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Vanishing act left to pros

| Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007

When Mike Veon wanted documents destroyed, he didn't trust the task to amateurs.

When Veon wanted sensitive paperwork not just discarded, but shredded and reduced to unrecoverable nothingness, he turned to the professionals.

Veon, of Beaver Falls, is the former Democratic House minority whip. Defeated in his re-election bid last year, he now toils in Harrisburg as a lobbyist.

Veon's name has surfaced prominently in state Attorney General Tom Corbett's investigation into $3.6 million in bonuses paid to state legislative staffers in 2005 and 2006. Corbett is probing whether some portion of that money was illegally paid for political work.

The majority of the largest bonuses were paid to people who volunteered on or contributed to the campaigns of Veon, current House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese of Greene County and the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

Last month, Corbett's office raided one of Veon's old haunts, the House Office of Democratic Research, and carted away boxes of records. Whether investigators found anything interesting remains to be seen. But what I found interesting is Veon paying to have what appears to be a voluminous amount of paperwork excised from existence in January.

According to a finance report filed in May, Veon's campaign spent $531 to hire the information management company Iron Mountain to shred documents.

The Boston-based company's Web site isn't shy about the benefits of its shredding service: "Holding information beyond its required retention period incurs unnecessary storage costs and leaves you vulnerable to risks of theft, misuses, disclosure, legal discovery and noncompliance fines."

Iron Mountain refused repeated requests last week to disclose how many documents it would dispose of for $531. What bashful shredders!

So while it is impossible to determine how much paperwork Iron Mountain made vanish for Veon, the company's rates probably are competitive with others, such as Secured Shredding Services of Moon.

Officer manager Julie Hitt said Secured Shredding charges $6 per box of documents destroyed. The boxes are the size of the ones usually found next to office copiers; each one can hold 25 pounds of paper.

"So for $531, you could shred ... " I said.

Hitt quickly did the math: "Eighty-eight boxes."

At 25 pounds per box, that means Veon could have shredded 2,200 pounds of documents had he used Secured Shredding.

Suppose Iron Mountain's rates are twice as high. Unlikely, I know, but in the interest of fairness let's do some supposing.

Veon still would have been able to dispose of more than half a ton of paper.

Veon did not respond to a message left Friday to provide details on the document destruction, but I assume he was just doing a bit of housecleaning.

At this point, not a shred of evidence exists to suggest otherwise.

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