June 19, 2024

Oct. 11—SCRANTON — During city council’s meeting Tuesday, a resident called for the city to fly the flags of Israel and Ukraine at City Hall.

“What I would request tonight, out front (of City Hall), we fly two flags — an Israeli flag and the Ukraine flag,” Bob Bolus said. “We need to honor those that are being butchered and murdered right now. … We’ve got to show our support, who we are as Americans, for what’s happening over there.”

Earlier Tuesday, at the start of the meeting, council Vice President Mark McAndrew added the customary moment of silence would also recognize “the horrific incident that happened in Israel and the lives lost there, especially the … Americans that lost their lives.”

Later, during the portion of the meeting reserved for council comments, Councilwoman Jessica Rothchild noted she attended on Monday night an interfaith gathering titled “Stand with Israel” held at the Jewish Community Center.

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“I spoke with many people who have family members or friends who are over there and they’re very worried about them. Someone said that there’s just nowhere within the country that they could go and feel safe,” Rothchild said. “Even though that’s in another part of the world, I feel like it’s still concerning to many of our residents and people in the Jewish community here within Northeast Pennsylvania.”

Previously, the city in March 2022 flew the Ukrainian flag on a flagpole in front of City Hall.

In an unrelated matter, resident Mike Mancini urged council to ask the mayor to seek state audits of the city’s multimillion-dollar sewer and parking monetization deals of 2016.

At that time, both deals were forged by former Mayor Bill Courtright as major planks in the city’s financial recovery. The city sold the sewer system to Pennsylvania America Water and used the proceeds to stabilize the pension system. In leasing the parking system to the nonprofit National Development Council, the city cleaned up a disastrous prior default on parking debt forced by a prior council.

Mancini noted Courtright left office in disgrace in a shakedown corruption scandal, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to federal prison, where he remains held.

Courtright’s conviction did not involve either the sewer sale or parking system lease.

Mancini said those deals should be examined more closely. The city lost its largest asset, the sewer system, and no longer directly controls the parking garages and on-street parking downtown.

“It’s a kick in the teeth,” Mancini said in part during his remarks. “Transparency is very important in government. Do the right thing.”

In 2017, Scranton City Council and Dunmore Borough Council both urged the sewer authority to seek an outside review by the auditor general of the sewer sale, but the authority initially refused. The state auditor general’s office does not have the power to independently review or audit a municipal authority, but can do so at an authority’s request. In 2019, the SSA invited the state auditor general to do an audit of the sale, but that office had to take a pass because of cuts to its budget and staff.

McAndrew clarified that the type of audit Mancini seeks is a forensic audit by the state auditor general.

“I believe we asked for that in the past and we could do that again,” McAndrew said.

Rothchild added, “In the interest of transparency, I fully believe we should have those audits.”

Contact the writer: jlockwood@scrantontimes.com; 570-348-9100 x5185

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