WILKES-BARRE — Mayor Tom Leighton sees no conflict of interest with him doing appraisals for the credit union in City Hall, but the head of a city taxpayers group does and wants a state agency to look into it.
Frank Sorick, president of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association, said he mailed a letter Monday to the state Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers, the agency that licensed Leighton.
“I just think an appraiser should not appraise properties for friends or relatives,” Sorick said.
As for the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union, “90 percent of the members are friends and relatives” of the mayor, Sorick said.
The state board did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday.
The mayor has said there is no conflict with him doing the work for the credit union that is not a city operation. Leighton, through his real estate business C.A. Leighton Co. Inc., also does appraisals for other credit unions.
The nonprofit Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union rents space in City Hall and has nearly 2,300 members made up of employees and family members of the city, the Wilkes-Barre Area School District and Plains and Wilkes-Barre townships.
Sorick raised the conflict of interest issue after federal investigators served a subpoena at the credit union for documents related to members. The credit union’s longtime manager, James Payne, committed suicide at a Bear Creek Township residence after FBI agents visited the office on March 11.
The credit union’s attorney, Dominick Pannunzio, complied with the subpoena and collected documents to hand over to the FBI. He has repeatedly said he does not know what the criminal investigation is about.
Separate from that investigation, the National Credit Union Administration, the federal regulatory agency, conducted an audit of the credit union.
Leighton’s appraiser license was issued in May 1997, according to a state Department of State database. The license was renewed on April 18, 2013, and expires on June 30, 2015. There were no disciplinary actions listed for the license.