For better or worse, suspicion naturally bleeds into our consciousness.
So how should we respond to rumor? How do we find the truth?
As Tuesday’s primary election closes in, voters in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties have many choices to make that will shape Northeastern Pennsylvania for decades.
How do we reassure ourselves that the candidate for whom we vote is the right person for the job? What guarantee do we have that honesty, integrity and moral courage will prevail in a region wracked for generations with a culture of political corruption?
We await federal criminal trials for one former and one current Lackawanna County commissioner and a former veteran state senator. We await sentencing for several admitted criminal former public officials, including a former Luzerne County president judge, the former Wilkes-Barre captain of detectives, a multi-millionaire businessman and others who admitted their guilt in the ongoing federal corruption probe that has so far netted more than 30 once well-respected men and women.
The rumors are wild. Some true, some false and some in between, a variety of allegations about candidate character shape the political landscape.
So who do we believe? How do we choose?
Democrat Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien’s campaign manager recently floated an accusation that former state representative and county commissioner candidate Jim Wansacz urinated and fought in public at a Pittsburgh Steelers game.
Wansacz denied peeing and punching but said he was cited for disorderly conduct after others peed in public – a citation that a judge later dismissed.
Wansacz soldiers fired back that O’Brien is the only former Penn State student body president to resign under threat of impeachment.
To make matters worse, Wansacz loyalists charged that O’Brien has accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from an ex-convict, convicted federal felon who once served as a crooked and terribly corrupt state lawmaker – a Republican powerbroker, to boot.
O’Brien’s manager refused to apologize, arguing that the peeing accusation against Wansacz is true but refused to say how he knows.
An anonymous tipster then sent me a purported copy of the Wansacz citation where the police officer accuses the “actors” of urinating and writes that Wansacz refused to provide a social security or telephone number and incorrectly identified himself as a state representative from Reading.
The Wansacz media manager said he had not seen the citation and does not know if it is legitimate.
Wansacz did not respond to clear up the matter.
Another anonymous tipster sent me a purported copy of a deposition transcript from a lawsuit in which Luzerne County lawyer and judicial candidate Lesa Gelb’s former employer accused her of copying client information before leaving the firm.
Gelb appeared on “Corbett” yesterday to explain the situation although she said she could not completely discuss the matter because she settled the case and is bound by a non-disclosure agreement.
Still, the seed of doubt has been planted and might derail her campaign.
Yet another anonymous tipster, this time on the telephone, called to tell me he is concerned that if another political candidate wins election, that the candidate might shoot somebody the way the candidate shot somebody years ago.
I left a message for the candidate but as of yesterday had not received a response.
Do these matters matter? Of course they do. How much do they matter? Each voter will decide.
But voters deserve all the factual information they can get in order to make crucial decisions in counties where former elected and appointed public officials and their henchmen and henchwomen have decimated the public trust and betrayed the living spirit of public service.
The stories are out there.
If it’s you and it’s true, you better come clean.
Whitewashing only makes dirty politics dirtier.
If it’s you and it’s false, fight back with truth.