Is the Independent Gazette unwelcome at Wilkes-Barre City Hall?

Following the 3:00 pm Office of Economic and Community Development budget meeting on Thursday, October 10, Independent Gazette publisher Louis R Jasikoff deposited complimentary copies of the newspaper at all Wilkes-Barre City Hall offices, as he has been doing since the second issue of the Gazette ran in September 2012.

Shortly after Jasikoff’s rounds were completed, he received a phone call from City Clerk James Ryan, who informed Jasikoff that he wanted all deliveries at City Hall stopped at once, and hung up. Like many city residents currently do, Ryan had been receiving the Gazette at his personal residence via volunteers who walk the city with the papers. That was until January 2013, when, at a public council meeting, Ryan returned the rolled up newspaper from his porch to Jasikoff, instructing, “This was tossed on my front porch. Don’t let it happen again.”

Following the brief phone call between Ryan and Jasikoff, the Independent Gazette paid a visit to City Hall in an effort to verify the facts. Ryan relayed, “I did not ask for it [at City Hall] and I do not want it,” referring to Jasikoff’s stop one hour earlier. When questioned as to why he didn’t simply recycle the free newspaper that Jasikoff had provided, Ryan responded, “I am responsible for this office and everything in it.” He became agitated when told that this interview was on the record and would likely make the next issue of the newspaper.

Liza Prokop, spokesperson for the city, told the Independent Gazette that there are no ordinances or policies preventing delivery of its publication to any or all city offices. She added that Gazette employees or volunteers are always welcome to leave as many copies as they see fit at the mayor’s office, and that those copies will be made available to anyone who wants them. Drew McLaughlin, Wilkes-Barre Administrative Coordinator, stated, in regards to the newspaper’s policy of delivering to city offices, “It’s a public building, drop your paper here, there, or anywhere. If an employee doesn’t want it, then they are free to dispose of it.”

When asked why he thought Ryan was so adamant about not receiving a copy of the paper, Jasikoff responded, “I suspect Mr. Ryan is still bristling over the ‘Kings and Queens of Wilkes-Barre’ article published by our paper in December 2012, in which the Gazette identified the Kings and Queens as the Leighton and Majikes families of Wilkes-Barre. Both families have numerous family members employed by the taxpayers, and nepotism has been a huge problem in Luzerne County for a long time and continues to be so.”

Jasikoff continued, “Just look at the facts. Mayor Leighton last year had ethics charges brought against him for hiring his children for summer jobs, and both his son and brother recently landed full time positions with the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. The mayor’s son is a teacher and his brother is a truancy officer. Another relative is the city’s chief of police, and yet another the solicitor. The Majikes family also have numerous relatives on the public dole. Mr. Ryan is married to a Majikes, so I can understand why he may still be smarting over the fact that these issues are pointed out, but this does not give him any right to demand the Gazette not be allowed to be delivered to a public office. Yes, Mr. Ryan might think of himself as royalty, but the public still retains certain rights. As the general population struggle with growing unemployment, this behavior by the privileged cannot and will not be tolerated.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nepotism as “the unfair practice by a powerful person of giving jobs and other favors to relatives.”

“I would urge voters in the upcoming school board and county elections to make note of whom they are voting for and which individuals currently have family members already working for city and county government,” added Jasikoff.

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