Saturday, May 15, 2010

Leighton And The Volunteers of America

Back in 2006 Tom Leighton was caught up in a real estate transaction involving the Volunteers of America. The organization purchased a building from North River Associates and Robert E. Marsh where Leighton's real estate business garnered a $51,500 commission. Luzerne County Commissioner Steve Urban questioned the transaction but Leighton dismissed his concerns as "pure politics" because Urban's wife was running against Leighton.

From the Wilkes Barre Politicial Scene archive

The problem is, according to Urban noted in an article in Aug 21 Times Leader, that the Mayor's Realty Company--CA Lehighton Real Estate--received $51,500 in commissions when the building was purchased in August 2006 from North River Associates and Robert E. Marsh, Jr. Urban noted that there is a clause from county procedures that are supposed to be followed in all federally funded community development projects. The clause lists those who cannot have an interest--direct or indirect--in these projects. This includes any member of a governing body of the locality in which the program is situated. Urban interprets this to mean the Mayor of Wilkes-Barre.

County officials disputed Urban's claims saying that Lehighton is not covered by this clause as it is a county project.

Say what you want but Urban is on to something here. This blog has been on the record many months ago asking the lazy and Lehighton friendly press to look at Lehighton's real estate dealings during his mayorality. They have not done so and will not because the local press walks in lock step with Chamber of Commerce and Lehighton does their bidding which makes him their darling.

Leighton tries to defend himself that is recounted in a document on the Mayor's campaign website.

Leighton said he is mayor “24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t spend any time at my business during regular business hours. I have people working for me that handle that.” Mr. Leighton, if you are a mayor 24/7 exactly when are your business hours? Last time I checked our calendar doesn't provide for more than 24/7. Do you have posted hours for the Mayor's office or are you like your friends in Luzerne County who make them up as they go along?

The Mayor made many pronouncements that he was above reproach in this deal. Again from the Mayor's campaign website.

Luzerne County appropriated a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from HUD and obtained a $400,000 grant from HUD for the project. The county also obtained a $425,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to fund

The mayor said the real estate commission went to his office and proceeds were used to pay staff or other business-related expenses.

“The bottom line is my integrity and ethical upbringing would have forced me to walk away if something was inappropriate,” Leighton said Monday. “If something had been wrong, I would have never have been involved.”

The third entry from his Mayoral campaign website.

But Leighton and county Community Development Director Andy Reilly say there was no impropriety because the city had no oversight or involvement in the project.

Leighton believes Urban is trying to drum up a negative report about him because Leighton is running against Urban’s wife, Linda Stets, in November.

Leighton, a Democrat, is a first-term mayor running against Stets, who garnered the Republican nomination.

“I’m an honest guy, and I value my integrity and ethics,” Leighton said. “It’s pure politics so he can advance his wife’s candidacy. Let’s face it.”

Mayor Leighton do you have some 'splainin to do? Using your words that "It's pure politics" please justify this donation listed
in this Winter 2007-2008 brochure from the Volunteers of America.

Pacesetters -
$1,000 to $2,499
Angeline Elizabeth Kirby Memorial
Health Center
The Bergman Foundation
The Black Horse Foundation, Inc.
Committee To Elect Tom Leighton <--------

You weren't trying to play politics with that donation were you?

Why isn't that donation from your real estate firm if the transaction with Volunteers of America had nothing to do with city business or your official capacity as Mayor? Basically you kept the money that came from the taxpayers for your own business use but used political campaign money to donate back to the organization that your real estate firm participated with in a private transaction. And you don't see a potential conflict of interest in any of this?

According to this 2008 2nd Friday Pre-Election campaign finance committee report you gave Ed Rendell $5,000.00 from your committee. This same report lists the donation to Volunteers of America for $1,000.00 on page 22 dated 05/13/2008.

In the interest of clearing up this matter why didn't you donate the entire proceeds back to Volunteers of America? Too cheap huh? Evidently politicians are worth more than volunteers in your eyes. What's that Tom? Your actions are so loud I can't hear what you are saying.

Leighton lost the arbitration award case which amounts to about $13,000.00 per Wilkes Barre firefighter but he defends a payment to his real estate firm for $51,500. Maybe the firefighters should consider a real estate career.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Didn't Leighton's daughter recently land a job working for Rendell???