Another black eye for the State of Corruption?
By Brad Bumsted
Published: Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
On the corruption front, there is an explosion set to occur before the end of the year, or early January at the latest.
A statewide grand jury for two years has been prying into the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, an agency with a track record of sleaze and corruption.
The grand jury is investigating “employment practices, procurement practices and the use of Commonwealth resources to conduct political activities.” That is an official statement from the state attorney general's lawyers — a rarity since grand jury proceedings are secret. It was part of a document unsealed by the Supreme Court.
It wound up before the Supremes as a result of the commission's outside lawyers appealing a ruling by the grand jury judge, who refused to provide a “protective order.” That was first reported this summer by The Legal Intelligencer of Philadelphia.
The grand jury could indict as many as six ex-employees of the turnpike who worked there under Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, the former attorney general, opened the Turnpike Commission investigation. When Corbett became governor in January 2011, the investigation was passed on to his successors, acting Attorney General William H. Ryan Jr. and Attorney General Linda Kelly, after her confirmation in May.
“Six” comes from the Harrisburg rumor mill. There might not be any indictments (or “presentments,” as the state calls them). And the grand jury could issue an investigative report outlining poor and questionable practices.
Using commonwealth resources for political activities could be the key.
A blistering report was issued in May 2011 on the Gaming Control Board, outlining a culture of secrecy and “non-criminal misconduct.” Such reports are designed to highlight major problems, enabling lawmakers to fix the laws where warranted.
The reason we know indictments or a report are forthcoming is that Kelly is already a lame-duck attorney general. Her term ends in January when Kathleen Kane takes over as the first woman elected as the state's top prosecutor.
These aren't the kinds of things that get passed along to the next person taking the job.
But the grand jury also could do nothing, which would be a huge waste of state resources and tax dollars.
The other item to watch is the current attorney general's investigation of the Hershey Trust, once headed by LeRoy Zimmerman, a longtime friend and supporter of Corbett's and father-in-law of the man Kane defeated, Cumberland County DA David Freed. GOP ties run deep in the trust, set up by Milton Hershey to oversee a school he established for underprivileged kids.
Does the Hershey Trust civil investigation get resolved under Corbett's appointee (Kelly)? Or does it get passed along to Kane, who might dig deeper?
It should be noted Kane received a $100,000 contribution from ex-Hershey Trustee Robert Reese, who at one point sued the trust over alleged improprieties.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (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.
- Garden Q&A: Firecracker vine OK for trellis?
- Starkey: Penguins’ arrogance astounding
- Three ejected after Pirates, Brewers brawl
- Egg decorating turns to fight, charges in Brookline, police say
- Plum man revels in Keystone hall of fame induction
- Matt Calvert’s goal in double OT evens series for Blue Jackets
- Bridge work planned for Route 68 in Brady’s Bend
- Cool chemistry: Programs at Springdale library take inspiration from late science professor
- Six NA students finalists in Musical Kids competition
- Hillside repairs to cost $35K more than expected
- Study to target pool use at Belmont Complex