Vendor: Turnpike officials received gift certificates to Nemacolin Woodlands for years
HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission vendor testified on Friday that he gave gift certificates for the posh Nemacolin Woodlands resort, worth a combined $6,100, to two top agency officials.
Ex-Commissioner Bill Lincoln of Dunbar and Chief Operating Officer George Hatalowich received the gifts each December from the owner of Sucevic Piccolomini & Kuckar Engineering, which received $4.1 million worth of turnpike contracts from 2005-10, the company owner and a grand jury report said.
The testimony was given on the fifth and final day of a preliminary hearing.
“It was Christmas, and I thought it would be nice to give them a gift,” said Dominic Piccolomini, the firm's owner. The gift certificates cost $700 apiece until 2009, when he increased the amount to $1,000 each. The gifts flowed from 2005 to 2010.
It was a goodwill gesture, not tied in any way to the contracts, Piccolomini said.
Lincoln, a former Senate Democratic leader, received immunity from state prosecutors. Hatalowich, originally from Uniontown, continues to face criminal charges.
District Justice William Wenner said attorneys will return on July 16 for closing arguments. He said he'll decide then which charges will move forward to Common Pleas Court. The charges range from commercial bribery to bid-rigging for some defendants.
Hatalowich, 47, of Harrisburg; former CEO Joe Brimmeier, 65, of Ross; former agency Chairman Mitchell Rubin, 61, of Philadelphia; and former Senate Democratic leader Bob Mellow, 70, of Scranton are among the defendants in the hearing.
Dennis Miller, 51, of Harrisburg, a vendor vice president, and Jeffrey Suzenski, 63, of Pottstown, a vendor consultant, also are accused. Suzenski faces only a charge of restricted activities. Prosecutors dropped two theft charges against Miller on Friday.
Piccolomini said under cross-examination by attorney William Fetterhoff that Hatalowich never asked for gifts.
Lincoln resigned from the commission when the grand jury issued its findings in March.
Mellow has been in solitary confinement since his arraignment in June, his attorney Daniel Brier said. Mellow is serving a 16-month federal prison sentence for his conviction last year of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He waived his right to appear at the hearing.
In other testimony, a former PNC official said a bank subsidiary paid for a $7,000 dinner to honor Mellow at Sparks Steakhouse in Manhattan. It was held on a Pennsylvania Society weekend in December 2007.
Anthony Lepore, Mellow's chief of staff, testified Monday that Mellow intervened to help PNC Capital Markets get turnpike bond work. After Mellow's advocacy for PNC — his attorneys say it was akin to constituent work — PNC Capital Markets received $2.4 million in underwriter fees from 2006 to 2012, the grand jury said.
Ted Hanson, formerly of PNC Capital Markets, said the Pennsylvania Society dinner was approved internally, under PNC's code of ethics. He said he did not know Mellow was contemplating a run for governor at the time.
Under cross-examination by Brier, Hanson said similar dinners were held for other politicians in previous years, and there was no quid pro quo for the bond work.
Brier suggested PNC Capital Markets got more bond work under the administration of Republican Gov. Tom Ridge than under former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. PNC has had other business with the turnpike for years, Brier said.
Sal Cognetti, another lawyer of Mellow's, urged Attorney General Kathleen Kane to review the record and dismiss the charges.
“I didn't hear a crime articulated in the courtroom,” said Cognetti.
Kane's spokesman Dennis Fisher declined to comment.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Foreign influx in Allegheny County at ‘tipping point’
- Cedar Point attraction mishap injures 2 riders
- Former Gateway coach Smith is ‘perfect fit’ for Penn State football staff
- Observers mixed on grid backup amid carbon rules, natural gas uncertainty
- Steelers hope group of low-budget cornerbacks can deliver
- Steelers WR Wheaton wants to produce after injury-plagued rookie year
- Construction of $500M power plant in South Huntingdon stalled
- Steelers notebook: Ben believes rookie WR Bryant can contribute
- Record crowd at Heinz Field for International Champions Cup game
- More patients take on in-home dialysis due to compensation, yearly savings
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle, Huntington on same page