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DA declines to enter printer-pricing quarrel

Times-Leader Staff Writer

WILKES-BARRE - The top prosecutor in Luzerne County won't investigate a politically connected printer who might have overcharged Prothonotary Carolee Medico.

"Carolee has not given me anything that makes it appear to be criminal," District Attorney Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said Wednesday. "If it's not criminal, it's not in my realm."

Medico countered that Olszewski did a superficial thorough review of the situation and didn't want to dig too deep.

She complained to him Monday that Mondlak Printery, Jenkins Township, charged the county $1,295 to print 2,000 copies of a form for her office. Two other printers have told her they would do the same job for as little as $492.

The lone Republican row officer competitively also shopped other items her Democratic predecessor, Eugene Duffy, sent to the same print shop. She found a similar "huge discrepancy in the bills."

Jerry Mondlak, who owns the printery with his wife Ellen, is also treasurer of the county Democratic party. He declined comment on Olszewski's decision Wednesday.

Mondlak offered no explaination for why he charges the county far more than his competitors, but repeated a promise to "rectify the situation."

Olszewski blamed the high price the county paid for the forms on "administrative issues between the commissioners and Carolee," but wouldn't elaborate. He said he set up a meeting between Medico and board Chairman Tom Makowski Wednesday so they could discuss them.

The county Property and Supply office, which handed the job to Mondlak, doesn't shop around like Medico did after she saw the bill.

Instead, that office follows state bidding laws by obtaining quotes from competing firms only when an item is expected to cost more than $4,000.

Medico said she suspects that Olszewski is simply being a loyal Democrat by deciding not to probe Mondlak.

"What did he review? What did he look at?" she said. "But when we had one piece of paper missing he sent a detective up here for a couple of days." 

Olszewski denied playing politics, but said, "sure, I know who he (Mondlak) is. ... People can see conspiracies under rocks. I'm not a fiscal watchdog for the county. I'm just the DA."

Asked why he didn't let state Attorney General Mike Fisher handle the complaint to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Olszewski said, "I see no legitimate basis to even refer it to the attorney general."

Medico refused to say if she would bring her case to Fisher, a Republican. "It's up to the taxpayers to decide who they want to hold accountable," she said. "I'm one person."

Thursday, April 23, 1998