In light of the ongoing federal corruption probes in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania and the indictment of dozens of elected officials, you would think Wilkes-Barre mayor Tom Leighton would mind his P’s and Q’s. Instead, in a blatant act of nepotism, he hired his daughter and niece for summer jobs where they will collect a city paycheck.
In an area where there are plenty of young students ready, willing and able to get a job for the summer to earn much needed cash, this move is a slap-in-the-face to the citizens of Wilkes-Barre and another example of elected officials who only run for office to feather their own nest.
Some may say, “it’s only a summer job, the girls will only make a couple bucks an hour and it’s no big deal.” Giving relatives a temporary job may not be a big deal, but the fact that it was done months after county commissioners, judges, school board directors and high ranking county officials have been sentenced for their involvement in dirty politics is just reprehensible.
The mayor’s spokesperson said he didn’t violate any ethics laws when he rubber-stamped the hires, but many – including myself – have a differing opinion. Anytime an elected official uses his or her office to give a relative or friend a job, it’s something that the state ethics committee should be made aware of and an investigation opened.
If we sit back and do nothing, nothing will change. The longer citizens tolerate actions and behavior like this from our elected officials, the quicker we – as a country – will slip deeper and deeper in to the giant cesspool of corruption that so many other countries have as the norm.
Interested in filing a ethics complaint? The State of Pennsylvania makes it easy, just go here for the form and instructions.
The Times Leader Newspaper reports that the people hired for these nepotistic jobs have resigned:
The City of Wilkes-Barre has issued a release announcing that Brian, Lauren, and Courtney Leighton have resigned from their summer employment effective today.
The hiring of the three have come under scrutiny by media organizations and the public.
Mayor Tom Leighton, in the release, said, “I feel it is necessary to address recent media reports concerning the hiring of my relatives for summer employment with the city. This is a program that is an important asset to the community. Our summer employees and interns perform a great public service to the people of Wilkes-Barre and gain valuable work experience that in many cases has inspired these workers to remain public servants beyond school both here and in other communities. It is this opportunity that drove members of my family to seek employment with the city for the summer. Not to exploit the people of Wilkes-Barre but to serve them.”
He went on to say, “I want to state here and now that I have not violated my oath of office. I have always run an honest government and will continue to do so. Given the developments of the last few days, speaking with residents, and most importantly, consulting my family, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, all family members employed by the city have agreed to resign their position with the city effective immediately.”
“I feel that there are important issues that the city faces and this should not become an issue that consumes the city conversation. I do not take these matters lightly but I firmly believe that I acted in good faith. I am going to get back to work for the people of Wilkes-Barre as I have been every day,” said Leighton.