Share This Page

Plaques & portraits: Harrisburg's rogues

| Thursday, July 17, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Plaques added below state Capitol portraits of four former Pennsylvania legislative leaders noting their criminal convictions and prison sentences send a mixed message. After all, the portraits still hang among those honoring other lawmakers who avoided such disgrace. That dichotomy should be rectified by removing the portraits and keeping the plaques.

The plaques were ordered by House Speaker Sam Smith and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, two Jefferson County Republicans. Adding them represents a compromise between critics who want the portraits removed and others who contend doing so would distort history.

Indeed, it is ugly history. But it tells cautionary tales that shouldn't be forgotten or minimized. Pennsylvania certainly needs no repeats of the conduct that disgraced this quad of convicts — illicit use of state resources for campaigning in recent years by former top Senate Democrat Bob Mellow of Lackawanna County and former House Speakers John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, and Bill DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, and obstruction of justice in the 1970s by former House Speaker Herbert Fineman, D-Philadelphia.

Their criminality made their portraits fit for display only in a rogues' gallery.

Leaving the portraits hanging now muddles the plaques' lesson: Nobody is above the law. Put the portraits in storage and leave just the plaques hanging in their place. That lesson will be as stark and clear as it can be.

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.