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article image12 Pennsylvania Democrats Indicted in 'BonusGate'

By Susan Duclos     Jul 11, 2008 in Politics
Mike Veon, the number two Democrat in the Pennsylvania State House, and 10 former and current legislative aides and a sitting lawmaker, State Rep. Sean M. Ramaley, were all indicted by a Grand Jury in what is being called "BonusGate"
After a 17 month probe, two state grand juries, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, have indicted 12 Democrats for alleged illegal activities and according to prosecutors, more charges are expected in what they are calling a "widespread" conspiracy within the Pennsylvania Democratic caucus to use tax payer funds to finance political activities.
State Attorney General Tom Corbett gave a press conference in Harrisburg, where he said, "It's a very sad day in Pennsylvania."
Some of the Democrats targeted in the probe have said that Corbett, who is a Republican, focused on the Democratic wrongdoings and not the Republicans. Corbett maintains that both Democrats and Republicans will be investigated but he started with the Democrats because "investigators discovered they were beginning to destroy documents relevant to the case."
At the end of 2006, after winning back control of the lower chamber, House Democrats gave nearly $1.9 million in bonuses to 717 aides - more than the other three caucuses combined.
Corbett continues on to say, "We are investigating all four caucuses of the general assembly."
The investigation began after an investigative media report was published in the Harrisburg Patriot-News, showing that there were secret bonuses given to legislative employees.
According to the Harrisburg Grand Jury Presentment (75 page PDF file), after media reports they began to investigate the propriety of those bonus payments for campaign work.
In its ensuing investigation, this Grand Jury has uncovered a concerted plan to use taxpayer funds, employees and resources for political campaign purposes. Over the course of over a number of years, former representative Mike Veon and others, some named herein and others un-named, engaged in a concerted pattern of illegal conduct in which millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and resources were misdirected to campaign efforts.
The presentment goes on to list specific examples as well as presenting emails discussing the bonuses given to certain employees, the amount decided by how much political campaign efforts those employees supplied, going back as far as 2003 and 2004.
These employees were ranked by how much effort they put into the political campaigns, the rankings were 1-Rock Stars, 2- Good and 3-OK.
In an internal email sent from Mr. Eric Webb to Mr. Mike Manzo, it is explained how those rankings were determined (Page 9-10).
Namely, I based my decisions on the number of days people spent in the field, but a few people were bumped up or down based on other circumstances. For example, some folks were bumped up for extra efforts, like being a Phone Book Captain, helping with the Spanish phone bank or really helping Dan or Jess.
There were three attachments to that email titled, Rockstar, Good and OK, and in each attachment was a list of names.
In testimony given by Eric Webb, he said that his reference to Dan and Jess, was a reference to Dan Weidemer and Jess Walls, who were "the two individuals in charge of the House Democratic Campaign Committee.
Webb also confirmed that the information on these ranking list only pertained to campaign work.
There are quite a few emails in the Harrisburg Grand Jury Presentment as well as more information of other improprieties pertaining to the use of taxpayers funds for political campaigns.
More details that emerge from the Harrisburgh Grand Jury Presentment, show that the investigation led to other improprieties conducted by staffers and lawmakers.
For example, former legislative staffer Mike Manzo got his lover "a $29,000 job and $7,000 bonus mostly for doing her schoolwork."
Other alleged illegal uses for taxpayers monies:
* In 2005, Manzo, then chief of staff to House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, gave a $21,000-a-year state job with virtually no duties to Angela Bertugli, a young woman he'd had a sexual relationship with since the previous summer.
The following year she made $29,000 plus a $7,000 bonus, even though other staffers never saw her and she had no discernible responsibilities.
Manzo's wife, Rachel, another former legislative staffer, also is charged with steering public money to political activities.
* Former House whip Mike Veon and Manzo directed more than $1 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses to legislative employees for working on political campaigns, often on state time.
To decide which staffers got the most cash, a list ranked them as "rock stars," "good," or "OK," based upon the quality of their political work.
* In 2004, Veon used two state employees to drive his and his wife's motorcycles to South Dakota for their vacation so they could fly there and find the bikes waiting. Taxpayers covered their staffers' expenses to the tune of $1,500.
* After state Rep. Sean Ramaley won the 2004 Democratic primary for a Beaver County legislative seat, Veon gave him a "no-work" state job and allowed him to run his general-election campaign from Veon's office, with state employees doing much of the work.
* Veon used state money to buy dinner spreads for his friends after their regular Tuesday night basketball games. Over four years, the tab came to more than $22,000.
* Attorney Jeff Forman collected a state salary ranging from $103,000 to $126,000 as Veon's chief of staff while doing private law work on state time and charging taxpayers for comp time he didn't earn.
The Pittsburgh Grand Jury Presentment deals more with Veon's specific employees and is only 17 pages long.
The Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese said that he shared "the outrage felt today by taxpayers across the state", and continued on to say, "I feel searing disappointment over the actions of those I trusted, yet I am also proud of the staff in our caucus who came forward and told the truth. Pennsylvanians deserve nothing less."
It bears noting that one of the men indicted, Michael Manzo, was formerly DeWeese's chief of staff.
Because this investigation has been going on for about 17 months and it is still ongoing and that it has been reported in the news, many of those indicted have been "purged" from the House already and some reforms have already been implemented, to which analyst Terry Madonna from Franklin & Marshall College believes it may blunt the political impact against the Democrats in upcoming elections.
The list of defendants and the charges against them:
Michael R. Veon, 51, 2527 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg, is charged with 11 counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft of services, theft by deception, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and four counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 381 years in prison and $805,000 in fines.
Sean M. Ramaley
, 33, 3 Leaf Court, Baden, is charged with one count each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and $85,000 in fines.
Michael Manzo
, 39, 6200 Run Cross Lane, Enola, is charged with nine counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 311 years in prison and $660,000 in fines.
Rachel L. Manzo, 27, 6200 Run Cross Lane, Enola, is charged with two counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and criminal conspiracy. She faces a maximum penalty of 80 years in prison and $170,000 in fines.
Scott V. Brubaker, 43, 24 N. 20th St., Camp Hill, is charged with four counts each conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 144 years in prison and $310,000 in fines.
Jennifer K. Brubaker, 35, 24 N. 20th St., Camp Hill, is charged with three counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. She faces a maximum penalty of 113 years in prison and $240,000 in fines.
Brett W. Cott, 36, 1305 ½ Green St., Harrisburg, is charged with eight counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 272 years in prison and $575,000 in fines.
Jeff Foreman, 57, 705 ½ Front St., Harrisburg, is charged with four counts of conflict of interest, five counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, five counts of theft by deception, four counts of theft of services, four counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 160 years in prison and $340,000 in fines.
Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink
, 45, 1421 5th Ave., Beaver Falls, is charged with four counts each conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. She faces a maximum penalty of 146 years in prison and $310,000 in fines.
Stephen Keefer, 38, 12 Circle Drive, Fredericksburg, is charged with three counts each of each conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and one count of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 106 years in prison and $225,000 in fines.
Patrick J. Lavelle, 29, 211 Boas St., Harrisburg, is charged with one count each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and $85,000 in fines.
Earl J. Mosley, 52, 872 Country Lake Dr., Harrisburg, is charged with three counts of conflict of interest, three counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, two counts of theft by deception, three counts of theft of services, three counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and one count of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 106 years in prison and $225,000 in fines.
Innocent until proven guilty.
These men and women have been charged and indicted by Grand Juries, but until court proceedings determine their guilt or innocence, they are considered innocent until proven guilty.
The indictments only mean that the two Grand Juries found enough cause to charge them so that a court can determine innocence or guilt.
The Attorney General's Website offers a more detailed account of how this investigation began, their conclusions and the information offered to the Grand Juries.
You can listen to Attorney General Tom Corbett's announcement of these charges on his website.
More about Democrats, Crime, Bonusgate
 
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