Rather than the introduction to a joke, this is an exchange certain area residents seemingly can expect at their doors in the near future. And the consequences, it can be presumed, will be extremely serious.
In its continuing crackdown on public corruption in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Scranton office has again taken the unusual step of appealing to the public for information.
Five years ago, as Luzerne County’s juvenile justice scheme was publicly outlined at a news conference, federal authorities asked for people with credible information about “Kids for Cash” and its key players to contact them. Similarly, in what at first seemed to some people like a fishing expedition, the authorities later urged anyone with knowledge of bribe-passing and other indiscretions by public school officials to spill the beans. (To recap, dozens of area residents subsequently have pleaded, or were found, guilty of various corruption-related offenses — including failure to report a crime — and now have criminal records. Some went to prison.)
The tone of the FBI’s most recent message, however, was even more strident, leaving little doubt as to how things are likely to unfold.
“Arrests are coming, and that’s part of my message,” said Sean Quinn, director of the agency’s Scranton office. “There are going to be people reading your article and saying, ‘He’s talking about me.’ I want them to do the right thing.”
The right thing, in case you have any doubt, is to call the FBI at 570-344-2404.
Quinn was responding to questions about an investigation into alleged misdeeds at the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union. But he made reference to “the corruption circulating around the city of Wilkes-Barre” and “numerous corruption investigations” around the city and Luzerne County. He could not elaborate on those probes, Quinn said.
Suffice it to say, it appears more dirty deeds are being uncovered in a region where bad behavior on the part of elected and appointed officials already has shaken and shamed its residents. The cost in legal bills and lost credibility defies quantification.
How many above-board businesses have decided to steer clear of this disreputable region, depriving residents of the opportunity for those jobs? How many outstanding government leaders have opted not to settle here because of the instant stain they would inherit? How many stellar individuals, of all ages, have moved away in disgust?
The tide must change.
The Times Leader’s Opinion page, as it has repeatedly in the past, will try to amplify the FBI’s call for public cooperation. We don’t want to fan the overzealous pursuit and prosecution of people in positions of authority if at any time it appears an investigative agency becomes reckless. Nor do we intend to fuel a frenzy of false reports.
But we hope to make obvious that for the sake of a clear conscience, a better community and for justice, individuals in the know about corrupt acts must come clean.
Snitches and rats? Those are ridiculous terms. It takes courage and character to report suspected wrongdoing any time, especially if it involves someone you consider a power broker, a workplace superior or both. Don’t be complacent any more. Don’t be cowardly.
Luzerne County won’t put its sordid past behind until corrupt figures pay for their mistakes and a new standard of behavior takes hold in our institutions. If you can help make it happen, speak up.
If you’re a secretary or office assistant with credible knowledge of corrupt behavior by a public official, call 570-344-2404.
If you’re a bookkeeper or accountant aware of funny business, call 570-344-2404.
If you’re an employee who has witnessed, or been ordered to conduct, business dealings outside the law, call 570-344-2404.
If you’re a spouse who has overheard troubling conversations about corruption, make the call.
If you’ve done wrong, recognize it and fully expect to hear that knock at the door soon, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, make the first move.
Call the FBI at 570-344-2404.