By Mike Lacey and Lou Jasikoff
“Are you kidding me? What do you think this is, the Four Seasons Resort?” Such was the response from one inmate when asked if they were fed bacon and cantaloupe at breakfast. Other reports of daily fruit baskets to the Warden and fine meals to management were also not in short supply. Is this disgruntled inmate talk, are the reports accurate as they stand, or does the truth lie somewhere in between? Let’s take a look. Either way, we have the distinct impression the taxpayer will again be on the hook for something.
Joseph Piazza, Warden of the Luzerne County Correctional Facility recently told members of the Luzerne County Council and County Manager Robert Lawton in no uncertain terms that under no circumstances does he or members of his staff get to eat any free meals that are different from what is fed to the inmates. Records obtained from Luzerne County Controller Walter Griffith seem to indicate possible discrepancies in those statements.
When examining Luzerne County Prison menus that have been supplied to us, and purchases made by the prison kitchen staff, one thing is certain: product is being bought that cannot be found on the inmate menu. Nowhere to be found on the breakfast menu are bagels or bacon, yet plenty has been requisitioned. What we do find on the menu is the normal fare of cereal, scrambled eggs, grits, hard-boiled eggs, along with apples, bananas, oranges.
Fruit baskets to the warden? How credible a statement can that be when only oranges, bananas, and apples are on the menu? Once again, food choices placed on the menu are not the only purchases being made. A closer inspection reveals plenty of red grapes, white seedless grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, strawberries and more, all courtesy of the generous taxpayers of Luzerne county. Now, we have a fruit basket!
When questioned, County Manager Lawton said, “It’s over. I put an end to it.” This should be the beginning, not the end. The taxpayer is on the hook for pending lawsuits, arbitrations, and other questionable activities on the goings on inside the Luzerne County Correctional Facility. The taxpayer is on the hook for deep-fat fryers, the strawberries, the cantaloupe, and honeydew.
Mr. Piazza looked County Council in the eyes, and said in a cocky, arrogant voice, “Fine. I will get rid of the meals and it is just going to cost you more.” No, Mr. Piazza it does not have to cost the taxpayer more, you just need to explain who gets the fruit basket.
When Home Rule was passed, it was done so with the hope of fixing our local government: Council, the time to act is now. Were you lied to or not? This is not the time for the two-step or three-card monte. We deserve answers — you deserve answers. Get Mr. Piazza back before he scoots off into retirement with a State and County pension and demand real answers.