WILKES-BARRE — Mayor Tom Leighton Friday said he will continue to do appraisals for the credit union based in City Hall and questioned the credibility of those raising a conflict of interest issue about him exclusively doing the work.
Through his real estate business, C.A. Leighton Co. Inc., Leighton does appraisals for the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union. It is not a city operation but rents space on the first floor of City Hall.
The credit union drew the attention of the FBI who subpoenaed records last week and visited the offices again this week.
The suicide of its longtime manager, James Payne, on Monday further added to the intrigue surrounding the criminal investigation. Independent of the FBI, regulators from the National Credit Union Administration are auditing the credit union.
Leighton bristled when asked about a conflict of interest and castigated the reporter for doing the work of his critics.
“You’re listening to a bunch of goofs,” Leighton said.
He singled out Bob Kadluboski and Frank Sorick who brought up the credit union, the investigation and conflict of interest at Thursday night’s city council meeting.
“It’s not a conflict,” Leighton said.
He demanded that the reporter identify the conflict. When told that as mayor he is the elected executive and oversees city employees, who are members of the credit union, he became agitated. Leighton asked if the reporter thought he could not give a fair appraisal to a city employee.
“Are you questioning my professional integrity?” Leighton asked.
Leighton has a certified broker appraiser license from the Pennsylvania Department of State. It was issued on May 14, 1997 and renewed April 18 of last year, according to the department’s database.
The license expires on June, 30, 2015. There were no disciplinary actions against him.
The number of appraisals Leighton has done for the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union was small, said its attorney Dominick P. Pannunzio. The attorney added that Leighton does appraisals for other credit unions.
Leighton told the reporter that negative stories are not written about Sorick and Kadluboski because they provide news tips. He also directed the reporter to check into Sorick’s back taxes and failed businesses.
Neither Kadluboski nor Sorick hold public office.
Sorick, president of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association, confirmed he owes back taxes for last year on his Waller Street property.
He explained that the escrow account was set up a year after he bought it in 2001 and he’s always a year in arrears. He owes $1,941 on the Waller Street property and a total of $3,844 on two other city properties, according to Northeast Revenue Service LLC, the agent for the Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau.
Sorick said his businesses failed because of the bad economy.
But as to the issue of a conflict of interest, Sorick maintained there is one on Leighton’s part and the taxpayer association is taking action.
“We’re filing a complaint against him with the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers,” Sorick said.
Kadluboski pointed out that he was vindicated when awarded $250,000 over a federal suit filed after he was let go as the city’s towing contractor.
“I handled them once federally and I’ll handle them federally again in more ways than one,” he said.
“If we’re so goofy why are federal officials handing out subpoenas,” Kadluboski said.