Staffer in eye of turnpike storm still on job
HARRISBURG — The top Democratic staffer in the state Senate remains in his job, even though he told a grand jury about his involvement with two former senators in schemes to steer Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission contracts to politically connected firms.
Anthony Lepore, chief of staff for Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, testified under a grant of immunity before the statewide grand jury whose findings resulted in criminal charges against eight people on March 13. The charges grew from a “pay-to-play” scheme, prosecutors said.
“Tony continues to serve our Senate Democratic Caucus,” Costa said. “We believe his role in the presentment was one where he was clearly instructed to facilitate things. He did not benefit from this at all.
“There's a level of trust for Tony within the caucus.”
Lepore, paid $170,000 annually, is not accused of any crimes. He assisted the prosecution.
The grand jury report led to charges against Lepore's former boss, ex-Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow, D-Scranton. Lepore was the “middle man” for Mellow and former Senate power broker Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, with the turnpike, according to the grand jury.
Other aides have remained on legislative staff after corruption investigations.
House Republican and Democratic staffers, some of whom received immunity, testified in corruption trials during the past three years. At the turnpike, Lori Smith, an executive office assistant for commissioners, testified under a grant of immunity, the report stated.
Lepore attracted attention because of his top position in the Democratic Caucus, prompting Harrisburg news coverage this week by ABC27-TV, the Patriot-News and Capitolwire.com.
Former U.S. Attorney Jim West, speaking generally, said prosecutors routinely use grants of immunity. Continued employment for witnesses “is always up to their employer,” West said.
To encourage witnesses to cooperate, West would talk on occasion to employers and ask them not to take action because of the person's testimony, he said.
The Senate this week refused to provide the cost of any taxpayer-paid legal fees for Lepore or Mellow from the turnpike investigation.
“I am unable to provide the information requested because the issue of attorney-client privilege (is) currently before Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the matter of Levy vs. Senate of Pennsylvania,” said Russ Faber, the Senate's open records officer.
In that case, Marc Levy, a reporter for The Associated Press, seeks state-paid legal bills for Mellow from a federal corruption case.
Mellow pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy, linked to his use of Senate staff for campaigns. He's serving a 16-month sentence.
Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media.Reach him at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Identical twins born at West Penn Hospital a rare medical marvel
- Pittsburgh Public evacuates 3 schools after voicemail threat
- Preparation for drilling closes one lane of Thompson Run Road in Ross
- City of Pittsburgh detective, 2 boys finalize adoption before judge
- Embattled VFW mulls image among declining numbers
- Professor, lawyer with Pittsburgh ties earn MacArthur ‘genius grants’
- Sexual assault victim could receive $100K settlement from Pittsburgh
- Western Pa. colleges to emphasize curricula for energy, industrial fields
- Marshals make arrest in fatal Strip District shooting
- State awards 6 Western Pennsylvania schools mentoring grants
- Latest flu vaccines offer protection from 4 influenza strains instead of traditional 3