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Out Go The Old Bums In Come The New

Monday, November 08, 2010

Advocates of the newly-endorsed Luzerne County home rule-style government say the system will be corruption proof.

The late great Wilkes-Barre crook and Congressman Dan Flood must be rolling over in his grave.

Still, many community leaders really say that the culture of corruption has ended.

Whether they believe what they say is a whole other matter. If they do, they’re delusional. If they don’t they’re lying. Either way, we’re back to square one.

Can anyone truly believe that a new system in the county culture of corruption is immune to gangster judges, bribe-takes and kickback flimflammers? Can anybody really expect nepotism, patronage and cronyism to disappear just because a majority of voters in last Tuesday’s election endorsed throwing the bums out?

Voters will no doubt be throwing some new bums in.

Yeah, that sounds harsh and cynical. But more bad government will blossom in the mud unless squads of public watchdogs keep their eyes on the new gang even more vigilantly that they watched the old gang – surveillance that didn’t really take place anyway. Back then, when citizen activists publicly screamed about their concerns, almost nobody listened.

Even after all the federal arrests, guilty pleas and cooperation among thieves, we still have a culture of corruption in Luzerne County. The most overt acts have been put on hold but I have no doubt that the wheeling-and-dealing still continues. All you have to do is look at the wives, girlfriends and other closely connected family and friends hired in Northeastern Pennsylvania school districts. The sad game of nepotism and legal corruption continues with impunity.

Illegality alone doesn’t define corruption. But home rule cheerleaders tell us that Luzerne County is now beyond all that rot. Believe that and you might be expecting to see federal convict, former NFL lineman and county commissioner Grek Skrepenak playing in next year’s Super Bowl.

The deadline for three citizen participants to apply to the home rule transition team is Nov. 15. Five members of the Home Rule Study Commission will then join the three county commissioners in choosing who those people will be. I hope I’m wrong, but see if the three people are in any way connected to the five members of the commission or in any way supported their mission by raising money for the home rule political action committee or by publicly looking for support.

Why not choose three good people who want to serve their community and have not networked their way into the job? If one single member of the trio is, in fact, connected politically, business-wise or in any other way, you will know that Luzerne County is in for more of the same.

The junta might be worse than what it replaces because the new days are sometimes worse than the old days.

That’s why I’m pleased that Prothonotary Carolee Medico is leading the charge for accountability with a law suit. Medico wants to be sure that she will lose her job legally. What’s wrong with asking for a legal opinion? Had more county workers asked for legal opinions during the height of the reign of corruption, county voters might not have found themselves in the position abolishing government as we know it.

Yes, the people have spoken. But what if the people are endorsing a new form of government that will not stand up to the scrutiny of the courts? Let’s find out. If the new county order stands the test, we work with it. Then at least we know for sure that the system is legal. That’s rich, huh? If the system itself is crooked what hope does anybody have for the new elected and appointed officials?

Luzerne County absolutely needs an overhaul. But I fear that the political finagling has already started in earnest and the new powerbrokers are already working behind-the-scenes lining up money and support to run the county. By itself, home rule does not restore public trust. It’s foolish to believe that the overhaul alone will make everything better. Anybody who tells you that happy days are here again must be viewed with severe suspicion.

Will the weak and hungry huddled masses benefit most from this change? Of course they won’t. The same well-heeled, well-connected politicians, lawyers, and wealthy Chamber of Commerce business hustlers who benefitted in the past will benefit in the future.

I’m not jaded, by the way. I just lived in Luzerne County for 17 years, longer than I ever lived anywhere in my life – long enough to know better.

Complicity to corruption still lives and breathes in Luzerne County. The devils of democracy might have gone underground for the time being, but they wait in the shadows to spring and howl when the time is right and the watchdogs are asleep. Some of those demons will remain in the courthouse, descendants from a long line of vampires.

Home rule blood-suckers will likely be as bad as old rule blood-suckers.

In Luzerne County, some poor soul always gets it in the neck.

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Locations : Luzerne County
People : Carolee MedicoDan FloodGrek Skrepenak

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