Saturday, July 12, 2014

Loaner cars for police raise alarm

Wilkes-Barre councilmen concerned cops’ relationship with city tower is too cozy.

April 02. 2013 11:31PM

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WILKES-BARRE — City Councilman Bill Barrett on Tuesday said he was “embarrassed” after learning city towing contractor Leo Glodzik III apparently has loaned vehicles to police officers with the knowledge and consent of city administrators.

Barrett, a former city police chief, said he believes the practice presents a clear conflict of interest. There’s also a question as to why a truck purportedly being driven by officer John Majikes still bears a “repair towing” license plate registered to Glodzik, despite a provision within the state motor vehicle code that says a vehicle with a specialty business plate can be driven only by the business owner, his employees or family members.

The issue came to light Sunday when Forty Fort resident Mark Robbins, a vocal critic of Glodzik’s, snapped photos of a gray Dodge Ram truck in a parking lot adjacent the police station. The same truck was parked outside of Majikes’ home on Seneca Street earlier that day.

A person familiar with Majikes said he has been driving the truck for years. The person spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation from police.

Barrett on Tuesday said he was stunned to learn city officials apparently were aware of the situation and permitted it to occur, considering that Glodzik — as the sole towing contractor for the city — has frequent contact with police officers who order vehicles to be towed.

“You should not accept anything from anybody, especially if there is even a remote possibility they will expect something in return,” Barrett said. “When you have a close working relationship with someone like LAG or any other contractor, it infers, whether or not it’s true, that there is an expectation of something in return.”

The situation was particularly troubling because Barrett said he believes it reflects negatively on the entire department. “The whole thing is embarrassing,” he said. “I don’t know what people are thinking.”

Councilman Tony George, also a former police chief, expressed concern, too.

“When you take a gift from a contractor who works for the city, that person expects something in return,” George said. “We all take an oath when we are sworn in that we won’t take a gratuity for any reason at all.”

In a prepared statement, Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said his administration has reviewed the matter and determined there was no breach of department policy.

“If a quid pro quo was alleged and found to be valid, an officer could be subject to disciplinary action, but those are not the facts of this case at this time,” Leighton said. “We would always welcome new information from any source, but at this time, nothing more can be done.”

Attempts to reach Dessoye for comment outside of the police department Tuesday evening were unsuccessful. Glodzik did not return several phone messages.

The FBI in February issued subpoenas to the Wilkes-Barre Police Department seeking records relating to LAG, according to several sources. The subpoenas were issued the same day Robbins received a letter from U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith that stated he had asked the FBI to review allegations of price gouging and other complaints that Robbins made against LAG.

Robbins shot the photo of the Majikes truck at the police station at around 3 a.m. Sunday, he said. He was cited with trespassing, he said, by a city police officer who found him in the parking lot, which is restricted to police vehicles only and is marked with signs prohibiting pedestrians or vehicles from passing through the lot.

Ironically, said Robbins, the officer threatened to impound his car — which means it would have been towed by LAG — after he could not find his insurance card. The officer relented after Robbins got his insurance carrier on the phone and it confirmed he had coverage.

Robbins decided to release the photos because he believes it bolsters his claims that Glodzik has too cozy of a relationship with city police officers that could compromise their impartiality, he said.

“Think about it,” said Robbins. “If you are John Majikes and there is an incident at LAG and you are driving (Glodzik’s) car, unbeknownst to anyone, who are you going to favor?”

Majikes could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The incident is the latest in a series of developments that previously had led City Council members to recommend Leighton terminate Glodzik’s exclusive towing contract.

In January, Glodzik came under fire after allegations arose that he tried to charge 82-year-old Natalie Aleo of Wilkes-Barre nearly $2,000 to recover her stolen vehicle, despite a provision in his contract that precludes him from charging victims of crime. Glodzik has disputed that, saying the car’s engine was blown and he told Aleo that was an estimated repair cost.

The Aleo case took a twist on March 23, when Glodzik unexpectedly returned the vehicle to her. The car had significant front-end damage — damage a Plymouth police officer said did not exist when the vehicle was found in the borough on Dec. 11.

Leighton has not taken any action regarding the contract, saying the matter is still under investigation.

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