By Lou Jasikoff and Kristy Bellezza
The previous edition of the Independent Gazette brought our readers additional complaints and allegations of abuse by Wilkes-Barre City contracted tower LAG Towing, and trending suggests that additional claims of misconduct should be expected to be made to the Gazette following the release of our February issue.
The Wilkes-Barre City Council, in the wake of years of citizen complaints over LAG’s towing practices — as well as repeated warnings from former City tower Bob Kadluboski — finally moved during their January 24th regular session to begin the process of terminating the City’s relationship with the embattled tower following City Council Vice Chair Tony George’s motion to commence a formal investigation into its business practices, even amidst continued assurances from the Leighton Administration of proper towing procedures and denials of systemic problems with the tower.
Forty Fort resident Mark Robbins addressed the Council to speak to the resolution and once again appealed for compliance with the law, such as State towing and salvage requirements, in addition to asserting contract violations on the part of LAG as related to records retention. Frank Sorick, President of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association, also spoke, and while lamenting the potential loss of a $50,000 per year towing contract, nevertheless endorsed the formation of an “honest” and “independent” investigative body to exclude the Mayor, but to report its complete findings to him.
Council sat silent, waiting for a second or so following Councilman George’s action, and it wasn’t until city activist Betsy Summers announced from the audience that she herself would second George’s motion if no one else did that Council Chair and former police chief Bill Barrett was prompted to second his Vice Chair’s motion. The vote concluded 4-0 with all members in favor of the resolution. Councilwoman Maureen Lavelle was not present due to illness.
Regardless of its findings, though, Council lacks the authority to terminate the City’s exclusive contract with LAG and so the decision as to whether or not that agreement with the city remains in place lies solely at the discretion of Mayor Leighton. But this arrangement could constitute a conflict of interest, according to Mark Robbins, citing publicly-available campaign contribution records indicating donations of nearly $18,000 made by LAG Towing to Leighton’s campaigns from 2005 through 2011. A call into Mayor Leighton’s office for a response to Robbins’ concern was not immediately returned.
During another recent City Council meeting a recording of a telephone message left for the Gazette was played for the body, which heard a Wilkes-Barre resident reporting the loss of her minivan to LAG as a result of excessive fees. The caller also expressed some satisfaction that the plight of residents such as herself was beginning to gain traction. The recording can be found under Local News at the Gazette’s website, as well as at the paper’s YouTube channel, WBIndependentGazette.
City Council was informed that not only did this individual surrender the title to her family vehicle upon the tower’s demand, but she then observed it being sold on the A1 Used Car sales lot annex located on the corner of Horton and Barney Streets. The Council was also made aware of two additional reports: that A1 apparently sold vehicles supplied by LAG Towing, and that Wilkes-Barre Police Captain Robert Hughes possessed a State Vehicle Salesperson license and functioned as a salesman for A1 Used Cars (available here: Robert Patrick Hughes’ Vehicle Salesperson State license). The presentation before Council was concluded by announcing that the City resident had asked to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation.
To remove any appearance of impropriety by the Wilkes-Barre Police Department they must be transparent concerning their dealings with LAG Towing over the years as well as respond to the many questions that have been raised regarding the tower’s operations while contracted by the City. Included among those questions: Did Police Chief Gerald Dessoye, in fact inform Leo Glodzik, owner of LAG, that Glodzik did not need to retain his records, as Mr. Glodzik has asserted publicly? Did Captain Hughes “moonlight” at A1 Used Car sales and did A1 sell vehicles supplied to it by LAG? Were any of the vehicles sold by Captain Hughes ones which he himself requested or ordered to be transported by LAG?
The Gazette visited the Wilkes-Barre Police station in January and requested to speak with Captain Hughes concerning allegations of a possible conflict of interest, but he was unavailable for comment. Messages were left for the Captain on January 28th asking that he comment on questions raised. No response has been received as of this printing.
In July of 2012 Leo Glodzik testified before County Judge Lesa Gelb that he did not see the need to keep records and so destroyed them each month; yet in reaction to an article that ran in the Gazette Mr. Glodzik appeared before Wilkes-Barre City Council in late 2012 with records in hand dating from 2008.
It would seem one cannot have it both ways. Mr. Glodzik either retained records or he didn’t, which has prompted the filing of a private criminal complaint by Mark Robbins accusing Mr. Glodzik of perjury. In charge of investigating that complaint for the District Attorney’s Office is Chief County Detective Michael J. Dessoye, brother of City Police Chief Gerald Dessoye. Police Chief Dessoye told the Gazette he was unaware of any such complaint and at the time of publishing the Gazette is awaiting the response of the District Attorney’s Office as to the complaint’s status.
The Gazette continues to ask anyone who feels they have been mistreated by the practices of LAG to step forward. Your anonymity is promised and assured, but please realize that only through community involvement will justice be served.