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Gov. Corbett


The power of the state attorney general to tackle public corruption would be greatly expanded under a legislative proposal stemming from a state investigation into the large public debt racked up through financing deals at Harrisburg’s trash incinerator.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers plan to introduce a bill giving the attorney general authority to investigate and prosecute county, city, and municipal officials and employees for public corruption. Under current law, the attorney general can only prosecute public corruption cases of state officials and employees under certain circumstances. This occurs when county district attorneys refer a case because they have a conflict of interest or lack adequate resources to pursue it.

A state grand jury issued a report last month wrapping up a state investigation of incinerator deals that led up to $300 million in debt during the tenure of former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed. The investigation was launched followed a referral from Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico.

The grand jury recommended no criminal charges in the incinerator case citing a statute of limitations that expired in 2015. However, the grand jury made recommendations to change state laws to help protect municipal taxpayers from excessive debt in the future. These include expanding the attorney general’s prosecuting power to include local officials and extending the statute of limitations to cover wrongdoing discovered after an official leaves office.

The referral system often causes “undesirable delay” in pursuing criminal charges, the grand jury said.

The grand jury report gave momentum to senators who have pushed to enact stronger municipal debt laws since 2013 in response to the incinerator controversy. They have now gained allies in the House who plan to introduce companion bills.

Under the powers bill, the attorney general could prosecute local officials when state laws are violated, said Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, the sponsor. Federal prosecutors have jurisdiction to prosecute local officials for violations of federal laws in such areas as mail fraud and bribery and extortion.

The legislation to expand the attorney general’s power comes after the elective office weathered a series of controversies leading to the conviction of former Attorney General Kathleen Kane for leaking grand jury information to a reporter and lying about it to another grand jury and her resignation from office last summer.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said this week he strongly supports having the additional prosecuting authority. He also noted he’s seeking a $500,000 increase to strengthen the office’s Public Corruption Unit in the fiscal 2017-18 state budget.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, said he would take a close look at what he described as giving the attorney general “super power” to investigate local officials.

The attorney general’s office would need a larger budget if that power was granted, said Harrisburg attorney Water Cohen, a one-time acting attorney general.

“The question here is whether the General Assembly, if it expands the jurisdiction of the OAG, will give the office the necessary resources to actually conduct such additional investigations and prosecutions, which can be very complicated and time-consuming,” wrote Cohen.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association will probably take a position on the legislation.



corbett press clubGovernor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, will address the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday, October 27, 2014. The luncheon begins at noon and will be held at the Hilton Harrisburg & Towers.
Since his inauguration as Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on January 18th, 2011, Tom Corbett has been fighting for the people of Pennsylvania.
By reducing spending for the first time in 40 years, cutting government waste and fraud, balancing state budgets without borrowing more or raising taxes on the middle class and opening up the Marcellus Shale for responsible exploration and development, Pennsylvania was able to close a $4.2 billion budget deficit, invest unprecedented funding in public education, create over 180,000 new private sector jobs and is on the verge of unchartered economic prosperity.
Tom Corbett has dedicated much of his life to serving others. After graduating from college, Tom spent a year as a civics and history teacher at Pine Grove Area High School in Schuylkill County. A few years after graduating from law school, Tom was hired by the Reagan administration as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, focusing on organized crime and drug enforcement. He was also one of the first members of President Reagan’s National Drug Task Force. In 1989, following several years of private law practice, he was appointed as the United States Attorney for Western Pennsylvania by President George H.W. Bush.
Tom Corbett offered his legal expertise as an advisor to Tom Ridge, a U.S. Congressman at the time, who would become Governor and appoint Tom to fill an interim role as Pennsylvania’s Attorney General from 1995 to 1997. Tom returned to the private sector and eventually opened his own firm. A champion for public safety and criminal justice, Tom Corbett was elected the 46th Attorney General of Pennsylvania in 2004. He was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2008 with over three million votes, more than any Republican candidate in Pennsylvania’s history.
Answering Pennsylvanians call for change and reform in Harrisburg, Tom announced his candidacy in September of 2009 and was elected as Pennsylvania’s 46th Governor in November of 2010.
A lifelong Pennsylvanian, Tom was born in Philadelphia and raised in Shaler Township outside of Pittsburgh, where he attended high school. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania and his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. Tom also served his country and Commonwealth for 13 years as a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division, before retiring as a Captain in 1984.
Tom Corbett and Susan Manbeck of Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, were married in 1972. They continue to reside in Shaler Township in the same home Tom grew up in and have been blessed with two children, Tom and Katherine, and a grandson, Liam. They also enjoy the company of their two Airedales, Harry and Penny — short for Harrisburg and Pennsylvania. The dogs were named by Pennsylvania’s children in a statewide contest.
The luncheons for the year 2014 are underwritten by the following: 2T Tiboni Tucker Associates, AFSCME Council 13, AFT Pennsylvania, APSCUF, Bravo Group, Broadband Cable Association of PA, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC, Cancervotes, Capital Associates, Capital Blue Cross, Ceisler Media & Advocacy, Columbia Gas of PA and MD, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, Gmerek Government Relations, Hudak & Company, Integrity Bank, McKonly and Asbury LLP, McNees Wallace & Nurick, LLC, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, Pennsylvania Business Council, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry, Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association, PSEA, Quantum Communications, Tierney Communications, United Way of Pennsylvania, and WPX Energy.
The Pennsylvania Press Club Series is sponsored by the Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, Pennsylvania Cable Network, Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society.
The public is invited to attend. Cost is $30 per person and must be paid in advance. Reservations can be made by contacting (717) 939-1400 or info@papressclub.org. For more information visit our website at www.papressclub.org.



email pornGov. Tom Corbett says a review of State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan’s state-email account “indicates that he did not participate in opening, originating, forwarding or replying to any message” the Office of Attorney General said contained sexually explicit and pornographic material.

Noonan received hundreds of emails that were passed between several former top aides to then-Attorney General Corbett from 2008 to 2012.

“He got everything, but sent nothing,” said OAG spokeswoman Renee Martin of Noonan.

The Office of Attorney General initially said it would not release the information contained in emails after several Pennsylvania media outlets filed Right-To-Know requests. However, a day later Kane’s office allowed reporters to review pictures and videos that her office says were part of a series of hundreds of explicit emails sent by several men who worked under Corbett.

The releasing of information has been done largely piecemeal, leading to charges of bias. Kane is the first Democrat to hold the office since it became an elected position in 1980. The eight men – only a portion of a larger group of individuals, some of which are reportedly current OAG employees, to have received or sent such emails – named by Kane’s office were hired under past Republican administrations.

“I call upon the Attorney General to release to the public, in a complete and unbiased manner, all of the information on all individuals associated with this issue. Such action is in the best interest of the public and will serve to regain trust in those who work in public service,” Corbett said.

Noonan is currently heading up one of the largest manhunts in state police history as local, state and federal law enforcement officials scour the northern Monroe and southern Pike counties for Eric Frein, the prime suspect in the ambush of two state police officers two weeks ago. One officer died.

“It is important that Commissioner Noonan remain focused on the critical public safety mission he is leading in the manhunt for Eric Frein and that there is no disruption in the work underway in this case,” Corbett said in the statement.

On Oct. 2, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Christopher Abruzzo resigned after the governor’s office reviewed emails containing text – some sexually explicit. OAG said he received 46 emails and sent eight.

In a resignation letter, Abruzzo said he had “no recollection” of sending emails, but took full responsibility for his actions in 2009.

During that same examination of emails, Corbett’s office reviewed emails sent by DEP Deputy General Counsel Glenn Parno, AG Corbett’s former chief deputy attorney general for environmental crimes. The governor also accepted his resignation on Oct. 2. OAG said he received 178 and sent 10.

Corbett’s office reviewed information about Abruzzo, Parno and Noonan but is expecting to review more in the very near future. Randy Feathers, a former investigator in Corbett’s OAG who now sits on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, also was named by Kane’s OAG as having sent hundreds of explicit emails.

Corbett has said he was unaware that close aides were sending explicit emails on state email accounts. He denounced the activity, which, while not illegal, is prohibited by an OAG policy instituted by Corbett when he was attorney general.

“As I have said, I do not condone or tolerate comments or behavior degrading to individuals, written or otherwise. This type of activity does not belong in the workplace and I find it inexcusable,” he said in a statement.

Martin said OAG will release another batch of email for Feathers, Patrick Blessington, a former OAG staffer now prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Rick Sheetz, a former executive attorney general who now works for the Lancaster District Attorney, and former Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley.

–Kevin Zwick, Capitolwire



state forests Former Rendell-era conservation officials are set to testify in Commonwealth Court over the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation’s lawsuit seeking to halt Department of Conservation and Natural Resources-related budget transfers. Gov. Tom Corbett’s fiscal year 2014-15 budget proposal seeks to transfer $75 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the General Fund by allowing drilling underneath state forest and park land using adjacent private property or existing well pads. Corbett issued the order immediately allowing the additional drilling as long there are “no additional surface disturbance impacts on state forest or park lands.” In light of that order, the foundation is seeking a preliminary injunction and an expedited ruling because of the June 30 budget deadline. and an expedited ruling because of the June 30 budget deadline. The foundation’s lawsuit also seeks to halt two other Corbett budget proposals. One is the proposed transfer of about $118 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to DCNR to pay for administrative expenses — a practice that started in the 2008-09 fiscal year under then-Gov. Ed Rendell. The cumulative transfers approved by Rendell totaled $383 million, and Corbett and the Legislature have continued to make transfers of various amounts. The PEDF says on its website that more than $400 million has been transferred since the 2008-09 fiscal year. The foundation argues that such transfers are unconstitutional as the fund’s monies were meant to be spent exclusively on conservation, recreation, dams and flood control.

The other budget proposal moves $35 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, and then transfers that to the Environmental Stewardship Fund. That is a continuation of a transfer that was established by Act 13, the state law regulating Marcellus Shale development. The foundation said it would sue Rendell in 2010 but didn’t because he halted leasing of state forest and park land, said PEDF legal counsel John Childe. Rendell approved the leasing of about 130,000 acres of state forest and park land before he halted the practice shortly before leaving office in 2010. Childe said PEDF eventually filed the lawsuit in March 2012 because Corbett, while he continued Rendell practice of transferring Oil and Gas Lease Fund monies, did so to replace funding for DCNR’s operations. The lawsuit essentially is asking the court to get involved in state budget negotiations, since it is only seeking the stoppage of a proposal, which the courts have generally avoided. In the past, however, the courts have ruled on challenges to an enacted budget. Set to testify in Commonwealth Court is former DCNR secretary John Quigley, who helped write the Rendell moratorium. Michael DiBerardinis, who resigned in 2009 to serve as Philadelphia Deputy Mayor of Environmental and Community Resources, also was set to testify, but will not due to a scheduling conflict, foundation chair Ron Evans said.The foundation also lists two other former DCNR officials: former State Parks Director John Norbeck and former DCNR deputy secretary for conservation and technical service Cynthia Dunn. Both now work for environmental advocacy group PennFuture: Dunn is President and CEO, and Norbeck is Vice President and COO. Rendell’s forestry director James Grace also is listed among testifiers on the foundation’s website. The hearing is set to start at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center at 11 a.m. The injunction request claims Corbett ordered the budgetary transfers “without evaluating the direct and cumulative impacts to the more than 900,000 acres of State Park and State Forest land currently subject to oil and gas extraction, without determining the cost to mitigate these impacts; and without soliciting any public input on the people’s rights to these public natural resources, the proposed impacts to them, or the use of the Oil and Gas Lease Fund.” The foundation’s complaint relies heavily on the Pennsylvania Constitution’s “Environmental Rights Amendment,” which was given sharp teeth by the state Supreme Court’s ruling upended portions of Act 13, the state law regulating Marcellus Shale drilling. The lawsuit says that section of the constitution creates a public trust consisting of natural resources, including state parks and forest land, and the people of the commonwealth are the beneficiary. The foundation says a preliminary injunction is needed to prevent “irreparable harm.” “Without this injunction, the Respondents [Corbett, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania] will direct DCNR to execute leases of additional State Park and State Forest lands, committing these lands to oil and gas extraction for decades. These leases, once executed, cannot be rescinded and the commitment of these public natural resources to development will be irreversible. The natural gas, itself a nonrenewable public natural resource, cannot be replaced after it is extracted,” the injunction request states. Corbett’s DCNR officials have said “no additional surface impacts” means drilling horizontally underneath state forest land from an adjacent pad on private lands or from already leased state forest and park land. They acknowledge that additional drilling will mean more drilling rigs, truck traffic and noise, but they don’t consider those to be additional surface impacts. DCNR deputy secretary Dan Devlin said the proposal means “disturbing a surface that’s already been disturbed.” “This assertion misses the point that the commitment to extraction of the natural gas on these lands itself is an irreparable injury,” the lawsuit claims. “In addition, the contention that the surface impact from the shale gas development will be limited is speculative without identification of the specific tracts to be leased and an analysis of the direct and cumulative impacts to these tracts and the surrounding lands.”