WILKES-BARRE — Outside law enforcement agencies have been asked to look into findings raised in a review of the city police department that outgoing Chief Marcella Lendacky modified reports to less serious crimes to cast the administration in a more favorable light.
Wilkes-Barre city Councilwoman Beth Gilbert on Monday said the matter was referred for further investigation, but did not say what entities were notified or by whom.
“I can say that they were law enforcement agencies that were contacted. They were contacted as a result of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association (PCPA) report that council received,” Gilbert said in an email.
The department provides data from police reports to the Pennsylvania State Police for the Uniform Crime Reporting program that’s also used by the FBI to compile an annual report on crime in the United States.
The PCPA’s report, presented earlier this month to council and members of Mayor Tony George’s administration — and obtained by the Times Leader — gave credence to claims by the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association that Lendacky changed reports on a number of occasions, switching crimes from burglary — which carried a more serious felony grading — to theft of copper pipes.
“Review of documents from the (Records Management System) appears to verify the allegations,” the PCPA said.
According to the PCPA report, which is still undergoing a Right-to-Know analysis by the city and has not been released to the public, Lendacky explained she was following the state crimes code when she made the changes to reflect the incidents occurred in vacant lots and not in vacant buildings.
“PCPA assessors differ with the chief and disagree with the revisions made to reports,” the association said.
In its more than 100-page report, the PCPA found Lendacky and Commander of Patrol Roy Foy lacked the professional qualifications for their senior- level management posts and caused the discord within the department that led to numerous suspensions, the firing of an officer and the filing of more than 40 grievances by the police union.
Even though the report did not call for the removal of the chief or Foy, Lendacky said she will retire from her $95,481 a year post on June 3. Foy remains on the job, drawing his annual salary of $82,514.
Gilbert has called for their immediate resignations and said she will seek council’s support for a resolution she plans to introduce at its April 26 public meeting. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the administration’s response to the report and its failure to look into allegations that the chief altered the reports when the union first raised the issue more than a year and half ago.
Council views differ
Based on conversations with other council members, there are clear differences on how members think the city should respond.
Councilman Bill Barrett, a former city police chief , said the PCPA’s findings about altering the incident reports should be addressed.
“It’s something that warrants further review,” Barrett said.
Barrett suggested that the administration contact the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office or the state police for clarification on how to proceed.
Council Chairman Tony Brooks said the PCPA provided 30 recommendations, but no guidance on the allegations of altered reports.
“I wish they were more clear,” Brooks said.
Brooks contacted city Attorney Tim Henry and said he was told “the administration would seek the clarification from the chiefs of police association.”
Council Vice chairman Mike Belusko preferred no outside intervention, however.
“I think it’s something handled in-house with the mayor. I don’t see the need for an outside agency to come in and look at it,” Belusko said.
Before voting on hiring the PCPA last November to do the assessment of the police department at a cost of $26,212 in taxpayer funds, Belusko said, he met with representatives of the Harrisburg-based association and Lendacky.
Belusko said he asked Lendacky about allegations of raised by the union that she changed reports.
“I was satisfied with her answer. I don’t think it was done intentionally or viciously,” Belusko said.