MEMO TO: Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton and Police Chief Gerry Dessoye
CC: Every other Luzerne County elected or appointed public official.
Re: Public perception.
Remember when former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella was convicted on federal corruption charges and his first act was to reject his infamy?
“I had the opportunity to say ‘no’ to taking money that I believed was legal to receive but knew that I should not take,” Ciavarella offered by way of a convoluted apology. Then he denied the “kids-for-cash” label.
“There was no connection between the money I had received and the children I placed.”
It was a textbook example of self-delusion, of parsing actions and words to justify the unjustifiable. It was the speech a villain gives himself so he can sleep at night.
Such tortured logic is a core flaw of our region’s political gestalt. It is the cornerstone of a “culture of corruption.”
Public officials pass off questionable actions as unavoidable or out of their hands or misinterpreted. They mince definitions and wash their hands. Move along, outraged citizenry, nothing to see here.
In the wake of the LAG Towing controversy, the responses by Leighton and Dessoye have risen to this level. They hew to the Ciavarella model, insisting that police officers can nab favors from LAG owner Leo Glodzik without consequences as long as there is no “quid pro quo,” no gain to Glodzik for his private dealings with the cops.
But Glodzik profits handsomely from his contract as exclusive tower for the city, and police decide when his hook is deployed. There may not be an explicit quid pro quo, but it is inevitably implied. And it is wrong.
Leighton and Dessoye insist police who wheel and deal in vehicles owned by Glodzik are not breaking any rules. If true, they should be pushing to change those rules or to find new interpretations … and our brave officers holding the thin blue line should be clamoring for that change.
Why? Because perception matters; because hiding behind a narrow interpretation of the letter of the law rather than abiding by the broader spirit of it crushes public trust; because Glodzik’s billing and business practices have come under heavy suspicion without adequate explanation.
And because no one should want it to be so easy to draw parallels between the LAG debacle and “kids for cash.”