“I think I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” said Robert Cordaro, hours before being sentenced to 11 years in prison for ruling Lackawanna County like it was his personal kingdom.
I think he’s right, considering he faced 20 years for what prosecutors called his taking pay- to-play schemes to new heights.
Cordaro’s partner in crime, A.J. Munchak, got seven years. He’s lucky too, considering prosecutors believed he deserved 15 years. Apparently, he scored some points for donating 180 pints of blood and, as he said, serving his community and church for “236 years.” That is quite impressive considering he’s only 65.
Munchak believes his sentence was too harsh. He told the court, “I already lost a lot. I’ll be remembered only as a convicted county commissioner.” That’s for sure. He certainly won’t be remembered as a candidate who promised to serve with integrity and honor.
And how will Cordaro be remembered? As one of the slickest, smoothest, fastest-talking wheeler-dealers ever to be elected county commissioner. He made our own Greg Skrepenak look like Winnie the Pooh with his hand in the cookie jar. And that was no easy feat considering Skrepenak did some shifty shake downs of his own while serving as a Luzerne County commissioner.
Cordaro, Munchak and all the other elected officials convicted of corruption have a lot of nerve when begging for leniency because they already lost everything, arguing that is punishment enough. They beg for a break because their families are suffering. Of course their families are suffering, but that never entered their minds while they were lining their own pockets and betraying those who elected them to office, trusting they would be worthy of the honor.
And they betrayed their families as well, showing an utter lack of regard for how their criminal activities might one day break their hearts.
How can anyone not feel sorry for Munchak’s son, who choked up in court defending his Dad? ”He’s not a good man, he’s a great man,” Anthony Munchak said. In his son’s eyes, he is. In the public’s, he’s not.
Taken into immediate custody, Cordaro’s children wept and hugged him. Of course our hearts go out to them as well.
Begging for mercy, a desperate Cordaro, now knocked off his high horse, told sentencing Judge A. Richard Caputo that he lost everything, his house, car, retirement, savings and reputation. And now, he said, he can’t marry his girlfriend.
Well that’s too bad because what Lackawanna County residents lost was their faith that when someone enters public office, it’s to serve the public, not to extort tens of thousands of dollars from those wishing to do business with the county. What Cordaro and Munchak reinforced in an already jaded public is that politicians from here to Washington D.C., once elected, forget about the public because they’re too busy satisifying their appetites for money and power.
“These two defendants ran on a platform they would clean up the county,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorna Graham. “They got elected and went on a crime spree far worse than anything before. Their crimes were motivated by greed, pure and simple.”
Or as Judge Caputo put it: “Elected officers are supposed to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, not profit personally.”
The Times Leader noted that Cordaro and Munchak apologized to their families but not to the public they promised to serve, but instead betrayed.
Don’t cry for them, Lackawanna County. Compared to their fellow racketeers in Luzerne County, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, Cordaro and Munchak got a break. Their punishment fell below the sentencing guidelines, which makes one wonder why bother having guidelines at all?
- Betty Roccograndi