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January 23, 2013

State in brief: Turnpike officials getting free cars

HARRISBURG — The four appointed members of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, whose main responsibility is to attend two meetings a month, receive salaries of at least $26,000, a no-limit expense account and a toll pass.

Oh, and free cars.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that tollpayers bought commission Chairman William Lieberman a 2013 Jeep Cherokee for nearly $40,000 on Dec. 28.

Lieberman, a Pittsburgh insurance executive, handed down the 2012 model he got a year earlier to fellow Commissioner Pasquale “Pat” Deon. The other two commissioners, Michael Pratt and William Lincoln, drive 2011 Ford Explorers that cost $33,945 each.

State Transportation Department Secretary Barry Schoch is the fifth commission member. He does not receive a commission salary and, according to PennDOT, drives his own Chrysler 300.

Between Jan. 1, 2007, and Aug. 31, 2011, the turnpike spent $406,497 buying new cars for commissioners, $29,642 on fuel and $20,328 on maintenance. That excludes the cost of the new Jeep for Lieberman, whose salary as chairman is $28,500.

In contrast, the commissioners of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority get no free cars, no salaries, no free passes for tolls and no reimbursement for using their own vehicles, according to NJTA spokesman Thomas Feeney.

Corbett seeks money for disabled

PHILADELPHIA – Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday said he will ask the Legislature in his upcoming budget proposal to reallocate $20 million to provide more services for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities.

The state needs to do a better job of helping people who are unable to care for themselves, Corbett said at Wednesday news conference at the United Way of Philadelphia.

In his budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, he’s planning to request $20 million more than the $919 million that his administration said is being provided this year for programs that include day, home and community services for the mentally disabled.

Ex-special ed prof jailed for porn

PITTSBURGH – A former western Pennsylvania university professor who specialized in special education has pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges.

Balazs Tarnai, 36, of Greensburg, pleaded guilty Wednesday to production of sexually explicit material and was sentenced to 15 years in prison and lifetime probation, according to his attorney, Alexander Lindsay Jr.

Tarnai was charged in November 2011 with possessing child pornography after federal investigators said they found eight videos of two neighborhood boys using the bathroom in his home. Last year, federal prosecutors added charges that Tarnai made videos and photos of four young boys engaged in sexual conduct in 2008 and 2009.

Tarnai had previously said he intended to fight the charges, but changed his plea.

Tarnai was suspended without pay from Seton Hill University in Greensburg when the initial charges were filed. Tarnai had also taught children’s Bible study classes at St. Vincent Basilica, but has been suspended from that program as well, according to the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg.

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State News
  • PennDOT contractor arraigned on $3.6M theft charge

    A Department of Transportation contractor stole $3.6 million in public funds by billing the state for work that was never done, state prosecutors said Thursday in what they described as an ongoing corruption probe of PennDOT’s southeastern Pennsylvania district.

    July 31, 2014

  • Police: Women stole thousands from elderly sisters, used money to show St. Bernards

    Two western Pennsylvania women have been charged with stealing thousands of dollars from two elderly sisters and using the money to attend dog shows.

    July 29, 2014

  • Intervening neighbor’s death now ruled homicide

    The Allegheny County medical examiner says a neighbor who died after he intervened in a fight between a couple next door is the victim of homicide.

    July 29, 2014

  • Housing police: Naked women slashes 3 in melee

    Allegheny County Housing Authority police were trying to identify a naked woman who allegedly slashed or stabbed three other women in an apparent lovers’ quarrel at a public housing complex.

    July 29, 2014

  • Police: Rescued boys never mentioned drowned teen

    Police say two teens who were rescued from a jetty in Presque Isle Bay in Erie last week, and two others who were with them, never mentioned a fifth boy who drowned and whose body wasn’t found until Saturday.

    July 29, 2014

  • 2 arraigned, denied bail in deadly Philly carjacking

    Two men accused of carjacking a woman in north Philadelphia and plowing into a family selling fruit on a street corner, killing three children, have been ordered held without bail.

    July 29, 2014

  • PennDOT pushes ‘Yellow Dot’ vehicle stickers

    It’s the car sticker that could save your life.
    PennDOT’s “Yellow Dot” program has been around for several years, said Daniel Zakraysek, coordinator of the Cambria Allegheny Regional Highway Safety Network.

    July 28, 2014

  • Remembering elephant’s rampage

    The circus elephant paced the landing outside the Jaffa Mosque in Altoona.
    Police formed an uneasy line around the perimeter of the venue’s lawn, rifles at the ready.
    It was a cloudy, cold day in April 1993, and Tyke the elephant had just run around the circus ring, slapped a baboon and burst through a building’s front door, tearing off part of the wall above the door.

    July 28, 2014

  • State briefs 7/29/2014

    July 28, 2014

  • TSA finds gun, ammo in Pittsburgh airport carry-on

    The Transportation Security Administration says it found a pistol and ammunition in man’s carry-on bag as he passed through security at Pittsburgh International Airport.

    July 28, 2014

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