OPINION: Chris Kelly Opinion: Domenick burned by flaming paper trail

·5 min read

Jul. 10—From: Debra Domenick

Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2022 1:35 PM

To: Mike Brown

Cc: Brian Jeffers

Subject: Emails


Please allow this email to confirm that you and I just had a telephone conversation, wherein you expressed concerns about my request for the above-referenced emails. I addressed your concerns at length as both an attorney and, more importantly, as Commissioner. I have directed you to produce the emails as requested to me, since I = am the one who made the request.

Please advise as to when I may expect to receive same.


— Commissioner Debi Domenick, in an email to the county IT director.

From: Chris Kelly ckelly@timesshamrock.com

Sent: Sunday, July 10, 2022

To: Debra Domenick DomenickD@lackawannacounty.org

Cc: Subscribers of The Sunday Times


Dear Commissioner Domenick,

Please allow this email to confirm that you and I had a telephone conversation early last week wherein you expressed concerns about my requests for honest answers to easy questions. I addressed your concerns at length as a journalist, and more importantly, as a taxpayer. After reading your emails bullying IT Director Mike Brown into helping you snoop in a prison investigation, I request your resignation.

Please advise when I may expect to receive same.


Debi Domenick's stubborn self-immolation was raging before this newspaper obtained copies of her May 31, 2022, email correspondence with Mike Brown and county Chief of Staff Brian Jeffers.

Early Friday, District Attorney Mark Powell and Commissioner Chris Chermak confirmed that Domenick privately confessed to having Brown retrieve about 500 emails, including "confidential and protected" correspondence between Judge James Gibbons and Lackawanna County Prison Warden Tim Betti.

During prison board executive sessions on June 7 and June 15, Domenick copped to the email snooping and said her position as commissioner grants her authority to access any information she chooses.

"... Commissioner Domenick has advised that she has unfettered right to review all County emails, including those of the judiciary and of the District Attorney's Office," Powell wrote in a civil complaint asking a judge to protect the emails and electronic data of his investigators and prosecutors from the renegade commissioner.

On Thursday, Domenick issued a bizarre prepared statement "denouncing" and "refuting" Powell's claims.

"Commissioner Domenick vehemently disputes the truth and veracity of District Attorney Powell's allegations levied against her. Although this statement is not intended to detail Commissioner Domenick's position or defenses, it is intended to denounce and refute District Attorney Powell's allegations. A proper and detailed response will be forthcoming at the appropriate time and manner as already established by the Court."

TRANSLATION: "Commissioner Domenick has yet to concoct any credible defenses for her actions, but is confident she will come up with something by the court date."

The DA naturally declined to discuss pending litigation, but was compelled to respond to Domenick's public repudiation of facts she previously acknowledged privately.

"There were several witnesses to her statements," Powell said. "She may claim she never said them, but she did, and multiple witnesses were there."

Chermak was among them.

"The whole prison board was there," he said. "I don't understand how she can deny it now. The fact of the matter is she did all this stuff. Is it illegal? I don't know. I'm not a lawyer. Is it unethical? I believe it is. It's nothing I would ever do."

It was damning stuff, but nothing compared to the emails received through a Right to Know Law request filed by The Sunday Times late Friday afternoon. First reported by Staff Writer Jeff Horvath in Saturday's editions of The Times-Tribune, the emails expose Domenick as a reckless bully who leaned on an employee and ignored multiple warnings from colleagues and employees who told her she was crossing bright red lines.

"Mike stated that he is very uncomfortable with this request and said he needed authorization from me to do it," county Chief of Staff Brian Jeffers wrote in an email to Domenick. "I am extremely uncomfortable with this request as well.

"This goes outside the normal requests of a sitting Commissioner... If the media or a citizen wanted these emails they would be told to file a Right to Know request... If that is the way you want to go as a private citizen, then I suggest that you file a Right to Know... However, I truly believe you should not make this request in the first place.

"I know you're going to be upset with me, which is why I'm writing this instead of calling you. The only thing a phone call would do is cause deafness to my ears."

Domenick quietly went ahead, anyway. Brown's email to the commissioner after following her order is "smoking gun" evidence that Powell's accusations are irrefutable.

"Commissioner Domenick, The IT Department has complied with your request," he wrote. "The 476 items were placed on your Desktop in a folder called Requested Emails..."

That, folks, is what we ink-stained wretches call a "paper trail." This newspaper will continue to follow it wherever it leads. There are no credible defenses for the commissioner's actions.

She did this stuff. That's the fact of the matter. Is it illegal? I don't know. I'm not a lawyer.

CHRIS KELLY, the Times-Tribune columnist, vehemently disputes the truth and veracity of Debi Domenick's denunciations. Read his award-winning blog at timestribuneblogs.com/kelly. Contact the writer: kellysworld@timesshamrock.com; @cjkink on Twitter; Chris Kelly, The Times-Tribune on Facebook.