The Wilkes-Barre City Parking Authority just paid consultants almost $150,000 to pursue a plan to lease the city’s parking assets, and one member said in apparent frustration, “I don’t even know what they did for us. Seriously, what did they do?”
We can answer Ed Katarsky’s question. What they did was rack up outrageous consulting and legal fees to spearhead city Mayor Tom Leighton’s pipe dream, which came to a screeching halt on Tuesday.
But it depends on how you spin this. We understand Mr. Katarsky is simply an experienced financial advisor, whom we can almost picture shaking his head in disbelief that $150,000 is now officially down the drain. But city Administrative Coordinator Drew Mc-Laugh-in is looking at the bright side of paying former city administrator J.J. Murphy $300 an hour and his brother’s Philadelphia law firm, Fox Rothschild, $400 an hour for months and getting little in return.
Good old Drew said, according to The Times Leader’s very interesting report, the RFQ process was successful in soliciting options from industry leaders on how the city can create a more efficient operation and pursue the parking system’s untapped financial value.
“The RFQ process netted both a public and a private option where responders committed to the $20 million minimum sought by the term sheet that was released,” he said. They did? We want names.
Leighton, who learned this week that he can run – to the 10th floor of a lawyer’s office for a secret meeting - but cannot hide, because now he’s being sued for shutting out the public, said this: “The RFQ process netted both a public and a private option …..” Oh, those were Drew’s talking points, we think.
Leighton, who also saw the sunny side of spending $150,000 to follow his dream of someone paying the city $20 million up front to take over the city’s parking assets, said the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) affirmed what he said all along.
“There is unrealized value and potential within our parking assets, and there are better management strucures that will yield greater value for the city and the community,” he told the TL. ” The RFQ process was successful in that it solicited a public option that could achieve all of the project partners’ objectives.”
There you go, public, you just spent $150,000 to reaffirm your mayor’s vision.
And who is James Casey, and, more importantly, what is his relationship to Mayor Leighton? Casey, who was appointed only this month to the Parking Authority, abstained on voting against terminating the parking lease plan despite strong evidence that said plan could prove to be a costly mistake. And, incredibly, he wanted to pay Fox Rothschild and J.J. Murphy combined additional consulting fees of $19,600, even though those bills were submitted after a cap had been set. As a parking authority member, isn’t Mr. Casey supposed to serve the public?
Fox Rothschild attorney Alan Wohlstetter, before being told to hit the road, admitted he was to blame for not submitting $19,622.53 in bills on time. Boo Hoo. “The charges were late in hitting our system,” he said, which is pretty funny because the $100,000 or so his firm submitted in the past several months reached the authority’s offices in record time.
“We’re trying to do it as lean and mean as we can,” he also said.
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. That’s about as funny as J.J. Murphy saying his new consulting business cut the city a break by charging only $300 an hour when his going rate is $400. Maybe he’d like to share with us who has paid him $400 an hour for his services?
And by “lean and mean,” does Attorney Wohlstetter mean getting that last 53 cents out of the parking authority before the well runs dry?
Now we wait to see what the city council has to say at its 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon meeting. If you wish to attend, maybe your boss will allow you to take a late lunch.
Mayor Leighton did not attend Tuesday’s Parking Authority meeting. We don’t know whether he’ll attend tomorrow’s council meeting. But he did attend the closed-door one atop the law offices of Rosen Jenkins and Greenwald on Monday, and now the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers’ Association (good for them) is filing a criminal complaint alleging a violation of the state Sunshine Law.
But Drew Mc-Laugh -in said a gathering of city council and parking authority members and the mayor and highly-paid consultants does not constitute a “governmental entity with the power to convene a public meeting under the provisions of the Sunshine Act.”
Nice try, Drew. Are you saying that it’s okay for a mishmosh of elected and appointed officials from a variety of governmental entities to meet to discuss the public’s business privately as long as they’re not from one single entity such as a city council?
This lease plan was enshrouded in secrecy from the start. Thankfully, four Parking Authority members, Paul Maher, Robert Jabers, Ed Katarsky and Mary Ann King, and authority Solicitor Murray Ufberg grounded it.
As for the new Parking Authority member, James Casey, thanks for nothing. By the way, who’s pulling your strings?
- Betty Roccograndi