Week in review: PA city’s probe plods on, union indictments show loophole


By PA Independent Staff

A local scandal in Wilkes-Barre drew increased scrutiny this week after a fed-up resident asked for a higher power to intervene, while the indictment of 10 labor union members in Philadelphia could help revive legislation that’s been sitting in Harrisburg.

Here’s a look back at this week’s coverage:

Taxpayers run out of patience in case of Wilkes-Barre’s fuel problem

Some Wilkes-Barre taxpayers think 19 months is too long for their local district attorney to investigate the case of thousands of gallons of unaccounted for fuel pumped from the city’s public works yard.

Charlotte Raup, the leader of the local crime watch, penned a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane asking her to look into the matter that has ensnared Mayor Tom Leighton, who has said he used the pumps to fill up the personal vehicle he also uses for city business.

There’s concern that a potential conflict of interest has hindered the inquiry, and some wonder if Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis is intentionally delaying the probe.

LOOKING BACK: A fuel scandal continues to rock Wilkes-Barre, Pa., while the indictments of 10 union members in Philadelphia has rekindled debated over a state law.

“The citizens of Wilkes-Barre would like to let you know that corruption did not stop in Luzerne County; It is alive and well,” Raup wrote to Kane.

Salavantis has asked for patience as she wades through Wilkes-Barre’s fuel fiasco, saying the city’s poor record-keeping coupled with staffing challenges in her office have contributed to the plodding inquiry.

“I make sure that no stone goes unturned, and that’s why it’s taking a while,” Salavantis said. “And good investigations take time.”

Read the full story here.

Check out Salavantis’ response here.

Union indictments rekindle debate over stalking exemptions

The indictments of 10 labor union members in Philadelphia have prompted lawmakers in Harrisburg to take another look at a state law that can prevent prosecution of some crimes if they’re committed by individuals engaged in a labor dispute.

Under the 2002 law that defined “stalking” as a crime, a specific exemption was made for labor union members and others who might be engaged in a labor dispute.

Conservatives say that’s an unfair and arbitrary loophole carved out for one of the state’s most powerful special interests, but labor unions contend the measure is necessary to ensure a broad interpretation of the stalking law so union members engaged in organizing activities don’t get dragged into court.

A bill to eliminate the exemption has been sitting in the House since last year, but has yet to receive a vote.

“It sets a tone and an atmosphere that is clearly wrong,” said state Rep. Ron Miller, R-York, the bill’s sponsor. “I don’t want to see anyone on the union side or the management side threatened, harassed or stalked.”

Pennsylvania is one of four states with that odd legal exemption on the books.

Read the full story here.

State representative ponders change to House’s sleep-on-it rule

One state lawmaker is tired of having a rule that’s seemingly meant to be broken.

State Rep. Dan Truitt, R-Chester, wants to reduce the House’s 24-hour rule, which mandates the chamber wait a full 24 hours to cast a final vote on amended legislation.

Truitt said a 12-hour rule would still allow lawmakers to sleep on legislation, but avoid unnecessary down time and eliminate the procedural votes the lawmakers use to move forward before 24 hours expires anyway.

While the lawmaker sees the proposal as a time saver, Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp said it’s another affront to real reform in the state Legislature.

“The Legislature is still as corrupt as it used to be,” Stilp said. “This is another example of a lack of leadership of those in power right now.”

Read the full story here.

State revenues sluggish in February

With four months lefts in the fiscal year, Pennsylvania’s revenue still isn’t on pace with estimates.

Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser announced this week the state collected $1.6 billion in general fund revenue in February. That was $34.6 million less than anticipated, according to a news release. So far this fiscal year, total general fund collections of $16.3 billion are $75.5 million below estimate.


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