City Official Leasing Building at Nay Aug Park for Coffee House

SCRANTON, Pa. -- A Scranton city council member wants the state's ethics commission to look into a deal that will allow a city worker to lease a building in Nay Aug Park and operate it as a coffee house.

Scranton's ethics law reads, "no employee of the municipal government shall use any public property for personal benefit or profit."

A city department head plans to turn a public property into a private business specifically, a gourmet coffee house.

Scranton's city licensing, inspection, and codes manager Pat Hinton signed a 10-year lease on the building.

The proposed coffee house sits just across the street from Geisinger Community Medical Center on the southeast corner of Nay Aug Park.

The building has not been used for decades. it was last used housing restrooms.

The 10-year lease Hinton signed with the Scranton Municipal Recreation Authority, gives him two years rent-free. Then he'll pay $250 a month.

An authority official tells Newswatch 16 that its board approved the lease because the building right now is sitting idle.

Scranton council member Bill Gaughan calls it a sweetheart deal for a city department head who supervises those who issue licenses and inspect buildings.

"It degrades the public confidence in elected officials and public employees. Because when people look at this they think, 'there they go again, there goes the city of Scranton giving a favor or giving a bump to a city employee,'" Gaughan said.

In an email to Newswatch 16 this afternoon, the solicitor of the recreation authority released this statement:

"Regarding ethical considerations, the board required that a request for proposal should be published. The only proposal received was that of Mr. Hinton. It is my belief that the procedure that was followed should alleviate any concern of ethical misconduct."

Councilman Gaughan says there is nothing in the city's ethics law that allows a competitive bid to substitute the city of Scranton's conflict of interest rules.

Hinton did not return our phone calls.