They stood proudly in the Lackawanna County Stadium sharing their excitement that they just inked a deal to bring the Triple A team of the New York Yankees to to Moosic. But at what cost?
They sat next to each other during Lackawanna Commissioner’s meetings announcing plans of grandeur, many which never panned out. But at what cost?
The gave actor/director Paul Sorvino taxpayer money to make a movie in Scranton that has yet to be finished. But at what cost?
They danced the night away and hobnobbed with the area elite at the grand opening of the new Wilkes-Barre / Scranton International Airport. But at what cost?
The sweeping indictment that came down this week on former Lackawanna County Commissioner Robert “Bobby” Cordaro and sitting Commissioner A. J. Munchak should have come at no surprise to anyone. It’s long been rumored, even when the duo was in office, that these two slick politicians were as crooked as the day is long.
If you dare to read through the 50-plus page indictment it reads like a Paul Sorvino treatment for a mob film. Listed are 40-counts including racketeering, fraud, extortion, bribery, money laundering, conspiracy, tax evasion… the only thing missing is murder.
Just as former Luzerne County Commissioner and elitist pretty-boy Todd Vonderheid used a shill in the form of Greg Skrepenak, Bob Cordaro had A. J. The always smiling, friendly teddy bear-like Munchak was Bobby’s best friend because he didn’t know any better. Vonderheid was Skrep’s puppet-master and Cordaro was Munchak’s, and the end result is much the same.
Skrepenak says he didn’t know that accepting a kick-back from someone for a favor was illegal and is now using the stupidity clause to plead himself out of spending time in the big house making license plates. Munchak and Cordaro are following the same course thumbing their noses at the Federal Government and denying culpability on the 40-counts against them.
Munchak, now in the fight of his life, was quoted as saying, “I will be found innocent.” Cordaro, who seemed to funnel most of the money and gifts to himself says through his attorney, “we are not happy this indictment has been brought, but we fully intend to address the charges.” Gee, I wouldn’t be happy with being indicted either, glad to see Bob’s attorney agrees.
In addition to accepting tickets for ball games, a trip to Monte Carlo, an executive producer credit in a yet-to-be-made movie, the team who once ran on a platform of “Moving Lackawanna County Forward,” is now accused of pocketing nearly a half-million dollars in cold, hard cash. I have to give them credit, they were a hell of a lot smarter than Vonderheid and Skrepenak. Cordaro and Munchak got caviar and champagne, the wonder boys of Luzerne County got cheese sandwiches and tap water.
There are several projects in Lackawanna County that need to be looked into to see if these snakes slithered into the pockets of contractors looking for their birth-right…. some I can think of, include:
- The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton International Airport – the new multi-million dollar terminal named after public wanker Joe McDade was laden with “change orders” that quickly drove the cost way over budget. If the project was specced out correctly from the beginning, change orders and cost overruns shouldn’t have happened. (Remember the change order for sidewalks because they were left out of the original proposal?)
- Wing’s Restaurant inside the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton International Airport – owned by Lackawanna County political power-broker Leo Vergnetti, the taxpayers paid for all the equipment in his restaurant and was given the concession rights without putting it out to bid “because he was a tenant in the old terminal for years.” Leo hit the lottery, although I hear business ain’t too good.
- The Lackawanna County Visitors Center at Montage – just why did we need such a palace at the foothill of the Shoppes at Montage?
- The Yankee’s of course – Luzerne County cried “foul ball” from the very beginning when Cordaro shut them out of negotiations after the Phillies pulled out. Bobby single-handedly hammered out the deal to bring the team to town and pledged that the boys from New York would build a “Yankee Village” near the stadium to attract fans by the thousands. We’re lucky we can fill half the stadium on a Saturday afternoon on a beautiful sunny day in July.
- Paul Sorvino – just where did the money go that Lackawanna County gave Paulie to make the movie, “The Trouble with Cali?” According to a recent interview WNEP-TV had with the filmmaker, he needs more money in order to finish it. Don’t expect to see it in a theatre near you anytime soon. I guess that means we won’t get to see “Robert Cordaro – Executive Producer” in the credits either.
I’m sure there are plenty more projects and dealings that can be added to the list and it may just be endless.
While the only interaction I’ve had with A. J. Munchak was the exchange of “hellos” at one of his favorite hang outs, Brutico’s in Old Forge, I did have some dealings with Bob Cordaro. The first occurred many years ago when I worked in radio. Bob was always an aspiring broadcaster and for a short time owned a station that I departed from just before he bought it. I later started talking to him about buying that station, but he managed to get way more than it would ever be worth from a religious sect who now uses it to spread their message. I remember telling him, “Bob, if they’re willing to give you that kind of money for that place, take it and run and never look back.”
Several years later when I was looking at moving one of my former companies to Lackawanna County, we had a meeting with Bob, and afterwards I felt like I needed to take a shower. He’s as slick a politician as his slick-backed hair and knows how to talk. It will be interesting to see if his smooth talking and deal making can land him a sweetheart plea deal with the feds.
Both Bobby and A.J. Are facing several hundred years in prison and millions in fines if they are convicted of all the charges against them. But I have my doubts that they will see more than a slap on the wrist. As has been evidenced in Luzerne County, the thieving politicians who have made plea deals so far have bargained down to a few months in prison and virtually nothing in fines as a “thank you” for being cooperative. This could play out in Bob and A.J.’s favor, but let’s hope not.
I recall seeing a television commercial for their last run together where Bob and A.J. were standing in the doorway of one of the trains at Steamtown patting each other on the back for the work they did in their previous term. I can only ask, but at what cost.”