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Who will pull the turnpike trigger?

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Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
 

HARRISBURG

Will Attorney General Linda Kelly pull the trigger?

Will the lame-duck prosecutor give the OK for seeking a grand jury presentment of former officials at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission? Will she instead seek publication of an investigative report?

In last week's column, speculation focused on six or fewer former officials being indicted. Some say the number is smaller, maybe four. Using public resources for campaigning and politicking for former Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell seems to be at the heart of the scuttlebutt. There's also talk of at least one official not having fully reported personal assets or sources of income on his financial disclosure statement.

Was there “pay to play” on state contracts? Rendell long denied any such tit for tat on campaign donations and state contracts. But were his Turnpike Commission appointees sloppier? Were Rendell fundraisers being organized on turnpike grounds and with public resources?

It would be fascinating to see if this was going on at an “independent” agency while legislative leaders were going down in state and federal courts for using taxpayers' money to campaign.

Nils Frederiksen, the attorney general's spokesman, won't confirm or deny the existence of an investigation despite the fact that unusual court documents unsealed by the Supreme Court this year established that indeed there is an investigation. It began under Republican Tom Corbett, now governor, when he was attorney general. Add to this the legal bills, which establish the factual nature of an investigation. The turnpike released records showing $1.96 million in legal fees and expenses in response to a Trib request for legal fees related to the AG's investigation since January 2011. About $1.8 million went to the Philadelphia law firm of Conrad O'Brien, which represented Senate Republicans and others in the corruption scandals over the past four years.

Kelly, of course, could turn the matter over to incoming Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, who promises to be an independent prosecutor. But it's not clear whether the top prosecutors under Corbett and Kelly will be kept on board or leave before she takes the oath of office.

After all, Kane has pledged to investigate how Corbett and Kelly handled the investigation of serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach.

As Kelly prepares to leave office it also makes one wonder why no one has been prosecuted at the Second Mile Foundation, Sandusky's charity used as his private hunting ground for young boys to befriend and then assault. Convicted of 40 counts, Sandusky is serving an effective life term in prison.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

 

 

 
 


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