Monday, July 25, 2016

Latest charges involving a state treasurer sparks call for anti-pay-to-play law

Jan Murphy, Harrisburg Patriot News

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Prohibiting political contributions from service providers seeking Treasury business was one of the recommendation in a report issued by former state Treasurer Robin Wiessmann shortly before leaving office. Its inclusion in the comprehensive analysis of the department was indicative of an issue that Wiessmann, the current secretary of the Department of Banking and Securities, obviously felt was important to its work in handling public funds. But the recommended prohibition – an established institutional investing standard – included in that 2008 report never was put in place although Treasury's chief counsel Christopher Craig pointed out the Securities Exchange Commission put in a place a rule that would prohibit any SEC-registered money manager /investment advisor from engaging in this activity. With this week's announcement by the U.S. attorney's office in Harrisburg that former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer joined former state Treasurer Rob McCord in being caught up in a criminal investigation into a pay-to-play scheme, some say it's time for Pennsylvania to reinforce the SEC rule and what Wiessmann recommended by enacting a law banning campaign contributions from investment managers doing business with a state or local government. On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's office in Harrisburg charged Hafer with two counts of making false statements to federal agents about payments totaling $500,000 that were made to her consulting business by one of her biggest campaign donors after she left the treasurer's office in 2005. That donor, Chester County businessman Richard Ireland, was charged with 79 counts including money laundering-related charges, for his alleged role in what was described as an effort to bribe McCord with over $500,000 in secret campaign contributions between 2009 and 2014. McCordpleaded guilty to corruption charges in early 2015. [MORE]

LCB executive director plans to retire

Kari Andren, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Friday, July 22, 2016

The executive director of the state Liquor Control Board told colleagues Thursday that he will retire at the end of September. John Metzger, who joined the agency more than six years ago and became executive director in 2014, said he has been contemplating retirement for months. The passage of Act 39, which makes a number of changes to alcohol sales, “made my departure an extremely difficult personal decision,” he said. “John's retirement will not delay the PLCB's implementation of Act 39's historic liquor reform changes,” said a statement released by the agency on behalf of board Chairman Tim Holden and members Mike Negra and Michael Newsome. “He and our executive team will continue developing plans to accomplish these changes efficiently and effectively, and when the time comes, John will transition his oversight role appropriately.” The Tribune-Review obtained a copy of the email Metzger sent to agency employees about 3 p.m. Thursday, a note he said he wanted to send “before word starts to spread.” “I'm grateful for the opportunity to have served such a remarkable organization full of talented people,” he wrote. “For me, it's time to explore a new chapter with my family in retirement.” The agency has hired some contractors in project management and wholesale operations to assist with Act 39 implementation, according to communications director Elizabeth Brassell. “John Metzger has been a tremendous asset to the PLCB ... , ” the board said in the statement. “His decades of valuable private-sector experience, skillful leadership and strategic vision have been key to improving PLCB operations, growing sales and increasing financial contributions to the state over the last few years.” The agency has begun a search for a new executive director and will consider internal and external candidates, according to the board. Metzger made headlines this spring when the governor's Office of Administration Executive Board approved a 6 percent pay hike for him, bringing his salary to just over $154,000. [MORE]

Obama's brother says to vote for Trump in U.S. election

Duncan Miriri, Reuters

Monday, July 25, 2016

NAIROBI, July 25 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's half-brother, Malik Obama, says he will vote for Republican nominee Donald Trump in the U.S. election in November because he likes the candidate and he is unhappy with his brother's leadership. Malik, who is in his 50s, told Reuters by phone from Obama's ancestral home of Kogelo in western Kenya that he supports Trump's policies, especially his focus on security. "He appeals to me and also I think that he is down to earth and he speaks from the heart and he is not trying to be politically correct. He's just straight-forward," he said. Malik, a U.S. citizen, has lived in Washington since 1985 where he worked with various firms before becoming an independent financial consultant. Trump's stance against Muslims coming in to the United States was understandable even to Muslims like himself, Malik said."I'm a Muslim, of course, but you can't have people going around just shooting people and killing people just in the name of Islam," he said. He criticized President Obama's record in the White House saying he had not done much for the American people and his extended family despite the high expectations that accompanied his election in 2008, both in the United States and Kenya. The two men appear to have drifted apart but were previously close. Malik has visited the president in the Oval office and was also best man at Barack's wedding. Obama's election created much excitement in Kenya especially in Kogelo village where their father was born before going to study at the University of Hawaii. Obama visited Nairobi, in the first ever trip by a sitting U.S. president to the East African nation last July, and promised to visit more often when he leaves office. Malik defended his right to criticize his brother, citing freedom of expression. "To each his own. I speak my mind and I'm not going to be put in a box just because my brother is the President of the United States," Malik said.


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