Letters To The Editor 4/17/2019
Editor: In regard to the recent Times-Tribune story about Samantha Heinrich, the former Lackawanna County Prison counselor who was arrested, I wish to clarify the steps and investigation undertaken by prison officials in regard to this matter.
It is important to note that in any investigation, the due process rights of individuals involved must be respected, as they were in this instance. Prison officials and the county human relations department launched an internal investigation as soon as they were notified of the alleged conduct. Heinrich was placed on paid administrative leave and officials conducted interviews to gather as much data and evidence as possible.
Once all the information was collected, a due process hearing with Heinrich was scheduled to take place on Aug. 10, 2017. Prior to the hearing, Heinrich resigned from her position at the prison.
County officials, having determined that the information and evidence gathered during their investigation was credible, turned over the information and evidence to law enforcement officials. Prison and county officials have worked with and cooperated with law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution of Heinrich.
Lackawanna County officials and members of its prison staff take the rights of prisoners under its jurisdiction seriously, and they will thoroughly investigate and discipline violations of rights occurring in our prison. This is vitally important for running an efficient operation that abides by the rule of law, while protecting the interests of county taxpayers.
JOSEPH A. D’ARIENZO
LACKAWANNA COUNTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
Fee fiasco typical
Editor: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Concerning the newest revelation involving Scranton’s administration of incompetence, the recently discovered $16.8 million in delinquent trash fees certainly is an outrage. But the bigger outrage is allowing this to happen at all. This is the kind of performance you get when people are hired based on who they know instead of what they know.
For those who don’t know the definition of incompetence, it is: a lack of necessary qualities to be effective, wholly unsuited. Sound familiar? This is ramped up in Scranton and Lackawanna County.
Some questions arise: Will the people whose job it is to collect these fees be punished for not doing their work? Will those who did not pay these fees face criminal charges? Or will the city do like it has many times in the past concerning delinquent property taxes, by taking a fraction of the total and then raising taxes on the rest us to cover the loss?
Paying taxes, trash fees and others obligations is the law, unlike the required 1.5 parking spaces per apartment unit, for example, which in Scranton seems to be a suggestion. These people know they broke the law and have continued to do so. Why should they be treated with kid gloves?
I submit that nothing will be done, as excuses are made as to why the fees cannot be collected. It certainly would be nice one day to have something new under the sun in Scranton.
Agency out of loop
Editor: With more than 2,000 employees, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission generated $1 billion in toll revenue in fiscal 2016 from 198.3 million vehicles.
To justify trimming excess costs by cutting the fat, steps taken usually are at the expense of lower-paid employees. Commission executives live high on the hog. According to the watchdog agency PennWatch, CEO Mark Compton was paid $188,927 in 2013 and $213,367 in 2018. COO Craig Shuey was paid $177,507 in 2013 and $204,408 in 2018. CFO Nikolaus Grieshaber earned $175,595 in 2013 and $196,964 in 2018. There are 85 commission employees who earn more than $100,000 annually and about 151 who earned $75,000 to $100,000, the group reported.
Members of the turnpike commission make $26,000 annually with fringe benefits for attending two meetings a month. Commissioner Pat Deon is deemed present with telephone conferences from Florida.
The commission reimbursed the Pennsylvania State Police by $42.7 million in fiscal 2015 for the state police troop that patrols the turnpike.
Recently, the commission contracted Aecom Technical Services Inc. for a $2 million cross-state hyperloop tunnel study. Years ago a former Pennsylvania Democratic Committee chairman was asked to explore an East Coast bullet train from Florida to Maine with spurs to major cities. This railway could be built quickly without many eminent domain actions along the Appalachian mountains.
Hopefully, road hogs will not eat most of the $2 million for the hyperloop study.
FRANK T. BRZOZOWSKI
DEMOCRATIC STATE COMMITTEE
Editor: So, Sen. Pat Toomey doesn’t always vote the party line. Maybe he represents the majority of his constituents, as he was elected to do.
On another matter, whoever said that Republicans never blocked any of President Obama’s policies when he was in office sure didn’t pay attention at the time. Remember when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to make Obama a “one- term president” and remember how hard Republicans tried to do that?
Also, pro-gun activists in Pittsburgh should back off. They say that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, which left 11 worshipers dead, has been politicized. But if limits on weapons were passed in that city when it was first introduced years ago the shooting might not have happened at all.