3-26-2008 The Swickles Family Courthouse

Well, then. We‘ve got even more disturbing news emanating from the troubled Luzerne County courthouse, which we need not cover in any great detail at all. It’s the same old story with a slightly different loss of taxpayer dollars involved.


Okay, let’s touch on it just a tad. Let’s start out with a couple of questions, shall we? First, the scenario. You are the lone purchasing agent for a large county government somewhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania. You need to feed 1,000 prisoners incarcerated in the county prison. Now the tough part.

Which purveyor offers the lowest possible prices? Sysco, a global operation that buys it’s metric tons worth of food in bulk? U.S. Foodservice, a local company that, for example, receives onions one 52-foot trailer at a time? Or Skrep’s old buddy from summer camp, who operates Billy Bob’s Wholesale out of his grandmother’s two-car garage?

No, man! The correct answer is not the latter of the three. Jeez, based on the current lack of discernable standards, are you qualified to run this county or what?

You know, Skrep’s way too big to slap upside the head. So I figure you people are going to have to get your head’s on straight again and vote him out of office during the next election go-round. Seriously, enough is certainly enough already.

Recurring delusions notwithstanding, Luzerne County, I suggest, is not being properly managed. It’s continually being operated in the red. Red, that is, which seems to be piling up faster and faster and higher and higher. And with that said, securing the lowest possible prices on the necessary perishables never ever occurred to anyone currently mismanaging the whole shebang? Is this simply complete sophistry by committee? Or is there something much more nefarious afoot which comes from the top down? No one is this completely inept, are they?

As far as I’m concerned, the crux of the problem at our courthouse is that Greg Skrepenak does not treat tax dollars--our money--as if it’s his own. If he thought of it as his own, he wouldn’t be so eager to pay more than we have to, so that his friends directly benefit. And this is exactly why people need to start looking at the resumes of the people they outwardly worship before they get to voting for them in droves.

Now, you people elected this guy, not once, but twice. And I ask you, based on what? Good guy? Good football player? Great smile? Please, somebody explain the gargantuan illogic to me. Did anyone consider the lack of any business acumen? No? Perhaps you should have, because the ultra successful people in the private sector act as if the money they are entrusted with is their own. In other words, they’d rather bleed profusely through their eyes than put any of it to waste. That’s how hefty bonus checks are earned. Big profits, equally big bonuses.

Let’s take yet another trip back to my former life as a restaurant manager. Oh, stop it. It won’t hurt. Now listen up.

This isn’t nearly as complex as high-velocity impact shielding, but here goes anyway.

As far as purchasing is concerned, you want the lowest price possible, provided that the product involved is of the utmost in quality. But, if your customers are a captive audience, literally, maybe a lesser quality will suffice. What are the prisoners going to do, give the food a terrible rating on the back of a comment card?

Anyway, if you’re serious about your job, you want that lowest price. You carry on as if the money being spent is coming out of your pocket. And that is how you lead your division, your district (or whatever yardstick being used) in profits. You take it personally.

And that same mindset has to also apply to the employees as well as the physical plant. These are my employees, I need them to be as happy and as comfortable as humanly possible so they perform at a high level in their typically transitory jobs, and if you do anything at all to mess with that…you and I are going to have an immediate confrontation. The weighty iron fist of management is going to come down with a mighty and deafening thud.

Likewise, if you damage my property in any way, you will then have two less than attractive options available to you. The police, or, if you prefer to go that way, a thorough ass-kicking. So, when you’re drunk out of your mind at 3 AM and faced with an irate manager who is threatening to stomp your nostrils flat over the paper towel dispenser you just punched off of the wall…what you are looking at is a businessman who treats what was entrusted to him as if it’s his own. And if this sounds eerily familiar to you, like a long-repressed horrible memory, now you know why I rearranged your face so long ago, right before I handed you off to the cops.

With all of that annoying verbiage behind us, does it sound as if Skrep flies off the handle at the mere mention of wasted tax dollars? And how could he view squandered tax dollars as being wasted when they are going to his seemingly growing list of suddenly purveying friends?

When he first ran for office, he gave us all of those high-minded platitudes and the like. All that usual campaign season bilge about being approachable, responsive and transparent. Now, the transparency provided by the Times Leader’s persistent reporting proves that Skrep thinks that only his closest of friends can run the county. And only his closest of friends can supply the county. And if he told us as much before we last voted, he’d more than likely be working elsewhere right now. That’s assuming he works at all in his present position.

Vote for me…I will supply all of my friends with high-paying jobs created just for them. I will pile up huge deficits. And I will award my remaining friends with no-bid contracts, which will only serve to accelerate the growing debts. Plus, most of my immediate family is out of work and need jobs.

I’m Mark “Lonesome Cowboy” Swickles and I approved this message.


Yeah, that would have gotten me a heaping pile of votes, wouldn’t it have?

Oh, and this would have certainly gotten me even more heaping piles of glowing support. The inbred face of my administration after some necessary housekeeping.

County Manager/Chief Clerk: My sister/wife Opal.

She’s dumb like a horny terrier clamped onto your lower leg, but she sure knows how to make her drunken brother happy without even taking her tar-stained overalls off of her emaciated, freckled frame. Plus, who else over at that high-falootin’ courthouse of a place is gonna up and jump and fetch me a piss-warm beer when I sure as hell needs one?

Deputy Chief Clerk: Cuzzin Hoby.

He couldn’t tie his stolen Velcro boots without oodles and oodles of help, but he’s loyal to a fault. And he’s the only guy I know who caught his own face on fire while smoking some sort of agricultural product unknown to me in a hollowed-out rutabaga, and I feel really, really guilty about rushing out of the barn and putting that fire out with a steel trenching tool. Well, a little bit. Not really.

Chief of Budget & Finance: Uncle Jiggy.

Ever since he was run over darn near flat by that defective John Deere backhoe he bought at the State Fair auction, he’s been all out of sorts and out of work. But he’s been collecting Indian head pennies his whole life, so I reckon finances is something he’s gonna be just fine with. Besides, think about it…what would Jesus do for a guy who thinks trespassing by aimless chipmunks should be punishable by being included in the moonshine mix?

Director of Human Services: Cyril Hooper.

Sure, I’ll admit it, as ex ministers turned vagabond carnival barkers go, he’s a no good, worthless so-and-so. But, since I lost my virginity to him and his red-headed step-brothers, I still figure he’s kind of kin. Kind of. Oh, and don’t tell Uncle Jiggy about any of that saucy stuff. Holy sons of the south! He still thinks that moonshine-fueled romp behind the tool shed was my first time.

Public Information Officer: One-eyed Pete.

He’s stupid and ugly and ignorant as all snot, but he got me out of a serious pickle a while back with a couple of barrel-chested Culm County sheriffs, so I figure I owe him some. And believe it or not, he’s got two eyes. He just wears that bedazzled felt eye patch so as to impress those nubile young maidens that mark time while looking for future ex abusive husbands down at the volunteer fire hall. He sure stinks like all hell, though. Some kind of goofy glandular imbalance, the docs tell us. Nothin’ that can’t be cured by a repacked bullet.

Prison Warden: My step-brother Burt.

Thing is, I surely don’t like him none too much. But I seen what he can do to squirrels armed only with a belly full of rotgut and a rusted metal rake. So, I’m figuring on those prisoners being scared half to death after he loses his cool for the first time. Well, and, he’s been unemployed ever since the mayonnaise farm upped and went off to Siam. Or some such place. Near Detroit, I‘m told. Just north of New York City. Don’t hold me to that. A mathematician I isn‘t.

Deputy Warden: Cuzzin Bernadette.

Yeah, she still thinks tiny pebbles grow up to be big rocks. And, yup, she still thinks that Southern France is the capital of Paris. And she still swears on her grandmother’s tattered bible that she once over-boiled water to the point of burning it. Smoke and all. Ain’t no sh*t…true story, according to her. But she can cuss and scrap and flail away like a coon dog gone crazed on rabies. And since her inheritance done run out, she needs some spending money. She still has that foreskin thingy that fell off of her first borne and she wears it on a chain around her neck. Damn peculiar.

And then we’ve got all of these other positions to fill:

911 Emergency Services
Buildings and Grounds
Bureau of Elections
Children and Youth Services
Correctional Facility
County Engineer
Emergency Management
Environmental Special Projects
Flood Protection Authority
Human Services
Information Technology
Moon Lake
Office of Community Development
Planning Commission
Property and Supply
Parks and Recreation
Solid Waste Management
Tax Claim Bureau
Veterans Affairs
Workforce Investment Office

The way I see it, they can’t be all that important. How ‘bout if I get on the blower and contact all of my old drinking buddies, the rowdies I played softball with for years, and all of those ex girlfriends I wronged with my lubricated flashlight somehow. Yeah, that ought to work. I’ll make a few calls.

I mean, how hard could this governance stuff be, right? It don’t matter who does what, how much they’re paid or how good they are at what they pretend to be doing. Let’s not get all hung up on this silly sh*t and cause ourselves undo subconscious tension. All of my friends and relatives are good, average folk. And not a one of them have been arrested for anything much worse than public drunkenness, aggravated assault, or an occasional attempted rape. It’s not like they killed anybody or anything bad like that.

And to the would-be critics would might make incessantly shopwarn noise about nepotism and cronyism, let alone, incompetence; who are they to question me? The mere thought of it sickens me. If elected, they should immediately cower before my god-like persona. Because, in this retarded county, county commissioners are to being demigods what subprime lenders are to being financially reckless. You voted for me, now flirt away your gaze while in my haughty presence. I know best, you do not! So bend over and assume your proctologic place in life. My friends and family are the answer, you meaningless, twiddling serfs!!!

Sorry, kiddies. The fact is, you don’t need to reinvent the political wheel by embracing Home Rule all over again. What you’ve got to do is vote more responsibly. And ask your staunchly partisan democrat friends why they take so much smug joy in dominating the local political scene despite the plain fact that they keep getting exactly what they vote for: absolutely nothing. They get absolutely nothing for mindlessly voting for a party over a candidate. Yet, stupidly, they do it over and over and over again, and then complain about the disturbing results of it during the painfully expensive off-seasons. They call them Luzerne County Democrats, but easily-led and easily-duped maroons would do nicely as well.

So, as long as the county government remains a bloated cash cow to be forever over-milked and have her spoils plundered and pilfered by the one political party that holds complete sway over things, don’t be so infuriatingly empty-headed as to be expecting significantly better than what The Swickles Family Courthouse would provide you with.

You smugly and proudly voted for them. You’re obviously being ill-served, if not, totally screwed by them. And at this sorry point, just grin and bare it, baby. You got exactly what you wanted. You did it. You did. You. Not me, you.

That would be you.

And until we vote again, you might as well shut the fu>k up.

Sez me.

Opal…you hot ‘lil bitch!!! Shake that frickin’ thing and get me a goll danged beer, will you!?!

Y’all be good, you hear?