'Senator No. 6' was the real turnpike boss
By Brad Bumsted
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Senator No. 6 must be laughing wildly in his federal prison cell in Kentucky.
A state grand jury report recommended criminal charges against eight people, including former Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow, former turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier and former turnpike Chairman Mitch Rubin. The eight were charged following a three-year investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, a probe initiated by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett when he was AG, passed on to his appointed successor, Linda Kelly, in 2011 and, in January, handed off to Democrat Attorney General Kathleen Kane. There was some question whether the grand jury investigation would survive a new administration, especially since it pointed at Democrats under the administration of former Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell.
To her credit, Kane, a Democrat, pulled the trigger on the explosive report alleging widespread corruption at the Turnpike Commission.
Senator No. 6 is none other than Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, the former Senate power broker whose identity was thinly disguised in the grand jury report. The report portrayed Mellow, also a federal inmate serving a corruption sentence, as controlling the pursuit of campaign money from turnpike vendors and helping to steer contracts to favored contributors. It suggests Mellow and Fumo were calling the shots at the beleaguered agency. Perhaps because Fumo isn't named, he doesn't seem to be the powerful force he actually was.
Mellow sounds like “the man” running the game. But surely, Fumo, convicted of fraud charges in March 2009 and serving a 60-month sentence, was the top dog for Democrats at the Turnpike Commission — and everywhere else. Mellow was more of a figurehead.
Kane, however, said there was no evidence to charge Fumo with crimes in the turnpike scheme.
It's odd, though, that Mellow is the only elected official named in the report. During the past decade, Fumo and former Senate President Pro Tem Robert Jubelirer, R-Altoona, had the most influence at the Turnpike Commission. Jubelirer has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Take Brimmeier, for instance. Is it part of the “job description” for the turnpike's CEO to raise money for the governor? Or was he doing so, if the charges are correct, at someone's behest? Rendell says he was unaware of the allegations. So Brimmeier would take this risk for kicks? Who was telling or asking him to raise money for gubernatorial candidates? Mellow? I doubt it. Not Fumo either.
Back to Fumo and why he is howling with laughter.
Buried in the report are these isolated statements that give rise to a clearer picture of Fumo:
• “Senator 6 from Philadelphia was very, very powerful. He had a strong influence in everything that happened at the Turnpike.”
• “Everybody … owed him favors. So when he talked people listened.”
• Senator No. 6 picked Rubin for chairman; when “he (Fumo) was out and about, you had to look a foot behind him and there was Mitchell Rubin.”
With the chairman as his pal, Fumo had Turnpike Commission action in the bag.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (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.
- Steelers notebook: Worilds loses sack; Big Ben gets 1st career catch
- Kovacevic: Why give credence to Heisman?
- Motivated quarterback Roethlisberger fights to prop up Steelers
- Penguins center Sutter is thriving despite unsettled 3rd line
- Century III new owner seeks to reverse vacancy trend with new theater
- Pirates not yet talking extensions with Alvarez, Walker
- Pirates sign free agent pitcher Volquez
- Baldwin-Whitehall School Board eliminates controversial administrative position
- Health-insurance mandate poses potential hitch for volunteer fire companies
- Pitt’s Donald wins Lombardi Award
- Bengals’ balanced offense poses threat to Steelers