More than 100 people wrote letters on behalf of former Lackawanna County Commissioner A. J. Munchak before he was sentenced Monday on corruption charges and that includes one from the president of a local charity.
The letter from United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties President Gary Drapek documents former Munchak`s service and fundraising.
Drapek said Munchak asked him to write the letter, but should such a visible charity be going to bat for a convicted felon and former commissioner who violated the public trust?
"The letter that was written, was the standard letter that I would have written for any volunteer," explained Drapek.
He wrote a letter of reference on United Way stationery and signed it as president of the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne counties.
The letter praises Munchak as a "faithful volunteer." It credits him for chairing a yearly golf tournament that raised $400,000 over 16 years.
That letter was used in Muchak's defense when read by federal Judge Richard Caputo Monday before he sentenced Munchak to seven years in prison.
"The letter says nothing about asking for leniency," said Drapek. "It talked nothing about the character of the individual. It just said here's what he did, here's how long he did it."
Drapek is aware of potential criticism.
For all the good A.J. Munchak did for the United Way, he's also a convicted felon found guilty of taking bribes and extorting businessmen.
He was also found guilty of cheating on his taxes.
Drapek wrote Munchak's reference letter June 23,2011, two days after jurors convicted Munchak of public corruption.
When asked if he knew the letter would be used to try to influence Munchak's sentence, Draper replied, "I really didn`t know what it was going to be used for. I knew it was going to be used in the court case somewhere along the way."
One potential concern for the United Way is fundraising. The organization depends on it. So what would Gary Drapek tell a donor, who`s offended at the crimes of ex-commissioner Munchak?
"I think I was very disappointed with Commissioner Munchak, or Mr. Munchak now, and I was a little bit angry, yes," Drapek said.
He hopes regular donors will continue to contribute, and he asks people who have concerns about the letter to call him at the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties.