— If what one councilman says is true, someone with access to the borough council building has some explaining to do.
Councilman Bob Jennings says on July 16, he saw a purchase order signed by recently resigned Councilman Nick Slish ordering work to be done on Patrick La Tournous’ East Street property — a document The Wayne Independent was told didn’t exist just five days earlier by Council President F.J. Monaghan.
The new development stems from a story that first made headlines in the July 14-16 edition of this newspaper, in which La Tournous reported returning from a week-long trip out of town to find his much-loved garden of flowers, trees, shrubs, grapevines, berries and other foliage clear-cut by what turned out to be a contractor for the borough operating on the instructions of a single council member (Slish).
Slish later admitted to not following required notification procedures prior to ordering the work to be done, a fact also confirmed by Monaghan.
Slish resigned from council the Monday after the first story ran with an apology to La Tournous, citing emotional damage to his family as his reason.
Although Slish said he had ordered contractor Glynn Wood to “cut the lawn in back and remove building debris,” the person doing the work — either Wood or an employee, though it remains unclear which — went far beyond just that, effectively “scalping” the property — in the words of Councilwoman Juanita Pisano.
In a letter relating events that occurred July 16 and 17 at Borough Hall, Jennings says he requested Borough Secretary Judith Poltanis to make copies of the payment statement for the work, which shows he was paid $420 on June 27 for the work, which was done the previous day.
He says when Poltanis pulled the La Tournous file on the afternoon of July 16, he personally saw a purchase order signed by Slish listing the date, location and instructions attached to the requested documents.
By 9:12 the following morning, however, when Jennings says he called Poltanis to ask for a copy of that purchase order, it had apparently gone missing.
“She said ‘someone must have taken it,’” Jennings writes, “Then said ‘someone must have been in the files — they are not in my folder or in order — and it looks like someone removed the purchase order...it has a hole in the statement sheet and the bill in the file has the staple still in the paper. It must have been ripped off.’”
Poltanis was unavailable Friday to confirm these statements.
Later that day, Jennings says he returned to borough hall and asked Poltanis to copy the ripped statement in his presence and that of Borough Treasurer Karen Breidenstein and Parking Meter Officer Alice Warnock. At this time, Jennings says he confirmed Poltanis left the borough office at 4 p.m. the previous day, followed by Warnock and Breidenstein, who was last to leave at 4:30 p.m., when the office was “officially closed and secured.”
“It is apparent,” Jennings writes, “A person or persons unknown, entered Honesdale Borough Office between 4:30 p.m., July 16 and Tuesday, July 17 at 8:30 a.m., and removed from the files a purchase order relating to the Patrick La Tournous incident. The entrance was gained through locked doors since there was no evidence of forced entry during the 16 hour period and removing of official records.”
Jennings filed a complaint with borough police about the incident, submitting his narrative of the events as evidence and requesting officers interview Glynn Wood and reputed employee Kevin Breidenstein regarding what orders Slish gave regarding the La Tournous incident.
Wood has refused to comment on whether Breidenstein — husband of Treasurer Karen Breidenstein — is indeed an employee or was involved with the La Tournous property destruction.
According to police chief Joe LoBasso, it is the “long-standing practice” of his department to turn any investigation of affairs involving the borough over to outside officials.
“I have forwarded the request to the District Attorney’s office,” LoBasso said, “to look into the allegation of the missing work order.”
“What I know,” said Wayne County D.A. Janine Edwards, “Is I got the memo from Chief LoBasso Wednesday afternoon along with a two-page letter by Bob Jennings and I forwarded them to the state police. It is my understanding that matters regarding the borough are always forwarded to PSP Honesdale. They have it now and I would expect some response from them by early next week.”
Should PSP’s investigation turn up evidence of wrongdoing, Edwards said any charges filed would be returned to her office for prosecution.
The involvement of PSP in investigations regarding the borough office are not new. Twice in the past two years troopers have been assigned to investigate items missing from the borough zoning office — the same office Slish was acting as a deputy code enforcement officer for in the La Tournous case.
Alarm system installed, not functioning
Assuming Jennings is correct in his assertion that the purchase order went missing after borough employees left the office for the day on 16th, there would have been an easy way to establish who was in the office after hours, but the system the borough recently bought that would have allowed it has never been set up.
Partially in an effort to dispel suspicion of those associated with the borough in the so-called “break-ins” — none of which involved forced entry — earlier in the year council contracted First Alarm Security at Slish’s suggestion to install an alarm system at borough hall complete with keypads for each door that would allow the company to track anyone accessing the building after hours.
Although that system was installed months ago, says Councilman Scott Smith, it has never been activated.
“We have a couple of doors that tend to set the system off quite a bit, so we’ve been waiting on the contractor to get some parts to fix that before we activate the system. It is installed and it is operational, but it isn’t set at night.
“We could have set it, (even with the door problems)” Smith said, “But it would have had the potential to go off a lot.”
Attempts to contact Council President F.J. Monaghan for comment via telephone and e-mail — the medium he requested we use after the La Tournous story — elicited no response Friday.