removed from the ballot for the exact same reason. However, if you use her pandering philosophy it appears Hispanics should be held to a different standard than the rest of the country. Her statements hurt their cause and damage relations between the Hispanic community and the area at large. She proclaims and protests so loudly that the color of skin is the motivation behind the effort to remove Arroyo and Lopez from the ballot she ignores logical reason. No, Elaine, untimely filing is the motivation, plain and simple.

"Instead of helping them to contribute." Elaine, did you have the election fixed, opps sorry a crystal ball, that you propone they would win? Pragmatists know that even if they made it to the ballot there was no guarantee of a win.

The public should applaud Arroyo and Lopez for recognizing the rules and abiding by them. Likewise the public needs to decry Elaine Curry's attempt to evade the laws of the land and the Constitution of the United States and sully the reputation of school directors, the potential candidates, as well as the President Judge of Luzerne County. Elaine, were you calling Judge Muroski a racist when you made that statement due to his ruling?

In examining the record on this issue it leads to more questions.

School Director Carmella Yenkevich said she noticed that both names were not among the list of contenders who met the deadline for filing financial documents.

Yenkevich, however, said she wasn’t about to make an issue of it.

After the school board adjourned from a public meeting Thursday, Yenkevich and Curry called on Business Manager Anthony Ryba to disclose who inquired about the status of financial disclosure filings with the district.

Ryba said that school directors Sean Shamany and Tony Bonomo “called to see who submitted forms.”

“Then (Harkins’) attorney comes,” Curry snapped back.

Elaine, why didn't you make sure the candidates you were backing knew the rules? In races throughout Luzerne County newcomers have entered the world of politics. Many were guided by experienced office holders and political leaders on the process. In your haste to encourage their run did you forget to be a good mentor and do follow ups to avoid embarassment? Did you show them the cross filing process???

Ignacio Beato had his financial statement in on time for a position on the ballot for Hazleton City Council. What did he know that the other two were not privy to?

Not only were Arroyo and Lopez removed fromthe ballot, six of ten county candidates have been removed from the ballot. Were is your protest, Elaine? Is it because the color of skin does matter?

Elaine, let's educate you. Facts are stubborn things: and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.- John Adams 1770

Politics is the life blood of democracy. To call politics "dirty" is to call democracy "dirty."- Nelson Rockefeller 1962

When people lose respect for one bad law, it is but a short step before they include the good laws with the bad and shortly in rebellion against all law.- Oscar Underwood 1928

Free government has no greater menace than disrespect for authority and continual violation of law. It is the duty of a citizen not only to observe the law but to let it be known that he is opposed to its violation.- Calvin Coolidge July 27, 1920

Contributions Received By Judge Michale Toole During 2003

Here is a link to contributors, 839 in all, to Judge Michael Toole during his 2003 campaign.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

BREAKING NEWS- State Supreme Court Wants Monthly Progess Reports From Muroski

The Citizen's Voice is reporting that the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania has asked Luzerne County President Judge Chester B. Muroski to submit monthly progress reports on improvements being made in the county court system.

"What has happened in the recent past is disheartening to all of us as jurists at every level in our Unified Judicial System," Chief Justice Castille wrote in a letter to Muroski.

A link to the letter.

PA Turnpike Chairman Receives Notice of Target Letter-"Ghost Employee"

KYNews radio out of Philadelphia is reporting that Mitchell Rubin, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has received word from the Feds that he is being investigated in the ongoing probe of corruption related to the Vince Fumo case.

Sources have confirmed that Mitchell Rubin (above), chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, has received a so-called "target" letter, indicating he is a target of the ongoing investigation of corruption related to the Vincent Fumo case.

Federal authorities allege that Rubin, husband of convicted Fumo codefendant Ruth Arnao, was hired by former Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Fumo as a "ghost" employee.

An FBI agent handed the target letter to Rubin in federal court at the conclusion of a forfeiture hearing for Vince Fumo and Arnao. They were convicted of all 139 counts against them, including charges that Fumo paid Rubin $150,000 over five years for a no-show job (separate from his Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission post).

Hazleton On The Short List For Stimulus Road Monies

Here are the planned highway and bridge improvements scheduled by Penn DOT as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Luzerne represents the County.

Luzerne Local Cleveland Street Bridge
Replacement of Cleveland Street Bridge over Mill Creek in Plains Township
Bridge Replacement

Luzerne Route 29
John S. Fine Bridge Preservation
Preservation of State Route 29 Bridge over Susquehanna River and State Route 29 Bridge over State Route 2002 (Sans Souci Highway) in Hanover Township
Bridge Preservation

Luzerne Routes 4016, 4001
SR 4001 over Branch of Hunlock Creek and SR 4016 over Marsh Creek
Bridge Rehabilitation of State Route 4001 bridge over Branch of Hunlock Creek and State Route 4016 bridge over Marsh Creek in Plymouth, Huntington and Ross Townships
Bridge Rehabilitation

Luzerne Interstate 81
Interstate 81 Resurfacing
Interstate 81 Resurfacing from Milepost 139-144 in Luzerne County

Luzerne Interstate 81
Interstate 81 Resurfacing
Resurfacing of Interstate 81 Northbound and Southbound in Luzerne County

Here is a list of the projects paid for out of our state budget.

Luzerne Route 2004
River Road Bridge over Railroad
State Route 2004 over Luzerne County Railroad Authority Plains Township Bridge Replacement
Bridge Replacement

Luzerne Route 2004
River Road Mine Entrance
State Route 2004 over Coal Mine Opening Plains Township Bridge Removal
Bridge Removal

Luzerne Route 2004
River Road Bridge at Mill Creek
State Route 2004 over Mill CreekCity of Wilkes-Barre Bridge Rehabilitation
Bridge Rehabilitation

Luzerne Route 11
Township Route 11 at Harvey's Creek
State Route 11 over Harvey's Creek Plymouth Township Bridge Replacement
Bridge Replacement

Luzerne Route 115
PA 115 Lehigh Bridge
State Route 115 over Lehigh River Buck Township Bridge Replacement
Bridge Replacement

Luzerne Route 1054
Evans Street over Toby's Creek
State Route 1054 over Toby's Creek Luzerne Borough Bridge Replacement
Bridge Replacement

Luzerne Route 309
PA 309 and Saint Johns
State Route 309 and Township Route 427 Butler Township Intersection Improvement
Intersection Improvement

Luzerne Route 2051
State Route 2051 over Gross Creek
State Route 2051 over Gross Creek Jeddo Borough Bridge Replacement
Bridge Replacement

Luzerne Route 924
State Route 924 Barletta to Scotch
State Route 924 from Barletta Road to Scotch Pine Road Hazle Township Restoration, widening from two lanes to five lanes

Luzerne Interstate 81
Interstate 81 Southbound Grinding
Interstate 81 Southbound Luzerne County Interstate Preventative Maintenance including Bridge Preservation

Engine House Project Phase 1
White Haven Township Restoration of Engine House
Transportation Enhancement

Luzerne Route 309
State Route 309 June 06 Flood
Flood Damage, June 2006, State Route 309

Luzerne Route 502
State Route 502, Bridge Preservation
State Route 502 Over Springbrook CreekPittston Township Bridge Preservation
Bridge Preservation Activities

Luzerne Route 115
State Route 115, Bear Creek Dam Outlet
State Route 115 over Outlet to Bear Creek DamBear Creek Township Bridge Rehabilitation
Bridge Rehabilitation

Luzerne Route 11
Luzerne County Surface Treatment
Various State Route's Luzerne County Surface Treatment
Surface Treatment

Luzerne Route 11
Luzerne County Guiderail Maintenance
Various State Route's Luzerne County Guiderail and Median Barrier Maintenance
Guiderail Improvement

Can you imagine that Todd Eachus is the House Majority Leader and Hazleton Area receives very little in the way of road improvements. Is that $24 million for Hanover Township alone??? All of the improvements in Eachus's district don't come close to that figure for just one project and there isn't one project for City of Hazleton out of $2.8 billion spent by PennDOT. Some stimulus for our area. Lost jobs and lost opporunity. Way to go Todd....!!!

GOP Blasts Kanjorski, Carney Over AIG

Times-Tribune Reporter BORYS KRAWCZENIUK highlighted a report that the National Republican Congressional Committee(NRCC) accused Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney of [either failing to read the bill or knowingly supporting “a bill that would hand out millions in taxpayer-funded bonuses to Wall Street executives.”]

As usual, Paul Kanjorski has been posturing(pandering) to the public that he is their champion in looking out for their interests. Paul, when are you going to return AIG's donations?

U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski labeled as “troubling” the $165 million in bonuses paid over the weekend to current and former executives of American International Group as he led the hearing into the ailing insurance giant Wednesday.

“Something is seriously out of whack, and AIG needs to fix it now,” Mr. Kanjorski, D-11, Nanticoke, said in remarks at the hearing of the House Capital Markets, Insurance and Government-Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee, which he heads.

As it turns out, the stimulus bill included language inserted by Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut that exempts bonuses in employee contracts in place before Feb. 11 from the bill’s prohibitions on bonuses paid with Wall Street bailout money. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law Feb. 17. Mr. Dodd said he inserted the language at the White House’s request, but had no indication it was AIG-related.

The facts bear out that the TARP bill was put through Congress in a hurry. Paul Kanjorski was part of that process, and now he wants to cry about the horse roaming free when the barn door was left open by his vote. It has been known for months by Kanjorski and the Obama administration that there were bonuses to be paid. At the time the TARP bill was passed bonuses were discussed.

Paul, you were right. “Something is seriously out of whack."

To see how much was actually paid out by most of the firms click here. Forget the $165 million read this headline "Banksters used $85 billion of $140 billion taxpayer TARP money for bonuses in 2008".

The American public is just waking up to the egregious acts of the bonuses. Here is an article that appeared in the Pittsburh Tribune-Review back in November on the subject. "Bailout execs get bonus billions" Paul, do you read the newspaper??

Since it is not election time Kanjorski doesn't have the D-TripleC to run to his defense with their out and out lies.

Jonathan Krohn- Defines Conservatism

Here's a link to his interview on Fox News.

Is Any Money Safe At Luzerne County??

It is time for Luzerne County residents to publicly stage a protest over the lack of protection of money kept by the County.

The Times Leader is reporting that a state audit determined $3,288.00 is missing from the Recorder of Deeds Office.

A state audit of the Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds Office revealed $3,288 is missing from an escrow account, but attempts to locate the money have been unsuccessful, officials with the deeds office said Wednesday.

James “Red” O’Brien, who heads the office, said there is no indication that the money was stolen. He said he and his chief deputy, Mark Carey, are continuing to work with the state Auditor General’s Office, which conducted the audit, to identify how the shortage occurred.

The audit, which covers Feb. 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2007, blames the discrepancy on poor internal controls within the office, which was under the control of O’Brien’s predecessor, Mary Dysleski, during the period in question.

The Citizens Voice reported on an FBI probe of approximately $50,000.00 missing from the Adult Probation department.

Last month William "Bill" Sharkey pleaded guilty to embezzling $70,000.00 from illegal gambling proceeds.

It is not poor internal controls. It appears to be the lack of any internal controls. The Commissioners, Row Office Holders, and senior staff need to answer for all of the missing money and lack of controls to protect Luzerne County taxpayers.

Since the Democrats are in control here is a quote from their messiah in a language they may understand:

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works…Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government. (Obama Inaugural Address.)

Master Will Be Appointed To Help Dems Sort Out File Issue

The Times Leasder is running an Associated Press Report indicating that the judge presiding over the fight concerning legal files and the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus will appoint a master to act more like an judge than a mediator to deteremine ownership of legal files regarding Bonusgate.

Dauphin County Judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr. said Wednesday that the parties had agreed to have retired Judge G. Thomas Miller act as a special master in the case. Clark’s office said an order appointing Miller and spelling out his duties and powers was expected to be issued later in the week.

At issue is control over the files that lawyer Bill Chadwick and his Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, Chadwick Associates Inc., generated while helping the House Democratic caucus respond to the state attorney general’s investigation into allegations of legislative corruption.

Chadwick has refused to turn over the files, citing an assertion of lawyer-client privilege made by Rep. Bill DeWeese, who hired him while serving as the Democrats’ floor leader during the last legislative session. Chadwick declined comment Wednesday.

Marcy said Miller’s role will be more like a judge than a mediator. He said the time frame for resolving ownership and possession of the files was unclear but hoped it would be short.

Marcy said the caucus and Chadwick also have agreed to let DeWeese, now the Democratic whip, intervene in the case.

DeWeese spokesman Tom Andrews said DeWeese “has not signed anything yet” and was “anxious for this issue to be quietly mediated.”

Clark urged the two sides at a hearing last week to bring in Miller, telling them they “don’t need to be putting your family laundry on the line.”

It has not been publicly disclosed what the files contain, although Chadwick described their size generally during the court proceeding.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Glenn Beck Exposing The AIG Scam

Out of $108 billion that was given to AIG $62 billion went to foreign countries and only $44 billion remained in the United States. The media is keeping us focused on the $165 million bonuses while AIG money is flowing out of our country. Hear what the Judge has to say about the bonuses and contracts. Unions, pay attention. Your contracts could be voided by the government if you follow his argument.

Feds Took Over Investigation Into Missing Probation Funds

In an article that appeared in today's Citizen's VoiceDave Janoski reported the state Attorney General’s Office has been investigating a case involving money missing from the Luzerne County Adult Probation Office since last summer. Well, that report is not entirely true. The active investigation is only a couple months old.

In this afternoon's update edition of the Times Leader it is reported"

Feds take over investigation into missing Probation funds

WILKES-BARRE - The investigation into possible missing funds in the Luzerne County Adult Probation Department has been turned over to federal authorities, District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carrol said.

Musto Carrol said she received a letter from the state Office of Attorney General today advising her that office referred the case to the federal government on Feb. 17.

The investigation began last summer after a probation department employee notified her of descrepancies in certain accounts. Musto Carrol declined to comment on the amount of money that is reportedly missing. A source familiar with the investigation said the amount is around $50,000.

Let's revisit a story from February 12, 2008 in the Citizen's Voice.

Muroski and his colleagues assigned Michael Vecchio, the deputy chief of adult probation, to replace Larry Saba as director of probation services on an interim basis. The judges did not name a replacement for the fiscal director, Peter Namowicz.

The continued employment of Saba and Namowicz is “not in the best interest of the court system,” Muroski said in a statement.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Muroski refused to explain why Saba and Namowicz were terminated.

“Those were personal matters that I am not at liberty to discuss at this time,” Muroski said. “They may have some rights in the matter.”

Muroski would not comment when asked if the dismissal of Saba and Namowicz was connected to the ongoing federal investigation that has produced charges of corruption against Ciavarella, deactivated Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan and suspended Court Administrator William T. Sharkey Sr.

Hmmmmm...interesting to say the least but I should be clear. Neither has been charged to date.

We Need The Committee Of Seventy In Luzerne County

Let me introduce you to the Committee of Seventy.

The Committee of Seventy fights for clean and effective government, fair elections and a better informed citizenry in Philadelphia and the region.

We’re known for our election-day oversight programs, but we work year-round to keep elected officials honest and encourage positive change in local government. Our staff publishes information about important policies and public officials. We requests public hearings -- and send our experts to testify -- on topics ranging from Philadelphia campaign finance to the way Pennsylvania judges are selected. Our policy papers, news alerts and web resources help keep the public, the media and government informed about key issues.

The Philadeplphia Daily News reports "'Seventy'calls for ending 6 row offices."

The Committee of Seventy, a non-partisan civic group, called yesterday for the abolition of six elective city row offices, suggesting their work should be handled by other city agencies.

The offices are the Clerk of Quarter-Sessions, responsible for much of the court system's record-keeping; the City Commissioners, a three-person panel in charge of the city's election machinery; the Register of Wills, whose office records wills and estates, collects inheritance taxes and issues marriage licenses, and the city Sheriff, whose portfolio includes courtroom security, transporting prisoners, serving warrants and auctioning real estate on which taxes or mortgage payments are delinquent.

"After studying these offices carefully . . . we found no reason why the offices need to be elected," said Zachary Stalberg, Seventy's president and CEO.

Its report, titled "Needless Jobs: Why Six Elected City Positions Should Die," estimated that the city could save at least $1 million a year in salaries and perks now paid to the elected officials.

So the question I have is "Who Is Looking Out For Luzerne County Taxpayers?" If Philadelphia does not need a Register of Wills with the size of its population what makes Luzerne County feel it NEEDS one? Jill Moran was habitually known for not being present in her office as Prothonotary? Do we need a full time Prothonotary?
Can Luzerne County government be streamlined to eliminate certain management positions to save money? Can departments be consolidated to save the taxpayers money? Our courts seem to be taking a look at their problem, why not our Commissioners at ours?

Luzerne County Departments And Agencies

911 Emergency Services
Buildings and Grounds
Bureau of Elections
Correctional Facility
County Engineer
Emergency Management
Environmental Special Projects
Flood Protection Authority
Human Resources
Human Services
Information Technology
Luzerne County Retirement System
Office of Community Development
Planning Commission
Property and Supply
Parks and Recreation
Solid Waste Management
Tax Claim Bureau
Veterans Affairs
Workforce Investment Office

Luzerne County's Row Offices
Clerk of Courts
District Attorney
Recorder of Deeds
Register of Wills

Luzerne County Senior Staff
County Manager/Chief Clerk
Chief of Budget and Finance
Director of Human Resources

Maybe the government study commission can speak for the taxpayers.