Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Luzerne County Controller debate


I'm going to tell everybody here a dirty little secret if you really want to know the inside of politics in Luzerne County. The salary of elected officials have been kept low to keep good people out of government-Wil Toole
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I thought that was the best line of the night at the LuLac Political Letter Controller's Forum . Moderator David Yonki did a great job of asking tough questions and allowing the candidates to mix it up. He read every question from the audience and they were good ones and no one asked about UFO's or other such nonsense.
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The three candidates websites are here:
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I'm going to do a short recap but you can see the whole thing because it was filmed by PittstonPolitics.com.
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The 3 candidates opened by reviewing their resumes. Morgan mixed a few sports metaphors and Griffith took a shot a Morgan for saying he will work at PNC Bank if he is elected. Griffith promised to be a full time Controller and later Morgan and Toole also pledge to work full time.
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The questions started with the Times-Leader endorsement of Griffith. The TL says he is combative. When they asked about being combative and Gort is here, one of the local blog editors, has noted that I'm a pain in the ass. I'm always watching government and try to hold them accountable.
Morgan disagreed with the TL knock on his financial savvy and Toole addressed questions about his disability pension which was converted to regular retirement when he turned 60.
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All 3 answered some technical questions about the office and they all agreed that there should be better handling of cash payments with Morgan and Griffith wanting a central location to take all cash payments but Toole argued that would be unworkable.
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Griffith will work full time wants to eliminate comp time and ensure that all sick/vacation time should be tracked. Toole noted that he is retired so he nothing else to do and said the job can't be done part-time and said he will keep track of when employees sign in and out. Managers have to manage and that seems to be an alien thought in Luzerne County. He also doesn't favor buying a fingerprint/time clock machine and neither does Morgan. Morgan favors keeping flex time instead of paying overtime. He then pointed out that Griffith has run for 4 offices this year, Controller, Government Study Commission, Constable and Judge of Elections and asked what job he will he be doing on election day. Griffith responded that he will be a Judge of Elections because he hasn't been elected Constable or Controller yet.
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Toole said he couldn't give a schedule of audits because things are so far behind and Morgan agreed that the backlog has to be cleared. They both said that the top priority is to deal with the Sheriff's office. Griffith then took some shots at former Controller and County Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla, who is a Morgan supporter, saying she left the office in shambles, she didn't manage the office and defended the job Acting Controller AJ Martinelli is doing because he is doing double duty.
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They all agreed that the debit card scandal was a nightmare. Walter recounted that the Commissioners approved the debit card policy and it wasn't followed by the Chief Clerk, Sam Guesto. The people who didn't follow the policy, there was no reprimand...for those people who stole our money... They should have been fired. Toole offered some suggestions to control travel costs then blasted the Commissioners at the time. Skrepenak, Vonderheid, Urban...They made a major blunder and it's about time that they stood up and say we made a mistake and stop blaming their employees.
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At this point David joked that according to some of his readers all 3 have promised him a job.
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Morgan said that the pay structure has to be revamped. How can the Chief Clerk make $80K but his bosses are paid $40K. Griffith wants to stop management raises and playing games with eliminating and creating jobs. He said that the deputy's in the row offices are paid more than there bosses because they are expected to run the operation while the elected official often doesn't show up for work. Then Toole said elected officials salary's have been kept low on purpose to keep good people out of government. He recalled that years ago their was a salary increase for elected officials but the Commissioners at the time, Frank Trinisewski and Jim Phillips rolled it back. Why? Because they were terrified that good people were going to run for office and they would be out. He also decried the pay of entry level pay for qualified auditors. Walter took issue with the contention that good people won't run for the job because of the relatively low pay noting that many people live on a lot less. Morgan said he is Okay with the pay. Toole also said that Businesses want to come to Luzerne County because we have slave labor. He also gave the play by play of his pursuit of the endorsement of the AFSCME local that covers county employees saying he was a founder of the local union. They didn't endorse him. He said he wanted it then lobbed this bomb on why he didn't get it. Then I found out that Maryanne Petrilla had hired the President's daughter two months previous.
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Toole's pension controversy came up again and he said Judge Michael Conahan threw the case out despite the fact that he backed Joe Musto in the previous election. He blamed it on the administration that followed his tenure as Pittston City Clerk and was proud of the job he did. The administration that replaced me dragged me through a living hell. Morgan said that he doesn't have a conflict being an employee of PNC Bank that does a lot of business with the county and has an independent counsel opinion supporting that but would recuse himself from any pension board votes involving his employer.
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It ended with Toole and Morgan beating up Griffith saying he accused Controller office employees of falsifying an audit asking why he didn't ask for an investigation. He responded that he did contact the Auditor General and another agency. Morgan said You make accusations without facts. He then hit Griffith about running for 4 offices asking if he would serve 4 years if elected as Controller. Griffith said he would serve a full term.
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Post game: I was disappointed that the rest of Bentley's was closed as I was hoping to check out the place and catch some of the Eagle's game. Me and Forrest hit Mark's on the way home. Some elbows got thrown but then we all know that politics is a contact sport and afterward all 3 candidates were talking and joking with each other and the crowd. I can honestly say that this one of the best political debates I have ever attended. Things got tough but it remained civil.
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15 comments:

Mean Old Man said...

This morning, after the debate, all of those Nervous Nellies (including Mr. Valente) who were burning young Mr. Toole at the political stake, are now praising his performance. I know that a lot of the commies who read this rag are constantly attacking me--as if there is something wrong about being a real American; but I stand by my endorsement of this fine lad. THe fact that he performed admirably in the wake of severe character assassination shows that my instincts are still on the ball. Take that all you subversive pot smoking hippies!!! God Bless Wil Toole, and our Sainted Senator Santorum. The rest of you can go to Hell!!!

Walter Griffith Jr said...

Gort42,
Thanks for attending and writing the summary of events and I appreciated the opportunity to be there with Mr Toole and Mr Morgan. Thanks to Dave Yonki for his interest in our County Government and its residents for putting on this very worthwile debate.

Anonymous said...

It is very obvious that Walter, a well intentioned individual, is way in over his head. God have mercy on the county's soul if he is elected.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that after watching the video on Valenti's site, I walked away knowing that Toole is the man for the job but again, I will repeat what I've read in a previous post. Toole has an almost impossible job getting elected as an independent. I also read Buffer's story and I have to wonder why he can't hit on good solid issues that will help the county and forget about the controversies in Toole's past. We all know that politics is tough and in Pittston politics is a full contact sport. The simple fact is that Toole handled the problems they hit him with 15 years ago and he has demonstrated the ability to handle the Controller's job now. Why don't we all just give the guy a chance to do what he does best, solve government problems. Just for the record, I read some of his solutions listed on his web page. Toole is the man for the job, the other two are the politicians for the job. Witch do we want? Forgot one more important point. Toole is one funny dude. I was told he had the crowd laughing more than once and maybe this job he is after is so bad that a good sense of humor should be part of the qualifications.

Anonymous said...

OK Anon 2:51, I get it. You mention Toole's sense of humor and then very sneaky like, you refer to the choice of candidates as Witch rather than Which. I got it and I laughed like hell. I wonder how many other's picked up on the Halloween reference? Be honest, how many of you caught the play on words?

Patrick S Toole said...

I just wanted to say thank you to Mr. Yonki and to Gort for having this event. It has been a long time since I was able to watch my father speak, so I just wanted to say how grateful I am to get the opportunity to again. I felt that it was a fair debate and civil as well. I believe anyone who was in attendance or has seen Joe Valenti’s video will see the passion my father has for this county and the abilities that he possesses to do what it will take to run the office of Luzerne County Controller. I stated in my other post my father has never done anything half way and will be a true full time and then some Controller, my only hope is that he gets the chance to because well he was born to do it. He fought for the employees of Luzerne County as the first president of their union, he has proven himself time and time again to be more than qualified for this post and if given the chance he will work his hardest to clean up the mess that we are currently in and make Luzerne County a better place to live, and give us a chance to hold our heads up once more after the terrible black eye we have received from all of the illegal activity we have seen under the dome. I know from his past work history he will be open and available to the public beyond anyone who may have sat in this seat before him. I thank you for allowing me to share my feelings on these sites and hope that come election day people will put down the party banner they may carry and pick the best candidate for the job. I am going to borrow from another blogger by saying on Nov 3rd vote for number 3 position on the ballet and number 1 in this race. I want to close by saying thank you to all who support my father and who have always been there and assure you that I personally will never forget such wonderful people.

Patrick S Toole proud son of Wil Toole Independent Candidate for Luzerne County Controller.

Forrest Gump said...

I attended the controller's debate Monday night with one expectation: at the end of the night I thought there would be a clear cut winner and I would know who I would vote for next Tuesday.

The only thing I determined was that although he seems well intentioned and is "tenacious" as Joe Valenti put it; Walter Griffith is NOT qualified for this elected post. He was chastised by Bob Morgan for making accusations about the internal audit in the Sheriff's office, "that the auditors just plugged in numbers" to get the 2007 audit results. Both Morgan and Toole stated that criminal charges should be filed in this instance. Walter than said it was a supposition based on the info he had. Morgan stated that Walter's comments were bordering on slander. That's all we need as Luzerne County taxpayer's is another lawsuit because an uneducated man shoots his mouth off.

Both Morgan and Toole seem to be well qualified.

I hate to keep stealing his opinions, but while speaking with Joe Valenti after the debate he made "spot-on" analysis. "If we could combine the attributes of the 3 candidates: Morgan's demeanor, Griffith's tenacity and Toole's knowledge of County government; we would have the perfect Controller.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

I am leaning towards Toole because as a previous post indicated he has not run away from the tough questions and I like his almost folksy way of getting things across to the people. He even reminisced about things his mother and grandmother told him. To me that is down-to-earth and that is what I like.

Walter, you should remain the well-intentioned watchdog that you are but we can't afford any missteps that your mouth or temper may get you into.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to tell everybody here a dirty little secret if you really want to know the inside of politics in Luzerne County. The salary of elected officials have been kept low to keep good people out of government-Wil Toole
I guess this statement means that Wil Toole is a bad person because he is runing for Controller. I wont vote for Wil Toole because I am not a fool

Anonymous said...

Wil Toole came to a Retirement Board hearing when Steve Flood was the Controller and Makowski and Pizano were commissioners and told the retirement board to move money around without a vote by the Board. Is this the type of Controller Wil Toole will be for the people.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was very clear on Valenti's video that Toole said that if his family wasn't grown he coulnd't run for this office and raise a family, but sense he is retired, Money is not an issue. How refreshing is that. Toole is trying to be a candidate not a politician and was trying to explain what politicians have done in the past.Toole will be a fine addition to the Courthouse and would In my opinion do exactly what
we need and that is restore order to the Dome. You do yourself and the readers of this site a great diservice by mis quoting what anyone could see was not Wil Tooles statement. Anon 11:31 I think you are taking a page from Griffiths book by making such a statement without fact. I feel that i speak for many of us here in Kingston by saying yes Toole is exactly the Controller we want. Have a nice day, and god bless.

Wil Toole said...

Anon 11:31 Thank you so very much for bringing up those meetings. It is one of the situations that I screamed about. You seem to know I was there but have no clue what it was about. At the time that Flood and Urban took over the retirement board, the first thing they did was to fire the money managers and appointed there own choice to manage the fund. There is a process for transferring pension investment funds from one manager to another and it is recalled an ACAT form. There is no sale or purchase of assets and therefore no sales commissioners. That is what I tried very hard to get them to do. They did not listen to me and when the new asset managers SOLD all of the assets while the Market was down which created a "real" loss in the asset portfolio. When the Market began to recover, they did not have the money on hand to purchase all of the shares they had liquidated and therefore did not get the advantage of the large number of shares they sold when the market was down and earned less with the fewer shares. They also paid commissions on the sale and then again on the repurchase. Yes, I fought against that move and I'm damn proud I did. So you see Anon 11:31, your facts are not even close to the reality of the situation. End Part 1

Wil Toole said...

Part 2 --

The next terrible move by the Pension Board occurred under the current Board majority. They had an asset in a fund called the Wells Fund. The Wells Fund is a commercial real estate holding firm who issues shares protected by real property. The investment is required to be left for a specified period of time and the investment cannot be withdraw till that time frame has ended. By the way, the Wells Fund hold major properties (example) such as the Empire State Building. So to continue. The Philadelphia law firm that was hired for the law suite to recover funds from the previous investment managers was charging a small fortune and it was decided that they could not continue charging the hundreds of dollars per hour they were. It was decided the law firm would be paid a percentage of "recovered" funds. At the very last Commissioner Meeting held this month, I addressed this very situation. When the Wells Fund matured, the Pension Fund managers took the cash from the fund (over 10 million dollars)and treated it as "recovered" funds and paid that law firm a recovery fee of TWO MILLION DOLLARS! Absurd! The county must pay a payment of 11 million dollars into the Plan before the end of the year and they gave 2 million dollars away. I told the commissioners just this month that they MUST get that money back and that it should never have been paid (Petrilla said at the meeting she would discuss it with the Pension Board). Cashing in the matured Wells Fund was nothing less than cashing a CD at the bank. That is not RECOVERED funds, the plan never lost those funds so how can they be considered RECOVERED? Now that you have me wound up, you with all your inside information, explain to me how twice in five years, the commissioner's can offer an early employee retirement offering up to five additional years credit to all of those employees and know that the fund is low and was going to require a large (11 million dollar) payment to establish stability?

If you want more examples of why Luzerne County needs me as the next County Controller just continue posting distorted facts that have nothing to do with reality. Take your mud pies and stick them where they belong ..... in the sand box. This is serious business and Luzerne County needs a Controller who knows the difference between flex time and comp time and knows that if comp time is eliminated then over time must be paid. It is very easy to sit in the audience and criticize but another to criticize and then offer possible and workable solutions to the criticized issues. Check my web site, www.BestControllerCandidate.com and you can read at least 14 solutions that I have offered to the county's current problems. Show me even one solution offered by other Controller candidates. All they offer are promises to be watchdogs. Well, let me tell you something, the first requirement is to know what your supposed to be watching. We don't need a Jack Russell barking at every shadow, we need a bulldog to protect our county's assets and I'm that bull dog!

Thanks again for the opportunity to display a real example of what I have done as the taxpayer's bulldog.

Anonymous said...

Wil Toole,
I think that you know little if nothing about what you speak concerning this issue, and the issue of Flex Time as well. Seems you are the same as the rest of the people in Government where you speak one thing and then do another. I also remember you were against Home Rule last time because you are in favor of government being in control of the people. You are nothing more than a politician that has swindled the people of Pittston and are looking to swindle Luzerne County

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:47, I really hope that Wil does not take the time to respond to such an idiot. Mr. Toole knows exactly what he is talking about. Flex tme means that an employee is allowed to work other than the normal hours. If the regular hours is 9 to 5 then working 11 to 7 would be flex time. The word flex means flexable but that's way over the head of a jerk like you. To continue your education, comp time is an abriviation for compensatory time. Again, for the clueless, that means that if a person works one hour overtime, the employer owes him 1 and a half hours pay or an hour and a half off. The law and some union contracts allow for either form of payment. Even prison guards enjoy O.T. and comp time. So Griffith calling for the end of comp time and overtime pay is simply stupid! As for the remainder of Mr Toole's comments, it isn't his fault that your to stupid to understand and you using defaming terms as you do just goes to show what low life you are and certainly not a Christian. OK Wil, I took care of that jerk so please, jut continue doing whatever it is that you need to do to get elected. Don't let the jerks sidetrack you. I agree with a previous post that you should not involve yourself with this mud slide.

Anonymous said...

I read the statement that caused these postings and I also watched the debate on LuLac. I found it interesting that Mr Griffith actually admitted that he ran for four separate positions in this past election. I have a real problem with the fact that he continually displays a lack of understanding of the responsibilities are of the positions he is after. He was asked by Mr Morgan if he would work on election day as Judge of election, Constable or Controller. He said Controller. Then who will do the other two jobs? Does he realize that the judge of election is in charge of maintaining order and running the business of the election inside the voting place and the Constable is responsible for maintaining order outside the voting place? It is obvious to me that he either intended to take the position and not do one of the jobs or to take the county pay for doing both jobs at the same time. Oh yes, I forgot that he can't do either of the two jobs because he said he would be the Controller on election day. It is very clear to me that Walter Griffith has a major identity problem and needs a lot of public attention. I suggest that before a citizen can place their names on the ballot, they should undergo a physical test. Mr Griffith has problems and his running for four conflicting offices are proof positive. Do we need an ego maniac who doesn't know the Controller can do audits holding that position? That LuLac debate should be mandatory watching before people vote. It certinly was an eye opener for me. There are a lot of things needed in Luzerne COunty but I'm sorry, Walter Griffith is not one of them.