WILKES-BARRE — An arbitrator upheld the city’s suspension last year of its former towing contractor, but said the final determination depends upon the outcome of criminal charges pending against its owner Leo A. Glodzik III.
Mayor Tom Leighton Thursday released the decision of arbitrator, former Luzerne County Judge Lewis Wetzel, who heard the case behind closed doors last week at city hall.
Wetzel ruled that the criminal charges more so than the city’s case justified the mayor’s suspension of LAG Transport Inc.’s contract on May 30, 2012, and left open the door for a possible reinstatement.
“In the event any disposition other than an innocent verdict results from said criminal charges, the Mayor will have good cause upon which to terminate the contract,” Wetzel said.
Leighton defended his decision to suspend the contract, having come under fire for failing to act on numerous complaints raised by the public.
“I made the decision to suspend the contract at the appropriate time when I was certain it would be upheld by the arbitrator,” he said in a prepared statement.
“If I had succumbed to the public’s pressure to suspend the contract any earlier, the arbitrator most likely would not have upheld the decision and the city would have suffered a financial loss as a result.”
Leighton immediately suspended the contract last May after the district attorney’s office filed theft charges against Glodzik related to a sting operation involving wiretaps. He said that while in the midst of its own investigation into complaints against LAG in January 2013 police chief Gerry Dessoye was informed that an outside agency was investigating LAG and that Glodzik’s relationships with some city police officers were under scrutiny. The mayor said he decided against taking any action against LAG so as not to hinder or disrupt the outside investigations.
According to arrest papers: Glodzik, 42, of Foote Avenue, Duryea stole $2,100 from a vehicle that he towed on Jan. 29, 2013, at the request of a state trooper acting undercover for the FBI as drug task force officer. Glodzik took the money after the officer told him it was in an ashtray. He gave $1,000 to the officer and kept the rest. The officer then told Glodzik that he would be arrested.
Glodzik , who is free on $5,000 unsecured bail, has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of theft of movable property and a misdemeanor charge of theft from a motor vehicle. His trial is set for May 12.
Calls made to Glodzik, his attorney Joseph Sklarosky Sr. and assistant city attorney Bill Vinsko, who presented the city’s case before the arbitrator, were not returned.
Wetzel said he based his decision after hearing testimony and reviewing exhibits and documents presented at the hearing. He said that he found “that the clearly sloppy recordkeeping and hydrocarbon spill absorbent management do not constitute just cause for the suspension or termination of the contract between parties.” However, he added the criminal charges “provided good cause for the Mayor to suspend work by the contractor until such time as a trial or other disposition is made.”
Glodzik had been the city tower since 2005, paying an annual fee of $50,050 for the exclusive contract. The city contracted with Falzone Towing Service of Wilkes-Barre to replace LAG until a permanent contract is awarded.