Flash Flood Watches in Effect

Sewer Authority Says No to Auditor General

SCRANTON -- Members of the Scranton Sewer Authority voted against bringing in the state auditor general to review the multi-million dollar deal and the legal fees surrounding the agency's sale to Pennsylvania American Water.

The vote comes just three weeks after a Newswatch 16 investigation into the legal fees showed 50 lawyers were getting paid in the deal.

Both the Scranton city council and the Dunmore borough council recently voted in favor of bringing in the state auditor general to review the sale and legal fees.

But Wednesday night, the sewer authority voted by a 3-1 margin not to ask the auditor general for a review.

"You have a genuine credibility problem," said Joan Hodowanitz of Scranton.

Critics packed City Hall in Scranton and called on the Scranton Sewer Authority to open the books.

"The fact that there is no transparency, that is something that we need," said Samantha Malone of Scranton.

These people from Scranton and Dunmore want the sewer authority board to bring in the state auditor general's office to review the multi-million dollar sale.

"The black cloud that has been hanging over this deal for the past few months is only going to get bigger," said Bill Gaughan, Scranton city council.

Many are angry that in the sale of the sewer authority to Pennsylvania American Water, the city netted $83 million when city leaders claimed it would bring in $95 million.

Others are upset at the legal fees.

A Newswatch 16 investigation earlier this month showed the sale took eight law firms, using a total of 50 lawyers, billing the authority more than $3 million.

We don't know the 400 pages of whited-out details of invoices except the amount paid as the sewer authority claims details should be kept private under attorney client privilege.

But without any discussion, the authority board voted 3-1 against asking the auditor general for a review

Some board members did not want to say why they voted no.

The authority board chairman said there's a reason the auditor general will not be asked to review the sale.

"It's not a question of voting no on an audit. We are going to hire an accounting firm to perform an audit. That's going to transpire," Michael Parker, Scranton Sewer Authority chairman.

Critics say they won't be able to trust the findings of an accounting firm hired by sewer authority.

The auditor general's office cannot review the deals of a municipal authority unless it is asked, and the Scranton Sewer Authority has now decided it won't.

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