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16 Investigates: Controversial Coffee House Lease at Nay Aug

SCRANTON, Pa. -- A few years ago, Sean McAndrew was President of the Scranton Municipal Recreation Board, overseeing Nay Aug Park Operations.

In June 2016, a woman who helped a young couple get a lease on a concession stand in Nay Aug, wanted the authority to renew the couple's lease.

But what happened next took McAndrew by surprise. The couple was told they would lose guaranteed exclusive rights to sell concessions in the park.

In an email, obtained by Newswatch 16, shows that someone else was interested in selling concession at the Park.

That someone was a city official: Department Head Patrick Hinton.

The email from the Parks Authority Solicitor said,

"An individual is seeking to renovate a structure on the Nay Aug property... to sell food and/or beverage. If this were to move forward, it would require the exclusivity terms of the contract to be revisited."

At the time, board president McAndrew was not told the person seeking to renovate the property as a coffee shop was Hinton, a city department head.

"The timing of it and the way it went about, yeah, it definitely rubbed me the wrong way," said McAndrew.

A woman helping the couple, Judy Reihner, fired back. Emailing the authority,

"You should have signed a contract months ago before we moved in and put all of the sweat equity and money into the operation."

But before McAndrew resigned from the recreation board for unrelated reasons. He questioned how a city official could get a lease on a building his office regulates.

The authority went ahead and allowed public bidding for the vacant building that Hinton wanted to turn into a coffee shop.

Hinton was the only bidder. He signed a lease last July giving him two years rent free then paying the city $250 per month for ten years.

"Anywhere else that you would want to lease to get a business like that, you wouldn't get that kind of a price," said McAndrew.

There are large lots at Nay Aug Park where hundreds of hospital workers park their cars before they head off to their jobs. On their way, they go right by the would-be coffee shop, whose owners will be paying $250 per month and they, the workers, go on to their jobs at the hospital.

Questions about Hinton's actions don't end there. Just six months after Judy Reihner tried to help the couple keep their exclusive rights to concessions at Nay Aug, Hinton showed up with police officers at her home in Scranton's Greenridge section trying to shut down her Air BnB operation.

Reihner called it "an invasion of my home" and an appeals court later ruled the city was wrong to shut down the Air BnB.

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