BaloneyGate: Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire

By Staff Writers

Luzerne County Council’s plate is full with all kinds of issues to deal with this coming year (no pun intended), and this month it takes a closer look at numerous allegations leveled against the former warden of the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, Joseph Piazza.

Where there is smoke there is usually fire, and every indication is that more than the occasional picnic took place between the warden and his chosen few within the prison walls. While the Council’s schedule is occupied with the people’s business, we await the findings of an audit performed by County Controller Walter Griffith concerning whether or not the prison management’s plates were also full, albeit thanks to the “generosity” of county taxpayers.

According to Walter Griffith, his audit of the correctional facility was completed in January and its findings reported to County Manager Robert Lawton for review. That report will be made public at the regularly scheduled Council meeting Tuesday, February 12th, which will be held in the usual location of the EMA Building, 185 Water Street in Wilkes-Barre at 7PM. The session will be simulcast to as well as on Service Electric Cable TV, Channel 19.

Tim McGinley, Council Chair was asked by the Gazette at the January 29th regular session if he had plans to call prison Lt. John Ameen before the body to testify. Lt. Ameen was the individual responsible for food purchases at the correctional facility. “I am going to wait until I hear the findings of Mr. Griffith. If there were improprieties, I will authorize a full investigation by an independent third party and assure you we will get to the bottom of this,”stated McGinley.

Last month, the Gazette spent two days in the Controller’s office looking at food purchase receipts and comparing them to provided inmate menus. Purchases of bacon, bagels, cantaloupes, strawberries, watermelons, honeydew, and other specialty items were nowhere to be found on the prison menus. To account for a possible menu oversight the Gazette visited the correctional facility to interview the incarcerated, but they only confirmed that these particular items of interest were not provided to them. Perhaps those treats were for intended for the daily fruit basket reportedly required by Warden Piazza.

Many questions are still to be answered about prison life within the County Correctional Facility and not all of these concern what has been termed “BaloneyGate.” Ongoing litigation against the former warden by prison guards and other employees have the potential of costing the Luzerne County taxpayers more than a slab of bacon, and other prison procedure irregularities continue to come to light. If allegations against Warden Piazza prove true, a nagging question remains: Can he be compelled to forfeit his double-dip County pension?

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