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Voting "present" in Luzerne County

What's the use of getting sober
When you're gonna get drunk again
Oh Sam done something fine
When he bought that good whiskey, beer and wine
I love my whiskey and I love my gin
Every time you see me I'm in my sin
So what's the use of getting sober
When you're gonna get drunk again
_Louis Jordan
I remember it because it was like last Christmas. That’s because it was last Christmas _ or more like the week prior to the big event of 2009.
Reporters were gathered in the majestic rotunda of the Luzerne County Courthouse to await the latest news on stone tablet, or at least get some kind of confirmation on the resignation of Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak. You all remember Skrep, right? The whiz kid football star who said we could trust him while he was engaged in the legendary quid pro quo politics that have become part of the DNA of our citizens? Well, at least some of the citizens. A lot of people have packed up their DNA and moved away, discouraged by the lay of the land around these parts and not adept at quid pro quo politics. But then, I digress.
So, news crews, print scribes and radio ladies stood underneath the soaring pine in the rotunda, a tree that had been purchased by Mr. Skrepenak himself to dress up the place. It takes a big tree to fill that room and Skrep spared no expense.
Someone even ordered a delicious pizza from across the river and the festivities commenced under the tree.
Andy Mehalshick of WBRE had the line of the day about the tree and its patron. “Which do you think will fall first? The tree or Skrepenak?”
It turns out Greg fell first. But, the tree got hauled away in January and Skrep got hauled away this fall.
Now, for those who are wondering about Louis Jordan and wonder where this thing is going, I want you to recall the hair on fire panic that ensued after Skrep’s departure, before the county budget was approved. There was a mad scramble for someone to fill the seat and about 50 or so people thought they were the one.  A series of interviews were conducted in haste because the county budget needed to be passed and there was a deadlock between the two commissioners who were left holding the bag when Skrep left the building.
After a rapid fire round of questioning, Thomas Cooney became the new commissioner. They might as well have chosen Marcel Marceau, Shields or Yarnell or the Captain from the Captain and Tenneille because I really can’t imagine someone phoning it in as quietly as Mr. Cooney has.
Here’s some info from Wilkes-Barre’s Times Leader about Mr. Cooney and his company. Pay attention. It was written on Dec. 24, 2009:
Cooney is development director at A&E Group Inc. in Plains Township. He formed the company, formerly the Architecture & Engineering Group, in 1987 with Dean L. Butler and the late Martin Dougherty.
The company has designed numerous structures in the public and private sector.
A&E is currently working on several government projects, including a bridge design for Luzerne County and a construction project at Luzerne County Community College, Cooney said.
Cooney said there will be no conflict of interest because A&E will finish these projects but will not seek any new work in county government while he fills the remainder of Skrepenak’s term through 2011. Cooney said he will stay out of any decisions involving the company’s existing county work.
He also told the judges he is “winding down” at A&E and will be a full-time county commissioner.
 You may remember that someone needed to break the one/one tie last year on the county budget and Mr. Cooney did on Dec. 31, voting a tax hike for county residents. Here’s what he told WNEP TV:

We did have a tax increase. We have to recognize the responsibility we have to address our debt and to address the services that all of our employees are providing here," Cooney said.
Fast forward to Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010 when Luzerne County Commissioners voted on the preliminary Luzerne County Budget. Maryanne Petrilla and Steve Urban voted yes and Commissioner Cooney voted “present.” Actually, he abstained from voting. Yes, abstained from voting on the most vital piece of business the commissioners are charged with doing.
Here the line from The Citizens’ Voice:
Commissioner Thomas P. Cooney abstained because his engineering company does work for Luzerne County Community College, which receives county funding.
People want to know why Commissioner Cooney could vote for the 2010 budget when his company was doing business with the county then, but abstained from voting on Wednesday.
Is it fair to ask why Commissioner Cooney has taken a salary for a year and then “abstains” from voting on the budget?
Using a baseball analogy, this is like getting to the World Series and then telling the coach you’re going to sit this one out. I believe if he voted last year, he should have voted this year, but I will do you one better: He shouldn’t vote at all. But, if that’s the case, he should just grab his coat and go back to his company. I mean, it’s not like he did what he promised last year, so what’s different now?
The residents of the Luzerne County voted overwhelmingly to change their form of government in the recent election. That’s because they know there’s no reason their government is ever going to sober up. It’s only gonna get drunk again.

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Locations : Luzerne CountyPlains Township
People : Andy MehalshickDean L. ButlerGreg SkrepenakLouis JordanMarcel MarceauMartin DoughertyMaryanne PetrillaSteve UrbanThomas CooneyThomas P. Cooney

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12/02/2010 4:56PM
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