WILKES-BARRE — The local police union that represents hundreds of Luzerne County officers issued a letter Monday stating it is rescinding its 2015 endorsement of Mayor Tony George and encourages voters to “choose wisely in this election.”
Fraternal Order of Police, Wyoming Valley Lodge 36, recently decided to retract its endorsement of George, who ran his first campaign for mayor on a “Law and Order” platform, the union stated.
The letter states George’s campaign signs saying “Progress as Promised” and 2015 campaign slogan “Law and Order” are false promises to the people who live, work and visit the City of Wilkes-Barre along with the men and women of the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department.
The letter also says the mayor’s actions have cost Wilkes-Barre City tax payers unnecessary money, citing the mayor spent tens of thousands of dollars on fighting or attempting to bust the police union instead of investing it in the city’s police department.
Part of the alleged “extraordinary” union busting, included the firing of city police union leader, officer Dan Duffy, who was reinstated last October, and for suspending city police union president Phil Myers.
Officials with the FOP said George appointed “two unqualified people” to lead the department —an apparent reference to former Chief Marcella Lendacky, who retired last year after a critical report was released about her leadership, and former Commander Ron Foy, who was demoted to detective.
“Tony George had four years to make a difference, but instead he blamed everyone from years past and took no responsibility,” the letter read. “Please choose wisely in this election. “Tony” does not deserve another four years, let someone new come in and clean up his mess.”
The mayor responded to the FOP’s letter in a phone call with the Times Leader saying, “I never asked for their endorsement this year. I got the city Democratic nomination. That was all I needed.”
George also said he doesn’t see the FOP’s letter impacting voter support for another term.
“I think this is old news,” George said. “They are just a bunch of sour grapes because of the way Lendacky handled the department.”
The mayor also told the Times Leader that after the FOP gave him the nomination they vowed they would fight him on everything if he appointed Lendacky as Police Chief.
“They respect Chief (Joe) Coffay,” George said of relations between the FOP and the career lawman he named to replace Lendacky.
“He does what I tell him but he runs the department the way he wants,” George said.
George, a former Wilkes-Barre City Police Chief, was a member of the FOP for many years himself, and called members of the force “some of the bes in the state.”
“I was a police officer for 30 years. Sometimes I have to make unpopular decisions,” the mayor said. “People might not always agree, but I will continue to do what’s right for the people of the City of Wilkes-Barre.”
George’s Democratic challenger in the May 21 primary, George Brown, also weighed in on the FOP’s rescinded endorsement.
“The mayor continues to campaign on law and order,” Brown said. “His peers in the police community have given a no confidence vote. The city needs to move on from his administration.”
In a four-candidate Democratic primary in 2015, George beat Brown and two other hopefuls for the Democratic nomination, then went on to defeat a Republican in the general election. There are no Republicans on the ballot for this year’s primary.
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes