It was bracing to see Lackawanna County Commissioners Jim Wansacz and Pat “Cheese” O’Malley, D-R-D, spot an easy political issue and act decisively to exploit it.
The commissioners said they want Paul Sorvino to turn over a copy of “The Trouble With Cali,” the film he made in part with $500,000 in county taxpayer money. Moreover, they want a detailed accounting of how the money was spent.
“At the least we should have a copy of that movie, an accounting of what the money was spent on and an opportunity for Scranton Tomorrow, who does free films over at the Lackawanna County Courthouse in the summer (to screen the movie),” Mr. O’Malley said.
Getting the movie will take some doing, but the commissioner need not wait for an accounting. It’s on the county website. Has been for years. If the Odd Couple wants to use “Cali” as campaign fodder, they really should get up to speed.
Go to www.lackawannacounty.org. Scroll down to the Search the Site box. Type “Cali.” Press the Enter key and wait for the magic to happen. A page will pop up with this link: Paul Sorvino – “The Trouble with Cali” Documents.
Click on it. A list of all the documents the county possesses about “The Trouble With Cali” will appear, followed by eight Times-Tribune stories documenting the process by which Mr. Sorvino took our money and strung us along.
One from December 2008 — when Mr. Sorvino was in town to dedicate his alleged sculpture of legendary Scranton playwright Jason Miller — addresses Mr. Sorvino’s tall tale about creating a film production studio in the former Corning Inc. plant in Benton Twp. He was seeking $6 million in funding from then-Gov. Ed Rendell, but declared the project dead.
“The Republicans have apparently killed it,” Scranton’s Most Misunderstood Visiting Martyr said. “I wanted to do it, and it got tied up in politics, and you know, life is too short. It’s sad because I had so many plans. I did so much preparation. I did so much work on it.
“It got beat to death apparently in the halls of the legislative body, and that’s the end of it.”
Then-Sen. Bob Mellow, who has since become a convicted felon, said Paulie “couldn’t be any more inaccurate.” Mr. Mellow said he requested funding for the project in the state’s capital budget, but Mr. Sorvino didn’t honor his promises.
“He said he had a plan in his head, and he was going to come back to us with plans on paper, and how he was going to find the matching funds,” Mr. Mellow said.
Mr. Sorvino never delivered. Some of us sensed the start of a pattern.
But I digress. How the money was spent can be discerned by clicking the link: General Ledger received from Sorvino listing movie expenses. Among innumerable meals and trips to the liquor store, we paid for Michael Sorvino to take ice-skating lessons.
Other fun facts the commissioners might want to know:
About the money: Former Commissioner Mike Washo voted for the first check for $250,000, which he has since admitted was a mistake. It’s only fair to note however, that the check was cut BEFORE the vote. The second $250,000 was slipped into the monthly expenses and passed along with the utility bills. It was authorized by a memo issued by Paul Taramelli, chief of staff for former commissioners and current felons Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak. Bob remains listed as the film’s executive producer.
About the movie: Aside from the fact that it sucks, it is not family fare. It contains a lot of sexual themes, profanity and a brutal rape scene. I struggled to sit through it, so Mr. O’Malley should probably rethink his idea about showing it on Courthouse Square.
About the contract: Saying you can’t find it presumes there is one. There isn’t. If there was any signed agreement, no one has ever produced it for review. All we have is the prospectus, which can also be found on the county website under the link: Confidential Private Placement Memorandum.
It is the Rosetta Stone of this tragic comedy. In it, Mr. Sorvino clearly states that there is no guarantee the film will ever be finished, much less turn a profit. In fact, he says it’s unlikely the county will ever see a return on its investment. It should have sent officials running for the exits, but they were selling a different script. The document also expressly states that no completion bond would be secured to ensure at least a finished product.
About suing: Mr. O’Malley said he wants to explore the county’s legal options. This has already been exhaustively done. Mr. Washo and former Commissioner Corey O’Brien looked for any possible way to sue but in the end decided the legal battle would be long and costly and most likely futile. They didn’t throw good money after bad, and neither should the current commissioners.
Mr. Sorvino is under no legal obligation to pay us back or hand over the movie. People like WILK Radio Host Steve Corbett and me believe he has a moral obligation to screen the movie here for free or at a minimal ticket price, with proceeds going to charity.
We can’t sue Paul Sorvino, but we can try to shame him into doing the right thing.