Developer helped pay to renovate Nesbitt Memorial Stadium

Last updated: September 25. 2013 11:27PM - 3749 Views
SHEENA DELAZIO sdelazio@timesleader.com

Wyoming Seminary removed the words 'Mericle Field' from the scoreboard at the renovated Nesbitt Memorial Stadium on Wednesday morning.
Wyoming Seminary removed the words 'Mericle Field' from the scoreboard at the renovated Nesbitt Memorial Stadium on Wednesday morning.
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KINGSTON – A Wyoming Seminary field recently named in honor of the Mericle family by the school’s president will no longer bear the name.

In a statement issued by Board of Trustees Chairman Richard Goldberg, the Executive Committee announced Wednesday the Mericle name will be removed from the renovated Nesbitt Memorial Stadium.

Robert Mericle, who donated to the renovation, is awaiting sentencing in the county corruption probe after pleading guilty to a related charge more than four years ago.

“This decision was made after a thorough review of the current situation and after meeting with the Mericle family, who agreed to provide support for the stadium renovation project when approached by the school,” Goldberg said in the statement.

The school’s president, Kip Nygren, made the decision to name the field, Goldberg said.

“(Nygren’s) initial decision to name the field has detracted from the focus of Wyoming Seminary’s mission,” Goldberg wrote. “This is a regrettable situation, and we apologize to anyone who has been offended by the naming of the field. It was never the intention to show insensitivity to anyone; rather, this was a gesture to honor a family for its sincere support over a 20-year period.”

A dedication at the field on Chestnut Avenue and Schuyler Avenue in Kingston that had been scheduled for Saturday has been postponed, with no new date yet scheduled. The board of trustees will be discussing other potential names for the field.

Mericle, Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest commercial real estate developer, has ties to the private school.

He had served on the the school’s board of trustees and his daughter graduated from the school in the spring. He funded and built the then-new field hockey and lacrosse field at the school, named Klassner Field, in 2006 and has a long history of donating that predates the federal corruption probe.

“Mericle Field” is one of many recent donations Mericle has made to the community, including 6.3 acres of land donated to the Commission on Economic Opportunity for a new Weinberg Food Bank and a lead gift to St. Joseph’s Center Sustaining Fund through The Mericle Foundation.

The school’s website still listed sporting events as occurring at “Mericle Field” as of Wednesday.

Case in limbo

Much like the naming of the Wyoming Seminary field, Mericle’s criminal case remains in limbo.

Mericle pleaded guilty on Sept. 2, 2009, to withholding information on a crime for his role in the county corruption scandal.

At his guilty plea hearing, Mericle admitted he paid $1.8 million in “finder’s fees” to former judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan for their assistance in helping him obtain a contract to build two juvenile centers.

He has not been sentenced yet; he is expected to testify in the ongoing case of former state Sen. Raphael Musto.

Musto, 83, was scheduled to go to trial in November on charges he abused his position as a senator by accepting $35,000 and other gifts from a developer, identified by Musto’s attorneys as Mericle.

Musto’s attorneys, John Riley and William Murray, filed a motion seeking to postpone the trial, arguing Musto, who suffers from cirrhosis of the liver and other medical conditions, was too ill to assist in his defense.

U.S. District Judge Richard Caputo denied the motions in October, prompting the attorneys to file an appeal with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Appeal issues

In the appeal, the attorneys argue Caputo erred because he ruled without holding a hearing, which prosecutors and the defense requested, to resolve differences in opinions by three medical experts who had examined Musto.

One of the experts, hired by the court, said Musto was fit for trial. But two others, including one hired by prosecutors, disagreed.

That appeal is still pending and had been scheduled to be heard by a panel of judges Sept. 26.

Due to scheduling conflicts, the panel of judges said they will now accept court papers instead of holding a hearing before a decision is issued.

In a related matter, Riley and Murray in November filed a motion seeking to dismiss one of the two counts included in second indictment filed last month because the offenses, which allegedly occurred in 2006, are outside the five-year statute of limitations.

A few days later, Caputo granted a request to dismiss one of the counts, but ruled that four other counts against Musto will stay.

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