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Witness: Beaver nonprofit had South Side office for state employee

HARRISBURG — The former executive director of a non-profit ex-Rep. Mike Veon founded in Beaver County said today he never objected to the organization opening an office in the South Side despite having no Pittsburgh projects.

Thomas A. Woodske said he didn't think it was necessary for the Beaver Initiative for Growth, based in Beaver Falls, to pay for a second office in Pittsburgh. He found out about BIG renting office space there when his son, Dan, a BIG employee, told him he had been moving furniture into the office above a cigar store.

Dan Woodske, BIG's marketing director, testified he never heard of any BIG staffers using the office. He was told there would be a "caucus employee" assigned there. That means a state-paid staffer.

Veon, 55, is accused of misusing BIG funds, He faces 19 criminal charges, including conflict of interest and theft. The trial is in its third day in Dauphin County Court.

Veon, the former No. 2 leader in the House Democratic Caucus, is serving a six- to 14-year sentence at a state prison near Somerset. A jury convicted him in 2010 of 13 felonies and a misdemeanor for using public resources for campaigns and having a conflict of interest as a legislator.

Veon secured $10 million in state funds for BIG over a decade.

Thomas Woodske testified yesterday he was told to sign contracts but knew nothing about them. He said he signed a contract for the BIG office on the South Side, even though the nonprofit created to stimulate economic development in Beaver County had no real business there, Woodske said.

"His (Veon's) style was not consultive," Thomas Woodske said this morning. "He dominated the agenda and ran it (BIG) as he saw fit."

On cross-examination, Thomas Woodske agreed that economic development is regional in scope so a Pittsburgh office wasn't completely out of bounds.

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