Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What Gets My Goat

I loved my history and civics courses in high school.  I've voted in every election for which I've been eligible.  I take my politics and public service seriously.

When you are elected to public office, you have a contract with the voters.  You don't leave early for a better gig.  You do your job.  You stay in office, and you don't betray the trust of the people who elected you.  Citizens deserve the best.  Don't lie.  Don't cheat.  Don't steal.

I spent a big part of my Tuesday in court, watching former Luzerne County commissioner Greg Skrepenak admit to taking a bribe.

Skrepenak still hasn't offered up a good explanation for what happened.  Neither did his attorney.  Skrepenak has a nice little history of misdeeds:   the debit card mess, the problems at the prison, a sweet lease deal for the private juvenile detention center, a county deep in debt, surrounding himself with questionable characters, and now the bribery.

I hate to see wasted potential.  It makes me angry.  Many people voted for Skrepenak because he was young and different, not your typical politician.  He fooled so many.

We all make mistakes.  This seems to be beyond a simple slip up, or an error in judgment, as Skrepenak said in a statement last month.

This wasn't some average guy, pulled off the street by federal prosecutors.  This was an elected official-- one of the top jobs at the county level.  The crime dealt with his duties as a commissioner.  You deserve an explanation. You put him in office.  You paid his salary.

Greg Skrepenak received a college education that a lot of people in our area can only dream about.  It came for free due to his athletic ability.  In court yesterday, Skrepenak said he received a degree from Michigan.  It's further proof that he should have known better.  There are no excuses.

Greg, if you want to talk, before you go to jail for three or four years, I'm here.  Any time.  Any place.

Skrepenak's attorney asked that we "respect" his client's wishes to refrain from commenting at this time.  Maybe if Skrepenak respected the voters who put him in office, he wouldn't be in such trouble right now.

Below is part of an editorial from the Pocono Record.

One of the most recent public officials to burn under the spotlight of public exposure was former Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak, a retired pro football player who used his fame to gain public office. Accused of accepting $5,000 in gifts from a developer who sought public financing of a condo project, Skrepenak resigned in December, pleading guilty to a single count of corruption.

Skrepenak said temptation is all around in Luzerne County. "I don't think many people see a lot of wrong in what they've done," he said. He called himself "ignorant," adding that he "failed to understand what was going on."

Nonsense. Did Skrepenak or any of the 22 others accused of corruption list their ill-gotten gains on their tax returns? Did they mention the under-the-table deals to taxpayers or the news media? Of course not. Because they did know it was wrong. "Everybody does it"? Maybe so, but umpteen wrongs do not make a right. The only ignorance these individuals showed was in assuming that they would never, ever get caught.