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Lackawanna mayor’s father-in-law, not qualified to be prosecutor, ends up as city judge

Does it ever stop becoming more complicated, controversial or confusing when it comes to Lackawanna? Apparently, not.

On the heels of a scandal involving a ticket-fixing City Court judge who was forced to resign, Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski decided to appoint to the bench none other than his own father-in-law, who, as it turns out, has had his own share of troubles.

Just to backtrack … earlier this year Louis P. Violanti, then the City Court judge in question, staged a ticket-fixing court scene to help a friend out. It included dialogue with a Lackawanna police officer pretending to be said friend. You can’t make this stuff up. In Lackawanna, you don’t need to; it’s just a routine development.

Violanti barely got a tap on the wrist for his breach of conduct. He did have to resign his judgeship, but where some would see humiliation, Szymanski saw opportunity in the empty judgeship, a job that pays $63,700 per year for part-time work.

The mayor didn’t let the stench of nepotism deter him. He filled the job with his father-in-law, Norman A. LeBlanc Jr., who had been city attorney. And that promotion left an opening for city attorney. Shamelessly, Szymanski appointed the disgraced Violanti to the $43,800-a-year job.

As News reporters Jay Tokasz and Patrick Lakamp wrote, it turns out that District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III early this year had revoked LeBlanc’s authority to serve as a public prosecutor.

LeBlanc was found guilty of professional misconduct in 1998 by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court. He admitted giving a fictitious court order to two clients and improperly altering a date on a notarized summons with signatures from the clients. LeBlanc faced no criminal charges, but was suspended from practicing law for six months and has been a lawyer in good standing since.

Good enough standing that Szymanski could overlook his father-in-law’s record of professional misconduct to appoint him judge. And now we have the only-in-Lackawanna moment in which an attorney who has been barred from working as a prosecutor in City Court is now a judge presiding in that very same court.

Complicating the matter, if that’s possible, Szymanski raises the notion that Sedita revoked LeBlanc’s authority to prosecute as an act of political retaliation, after another city official criticized Sedita. The DA firmly denies any retaliation.

Szymanski says of his father-in-law: “He’s been practicing law for 40 years. He’s got a very good handle of law, and he’s doing a great job as judge.”

However, it’s impossible to get beyond the fact that Szymanski did a $63,700-a-year favor for his father-in-law. The entire situation leaves one at a loss.