By Kristy Bellezza and Lou Jasikoff
Investigations into the towing practices of contracted Wilkes-Barre City Tower LAG Towing have been ongoing for over a year and in spite of conflicting court testimony, accusations of contract violations, and evidence of price gouging, the Wilkes-Barre City Council seems content to do little about getting to the bottom of the allegations.
It has been over eight weeks since the Wilkes-Barre City Council promised concerned citizens that an Investigative Committee headed up by Mayor Leighton himself would be appointed, and findings made public. Follow-up by the Independent Gazette has revealed no meetings have taken place and none seem to be in the Committee’s future anytime soon. Council member Tony George, the only member to return our calls requesting an update, said, “All our time right now is being spent on the budget, and not until that issue is resolved do I anticipate any action being taken by the Committee.”
LAG’s latest problems began when the vehicle of Forty Fort resident Mark Robbins was towed from a Wilkes-Barre street in June of 2011. The responses of the Wilkes-Barre Police Department and LAG owner Leo Glodzik to his complaint that his vehicle was damaged as a result of the tow left Robbins with the distinct impression that something was seriously wrong with LAG’s practices. Since that day he has been on his own personal crusade against what he has dubbed the “Cars for Cash” scandal. Mr. Robbins, an accomplished MBA-credentialed financial analyst, currently runs Luzerne County ministry Grateful Hands. The ministry’s mission is to help families who are “on the edge,” and focuses especially on families with single moms, according to Robbins’ website, www.gratefulhands.net.
In their first Independent Gazette issue in July of 2012 the publishers urged citizens to come forward if they had experienced irregularities, or what they considered higher-than-normal towing bills incurred from LAG. Dolores Gipson was one such citizen who contacted the paper, claiming her son’s vehicle was towed in 2008, and her account was promptly published in the Gazette’s September issue. This prompted LAG owner Leo Glodzik to appear at a subsequent Wilkes-Barre City Council meeting claiming that Gipson’s allegations were false and that he had the records to prove it. At that meeting he provided Council with a copy of the Gazette article, a towing invoice in the amount of $175, and other paperwork associated with that particular invoice. Glodzik’s documentation was in direct conflict with Dolores Gipson’s sworn affidavit claiming her son’s towing bill was, in fact $475.
In July of 2012 Leo Glodzik appeared before Luzerne County Judge Lesa Gelb in response to a Citizen’s Voice Right-to-Know Request concerning LAG’s charges. In his testimony the tower claimed that it was common practice for him to keep records for a month, present them to the Wilkes-Barre Police Department and then destroy them if no problems with the records were detected. “I did not see a need to keep them,” he said. The office of Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis has been contacted and the Gazette is currently awaiting a reply to see if she plans to bring Mr. Glodzik and LAG back into court to explain the apparent misinformation surrounding LAG’s receipts. It would seem one cannot have it both ways: you either possess records, or you do not.
The question must be asked: Is the inaction by the current City Council placing the cash-strapped city of Wilkes-Barre in further jeopardy, exposing the taxpayers to potential lawsuits against the City, Mayor, and Police Department? Mr. Robbins has maintained that the current towing situation is nothing short of an “auto theft ring” involving Chief of Police Gerald Dessoye, Mayor Leighton, Leo Glodzik and others. The time has come for Council to act decisively, and if they are truly serious about determining the facts and putting this case to rest once and for all they must set up an independent investigative committee now. This committee should include local citizens and exclude members of the City Administration, who themselves may be implicated by the committee’s findings, such as the Mayor, Chief of Police and anyone else who may potentially be identified as complicit.
If you have your own story to tell about LAG, or have receipts you wish to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 570.266.8086 , or stop by our office at 253 South Main Street. You can remain anonymous, but help us to help you and your neighbors by telling this story and others.