JJ Murphy, consultant to the Philadelphia Fox Rothschild law firm, former City Administrator, is now consultant to the City of Wilkes-Barre on the matter of selling / leasing the City’s and the Parking Authority’s parking lots and spaces business.
He is the brother of Patrick Murphy, the former US Representative D-PA-8. Paul Maher is the former congressional aide, or as some would say, “Deputy Congressman,” who worked for 25 years with former Congressman Paul Kanjorski D-PA-11. Maher retired from his congressional position in December 2010 and is on the board of the W-B Parking Authority, where he serves as Chairman.
Let’s presume that if private enterprise owned and ran the Parking Authority, and the City’s parking and meter businesses, it would make money. If there were no chance of adding dollars to the City treasury, Wilkes-Barre could simply declare parking free for the City and save taxpayers the cost of any operational loss. Let’s also presume that even if a private firm were to lease the spaces from the City as is the proposition Murphy is espousing, they will make money. The question remains then, why can't the City make this work? Moreover, once a firm takes over for twenty or fifty years, can we be assured that there will be no costs that magically appear years later? Will anybody connected to the City monitor the outside firm for twenty or fifty years?
All board members including the chairman, Paul Maher are unpaid. Tom Torbik, the executive director of the authority, receives a salary as does Attorney Ufberg, the Solicitor. Wilkes-Barre officials were unaware of the amount of Torbik’s or Ufberg’s annual salary since the Authority is a "separate legal entity." Maybe they should know???
The City is a non-profit organization so that means that expenses should not exceed revenues and vice versa. Major sources of revenue include (1) parking and fees, (2) wage tax, and (3) property tax. If taking away revenue sources for up-front and one-time “Powerball-like” bonanza payments is such a good idea, why not hire another famous Philadelphia Law Firm: Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe, and sell out more of the City’s interests? Why not sell the wage tax and property tax businesses and get all that cash at once? The Mayor could get so much revenue from a fifty-year deal on the taxes up-front that it would make the recent Powerball payoff look small in comparison. He could then tuck some aside to ride out his fourth and fifth terms. After his fifth term, the Mayor could step down graciously with the City still in the black, and turn the reins over to his successor who hopefully can run the City with no revenue at all.
Maybe it is time for City Council to come out of the shadows, be the adult in the room and end this scheme so this scam will not pass and no more dollars will need to be spent. Perhaps Council should also do the citizens another favor and scan some of the other large pay out contracts from the recent past the JJ Murphy days, to assure all has been on the up and up.