PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s hard to drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike without running into construction somewhere — much of it needed.
But in an 85-page presentment a grand jury has found that some turnpike commissioners, officials, and political leaders awarded contracts based on gifts, favors, and political contributions.
“Evidence of secret gifts of cash, gifts, and entertainment, and the payment of substantial political contributions to public officials and political organizations by private turnpike vendors and their consultants demonstrates that the turnpike operates under a pay-to-play system that is illegal and corrupt,” PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane said today.
Kane said eight men are charged with a variety of offenses, including former state Senator and Democratic Leader Bob Mellow, former turnpike commissioner Mitchell Rubin, and former turnpike CEO and North Hills resident Joe Brimmeier.
“The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has been corrupted by improper political influence from its very own officials and individuals who do business with the turnpike,” added Kane.
Kane said the pay-to-play bribery, bid-rigging, and theft cost taxpayers and those who use the turnpike millions of dollars.
“Of course, it makes us all very angry, and we should not be spending our taxpayer’s money for this,” said one driver on the turnpike today.
“It’s taxpayer money, and they’re not looking after the best interests of the public, and it’s public money,” said another.
Brimmeier most recently was appointed to the Port Authority Board, but Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald said today that Brimmeier has resigned from that board.
The scheme is called pay to play — powerful and influential government officials require those doing business with the government to lavish gifts, perks, and campaign contributions in order to get government contracts.
And that’s what Kane says the Turnpike Commission has been doing.
Mellow, Rubin, Brimmeier and the others were with bribery, theft, bid-rigging, and conspiracy.