Friday, May 27, 2016

Ex-turnpike chief denies retaliating against whistle-blower

Colt Shaw, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Thursday, May 26, 2016

HARRISBURG — Former Pennsylvania Turnpike commission CEO Joe Brimmeier testified Thursday that a man who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the agency was laid off because of cost-cutting measures in 2008, not the concerns he raised about potential corruption.  Ralph Bailets said his departure was retaliation by his former employer after he raised issues about make-work and waste on the agency's dime by the Colorado firm Ciber Inc., which was hired to consult on the implementation of a new computer system. Brimmeier's testimony came on the closing day of trial in Commonwealth Court. Bailets and the turnpike await a ruling by Judge Rochelle Friedman. Ciber was integral to a turnpike corruption case prosecuted by the attorney general's office. Brimmeier, a longtime political player from Allegheny County, pleaded guilty to conflict of interest in 2014 and kept his state pension. Several others obtained plea bargains and no one went to jail in the turnpike case. In February of last year, the turnpike commission filed a $45 million suit against Ciber, alleging it overcharged and failed to deliver fully on the project. When Brimmeier was pressed on cross examination about the cost-cutting measures, he insisted it was about safety. Brimmeier said he thought the infrastructure was in poor condition and that he “didn't want to put a Band-Aid on it like (his) predecessors.” Bailets first filed his complaint in 2009. Commonwealth Court dismissed his suit in February 2014. But the state Supreme Court overturned that ruling in September, bringing the case back to Commonwealth Court. According to Bailets' testimony Monday, his complaints stretched back to 2004, when he raised concerns about Ciber.

Kathleen Kane's attorneys make second try at motion to dismiss criminal charges

Wallace McKelvey, Harrisburg Patriot News

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Attorney General Kathleen Kane's attorneys refiled a motion Thursday to dismiss the criminal charges against her after the judge in the leak case rejected an earlier motion on procedural grounds. Their argument hasn't substantively changed. Kane was the victim of a "selective or vindictive prosecution" who was targeted because she "publicly criticized" the work of her predecessors. Her alleged crimes, the attorneys say, have not merited scrutiny when similar accusations surfaced during the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case or the investigation against Kane herself. "None of these other leaks appear to have resulted even in a grand jury investigation, and certainly none have led to a criminal prosecution," her attorneys argued, in the original motion. Earlier this month, Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchik-Alloy found that Kane's attorneys did not follow the proper format for laying out their case. The judge did not offer an opinion about the merits of Kane's argument. Kane faces perjury and other charges related to the alleged leak of grand jury materials used to discredit her rivals. Her criminal trial is currently scheduled to begin in August.

Donald Trump has enough delegates to clinch Republican nomination for president

The Associated Press

Thursday, May 26, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention. Among them is Oklahoma GOP chairwoman Pam Pollard. "I think he has touched a part of our electorate that doesn't like where our country is," Pollard said. "I have no problem supporting Mr. Trump." It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president. Trump has reached 1,238. With 303 delegates at stake in five state primaries on June 7, Trump will easily pad his total, avoiding a contested convention in Cleveland in July. Trump, a political neophyte who for years delivered caustic commentary on the state of the nation from the sidelines but had never run for office, fought off 16 other Republican contenders in an often ugly primary race. Many on the right have been slow to warm to Trump, wary of his conservative bona fides. Others worry about Trump's crass personality and the lewd comments he's made about women. But millions of grassroots activists, many who have been outsiders to the political process, have embraced Trump as a plain-speaking populist who is not afraid to offend. Others who confirmed their decision to back Trump were more tepid, saying they are supporting him out of a sense of obligation because he won their state's primary. Cameron Linton of Pittsburgh said he will back Trump on the first ballot since he won the presidential primary vote in Linton's congressional district. "If there's a second ballot I won't vote for Donald Trump," Linton said. "He's ridiculous. There's no other way to say it."

Doc breaks soda tax silence

Philly Clout

Friday, May 27, 2016

JOHN "JOHNNY DOC" Dougherty believes there is a time for subtlety. That time is never. So when the hard-charging labor leader weighs in on a topic, he weighs in heavily. Think carpet-bombing, not precision strike. Case in point: Last week in City Council chambers. Topic: Mayor Kenney's soda-tax proposal. Targets: Everyone against the tax. We hear Dougherty, head of the Local 98 electricians union and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, dropped some verbal napalm after last Thursday's session, making a beeline for opponents of Kenney's 3-cents-per-ounce tax and telling them they need to quit stonewalling the mayor and learn the art of compromise - fast. One eyewitness quoted Dougherty as saying, "If you f--- with my boy, I'll f--- with you," referring to Councilman Bobby Henon. The source said Dougherty also went "toe-to-toe" with Danny Grace, head of Teamsters Local 380, which is trying to kill the tax deal. People in the room started texting their coworkers. It was a bit of a scene, we're told. Clout got Doc on the horn this week and asked what's up. He vigorously denied using that language and said he was as cool as a cucumber. "It's disingenuous to say we had a tussle," Dougherty said, referring to Grace. Regarding Henon, Council's majority leader, Dougherty said, "I didn't say f-- with. I said, 'Look, you guys play with Henon, lose my number.' " In an interview with Clout, Dougherty finally went on the record about the soda tax, stating unequivocally - is there any other way? - that Council will pass some form of sugary-beverage tax. "I believe anybody with half a brain knows that we're getting a soda tax," Dougherty said. "The problem is, the fight has come down to Big Soda preventing a tax because they know it will go to other places like New York City and across the country." [MORE]


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