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Indictment: Turnpike boss Rubin got $150K in 5 years

| Friday, Feb. 9, 2007

HARRISBURG - A federal indictment against state Sen. Vincent Fumo suggests that Turnpike Commission Chairman Mitchell Rubin, a friend of Fumo's, was a Senate contractor who did "little or no actual Senate work."

Rubin -- whose wife, Ruth Arnao, a former Fumo aide, was indicted this week -- said Thursday he had "absolutely no comment" about the contents of a 272-page corruption indictment against Fumo, a Philadelphia Democrat and one of the state's most powerful legislators.

Rubin has not been charged. The indictment does not name him but describes "Senate Contractor No. 5" as Arnao's husband and the chairman of the turnpike commission. It says the contractor was "a member of Fumo's inner circle" who collected $150,000 over five years for little or no work.

"Boy, if the allegations are true it puts a dark cloud over the turnpike itself," said Russ Diamond, a Lebanon businessman involved in state government reform efforts.

The indictment alleges another Senate contractor who was Fumo's friend landed a $10,000-a-month consulting contract with the turnpike commission "within two months" of Rubin's election as chairman in February 2003. It states the commission has no records showing any work was performed by the contractor, believed to be Michael Palermo, of Hummelstown.

That contractor is unnamed in the indictment, but the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2005 reported that Palermo, through M&P Consulting, was collecting $10,000 monthly as a turnpike consultant. The indictment claims Palermo ran Fumo's farm near Hummelstown. Palermo could not be reached for comment.

Fumo's office had no comment yesterday.

Rubin, who is paid $28,500 as turnpike chairman, had a $30,000-a-year contract with the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee, which Fumo chaired until Tuesday when he stepped aside in anticipation of the federal charges.

Fumo is accused of defrauding taxpayers and a South Philadelphia charity -- Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, where Arnao was executive director -- of $2 million for his personal and political agenda. Fumo and Arnao pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Bill Capone, a turnpike spokesman, said he had no comment on behalf of the commission.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease in Philadelphia would not comment about unnamed individuals in the indictment. Asked why individuals who collected salaries but did no work weren't indicted, Pease said, "I can't answer that, either."

Rubin's 1999-2004 Senate contract was for research and analysis on legislative matters, and to assist with constituent services. He owned a Philadelphia firm that filed court papers and served documents for law firms.

Every month, Rubin's firm "simply sent an invoice for services rendered," the indictment states, collecting taxpayers' money "without ever specifying any work that it ever did." Investigators found no evidence, such as notes or reports, verifying that the firm provided research, analysis or recommendations on legislative matters.

Senate President Joe Scarnati, a Jefferson County Republican, said yesterday that allegations in the federal case clearly show the Legislature's annual audit "doesn't go far enough." Scarnati said he would push for an expanded audit.

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