Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mayor Leighton Has His Own Scandal

Tom Leighton tried to make an issue with John Yudichak about Bonusgate that has by all measures blown up in his face. Yudichak is no more tied to Bonusgate than happy hour is tied to a Betty Ford clinic. There's a southern saying "Don't insult the alligator before you cross the stream."

Leighton shouldn't pick on Yudichak until he vets his own record. This editorial that appeared in the Times Leader on October 9, 2009 represents that journey across the stream.

By The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Publication: The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania)
Date: Friday, October 9 2009

Oct. 9--IN THE INTEREST of transparency and good government, Wilkes-Barre city officials should post all city-owned properties available for sale on its Web site. Ditto for city employment opportunities.

The issue of public access to information, or more precisely the lack thereof, emerged last week when it became public knowledge that Mayor Tom Leighton brokered a deal to sell the former Old River Road Bakery site to a buyer who also happens to be a campaign donor.

The 1.14-acre business property, assessed at $478,300, is slated to change hands for $38,000. Another potential buyer said he might have paid more if city officials had let him know the property was available.

Despite the mayor's assertions, the availability of this property apparently was not widely known. A cash-starved city that found it necessary to raise property taxes by 31 percent this year should optimize every opportunity to maximize returns.

Adding the Web postings to existing advertising in newspaper and real estate publications will aid in that effort while not imposing a hardship or cost to the city. City Council should take the lead on this front and make it happen.

With a widespread federal corruption probe in full swing, all Northeastern Pennsylvania school districts and municipalities should strive to make more information and documents readily available to the public -- a step to help ensure operations remain clean and above board. Ideally, job postings, meeting minutes and upcoming agenda items should be listed on every public body's Web site.

One would think that a Mayor who owns a real estate firm with an appraisal arm would know the true value of a property and seek that value for the taxpayers. It may not be Bonusgate but it sure smells of "Donorgate."

Leighton made this claim at a debate held at the Burke Auditorium in the McGowan School of Business at King’s College.

“I closed that budget deficit,” he said. “I identified problems and found solutions. I made difficult decisions even if they were politically unpopular. I believe in an open government and accountability.”

Yes, Tom you did close the deficit and your solution was a 31% tax increase. On the issue of open government and accountability I would watch out for those alligators.

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