Saturday, October 31, 2009

Are the Democrats Really Serious????

Tucked away in the Healthcare Reform bill is a little diamond for trial lawywers who make a living suing healthcare professionals. Nancy Pelosi "blew" a kiss to trial lawyers by inserting language that would prevent states from enacting tort reform.

Section 2531, entitled “Medical Liability Alternatives,” establishes an incentive program for states to adopt and implement alternatives to medical liability litigation. [But]…… a state is not eligible for the incentive payments if that state puts a law on the books that limits attorneys’ fees or imposes caps on damages.

That language is in the bill despite what the Washington Post had to say on the matter.

“Lawmakers could save as much as $54 billion over the next decade by imposing an array of new limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, congressional budget analysts said today — a substantial sum that could help cover the cost of President Obama’s overhaul of the nation’s health system. New research shows that legal reforms would not only lower malpractice insurance premiums for medical providers, but would also spur providers to save money by ordering fewer tests and procedures aimed primarily at defending their decisions in court, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, wrote in a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).”

What's all the fuss about anyway? According to this article on her healthcare REFORM bill it is estimated that only 2% of those under 65 would sign up for a public option.

The underwhelming statistic is raising questions about whether the government plan will be the iron-fisted competitor that private insurers warn will shut them down or a niche operator that becomes a haven for patients with health insurance horror stories.

Some experts are wondering if lawmakers have wasted too much time arguing about the public plan, giving short shrift to basics such as ensuring that new coverage will be affordable.

"The public option is a significant issue, but its place in the debate is completely out of proportion to its actual importance to consumers," said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "It has sucked all the oxygen out of the room and diverted attention from bread-and-butter consumer issues, such as affordable coverage and comprehensive benefits."

Friday, October 30, 2009

McClellan calls Gadinski's Accusations "Bogus"

That should have been the headline in today's Standard Speaker article about Hazleton Creek Properties.

In its latest "Chicken Little" attack on Hazleton Creek Properties efforts to rid our landscape of a mine scarred area a bogus claim of pH alteration is highlighted by Geologist Robert Gadinski. To the general public Gadinski's claims seem credible but trust me on this one, this report is nothing more than political hype as evidenced by the last sentence in the Standard Speaker article.

Bob, let's have a frank discussion on chemistry, soil pH, bicarbonates, salts..ohh you remeber this course don't you?

This information comes from the International Plant Nutrition Institute.

Seasonal variation in soil test results is real…and has been recognized by soil scientists for more than four decades. Sizeable fluctuations in soil test levels can occur seasonally (monthly) and are associated with changes in soil temperature and moisture, soil microbial activity, crop residue decomposition, clay mineralogy, and nutrient cycling. Shallow soil samples (0 to 2, or 0 to 4 in.) may be more susceptible to seasonal fluctuations in test results than samples collected from deeper depths.
How much variation can be expected across seasons, within a year?

Soil pH—can vary as much as ,U>0.5 to 1 pH units on poorly buffered soils, especially on the coarser textured soils. Soil pH is usually lower in dry periods and higher in wet conditions.

Extractable soil phosphorus—-may be more stable than soil pH and extractable potassium in the majority of soils. Under prolonged flooding, phosphorus associated with iron complexes can be released. When soils dry, phosphorus can be bound tightly in iron and aluminum complexes, which lowers availability to plants. Seasonal variation can be as much as 10 to 20 pounds per acre or 5 to 10 parts per million (ppm).

Extractable soil potassium—-can be affected by soil freezing and thawing, and wide variations in soil moisture. Under very dry conditions, and upon freezing, certain clay minerals can release potassium from their mineral structure. Upon re-wetting, the potassium may be bound in the clay structure. In some high clay soils, the seasonal variation can be as much as 20 to 50 pounds per acre, or 10 to 25 ppm. Older, more highly weathered soils, most often found in the southern states, may be less likely to show strong seasonal variations in extractable potassium levels. Yet, seasonal variation in extractable potassium in sandy soils can be large.

Extractable soil sulfate and nitrate—are affected by microbial activity. Release of ammonium and nitrate-nitrogen and sulfate-sulfur from organic matter slows in dry soils. Existing nitrate levels can decline when soils are saturated for extended periods, especially during warm weather. Unlike nitrate, sulfate-sulfur is not prone to atmospheric losses during saturated conditions. Soil nitrate and sulfate levels can vary more than two-fold seasonally.

One can also view this article from the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Seasonal Variability of Soil pH
Seasonal changes in soil moisture, temperature, microbial activity, and plant growth can cause soil pH to vary. The interaction of the above factors and their effect on pH are not entirely understood. The seasonal effect is a result of the loss, formation, or accretion of salts during the various times of the year (Thomas, 1996). Salt concentration fluctuates as the soil wets and dries. As the soil dries, salt concentration increases, soluble cations replace exchangeable hydronium (i.e., H30+) or aluminum ions, and the solution becomes more acid. Seasonal changes in temperature affect the solubility of carbon dioxide (CO2) in water and the solution acidity. Carbon dioxide is more soluble at cool temperatures and makes the soil more acid (carbonic acid). Conversely, CO2 is less soluble in warm seasons, but microbial respiration produces more CO2, so the net effect on pH is variable. Seasonal differences in the amount of carbonate and bicarbonate ions in solution result in variable pH.

"Everything Mr. Gadinski claimed here is erroneous, untrue and an absolute misrepresentation of the facts," McClellan said/

We could also go back to fourth grade science on sesonal variaton on water pH.

So, what does pH mean for water? Basically, the pH value determines whether water is hard or soft. The pH of pure water is 7. Gadinski is telling you that the pH of the water rose to 6.9. Well the next tenth of a rise is 7.

The normal range for pH in surface water systems is 6.5 to 8.5 and for groundwater systems 6 to 8.5.

Although the report mentions the presence of arsenic one must look at the original level in the first place.

What SUFFER and CAUSE are missing is the need to fill the darn hole in and now.

William Amesbury- High Maintenance Magistrate

In today's Times Leader there is a story about the cost of renting offices for magistrates in Luzerne County. While the story focused on a rental in Hazleton it failed to zero in on a candidate for Judge in Luzerne County. In fact the cost of this rental exceeded the one in Hazleton.

As if we didn't have enough with the juvenile scandal this article lists William Amesbury's office rental cost at $80,000.00 per year. To be fair Martin Kane was over $5,000.00 higher at $85,800.00 per year but look at the rest.

William Amesbury, $80,000;

• Martin Kane, $85,800;

• Fred Pierantoni, $12,000;

• Paul Roberts, $12,000;

• Andrew Barilla, $12,000;

• Joseph Carmody, $12,000;

• Joseph Halesey, $30,200;

• Donald Whittaker, $12,000;

• John Hasay, $27,432;

• Daniel O’Donnell, $27,000;

• Thomas Sharkey, $19,392;

• Gerald Feissner, $14,000;

• Ronald Swank, $21,000;

• Michael Dotzel, $32,000;

• Diana Malast, $15,800;

• James Tupper, $29,000

How do magistrates justify such a disparity? How can Amesbury make a plea to the people to vote for him as judge when he appears to forget about the voters when it comes to his own "digs"? He acknowledged the public’s faith in the judicial system has been severely tarnished and must be restored by making the government more open and transparent.

Bill, welcome to transparency. Amesbury has acknowledge accepting donations from people involved in the FBI corruption probe. He donated two of the three donations to charity. The third donation was from Kim Mericle, who is the wife of Robert Mericle. He said he took her donation because she has been a longtime friend of 35 years and she did not have any dealings with her husband’s business. Obviously Kim wasn't part of the probe but her husband pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal.

Mr. Amesbury, and to all the judicial candidates as well as those seeking retention, you should pay special attention to your Supreme Court justices. SOP is not alleging any kickbacks or paybacks on the parts of any candidate. However, it seems the message is still not resonating with all the candidates.

Ciavarella, who is awaiting trial on racketeering charges, broke the law by taking kickbacks from the operator of two for-profit juvenile detention centers and ignored court rules by failing to fully inform juveniles who appeared before him of their right to legal counsel, the court concluded in a unanimous nine-page opinion.

The violations were so egregious that even juveniles sentenced to other centers and those who had legal counsel deserve to have their records cleared, according to the court.

"Given the extent of the taint, this court simply cannot have confidence that any juvenile matter adjudicated by Ciavarella during this period was tried in a fair and impartial matter," the court wrote.

Keep your relationships clean. It is up to you to go the extra mile if you want the voters to begin the healing process towards trust in your judicial proceedings. Arrogance or a cavalier attitude toward the restoring process will only keep the wounds fresh and deep.

To be clear SOP is not a Tina Gartley fan although she will be a winner. Her close association to Commissioner MaryAnn Petrilla who, in our opinion, is getting a "free ride" in the Luzerne County probe, is not acceptable. Petrilla was Controller during that period and even the media seems to be gentle about her role.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Supreme Court Vacates Juvenile Convictions Back To 2003

Times Leader Photo

According to a Times Leader article out of Harrisburg Pennsylvania's Highest Court has vacated all of the juvenile cases heard before disgraced ex-Judge Mark Ciavarella since 2003. Its order also disallows retrial of all the cases but a handful.

In issuing the ruling, the high court said it agreed with Grim's assessment that Ciavarella had shown a "complete disregard for the constitutional rights of juveniles who appeared before him."

"We conclude that the record supports Judge Grim's determination that Ciavarella knew he was violating both the law and the procedural rules promulgated by this court applicable when adjudicating the merits of juvenile cases without the knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of counsel by the juveniles," the court wrote.

Grim had also recommended that Luzerne County District Attorney's office be barred from retrying all but a handful of cases based on the double jeopardy statute, a constitutional prohibition against trying a person twice for the same crime. Grim based that recommendation on his finding that Ciavarella engaged in intentional conduct meant to deprive juveniles of their rights. That triggered the double jeopardy statute, he said.

The Supreme Court agreed with Grim that the vast majority of cases cannot be retried, but declined to adopt Grim's reasoning regarding the double jeopardy statute. The court instead said it was granting that relief solely "in the interest of justice."

SOP believes this order is far reaching and Judges in Pennsylvania should take note. In reading the court's order it is an indictment of actions by a judge that would introduce an element of prejudice by a judge.

The transcripts reveal a disturbing lack of fundamental process, inimical to any system of justice, and made even more grievous since these matters involved juveniles.

During the hearing conducted by President Judge Platt in Joseph v. The Scranton Times, 19 MM 2009, Ciavarella admitted under oath that he had received payments from Robert Powell, a co-owner of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care facilities, and from Robert K. Mericle, the developer who constructed the juvenile facilities, during the period of time that Ciavarella was presiding over juvenile matters in Luzerne County. It is a matter of record that Ciavarella routinely committed juveniles to one or another of these facilities. It is also a matter of record that Ciavarella failed to disclose his ties to Powell, much less the financial benefits he received in connection with the facilities to which he routinely committed Luzerne County juveniles. Ciavarella’s admission that he received these payments, and that he failed to disclose his financial interests arising from the development of the juvenile facilities, thoroughly undermines the integrity of all juvenile proceedings before Ciavarella. Whether or not a juvenile was represented by counsel, and whether or not a juvenile was committed to one of the facilities which secretly funneled money to Ciavarella and Conahan, this Court cannot have any confidence that Ciavarella decided any Luzerne County juvenile case fairly and impartially while he labored under the
specter of his self-interested dealings with the facilities

At a federal hearing yesterday Mark Ciavarella had "No comment." FINALLY!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ordinance 97-9 City of Hazleton

Here is the wording of the City of Hazleton's Ordinance pertaining to health insurance for City Council passed March 13, 1997 but returned unsigned by Michael P. Marsicano, Mayor.

WHEREAS, pursuant to existing labor contracts, the City of Hazleton provides health and life insurance benefits to employees of the City of Hazleton; and

WHEREAS, in the past, the City of Hazleton has provided members of City Council with health and life insurance benefits comparable to those benefits provided for employees of the City of Hazleton, pursuant to Budget Ordinance; and

WHEREAS, in 1996, the Administration of the City of Hazleton, discontinued providing health and life insurance benefits to members of City Council;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED, by the City of Hazleton, by and through Hazleton City Council that newly elected members of the Council of the City of Hazleton for the year 1998 will be provided health and life insurance benefits from the City of Hazleton, comparable to those benefits given to employees of the City of Hazleton.

ADOPTED BY COUNCIL this 13th day of March, 1997

It is signed by Phil Andras, Council President and attested to by the City Clerk. Nowhere in that document does it state hereinafter or similar wording.

Why Council Members would try to complain to the community that they had their health benefits taken from them is beyond comprehension. According to this document they should not have received any benefit in the first place. The question remains on whether they will be required to pay the City back.

Jack Panella- Where Were You When We Needed You?

Press Release from Republican Party of Pennsylvania:

October 28, 2009 Contact: Michael Barley
For Immediate Release (717) 234-4901

PA GOP: Jack Panella Ignored Luzerne County Judicial Misconduct Complaint

HARRISBURG – Republican Party of Pennsylvania Executive Director Luke Bernstein and Spokesman Michael Barley attended a press conference hosted by Luzerne County Republican Chairman Terry Casey to recount Jack Panella’s ties to the Luzerne County “Cash for Kids” judicial scandal.

“Jack Panella had an opportunity to stop Pennsylvania children from being harmed by corrupt judges in Luzerne County and he chose not to,” Bernstein said. “Panella was a member of the Judicial Conduct Board in 2006 when a complaint was filed against former Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan and Panella and the Board chose not charge this corrupt judge. Those are the facts and they are indisputable!

“As a native of Luzerne County, I am outraged that Jack Panella and the Judicial Conduct Board had an opportunity to put an end to this scandal, but instead chose to ignore our children who were being unfairly punished in this ‘Cash for Kids’ scandal.”

According to the Judicial Conduct Board’s Mission Statement, “The Board investigates every allegation made against a Pennsylvania judge. Each complaint that is filed with the Board is thoroughly reviewed and analyzed by the staff as well as the twelve Board members. This procedure is an essential safeguard in the integrity of and public confidence in the judicial process.” (Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board Web Site,, Accessed 10/22/09)

Spokesman Michael Barley continued, “The Judicial Conduct Board’s Mission Statement leaves no doubt that Jack Panella saw the 2006 complaint that was filed against disgraced Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan. If Panella didn’t see the complaint, then he wasn’t doing his job. Panella had an opportunity to protect innocent children in Luzerne County and he let down all of the Pennsylvanians who were counting on him to protect us from corrupt judges.

“Jack Panella failed Pennsylvania as the biggest case of judicial misconduct in our nation’s history was taking place right under his nose and now he wants a promotion he doesn’t deserve. I urge anyone concerned with real judicial reform to join me in voting for Judge Joan Orie Melvin for Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009.”

Maybe my buddy Gort will rethink his assessment.

Tom Gabos Please Explain Your Income And Residency

According to documents on file at Hazleton City Hall Gabos Electric aka succesful businessman Tom Gabos and Peach Entrprises aka succesful businessman Tom Gabos have remitted a total of $3.00 to the City of Hazleton as mercantile tax since 2003.

In Gort's interview with Mayor Barletta last December the Mayor indicated a need to go after businesses that do not pay their mercantile tax.

In a search of the Luzerne County Courthouse Recorder of Deeds Office records indicate that Tom Gabos and his wife, Gale Zelenack, filed a deed for the purchase of their building located 105-107 East Broad Street. The deed was prepared by John P. Rodgers, Esquire and dated May 14, 2008.

The records also show a mortgage for the same property between Gabos and his wife, Gale, with the First National Bank of Pennsylvania with an address of One FNB Blvd, Hermitage, PA. 16148. The date of the mortgage is May 14, 2008. Interestingly, Tom Gabos and his wife, Gale M. Zelenack list their mailing address as 14 Airport Road Hazleton, PA. 18202. In the body of the mortgage Thomas S. Gabos lists his address as 14 Airport Road, Hazleton, PA. 18202 which is actually located in Sugarloaf Township and Gale M. Zelenack lists her address as 107 Fox Hollow Drive, Drums, Pa. 18222. According to other records Gale M. Zelenack sold her home located at the Drums address on February 9, 2007.

The amount of the mortgage was $90,000.00.

There is an Assignment of Rents document dated May 14, 2008 between Gabos, Zelenack, and FNBP listing the same addresses of 14 Airport Road Hazleton, PA. 18202 and 107 Fox Hollow Drive, Drums, Pa. 18222.

On the deed Thomas S. Gabos and Gale M. Zelenack list their address as 907 Lincoln Street, Hazleton, PA. 18201.

On July 6, 2006 Grantor Thomas Gabos deeded his property located in Sugarloaf Township to Grantees Thomas Gabos and Gale Rae M. Zelenack for the sum of One dollar. In Book 3006 on page 177642 located in the Recorder of Deeds office the following is noted for Certificate of Residence. I hereby certify the the precise address of the Grantee(s) herein is: 14 Airport Road, Hazleton, PA. 18202. It is notarized by Ann Fagan, Sugarloaf Township, Luzerne County. The Grantees are Thomas Gabos and Gale Rae M. Zelenack.

Here's the questions for you Thomas. Did you live outside of Hazleton for a period of time where you may have been required to resign your City Council seat over the residency requirement? Since you only paid $3.00 in mercantile tax what income did you produce to secure a mortgage for $90,000.00? Are you maintaining three properties, 907 Lincoln Street, Hazleton, 14 Airport Road, Hazleton, and 105-107 East Broad Street, Hazleton with that income? 

The voters deserve an explanation in light of the fact that the Greater Hazleton Historical Society claims it paid Gabos Electrical, Inc. $3,371.00 for the year ended April 30, 2006.

For legal reasons it should also be noted that Thomas Gabos and Gale Rae Margaret Zelenack were issued a marriage license on November 23, 2008 and were married before District Magistrate Joseph Zola on December 10, 2008. References to Gale being his wife in this post indicate the present status not the status at the time of the deeds. The documents are attached to the deeds.

Note: There has been a correction made to this post.

From The Inbox- Is retaining Judge Thomas F. Burke, Jr. the right thing to do for Luzerne County?

Judge Burke Times Leader Photo

ELECTION 2009: Judge Thomas Burke: “I’m available to shake their hand, look them in the eye and guarantee them I will live up to my oath of office.”

Is retaining Judge Thomas F. Burke, Jr. the right thing to do for Luzerne County?

I am respectfully asking that you vote “YES” for Judge Tom Burke’s retention on November 3rd. Judicial retention is different than most elections. The candidate stands alone, against no one but him/herself… Judge Burke can stand alone on his record – his integrity, his understanding of the law, his judicial temperament and responsibility. Don’t take my word for it; ask an attorney who has appeared in his court, a juror who has served in his courtroom, a police officer or witness who has testified before him. I am sure you will be satisfied that now is the time when we most need a judge like Tom Burke.

I do not make this request lightly; I understand the importance of your vote on Tuesday, November 3rd. The current environment may encourage the general public to paint Tom Burke with the same brush. That would be unfair. Tom Burke has honestly served as a Judge, day in and day out, for the last ten years and I have never heard or read a word of criticism from anyone about how he does his job. He’s a great Judge who deserves to be retained on his own merit and not judged by the behavior of others.

Tom is not running a TV campaign, he has not asked anyone for a campaign contribution, nor has he accepted any contributions. His campaign is a grass roots campaign, a word of mouth campaign. So I would ask that you send an e-mail similar to this (or you can simply forward this e-mail) to those on your e-mail list so we can spread the word to vote “YES” for Judge Tom Burke’s retention on November 3rd. Ask those on your email list to send the message to those on their email lists, and so on. Person-to-person is the best way we have to communicate this message to Luzerne County voters.

Monday, October 26, 2009

60 Alleged Child Pimps Arrested

It looks like child pimps are all over the country, not just in Luzerne County.

Law enforcement authorities have recovered 52 children and arrested 60 pimps allegedly involved in child prostitution, the FBI announced Monday.

Gabos Received $15,219.00 For Health Insurance

If one calculates the amount of insurance paid over the time Tom Gabos served as Hazleton City Councilman the figure is about $15,219.00. As a councilman he spends about 48-60 hours PER YEAR at meetings.

Gabos is an electrical contractor. If he hired a part time electrician for 20 hours per week would he offer that person health insurance? Name one company that offers its part time workers health insurance. The amount of money paid could fund a code enforcement officer for a year.

As far as Gabos's claim of a huge deficit in the budget he forgets that City Council approves the budget, not the Mayor. If the figures were off its City Council's problem. They have the ability to revisit the budget anytime they see fit.

With the recent property reassessment in Luzerne County it will be nearly impossible for Hazleton to go bankrupt as the new tax rate is 1.4 mills. The statutory authority allows Hazleton as a third class city to tax up to 25 mills. His bankruptcy claim, as well as his followers, are opposition hype that lacks real substance. It is a typical election time scare tactic employed by a weak positioned official.

Gabos opposed the HCP project that brought $2 million into the City's coffers with another $2 million to come. That money allowed the hiring of nine(9) police officers. If Gabos had his way the City would be short $2 million dollars and minus 9 police officers. Some closet to hang your hat in.

Note: There has been a correction made to this article.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Zappala Name Comes Up In Casino News

It can mystify the mind when one expands reading the newspaper reports beyond this area. While spending time at Heinz Field to watch Brett Favre lose his first game this season an article that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Tracie Mauriello struck the inquisitive brain cells. -Zappalas hold posts at casino association

During the final days of state budget negotiations, a flurry of press releases was sent to media, letters were sent to lawmakers and radio ads were sent over airwaves, all advocating low tax rates and license fees for casino table games.

One statement threatened that four large casinos would sue the state if smaller ones were allowed to increase the number of slot machines at their locations.

The communications all emanated from The Pennsylvania Casino Association, which has been run for the last two years by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala Sr. and his daughter Michele Zappala Peck, who is running for Allegheny Common Pleas Court.

Although The Pennsylvania Casino Association incorporated in May 2007, it's been virtually invisible until this month even though it is in the hands of a powerful and prominent political family with ties to Harrisburg power brokers.

The article describes former Justice Zappala's role in the non profit association. It appears to make the case that his actions were not that much dissimilar to those of a lobbyist. Zappala's ties to Vincent Fumo are mentioned as an example of his connections that may be beneficial to gaming interests. Then it gets more interesting.

Chuck Hardy, who represents Pittsburgh's The Rivers casino on the association's three-member board, signed the 2007 and 2008 tax returns that give the association federal tax-exempt status. He said he was never involved in any discussion about keeping the Zappala name off public records.

Mr. Hardy -- who works for the Philadelphia law firm Sprague & Sprague and said he is counsel for Philadelphia's SugarHouse casino -- said the 990 tax forms were prepared by an accountant. He said he didn't believe Mr. Zappala needed to be included on the required listing of officers, directors, trustees and key employees because he wasn't "the kind of officer you needed to report."

IRS filing instructions, however, stipulate that executive directors are among those who must be listed along with officers who have voting rights and employees who control an organization's activities or finances.

For those that don't recall, Richard Sprague presided over former Judge Ann Lokuta's case. He also represents Robert Powell, key figure in the Luzerne County corruption scandal. Sprauge refused to recuse himself in the Lokuta proceedings.

Sprague also represented Powell and PA Child Care in a 2004 lawsuit against Luzerne County Controller Stephen L. Flood, over his opposition to the county's $58 million contract with PA Child Care.

In a filing by Lokuta she makes the following assertions.

"Judge Sprague and his law firm have committed years of representation to the task of protecting the interests of Powell, PA Childcare, and their associates, and keeping their activities from public scrutiny in the light of day," Lokuta's 133-page filing says. "Judge Sprague's control over the record in this matter afforded him the opportunity to continue to shield Powell, PA Childcare and their associates from disclosures that -- while supporting Lokuta's contentions and defenses -- would have exposed the illicit conduct in which Judge Sprague's clients were participants."

In case you didn't catch it, Richard Sprague is Chuck Hardy's boss. If you read the entire article you will discover that Richard Sprague is part-owner of the SugarHouse casino. What a tangled mess. The part that is intriguing is how small a world it is when the same names keep coming up over and over again in what should be unrealted issues.

"Mount Airy owner Lisa DeNaples is a member of the board along with Mr. Hardy and Mr. Hardy's boss, Richard A. Sprague, who is part-owner of SugarHouse and is a powerful Philadelphia lawyer who has represented prominent power brokers including Mr. Fumo.

Jonathan D. Silver contributed to this report. Tracie Mauriello can be reached at or 717-787-2141. Follow her at

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tom Gabos- If You Are Really Concerned About Police, Give Up Health Insurance

According to documents in Hazleton City Hall Councilman Tom Gabos has been receiving health insurance paid by the City of Hazleton despite owning two businesses, Peach Enterprises(aka Gabos Electric according to a media report) and Classic-Cade. His recent political commercial states he voted NO on the budget for Hazleton because it didn't fund enough for the police force. Forget that the budget DID fund a police force; that wasn't enough motivation for him despite his "reports" of prostitution.

Gabos should take a lesson from the Kansas City police force. In this report police in Kansas City, Kansas have agreed to take a pay cut to save jobs.

Tom Gabos, why didn't you agree to forgo health insurance paid by the citizens of Hazleton to help pay for more police? Don't tell us that the council pay is not enough; don't tell us that your electrician business is not enough; don't tell us that the part time work for the Greater Hazleton Historical Society is not enough; don' t tell us that Classic-Cade does not make enough; don't tell us that the full time job with the Hazleton Area School District is not enough. That is just plain wrong.

Tom, a lesson about business. There is a risk.. Are you asking the citizens of Hazleton to help in your risk of business by paying for your health insurance when others who start a business accept full risk?

Only you and one other council person receive health insurance paid by the citizens of Hazleton. Yet your political commercial chides two other council persons who DO NOT receive health insurance paid by the taxpayers. Wagging the dog won't fool everyone.

Are you double dipping when you ask the same set of taxpayers to fund your job on City Council and pay for your wages as a a maintenance person for the Hazleton Area School District? How many times are you going to reach into their pocket?

Tom Gabos- Who Is Lying????


In his latest political commercial Tom Gabos, running for re-election on Hazleton City Council, tries to turn the tide on his opponents by stating there are lies in their commercial.

His first response is that he didn't use his political influence to get himself a job in the Hazleton Area School District. He stated he worked for the district long before he got his job. Let's examine his statement.

Here is the agenda for the Hazleton Area School Board dated April 23, 2009.

Hazleton Area School District
Regular Board Meeting Agenda
6:30 P.M., Thursday, April 23, 2009

Page 12

Substitutes for Board Approval April 23, 2009

Substitutes - Maintenance Dept.
Gabos, Thomas

Next is the Agenda of the Hazleton Area School District for September 24, 2009

Hazleton Area School District
Regular Board Meeting Agenda
6:30 P.M., Thursday, September 24, 2009

Page 2

14- Recommend Board appoint the following maintenance positions:
(Salary as per Teamsters Agreement)
* Hazleton El/Middle School- Thomas Gabos

Tom, now let's be honest. Stating you were "working" for the HASD is not the same as being "employed" by the Hazleton Area School District. You are in the fourth year of your term. Seems the date of your employment is AFTER you were elected Councilman.

Tom's next claim is that he didn't vote against funding for the police department. He claims his vote against the budget was because it didn't provide for enough police.

Are you the same Tom Gabos who, back in August, asked the question "Where's promised dredge money?" The first sentence in your editorial states "Why do we have to lay off police?" Tom, you weren't paying attention during your term. You hired how many police??? Oh, you wouldn't know the answer to that because you weren't paying attention. Then you make the assertion, There are still fewer police in Hazleton than there were when Barletta took office.

Do you remember Councilwoman Graham's reply to your ridiculous questions?

You complain, Tom, that "there are fewer police in Hazleton than when Barletta took office" but you don't say where you have found the money to pay them. Do you not remember that the police were hired with federal money that expired after three years?

Then you answer your own question by stating the money for dredge was used to hire new police officers. No matter what the reason for the lack of enough new police officers hired with money from the dredge project.

The one charge mentioned in the commercial against you that you failed to address was your lack of solutions. Now we are back to running on your record. There is none. Your re-election bid is why you earned the title "Puxatawney Tom." You only come out every once in four years.

Eachus Feigns Concern For Fill

In an article written by Kent Jackson that appeared in today's Standard Speaker Todd Eachus tries to persuade the public that he has a genuine concern for fill material that is proposed for the Hazleton Creek pit reclamation project. He is having about as much success as Chicken Little.

Every politician says "I'll run on my record." Well, Todd here's one for you. You authored the budget and voted to decrease the Department of Environmental Protection's budget by 30% this year. That budget decrease takes it back to levels of thirteen years ago. DEP is integral in the Hazleton Creek project where you have been a vocal opponent of the project from the beginning. If you are so concerned, why as House Majority Leader, did you fail to protect their budget? There is a story about that but we will save it for another time.

"We're concerned about whether DCNR and DEP are really going to be able to do their jobs with the significant percentage cut to their budgets," Donald Welsh, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, said.

The amount budgeted for environmental programs, and the percentage decline from the prior year.

DEP total budget: $159 million, down 30.5%

- General government operations: $14.4 million, -26%

- Environmental program management: $32.7 million, -22%

- Environmental protection operations: $85 million, -17%

- Water infrastructure grants: $0, -100% (from $11.7 million

How do you square up with the voters that you are concerned about fill going into the Hazleton Creek project when you O.J. Simpsoned the budget for DEP? Eachus has been complaining about "TOXIC" material going into Hazleton Creek. Here is a link to a story that appeared in the Tuesday, August 1, 2006 edition of the Standard Speaker.
His scare tactic was called out then by Mayor Barletta, and he is once again being called out for his obstructionism.

Read the testimony by representatives of the Department of Environmental Resources about dredge and Bark Camp cited by Eachus in his article. Use the Find feature of your browser to locate the word "dredge." Eachus is disingenuous with his statements over Hazleton Creek because its owner is a supporter of Lou Barletta.

The real facts are that Todd Eachus is House Majority Leader. If he truly wanted to he could find the funds to finance a project that will place what type of fill he wants into that hole. Has he helped the City of Hazleton secure funding? Nada. Did Governor Rendell help the Hazleton Creek project? Oh yeah.

Let Todd Eachus stand on his record. How much in total has been secured for the citizens of Hazleton who you took a sworn oath to represent? What specific projects and funding went to the municipality known as the City of Hazleton secured by your efforts?

Why don't you accept this challenge? Mark McClellan is more than willing to test the soil in your back yard where your family lives and plays and compare it to the dredge used as fill. Accept his invitation. Let the public see the results. That invitation is germane to the next observation.

Eachus brought up the Bark Camp project. Here is what DEP had to say about that project.

In five years of monitoring and after more than 100,000 analyses, there were no significant organic or metal contaminants detected other than those present in the general area prior to the project's initiation.

The results are conclusive and positive: When used appropriately, this material is an extraordinarily valuable and effective tool in mine reclamation and in the remediation of acidic drainage from abandoned mines that pollute more than 2,000 miles of stream throughout the Commonwealth.

Eachus's degree is in political science, not thermomechanical analysis or geology. Nothing qualifies him to extend an opinion on this issue anymore than the First Amendment of the Constitution. While free speech allows him to speak his mind, he should respect the people in that field for their knowledge, research, and dedication.

Here is the definition of a carpetbagger- 2.An outsider, especially a politician, who presumptuously seeks a position or success in a new locality. Eachus was from northern Luzerne County graduating from Wilkes Barre's Coughlin High School before seeking office in Hazleton in 1996. He is here thirteen years but wants to taint the names of families who lived generations in Hazleton and employed generations in Hazleton. Polluting the minds of people is one area DEP does not cover.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Perzel Next To Visit Grand Jury- Maybe

As the saga of Bonusgate reached its 1,000th day the sun started to emerge from behind the cloud that only Democrats were going to be charged in the investigation. Its always good to have a friend or two on the inside. In the very near future look for action against the Republicans. But, a warning for the Democrats, the division looking into your irregularities did not pack up and go home. They are as active as ever.

The media reports trying to second guess Tom Corbett's investigation have all been unsubstantiated hype. AG Corbet has said and did give this investigation a high priority. But the public wants action. Its the old story about the young bull and the old bull on top of the hill. The young bull wants to hurry down the hill and have his way with but one. The old bull says take your time and we can have them all.

Today's announcement on reveals the culmination of countless overtime hours spent on this investigation.

Prosecutors have offered Rep. John M. Perzel of Philadelphia, the former speaker of the Pennsylvania House, a chance to testify before the so-called Bonusgate grand jury in what lawyers say is a sign that criminal charges may soon be filed against him.

Perzel's former chief of staff, Brian Preski, and as many as 10 other current and former House Republican aides have received similar letters, according to lawyers with knowledge of the investigation.

Perzel, 59, could not be reached for comment yesterday. In the past he has said he did nothing improper with the state money that is at the center of the investigation.

The letters from prosecutors, received within the last two weeks, are the clearest indication yet that state Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, is contemplating criminal charges against members of his own party in the sweeping probe known as Bonusgate.

The letters from prosecutors in Corbett's office invite Perzel and the other recipients to testify Monday before the grand jury. The letters say such testimony would be voluntary and given without a grant of immunity.

Experts say such letters from state authorities are akin to the "target letters" that federal prosecutors often use to advise people that they are likely to face criminal charges.

If you are a fan of Bonusgate take this statement to the bank. Bonusgate will go on long after Tom Corbett becomes Governor of Pennsylvania. So, make some popcorn, order a Big Gulp, and enjoy the movie. What you have seen up to now have been the previews, no rating necessary.

Oh, and for those who ask why a conservative blogger would write about Republicans realize that as leaders we must face the music like everyone else. Public trust is the number one priority. If we demonstrate that we are committed to the taxpayer loyalty will follow.

Tom Gabos Has Hazleton Pay For His Healthcare

A firestorm erupted before last night's Hazleton City Council meeting. As the new City Administrator, Mary Ellen Leib, is pouring over Hazleton's expenditures it was discovered that Tom Gabos as well as one other council person is receiving health insurance paid by the City of Hazleton. It is legal for Mr. Gabos to receive health insurance according to an ordinance passed by City Council in 1997.

Why would a businessman burden the taxpayers with his health insurance cost when he only attends City Council meetings for about four hours per month? The cost of the insurance is $600.00 per month. If you do the math the taxpayers of the City of Hazleton are paying $150.00 per hour for a health insurance benefit. Why would a businessman who levies a mercantile tax on other businesses who must pay their own health insurance premiums ask those businesses to pay for his health insurance?

Its not an ethical violation but a question of his integrity. Is he in it for the money or the true interests of the taxpayers? He owns two businesses, gets paid to attend City Council meetings, has a full time position with the Hazleton Area School District, a part time job for his wife, a part time maintenance job with the Greater Hazleton Historical Society, and health insurance benefits paid for by the taxpayers of Hazleton.

In theses hard economic times that is just plain wrong. Let the voters decide.

Update Note: After a review of Ordinance 97-09 passed in 1997 it appears that the present members of Hazleton City Council are NOT entitled to healthcare benefits from the City of Hazleton. The wording of the Ordinance is quite clear that health insurance was only provided for the newly elected members of City Council for the year 1998. It makes no mention of the word "hereinafter."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Luzerne County Judge Race and Retention Interviews/Video

The Times Leader posted its candidate interviews conducted in October, 2009. In the interest to educate and pass on as much information as possible for the voters here are the links. I had the pleasure of meeting Judge Olszewski last evening. He is energetic and willing to pound the pavement to keep his seat. Will he keep his seat is another story where only election day will play it out.

Walter Griffith is included in this article so I posted his video here as well. I believe Griffith is going to win and be an excellent choice for Luzerne County Controller. But then again, this is a conservative blog, right Gort??

Judge Peter Paul Olszewski - Retention interview
Judge Tom Burke - Retention interview
Bill Amesbury - Candidate interview video
Richard Hughes - Candidate interview video
Tina Polachek Gartley - Candidate interview video
Walter Griffith - Candidate interview video
Bob Morgan - Candidate interview video
Wil Toole - Candidate interview video

Spinozza Latest Caught In Corruption Net

Times Leader Photo

According to a recent conversation FBI agents have purchased homes in the area. It definitely points to a rumor that the FBI won't be leaving anytime soon.

Their latest catch is Anthony Spinozza, a Hanover Area School Director charged with accepting a $5,000.00 bribe according to the Times Leader. You can read his plea agreement here.

Spinozza, 59, of Wilkes-Barre, has agreed to plead guilty to the charge and to resign from the board. Federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of 12 to 18 months, but Spinozza could be sentenced up to the maximum of 10 years.

Spinozza is the 18th person, and sixth area school official, to be charged in connection with the ongoing corruption probe in Luzerne County.

Puxatawney Tom Gabos

If you think about it Tom Gabos waited three years and ten months before introducing his first piece of legislation before Hazleton City Council. He is like Puxatawney Phil. He peaks his head out once every four years to run for re-election. So witness the birth of Puxatawney Tom.

Tom Gabos- Just Plain Wrong

Television stations in the Hazleton market started running this ad paid for by the Southern Luzerne County PAC.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rendell States Budget Impasse Harmed Pennsylvanians

In today's announcement of the $3 billion dollar release of delayed payments by Pennsylvania Gov. Rendell made the following statement according to the Sun Herald. He was talking about all the employees in his administration that worked hard to release the funds with the signing of Pennsylvania's budget.

"The hard work of these dedicated employees helped end the harmful effects of the budget impasse for thousands of Pennsylvanians."

I wonder how the legislature is going to explain its inaction to the populace.

Todd Eachus- No WAM Money- Rendell And Other Legislators State Otherwise

John Cole Cartoon Scranton-Times 10-14-2009

There is a list of the losers in the Pennsylvania budget according to an article that appeared in the Times-Tribune on October 10, 2009 by Roger Dupius II and Robert Swift.

  • Teacher professional development (down 40 percent) and the Classrooms for the Future program (complete reduction).
  • The state's Human Services Development Fund takes a 17 percent hit, to $29 million. Child care assistance would drop 12 percent, to $198 million
  • Public libraries: State subsidies drop 20 percent, from $75 million to $60 million
  • Higher education: Penn State (6 percent), state-owned universities (8 percent) and community colleges (9 percent) all are facing state cuts. Federal stimulus money may help offset these cuts. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency would drop about 3.5 percent, to $455 million.
  • Economic development: Community revitalization is being cut altogether.
  • Parks and recreation: Funding for heritage parks is completely cut, while state parks face a 19 percent cut
  • The environment: The state Department of Environmental Protection will lose 31 percent of its budget, while flood-control projects will drop by 28 percent.

However, according to this AP article by Marc Levy that appeared in the Times Leader the fate of pet projects for Pennsylvania's legislators in not so clear. Pennsylvania's so-called "Walking Around Money" (more commonly known as "WAMS") are sore spots with taxpayers since WAMS are useful incumbent tools usually pulled out of the toolbox around election time.

Lets be honest. Many projects would be funded on their own merit, but politicians like to hoodwink the public into believing the money came to their town through the politician's effort.

Both the Democratic governor and top legislators insist that the budget contains no grant money set aside for legislators’ pet projects. House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Butler Twp., said he broke the news to top municipal officials in his district in a recent meeting.

“I told them, ’Sorry, the money went into lines to help people,’ to cover the socially vulnerable populations of people that we all along said we were fighting for,” Eachus said. “These weren’t just talking points.”

However, Rendell’s top aides and top legislators have repeatedly refused to reveal how much grant money was tucked into the 2008-09 budget. That number remains the subject of much speculation.

“It’s hard for me to believe that they would go from somewhere from between $200 million to $800 million down to zero,” said Barry Kauffman, the executive director of the citizen advocacy group Common Cause Pennsylvania.

Never-before-released records obtained by the AP through requests filed under the new state Right-to-Know Law showed that legislators lodged special grant requests totaling more than $180 million since July 1, 2008 — more than $700,000 on average for each of Pennsylvania’s 253 lawmakers.

That figure is expected to rise.

A review of the legislature's own budget reveals a difference picture on the money both chambers receive to support their efforts.  Protectionism would be an appropriate label for their actions in this area.

The House and Senate's own operating budgets for fiscal 2009-10 are cut far less than many state programs.

The budget for the 203-member House is $184.6 million, down $7.3 million or nearly 4 percent. The budget for the 50-member Senate is $92 million, down $9.7 million or 9.5 percent.
By comparison, the budgets for enviromental agencies were cut by almost one-third, libraries lost 20 percent and public television lost 90 percent of funding.

To address Eachus's comment that the money went into lines to help people take a look at this article that appeared in the Scranton Times yesterday, October 18, 2009.

A last-minute flap during the budget debate focused on whether $12 million in "embedded" WAMs are in the budget. A leaked internal legislative memo titled "WAM Overview" stoked the issue by listing items in the budget.

Highlighted in the memo is a $175,000 appropriation for the John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, $3.1 million for "cultural preservation assistance" in the governor's office and $3 million for health care clinics in the Department of Public Welfare.

Mr. Rendell sought to defuse the issue by publicly releasing a letter saying he controls disbursement of state money.

Lawmakers are getting more adept at disguising WAMs, and tracking them is getting tougher, said Mr. Brouillette.
As there are more eyes on this budget and more scrutiny, it is even going to get harder," he added.

People pleasing statements are okay if they can be backed up with facts not fiction.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tom Gabos- When Is Enough ENOUGH? Or Is It Just Plain Wrong?

After a recent Hazleton City Council meeting Tom Gabos was finally able to make a claim. Gabo’s tenure as a City Councilman is not loaded with lofty ideas to help Hazleton. Until that meeting Tom Gabos failed to introduce one piece of legislation to address the pressing issues facing Hazleton. Hazleton City residents had to pay Gabos for over 3-3/4 years before he stepped up to the plate and did what the electorate asked him to do. In his re-election bid it will be hard for Jim Perry and Karin Cabell to debate Gabo's record. He really has none.

Reason would have it that Mr. Gabos was busy with other projects that commanded more attention than the City Council position. After all he owns his own electrical contracting business.

In his entrepreneurial spirit he opened an arcade, along with his wife, Gale Zelenack, in downtown Hazleton which was announced here on July 22 , 2009.

But, as all of us know, in these dire economic times things are very tough for the unemployed. Having a political position allows one get to the head of the line for consideration.

As if those two businesses were not enough money for Gabos he was hired April 23, 2009 as a part time substitute maintenance person. Even the money from that position wasn't enough. He was hired as a full time maintenance person for Hazleton Area School District on September 24, 2009 for the Hazleton Elementary/Middle School, also known as "The Castle". Not only did he use his political position to get himself hired but he also used it to be placed at "The Castle" where he is part of the Castle Fund trying to raise money to repair the auditorium. According to records twenty eight candidates applied for that position.

The Board of Directors of the Castle Fund includes himself as President and three Hazleton Area School Board Members, Elaine Curry, Steve Hahn, and Carmella Yenkevich, who voted to hire him full time as a maintenance person for the Hazleton Area School District this year. This Standard Speaker article found on McKissick Associates from 2004 highlights the close association between Tom Gabos and Bob Childs, another member of the Hazleton Area School Board. Childs isn't, but knows the building well, as he is close to Tom Gabos and Bob Tombasco.

Gabos is President of the Greater Hazleton Historical Society along with his wife, Gale, as a fellow member of the Board of Directors. According to this HASD agenda dated March 26, 2008 under Finance Committee 39 - Recommend Board approve the payment of $2,500 to the Greater Hazleton Historical Society and Museum for cleaning and related costs of the chandeliers in the Hazleton El./Middle School. So the school board members who hired Gabos as a part time maintenance person voted previous to pay another charity where he is its President $2,500.00 to clean chandeliers. This action begs the question on whether Tom Gabos ultimately received the $2,500.00 as President of the Greater Hazleton Historical Society for cleaning the chandeliers.

A review of IRS 990 Forms found on confirm that as a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Hazleton Historical Society Tom Gabos has been paid for work every year since at least 2002. Gabos is President of the Greater Hazleton Historical Society, his wife a member of the Board, and the same society that received payment from the Hazleton Area School District voted on by three members of the HASB that sit on the Castle Fund where Gabos is President.

According to those IRS 990's filed for the Greater Hazleton Historical Society (2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2000)
he was paid a total of $7,233.00 for electrical and maintenance work from 2002 (excluding the year 2005 because that return is not on the net or at ) through April 30, 2008 as a member of its Board of Directors then becoming President in March, 2008. The form for the year 1999 to 2000 there is no notation that he was paid for electrical or maintenance work. The prior year, 1997-1998, indicated no payment.

As an example here is the statement submitted to the IRS for the year 2006.

Gabo's wife, Gale Zelenack, was also approved as a substitute maintenance person for the Hazleton Area School District listed as item #73 on the HASD June 25, 2009 agenda.

Gabos- Electrical Contractor
Member Board of Directors- Greater Hazleton Historical Society with yearly contracts
Elected to Hazleton City Council- 2006
Hired as Part-Time Maintenance Substitute- April 23, 2009
Wife Hired as Part Time Maintenance Substitute- June 25, 2009
He and Wife open Arcade - July 22, 2009
Hired as Full Time Maintenance Person- September 24, 2009

Tom Gabos and his wife, Gale, should win the Nobel prize for making lightning strike multiple times in the same places. In summation Gabos is an electrical contractor who owns an arcade business, paid as a Hazleton City Council Member, paid as a full time maintenance person for the Hazleton Area School District, paid as a part time maintenance person for Greater Hazleton Historical Society, and a wife who was hired as a part time maintenance substitute with the Hazleton Area School District. And that is just plain wrong.

Tom, when is enough ENOUGH? How about leaving a job for some poor family who is struggling to make ends meet and could use a job for a family member. It's a shame that Gabos and his wife are getting jobs because of political favors during an economic slowdown when many blue collar workers are losing their jobs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

PA GOP: Luzerne County Dems Up To Same Old Tricks

Copy of press release received today.

October 16, 2009 Contact: Michael Barley

For Immediate Release (717) 234-4901

PA GOP: Luzerne County Dems Up To Same Old Tricks

Luzerne County Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla Working To Rig Election For Corrupt Democrat Machine

HARRISBURG – Republican Party of Pennsylvania Spokesman Michael Barley questioned Luzerne County Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla’s recent actions and comments regarding Luzerne County’s attempts to rig the election for the corrupt Democrat Party and its candidates on November 3rd.

“It’s no surprise that Commissioner Petrilla is willing to protect the entrenched Democrat machine in Luzerne County,” Barley said. “This is the same former Democrat Controller who failed to raise any red flags regarding the web of corruption that has surrounded the Luzerne County government. It was, after all, under Maryanne Petrilla’s watch that debit cards were being misused and no-bid contracts were being handed out as political favors. Frankly, her inability to report these glaring problems with our county government while serving as an elected official make her incompetent at best.

“Like the rest of the Democrat leaders, it seems that Maryanne Petrilla would rather ‘play along to get along’ then put actually serve the people of Luzerne County. Just look at how cozy Maryanne Petrilla is with Tina Gartley, a candidate who has been hand-picked by the entrenched Luzerne County Democrat machine to help them maintain the culture of corruption in Luzerne County.

“It’s time for Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla and the rest of the Democrat cronies to finally accept responsibility for their questionable actions.”

Rep. Mario Scavello Decries Secretive Nature of Budget Plan Details

Rep. Mario Scavello points out the billion dollar tax increase plan created by the House Democrats is devoid of most pertinent details.

Judge Muroski Testimony Before Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice

Times Leader Photo

In reading the testimony of Judge Muroski I found one part particularly curious.

Since the indictments were announced there has been considerable media and public criticism about "why didn't the Judges do anything- they had to know." He goes on to desceribe some mechanisms that may support the reason Judges were kept in the dark. But this line is not as clear.

Prior to that I had never received a letter or any other notice of the systemic deprivation of counsel. I do not recall any news coverage regarding these issues, except for the 2004 incident regarding placement.

It is a shame that this particular story didn't receive the attention it deserved. The heartbreak of Richard and Gloria Habel over their daughter, Elizabeth, with the Luzerne County juvenile court system is compelling enough to keep it in the forefront.

A family’s nightmare
Plymouth girl, her parents upset with treatment she’s received in her nine months in state custody.

Times Leader

October 29, 2006

PLYMOUTH – Richard and Gloria Habel pulled into the West Side Vo-Tech High School parking lot one morning in mid-February to a flashing array of emergency vehicles. Their daughter Elizabeth, then 14, was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser, drunk, and crying, “James O’Brien raped me.”

Police said Elizabeth came to school that morning highly intoxicated with two friends. One of those friends was in the back seat of another cruiser; the other was in an ambulance, being rushed to the hospital to get her stomach pumped.

Authorities locked up Elizabeth in juvenile detention that day, and aside from a brief visit in September, she hasn’t been home since. Elizabeth was on probation that February morning for a simple assault charge in the spring of 2005. Showing up at school intoxicated was a violation of the probation conditions.

Four days after her arrest, Elizabeth provided authorities with a detailed – at times graphic – written account of the alleged sexual assault by O’Brien. A month later, police arrested James F. O’Brien, 26, at his Plymouth apartment on charges of statutory sexual assault, corruption of minors and furnishing alcohol to minors. He is currently awaiting trial.

O’Brien previously served time in prison after he was charged as a juvenile in 1997 with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. He said in a 2001 interview that the charges were related to sexual abuse of his 5-year-old nephew.

To date, Elizabeth has been locked up longer than O’Brien.

Elizabeth’s story

After the drinking incident at school, Elizabeth was sent to juvenile detention for several months while she awaited a hearing before Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella. While confined to Dorm A, Room 2 of the Luzerne County Juvenile Center in Pittston, she wrote a detailed affidavit explaining how she met O’Brien one afternoon while walking across the Carey Avenue Bridge with some girlfriends – and how, a few weeks later, he lured her to his apartment, where he allegedly plied her and her friends with alcohol before assaulting Elizabeth.

But the affidavit was for the district attorney’s office and their case against O’Brien; it had nothing to do with the adjudication of Elizabeth’s case.

After nearly two months in juvenile detention, Elizabeth went before Ciavarella and was sentenced to a program called Vision Quest, some 400 miles away from home in Franklin County. Richard and Gloria say they were never notified of the hearing or the sentencing.

“They told me I was going away and I said, ‘what about my family?’ Because every other time they called and told my parents,” Elizabeth said in an interview at Bridgeview in Wilkes-Barre, where she was transferred this summer. “I had to go to that hearing by myself. And they don’t explain anything; they tell you where you’re going and you’re gone.”

In the nine months since Ciavarella sentenced Elizabeth, the Habels have watched helplessly as judges, state psychologists and probation officers have shuffled her among juvenile detention centers, residential treatment facilities and psychiatric hospitals.

Elizabeth has been interned in at least four different facilities since February, including a brief stay at The Meadows Psychiatric Center in Centre Hall, where she was sent after “failing to adjust” to her program at Vision Quest.

At Vision Quest, Elizabeth said, she received no therapy or counseling related to the alleged sexual assault. The staff “screamed in your face,” she said, describing the facility as more of a military-style boot camp than a treatment center.

In lieu of counseling, Elizabeth was given powerful prescription drugs, including Zoloft and Prozac. Not only were the Habels never consulted about the medications, they weren’t notified when staff doctors decided to change them.

“When we saw her the first time, she was real agitated, she couldn’t sit still and she told us the drugs they were giving her were making her angry and depressed,” Gloria said. “I did some research on my own and I couldn’t believe they would give her these things without consulting us.”

“This is what I don’t understand – how she can be sent to this place and put on these psychotropic drugs and we have no say in the matter,” Richard said. “She’s our daughter, someone should’ve asked us.”

Drug treatments aside, Richard and Gloria weren’t prepared for what they saw at the Vision Quest facility after driving there to visit Elizabeth for the first time last spring.

The first sign that something was wrong: TV news vans were lined up outside the facility.

The day before, the Habels later learned, there had been a riot. About 30 girls attacked staff members with rock-filled socks; some escaped into the woods during the fracas and were later caught.

“There were about a dozen state police cruisers there that morning,” Richard Habel said. “This was where the judge sent my daughter.”

“Harder than it had to be”

The Habels now hope for a judicial decision that, to them, would seem like a miracle. Elizabeth is scheduled to go before Ciavarella on Tuesday, and there is a chance she could finally be allowed to return home.

The ordeal has shaken the Habels as a family, and ultimately brought them closer. But, they say, any good that has come from their daughter’s nine months away from home has been despite her placement, not because of it.

“Liz is closer to us than ever before, and she’s very respectful and loving towards us and her sister,” Gloria said. “But it didn’t have to be like this. We shouldn’t – no parent should – have to go through what we’ve been through.”

For her part, Elizabeth is resilient and speaks clearly and confidently about what’s happened to her.

“I’ve learned so much through all this, but they made it so much harder than it had to be,” she said. “I just wish someone would have listened to me and respected me enough to understand what was really going on.”

John Davidson, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7210.

Your honor, respectively, that story is from 2006.

Eachus Testimony To Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice

Sometimes it doesn't take words to tell the story a picture can answer all the questions.

From Terri Morgan-Beceker's story that appeared in the Times Leader. Here are the words of Todd Eachus during his testimony asking HOW?

It is heartbreaking to know that my county is now nationally known for a public corruption scandal that used thousands of children as pawns in a judicial kickback scheme.

This “kids for cash” scandal, as it has come to be known, has devastated the lives of these young victims, and left our entire community wondering how this could have happened.
Yes, we want to know WHY these two judges misused their power and abused the system for their own gain.

Yes, we want to know WHY thousands of juvenile defendants were denied their constitutional right to counsel.

And Yes, we want to know WHY so many children were sent to a juvenile detention center for what, in many cases, were minor offenses.

The WHY is important.

But it is also important that we ask HOW.

HOW were these two rogue judges able to manipulate the system for their own selfish ends?

HOW were they able, for so long, to deny the basic constitutional rights for so many juvenile defendants?

HOW did no one know these abuses were occurring?

In short, HOW could this have happened?

Todd, how are you standing next to one of the participants and didn't know HOW?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Magic Carpet Ride

According to late breaking news this afternoon at the Times Leader Richard Emanski, president of the Swoyersville-based King Glass & Paint, has been charged in the ongoing corruption probe of Luzerne County government entities. Emanski, 65, allegedly provided and installed free carpeting in the home of an unnamed Wilkes-Barre Area School District board member as a reward for support of a contract for Emanski's business.

One of my favorite reporters, Jennifer Learn-Andes, (are you paying attention anonymous) reported on Mr. Emanski back in April, 2009.

King Glass has also done work in Wilkes-Barre Area School District and the Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational-Technical School – which are also being investigated by the FBI.

Wilkes-Barre Area School District paid the company $953,713 from August 2004 to the present, mostly for carpet installation, records show.

It appears that investigation has been concluded according to the published report in the Times Leader. Stay tuned.

The words to the song are "Well, you don't know what we can find." When the F.B.I. comes a knockin the words change to "Well, you don't know what we will,and believe me we will, find." "The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away, Waiting to take you away- to a federal prison near, well not so near you."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Joe Papa Gets No Respect

In case no one noticed Penn State, Temple, Pitt, and Lincoln University are without funding. Way to go Legislature...

The passage of Pennsylvania's $27.8 billion budget on Oct. 9 after a 101-day stalemate was good news for the Commonwealth, but it still leaves Penn State and other state-related institutions without an appropriation.

While the media is reporting the end of the state's longest budget impasse in history, few are taking note of the fact that the state has not enacted its non-preferred appropriations — the category under which Penn State falls. Which means that Penn State has not received any allocation of funds.

Appropriations made to institutions not under the absolute control of the Commonwealth (such as Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln) are considered non-preferred appropriations. Each institution's appropriation requires a separate bill and two-thirds vote of each House of the General Assembly in order to pass.

The general appropriation bill that was just signed by Gov. Ed Rendell and which is receiving media attention, contains appropriations for the executive, legislative and judicial departments and public schools, and covers public debt.

"We are still without a state appropriation 30 percent of the way into our fiscal year," said Bill Mahon, vice president for University Relations. "We are watching developments closely from day-to-day and getting by as best we can without an appropriation. It could be misleading to our students and their families to make guesses about what might or might not happen in the coming days or weeks."

Since July, Penn State has covered its appropriation shortfall through reserves. In addition, the University fronted money this semester to students who expected to receive a Pennsylvania state grant administered through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) in the amount of $25 million — the total expected grant amount for 17,000 Penn State students.

"We are continuing to manage our finances in ways that will not interfere with operations and with the education of our students," Mahon said. "We're hoping for an outcome soon."

But our Legislature made sure it gots its $500,000 + per diem during the budget impasse...Unbelievable...

He'll Know Why I Posted This One

Good Luck With Your Phriggin Phillies

I predict a win. No need for game 5.

U.S. Can't Trace Foreign Visitors Who Refuse To Leave

In this article by JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. and JULIA PRESTON of the New York Times a huge problem locating foreign visitors who decide to remain in the country illegally is spotlighted and detailed.

For a long time Lou Barletta has been an outspoken critic of the inability to account for foreign visitors who remain past their authorized visa time. In fact most of the illegal aliens in this country did not enter the country illegally but remained here illegally.

New concern was focused on that security loophole last week, when Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian who had overstayed his tourist visa, was accused in court of plotting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.

Last year alone, 2.9 million foreign visitors on temporary visas like Mr. Smadi’s checked in to the country but never officially checked out, immigration officials said. While officials say they have no way to confirm it, they suspect that several hundred thousand of them overstayed their visas.

Over all, the officials said, about 40 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States came on legal visas and overstayed.

Paul Kanjorski will tell you he is against illegally immigration but his oversight on this huge problem is anemic at best.

Mr. Smadi’s case has brought renewed calls from both parties in Congress for Department of Homeland Security officials to complete a universal electronic exit monitoring system.

Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Smadi case “points to a real need for an entry and exit system if we are serious about reducing illegal immigration.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration, said he would try to steer money from the economic stimulus program to build an exit monitoring system.

Immigration analysts said that given the difficulties of enforcing the United States’ vast borders, it remains primarily up to law enforcement officials to thwart terrorism suspects who do not have records that would draw scrutiny before they enter the United States.

The article goes on to chronicle the escapades of Mr. Smadi while remaining in this country. This article leads to another post about a small town police chief who is doing one hell of a job stopping illegal aliens.

Dwights Evans- Exposed By Ugarte

Pop on over to CasablancaPA to see a great analysis on Representative Dwight Evans, a player in this year's budget negotiations, and his role with the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation.

The whole arrangement between Evans, OARC and North by Northwest was so unseemly that it led the Philadelphia Inquirer to editorialize:

"But remember, without Evans, there are no taxpayer dollars. And without taxpayers' dollars, there is no OARC. Without OARC, Young & partners are stuck with a failed business and paying their back taxes. Here's one opinion of how it all looks: Bad." (Inquirer 8/17/09)

Some just don't get it. But in Harrisburg it seems a handful of players are the same names that pop up time after time. To honor CasablancaPA let's end with "Round up the usual suspects".

Captain Renault: Hello Rick.
Rick: Hello Louis.
Captain Renault: How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce. You know, now I think I shall pay a call on Yvonne. Maybe get her on the rebound. Hmm?
Rick: When it comes to women, you're a true democrat.

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Mortally Wounded In Budget Process

If you were a Pennsylvania Legislator things weren't looking too good for you this weekend. Here is a wrap up of the "accolades" legislators received on their recent budget performance.

The budget's done, but state's dysfunction persists
Sunday, October 11, 2009

The budget nightmare is over. So how about a little entertainment, Pennsylvania?

A little word-eating?

How about a nice round of shoe-dropping?

These things are possible, according to Attorney General Tom Corbett, who has been promising more indictments of state lawmakers and General Assembly staffers.

What a fitting follow-up for a state gone wild should that shoe-dropping come now.

Lawmakers and staffers could be safely removed from their posts, and public attention is still aimed toward our "leaders," so there's no time like the present.

It's kind of like late-night TV. You want to be the show that follows Leno.

Not that House Democratic leaders Dwight Evans, Todd Eachus or Keith McCall are exactly in that same comedic category, but the stage is suddenly empty.

Analysis: State budget delay cloaks politicians in shame
Sunday, October 11, 2009

Asked about the 101-day delay, Rendell said, "The process is screwed up, and the system is broken."

All the while, most lawmakers racked up per diems at $158 per day for food and lodging. The tab exceeded $532,000 for July and August, records show.

There's no penalty for legislators or the governor if they don't meet the June 30th deadline when a budget is required by law.

The budget has been late seven years straight since Rendell took office in 2003.

In early September, Rendell identified "Ideology, partisanship and laziness," as reasons for the late budget this year.

Some legislators said the 2010 budget is in line with what the public wanted -- no broad-based tax increase. But Matthew Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation, said the budget "taxes too much, spends too much, and puts Pennsylvania on an unsustainable path to the future."

Broken budget trust
Sunday, October 11, 2009

Long-term relations between the House and Senate were severely damaged by the budget battle, casting a cloud over future action on efforts to cap electric rates, next year's budget and trying to stem the impact of spiking pension costs in two years.

In the interest of getting a budget done, new House Democrat negotiators, Speaker Keith McCall of Carbon County and Majority Leader Todd Eachus of Luzerne County, inexplicably signed off on the deal.

Both taxes, for the most part, hit Democrat constituencies.

McCall and Eachus faced a full-scale revolt in their caucus over those measures as well as a plan to lease state forest land for natural gas drilling.

So the House Democrats broke the deal and sent the Senate a tax bill that eliminated the arts tax and small-games tax. The House Ds put in poison pills for the Senate, taxing smokeless tobacco and cigars and taxing natural gas extraction. Those two were ignored in the final agreement.

Senate Republican leaders and Senate Democrat leaders, and Rendell, were furious.

They had hung themselves out there on controversial taxes. In the end, Senate GOP leaders Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, felt far more comfortable dealing with Senate Dems and Rendell than the House Dems.

In fact, they didn't want to deal with them at all. Senate Democrat leaders felt the same.

Eachus said they had no choice based on their caucus's reaction. That's true. But what galled the other leaders is that Eachus and McCall didn't come back to them and say, "This won't work. Help us out."

House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, knows how to do a deal, one leader told me. These guys don't.

The Pennsylvania legislature owes a duty to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be more responsible and responsive to the wished of its constituents. Instead it seems it is hell bent on perpertuating a political machine for the purposes of duking it out at election time. Until those in the top offices of the House and the Senate turn the tide and forge a new direction they neither earned the title of "leadership" nor deserve it.

Your size is too big; your staff is too big. It is time to do what businesses and families do when the money they used to earn is not there, consolidate, do without.

Remember the old saying, the pigs get butchered but the hogs get slaughtered. Your pay package is at that point.