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January 19, 2014

Where region ranks statewide when it comes to political corruption

JOHNSTOWN — The Cambria County region's storied history of political misdeeds is not unusual, an expert says.

“You're small potatoes,” said G. Terry Madonna, a professor of political science at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. “I don't think you'd be on anybody's top score when it comes to public corruption.

“That's not a bad thing.”

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There are currently 25 to 30 public officials under indictment in the Scranton-Wilkes Barre region of northeastern Pennsylvania, Madonna estimated.

Luzerne County's “kids for cash” and the Pennsylvania Turnpike's pay-to-play scandals are leading the headlines.

Philadelphia is another hotbed of corruption, he said.

“If you asked me to name my top two or three areas of the state, I don't think Johnstown would come to mind,” Madonna said.

Those comparisons are hard to document, said Richard Burkert, president  of Johnstown Area Heritage Association.

“I don't think that it's any different from other places in western Pennsylvania,” Burkert said.

The fabric of local government has historically created temptation for corruption, Burkert said.

“It has always been, to some extent, a function of the economy,” Burkert said. “There has always been more people than jobs. Public service and crime are always options.”

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