The first thing I do every morning is go online and read the newspapers from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA and Palm Beach County, FL. This morning after reading the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, I got dressed, hopped in my car and went to my office. I grabbed boxes and boxes of newspaper clippings from years ago and started going through them one-by-one looking for articles from May 19-21, 2006.
That is when the new terminal opened at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and on Friday, May 19, 2006, I along with 899 others were invited to a gala evening of food, drink, music, a light-show and mingling with the area’s politically connected. That party, according to the Citizens Voice, is now being looked at by the FBI.
So in the interest of full-disclosure, I was there.
My picture was also taken with a group of people and made it into the newspaper, hence my quest to find it. Which I never did.
Anyone who knows me knows I despise politicians. In fact, last evening I went to dinner with by brother at Bistro on the Ave in Kingston. When we were walking in, a group of people were walking out and being the gentleman I am, I held the door open for them. One gentleman exiting happened to be political hack and former state representative Kevin Blaum. He never said “thank you” so I turned around and called him a schmuck then said to my brother and the hostess, “That was Kevin Blaum, I should have slammed the door instead of holding it open.”
I find politicians, no matter who they are, to be slimy. After being in close proximity to them I feel the need to take a shower. To me they’re nothing more than a glorified used-car salesman pushing an agenda instead of a Pinto. But that night there were plenty of them there. Commissioners from both counties, row officers, representatives from the Governor’s office, congressman, senators, even congressman Joe “I wasn’t masturbating in public, it’s my Parkinson’s” McDade who the new terminal is named after was there. The list was long, the photo opps were plenty and the booze was flowing along with the food.
I happened to be invited, not because I’m politically connected – heaven help us all, but because at that time I still owned Solid Cactus, and I offered to give the airport a new website because their old one was, well, old. So, we donated the design, programming and hosting of the site as a sign of good-will and as a means to help promote the area and the airport and to show off the new terminal online. So as someone who has worked with the airport, I received an invitation to the event and was excited to go and see what the new place looked like.
It wasn’t until today I realized the party cost $176,000.00. To quote Lackawanna County Commissioner A J Munchak, “Holy Shit!”
If knew that, I would have ate more, drank more and stayed a bit longer.
The feds are looking into the party as part of the ongoing corruption probe in Luzerne County. According to the article, the party was paid for mostly by the various contractors who worked on the new terminal and the airport picked up $23,000.00. What will come of the investigation is yet unknown, but the investigators have taken documents relating to the construction of the terminal and are reviewing them.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking the people you just paid nearly $50 million to, to write a check to throw a party in order to show off the work they did and to showcase the new facility to people who an encourage others to use it. It’s called marketing. If I open a new supermarket and I want to have a grand opening, you bet I’m going to put the squeeze on every “brand” that’s in my store to give me deals, some co-op money, etc to offset the cost of the party. It’s done every day and it’s commonplace. But in the airport’s instance, it was public money, and the spotlight is on them.