Thursday, October 23, 2008

Corbett to charge dozens of House members or exonerates Veon?

An Ugarte post:

A frequent reader of this blog brought to my attention some documents that would indicate one of two things.

Either Corbett will be charging dozens more House members of both parties after the November election, or Mike Veon will be exonerated on at least five felony charges.

Corbett charged Mike Veon with five felonies surrounding the use of his contingency account to pay for carry-out food for his “basketball dinners” -- conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, and theft of services.

According to the July 10th Harrisburg presentment:

“On Tuesday nights, Mike Veon along with other caucus members and certain employees, would play basketball. [Staff] were tasked with taking food orders from the players, ordering and purchasing food, and arranging it on Veon’s conference table in his Capitol office for the returning players…These ‘dinners’ ranged in cost from approximately $100 to, on occasion, almost $300…All of these dinners were ultimately paid from the Democratic Whip’s contingency account with taxpayer funds…The public payment of these meal expenses did not stop Veon from collecting his full per diem for these same dates.”

It is tough to tell what crime was committed.

Is it purchasing meals from the contingency account?

If so, then dozens of House chairmen and leaders would be guilty of all five felonies since nearly every contingency account has been used to purchase food for members. For example, Republican Commerce Committee Chairman Dick Hess spent over $1,000 in May of 2007 alone on dinners using his contingency account.

Is it having staff buy the meals for the members?

If so, then Republican Caucus Administrator Merle Phillips would need to be charged with five felonies for having his chief of staff, Stephen Pancoe, buy dinner using his contingency account in June of 2007.

Could it be allowing staff members to eat some of the food?

If so, then Republican Whip David Argall has problems with the Attorney General’s office for these staff luncheons in August of 2008.

Is it possible that the cost of the dinners broke the law?

If so, then Republican Transportation Chairman Rick Geist ($1600.58 at the Progress Grill) and Republican Liquor Control Chairman Ron Raymond ($2,488.14 at Haydn’s on Pine) should get ready for their perp walk in cuffs after the election.

Is it due to the fact the dinners were eaten after a game of basketball?

What is the difference between Veon and other members playing basketball then heading back to the Capitol to eat and a member finishing his or her day on the Hill, going for a workout, then going to dinner at Tavern on the Hill afterwards? If that is illegal, then everyone who went to the $1,565.07 dinner paid for by Republican Caucus Secretary Ray Bunt on 11/9/2006 should get fitted for an orange jumpsuit because, really, how much legislative business happened with Ray Bunt at that dinner meeting? (Those of you who know Bunt know what I’m talking about.)

If you believe that Bunt was doing legislative business, then you have to believe Veon was…except for the times he was playing basketball or sleeping, when was that guy not working? I am sure that the members that ate the Tuesday night post-basketball food would attest to that.

Is it because Veon collected a per diem on the days he ate the food?

If so, then every member of the legislature is going to face five felony counts for eating food paid for by their caucus, by a contingency account or by a lobbyist while still collecting a per diem for that day in Harrisburg. Sacre bleu! Are there enough handcuffs in Harrisburg?!?

The expenditures above are just a few of the thousands from House contingency accounts for meals. Check some of them out for yourself here. It sure looks like Attorney General Corbett has a bunch of indictments to pull together after November 4th.

However, there is another side to this situation. The House Chief Clerk’s office issued this memo alerting all House members that eating food provided by a contingency account is, in fact, legal. And, furthermore, as long as a member eats it in the Capitol, no per diem adjustments are necessary.

What a conundrum for Corbett!

Either he disagrees with the Chief Clerk's office and charges dozens and dozens of House members with five felonies each for eating meals paid for by a contingency account or buying food with contingency account money, or he drops five charges brought against Mike Veon.

I would be shocked, shocked to learn that Corbett and his investigators went off half-cocked bringing such serious charges against Veon.

Although, Corbett should hope everyone believes that he and his bumbling team of Keystone Kop investigators weren’t aware of the massive number of expenditures from contingency accounts made by Republican members of the legislature.

Otherwise, it would be more proof that Corbett has chosen to selectively prosecute Democrats in his bonusgate investigation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Somosas. Those look delicious.