When he was sworn in as Scranton‘s chief executive in 2002, former mayor Chris Doherty pledged to serve the interests of citizens. He spent 12 years in office, with results as mixed as the opinions of his supporters and detractors. Whether Mr. Doherty’s tenure was good or bad for the city is debatable. That he swore an oath to serve its citizens’ interests is not.
As Times-Tribune Staff Writer Terrie Morgan-Besecker reports today, Mr. Doherty and other former and present city officials are resisting a reasonable request to testify under oath about a 2002 retirement incentive that doubled the pensions of 35 city employees. Attorney Judith Price rightly seeks on-the-record testimony from Mr. Doherty, Lisa Moran, director of human resources under Mr. Doherty; Alleged City Controller Roseanne Novembrino; Thomas Barrett, pension board president at the time; and Gerald Cross, executive director of the Pennsylvania Economy League, Scranton’s Act 47 distressed city mentor.
Through their lawyers, all have said they have no knowledge of how the double pensions were awarded. It’s possible they are telling the truth, but if so, another thorny question arises: How could something like this happen without the knowledge of the officials whose sworn duty was responsible oversight of the public purse? It would be scandalous if they knew and went along with it. The notion that they didn’t know is worse. It means no one was minding the store in a city that has been officially close to broke since 1992.
What Mr. Doherty and the others did or didn’t know can best be determined through sworn testimony. Their resistance to such a resolution suggests they knew more than they want anyone else to know. To clear this mess up, all they need to do is tell everything they didn’t know, and do it under oath.