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Feds eye records on terminal

The subpoena is for records of new W-B/Scranton airport facility as it was being built. Officials say they’re complying.

PITTSTON TWP. – Federal investigators have turned their attention to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and subpoenaed records from a four-year period when a nearly $42 million new terminal was being built.

Airport director Barry Centini said Monday he received the subpoena in the mail from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on July 17.

It ordered the airport to provide by mid-August “construction, design, remodeling and concession documents and all invoices submitted” for the time period of Jan. 1, 2004, through Jan. 31, 2008, Centini said.

“We’re going to comply with everything,” he said.

To date, federal authorities have focused on Luzerne County court and school districts in the county in their ongoing public corruption probe. Eight people, including former Luzerne County judges Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan, have been charged as a result of the investigations.

The time frame for the airport records coincides with the construction of the Joseph M. McDade terminal. Named for the former longtime Republican congressman who represented Northeastern Pennsylvania, it opened on May 25, 2006.

“A lot of the terminal contracts were signed before (Jan. 1, 2004),” Centini said.

Bids for the terminal were opened in January 2003 and McDade participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 24 of that year. The project was the centerpiece of the approximately $80 million renovation at the airport that included a parking garage and surface lots, a roadway network and aircraft apron surrounding the terminal.

Federal and state grants paid for most of the projects with the airport and Lackawanna and Luzerne counties contributing the balance. The counties own and operate the airport and the three commissioners from each county sit on the board that oversees airport operations.

Lackawanna County Commissioner A.J. Munchak said the subpoena was for “contracts related to the new terminal.”

The airport was in the process of compiling the paperwork, he said.

Attorney John O’Brien, solicitor for Lackawanna County who often attends the board meetings, said he would review the order to provide the documents.

Federal authorities have served subpoenas on several school districts as well as Luzerne County Community College as they conduct an ongoing public corruption probe.

Last week, FBI agents visited Wyoming Valley West School District offices with a subpoena. Wilkes-Barre Area and Pittston Area and the Wilkes-Barre Area Career & Technical Center also have been targeted.

The probe has resulted in charges being filed against former Pittston Area Superintendent Ross Scarantino, former Wilkes-Barre school director James Height and director Brian Dunn for allegedly accepting payments to influence contracts within their districts.

Ciavarella and Conahan were the first two charged, in January of this year. They pleaded guilty to receiving $2.6 million in kickbacks related to the construction of two juvenile detention centers and the placement of youths in the facilities. They face 87 months in prison and are free pending the sentencing.

A former co-owner of the centers, attorney Robert Powell, cooperated with authorities to bring charges against the former judges. He pleaded guilty to failing to report the felonies committed by them and being an accessory after the fact to income tax evasion.

Powell also is free pending sentencing in U.S. District Court for the Middle District, Scranton.

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