The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 24, 2013

Pa. staffer opens turnpike-case testimony

HARRISBURG — A high-ranking legislative employee testified Monday about the involvement of state senators in hiring and contracting practices at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, as a judge must decide whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.

Senate Democratic chief of staff Tony Lepore was the only witness during the first day of what is expected to be a weeklong preliminary hearing in the case that alleges corruption in Pennsylvania Turnpike business.

Lepore said Senate Democrats would call officials at the turnpike to inform them of political fundraising events and ask them to sell thousands of dollars in tickets. The Senate votes to confirm turnpike commissioners but also has engaged in a regular give-and-take between the two organizations, including for hiring, he said.

“There’s always a minority party representation on that board and a majority party representation on that board,” he said. “And one party was not going to be shut out.”

Lepore also described an effort by a PNC Bank vice president in northeastern Pennsylvania to get more financing business from the turnpike. The executive, he said, was a close friend of Lepore’s then-boss, defendant Bob Mellow.

Mellow, the former Democratic floor leader from Lackawanna County, is serving time at a federal prison in South Carolina for an unrelated public corruption conviction. Mellow was not in court Monday, but his lawyers were present.

Five other defendants also were in the downtown Harrisburg courtroom: Joe Brimmeier, the turnpike’s former chief executive; Mitchell Rubin, the turnpike’s former chairman; George Hatalowich, the turnpike’s former chief operating officer; and former vendors Dennis Miller and Jeffrey Suzenski.

All six are accused of restricted activities, and all but Suzenski also are charged with bid-rigging and conspiracy. Mellow, Rubin, Brimmeier and Hatalowich also are charged with corrupt organizations and bribery.

Lepore, testifying under a grant of immunity, said Mellow made it clear to him that he very much wanted PNC to get turnpike work.

“He pushed very hard to get it done. Pushed me, so I made many calls,” Lepore said, describing those calls as appropriate constituent work.

Monday’s proceedings wrapped up earlier than expected after District Judge William Wenner let the attorney general’s office provide him with written transcripts of grand jury testimony, rather than having it read into the record.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • smothers ‘It breaks my heart’: Shooting victim’s death leaves trail of shattered lives

    Victoria Smothers knows what people thought when they heard that a young black male had been shot to death in Moxham last week.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • School violence studied

    On a typical day last year, Pennsylvania schools caught 11 students toting weapons similar to ones used to slash 21 students and a security guard at a Pittsburgh-area high school, according to the state Department of Education. An untold number of others likely brought weapons to school but weren’t caught, safety experts say.

    April 16, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 16, 2014

  • egg hunt17 ACRP quietly notes 25th anniversary

    There will be little or no fanfare accompanying Alternative Community Resource Program’s 25th anniversary.
    And that’s how the executive director, Frank Janakovic, wants it.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • windber17 Windber students earn top ‘Overchiever’ rank

    Windber Area school’s PSSA scores have been tops in the region for the past several years.
    This year, they’re among the head of the class statewide, Pittsburgh Business Times annual Schools Guide shows.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wise, Charles Police charge bank robbery suspect

    A Johnstown man was jailed on $250,000 bond after police said he robbed the West End Branch of AmeriServ Financial. Charles Wise, 48, of Barron Avenue, was charged with two counts of robbery.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Inmate awaits sentencing for assault on guard

    A former inmate faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced for assaulting a corrections officer at State Correctional Institution-Somerset, authorities said.

    April 16, 2014

  • windber pool Pool stays afloat despite troubles

    When a valve broke at the Windber Recreation Park pool last month, its municipal authority caretakers feared that meant the end for the pool’s aged, much-patched liner.
    But the old liner has held up – a stroke of luck that will save Windber Municipal Authority from having to seek a line of credit to cover repairs or risk delaying the pool opening, the authority’s recreation director, C.W. Beckley, said.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creativity blossoming for spring art show

    The 16th annual Art in Bloom spring art show will brighten the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg from noon to 6 p.m. April 26 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 27.

    April 16, 2014

  • Alcatraz Challenge offers escape from routine

    Greater Johnstown Community YMCA is gearing up for its indoor biathlon, the Alcatraz Challenge.

    April 16, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads