Compliance chief continuing to clean up PA Turnpike’s image

Compliance chief continuing to clean up PA Turnpike’s image


turnpike logoThe Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the beleaguered agency targeted by a state corruption probe, was operating without a full-time chief compliance officer for three months at the start of the summer.

Inspector General Ray Morrow had been pulling double-duty as IG and interim Chief Compliance Officer for a few months after David Gentile, the commission’s first CCO, resigned in early April. That ended July 11 when commissioners promoted Morrow as the new CCO. The commission did not publicly announce Morrow’s promotion or that he was stepping in on an interim basis in April.

“On a day-to-day basis I was busy,” Morrow said of his time performing both duties, “but it was a lot of fun and it was a great learning experience.” He credited Gentile who “set a very good course and put together a great team.”

It’s been more than a year since Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced the result of an investigation into an alleged bribery and bid-rigging scheme involving former Turnpike officials and a former top Senate Democrat. Kane said the investigation exposed a “pay to play” scheme where political contributions equaled millions of dollars in Turnpike contracts.

The Office of Attorney General in March 2013 announced criminal charges against former Sen. Bob Mellow, who once served as the top Senate official, former Turnpike CEO Joseph Brimmeier, former Turnpike chairman Mitchell Rubin, former Turnpike COO George Hatalowich, and other agency employees, vendors and a consultant.

A Dauphin County judge will hear arguments on pre-trial motions Aug. 18 and the trial is set to start Nov. 17.

The commission in January hired Morrow, a 20-year veteran of the FBI who was most recently involved in corporate investigations, as Inspector General to root out fraud, theft and waste by monitoring employee behavior and identifying and dealing with misconduct. He also focused on issues involving contractors or consultants hired by the commission.

When Morrow received the promotion, the commission eliminated the Inspector General position, but created an advisory position within the Office of Compliance’s umbrella to cover the daily duties, Morrow said. The commission said it’s a cost-saving measure and improves efficiency.

During a brief phone interview Friday, Morrow described his office as “a sort of triage” of what comes to them in the form of tips, anonymous or not, which are then referred to particular sections to look into.

“Every allegation is tracked, investigated and monitored,” Morrow said, noting not every allegation is criminal and most deal with compliance issues.

“I found [since he started in January] that we have some outstanding employees, and an organization that is moving in the right direction since what was announced last March,” said Morrow, who as CCO oversees daily audits of the toll revenue-system and other compliance audits, the contracting process, and other functions to clean up the commission’s image. “I have not seen anything that will make me feel any different than what I just stated.”

Because he deals mostly with matters of personnel, his reports to the commissioners aren’t publicly available.

“The Compliance Department’s investigative reports and audits are confidential and not accessible pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law,” Morrow said in a subsequent email. “If, however, the Compliance Department finds evidence of a crime or criminal activity, the Commission will refer the matter to the appropriate law-enforcement agency for its review.”

Another reform effort from the Turnpike in the aftermath of Kane’s announcement was a three-person advisory committee to review the commission’s business practices and policies. Their report is expected this fall.

–Kevin Zwick, Capitolwire