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Turnpike hires former Pittsburgh FBI chief to head internal investigations

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 8:15 a.m.
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The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission hired Ray A. Morrow, the former chief of the FBI's Pittsburgh office, who will conduct internal investigations of theft, fraud and waste.

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, hit by an alleged multimillion-dollar “pay-to-play” scandal, will attempt to clean up its image with the hiring of the former chief of the FBI's Pittsburgh office.

Ray A. Morrow of Washington, Pa., will be paid $120,000 annually to conduct internal investigations of theft, fraud and waste, the agency said on Wednesday.

“Ray's diverse background will serve the turnpike well as we continue moving forward to enhance the transparency and accountability of our organization,” said CEO Mark Compton, who has headed the agency since December 2012.

The state Attorney General's Office last year accused eight former turnpike employees, some vendors and an ex-legislative leader of involvement in a bid-rigging and influence-peddling scheme. Prosecutors allege turnpike officials and accused vendors were directed to raise campaign money for state officials.

Vendors lavished gifts on some defendants, prosecutors claim, including golf outings, fishing trips, sporting events, dinners in Manhattan, limo rides, liquor, wine and cigars.

Most of the defendants are expected to face trial this fall. Defense attorneys say their clients — including former turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier of Ross, former agency Chairman Mitchell Rubin of Philadelphia, and ex-Senate Democratic leader Robert Mellow of Lackawanna County— are innocent.

Morrow, 58, replaces Anthony Maniscola as inspector general. Maniscola, who retired in September, said he told a grand jury about an agency culture of campaign contributions for contracts, as well as patronage hiring.

“It is a way of life,” Maniscola of Bucks County told the Tribune-Review. He said he testified on four occasions before the grand jury that recommended criminal charges.

Morrow, an FBI agent for 20 years, worked as an undercover officer and a white-collar crime supervisor. He has experience in cyber and computer crimes, according to an agency biography. He last worked for Siemens Corp. in Fairfax, Va.

Morrow will report to Chief Compliance Officer David Gentile, another FBI veteran, hired in 2012.

The turnpike has a history of corruption and patronage. The climate has improved since Gentile came on board, Maniscola said.

“He had my back on a lot of stuff,” he said. “He doesn't take prisoners.”

Morrow said the job will be a challenge, and with teamwork, “we can really do some good.”

Eric Epstein, co-founder of the reform group Rock the Capital, expressed skepticism one man can make a difference.

“The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission can't police itself,” Epstein said. “It's a relic. It's a dinosaur.”

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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