Board Appointments Draw Ire At Wilkes-Barre Council Meeting
WILKES-BARRE — While city council approved nearly half a million dollars in public safety equipment purchases Thursday, the only controversial items on the meeting agenda were nominations to the parking ticket appeals board.
Mayor Tony George had nominated retired police chief Marcella Lendacky along with two frequent council meeting attendees — Sam Troy and Linda Joseph.
Council unanimously approved Troy’s appointment and voted 4-1 to approve Joseph’s, with Councilwoman Beth Gilbert opposed. Councilman Mike Merritt motioned to approve Lendacky’s appointment, but the motion died for lack of a second, and there was no vote.
During public comment before the voting, Joseph noted that the board seat is “a non-paying, volunteer … position.” She said she saw that Gilbert posted on social media earlier Thursday that she was concerned Joseph “could not be objective” because “I am, as she puts it, close to this administration.”
“Contrary to popular belief, all people of Lebanese and Syrian descent are not related to each other. I am totally baffled as to how being a resident who has repeatedly shown my desire to make our city better deserves to be portrayed in this way,” said Joseph, who serves as president of the Rolling Mill Hill Residents Association, treasurer of the Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society and a board member of the Osterhout Free Library.
“Questioning my motivation? It is an insult to insinuate that I would be biased in my decisions on this board in whether a parking ticket is valid or not,” Joseph said, adding that the administration would not be involved in board decisions and that her vote would be only one of three cast in each case.
“Council has asked many times for volunteers for the various boards throughout city government. It is apparent that Councilwoman Gilbert’s dissatisfaction with the administration is influencing her voting, even when people come forward to offer their volunteer time to help in any way they can. Sadly, this has become an unfortunate pattern,” Joseph said.
In response, Gilbert said, “My thoughts have nothing to do with your descent. I have no idea whether you’re Irish, French, whatever. I have no clue, so that had nothing to do with (it).”
In her Facebook post, Gilbert said two of the three people nominated by the mayor “are very close to the administration and I am concerned with how that will affect their decisions.”
She added that a Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association review and report that Council initiated last year “proved (Lendacky’s) bias within the department,” and that her appointment would be “inappropriate.”
The report was critical of Lendacky’s leadership and qualifications.
Bob Kadlubosky, a frequent critic of the George administration, urged council not to approve Lendacky’s appointment, calling her “a failure” as a police chief and alleging that she, George and city Administrator Ted Wampole “cost the city several hundred thousand dollars” through their decisions, without being specific.
John Suchoski said he had no “issue with chief Lendacky personally,” … but he does have an issue with “another person who donated to the mayor’s campaign being put into another position, paid or unpaid,” adding that it happens too often.
Asked to respond after the meeting, which Lendacky did not attend, she said she would reserve her comments “in order to avoid having any effect on legal action.”
Regarding Gilbert’s Facebook post, Lendacky said, “Certain persons need to be more aware that I am no longer a public figure and therefore not fair game, so to speak. I would advise more caution in that regard so as to not place liability on the city.”
In other business, council approved:
• The purchase of a new ambulance for $169,731 and various pieces of fire fighting gear totaling $81,382 using federal grant money.
• The lease-to-own purchase of five 2019 Ford police SUVs for $201,973, with a $20,000 down payment from asset forfeiture funds and the remainder from general funds.
• The award of a $37,500 contract to Stell Enterprises for the demolition of a building at 306-308 E. Northampton St.
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