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December 20, 2012 | By | Posted in General News

Lawmakers want prosecutors to look at incinerator financing

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

FINANCIAL FINDINGS: After hosting hearings to look into the financing of the city of Harrisburg’s incinerator, lawmakers are requesting that prosecutors take a look at the facts.

HARRISBURG — The officials involved in making decisions about Harrisburg financing of the incinerator could soon find themselves under investigation.

A group of state lawmakers turned over a trove of information about the history of Harrisburg’s incinerator financing to local prosecutors, with the hope that an investigation could either expose or rule out any criminal wrongdoing.

But who will handle that investigation — if there even is one — remains to be seen.

The push comes from Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, and Sen.-elect Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, following hearings this fall based on an audit about the incinerator’s financing.

“We write to simply update you on this matter and to relate to you that additional information regarding the Harrisburg Incinerator project is now on the public record,” the letter to prosecutors reads. “We defer to your judgment as to whether or not it is worthy of any further review or investigation.”

A retrofit of the Harrisburg incinerator brought with it some $340 million in debt, caused by multiple bond issues, derivative deals and other financial decisions made throughout Mayor Stephen Reed‘s administration.

MARSICO: The Dauphin County District Attorney received a letter from state lawmakers handing over information about the finances of the Harrisburg incinerator, requesting that he determine whether or not it merits a deeper look.

The case falls under the jurisdiction of Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico.

But, after receiving the letter, Marsico told The Harrisburg Patriot-News that he knows some of the people involved in the matter, some of them campaign supports.

For example, a March 2011 invitation to a fundraiser for Marsico’s campaign shows that someone by the name of Andrew Giorgione was members of the host committee.

According to the forensic audit, Andrew Giorgione, an attorney and former city solicitor, was involved in incinerator deals in various capacities.

“An interview with Andrew Giorgione, Esquire was requested, but refused,” reads the audit. “As will be discussed at length in this report, Mr. Giorgione had significant involvement with the retrofit from its inception.”

The letter to Marsico urges him to refer the case outside of his office if there is “an actual or perceived conflict.”

Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane and U.S. Attorney General Peter Smith were copied on the letter.

Marsico did not return a call from PA Independent.

Bill Cluck, an attorney and member of the Harrisburg Authority who was appointed in 2010, helped get the initial forensic audit conducted. He said he is encouraged by lawmakers calling for further investigation.

“I think what you’ve got is the need for a complete investigation that tells the entire story so that the local population can get answers to their questions,” he said.

The pair of Senate hearings that triggered the lawmakers’ letter was held to focus on what state laws needed to be strengthened based on conclusions of the forensic audit.

The hearings revealed a number of circumstances that may merit further investigation, Folmer said.

For example, the debt carried by the incinerator was considered “self-liquidating,” meaning it would earn enough money in tipping fees to pay off the debt. But that was never the case, and no consultant or official stopped that from happening.

Folmer said the public deserves more answers on the city’s project. He said he wants to see a prosecutor or additional audit that has subpoena power examine the issue.

“What’s happening here, is there is a lot of perception out there that there was government corruption – and I’m saying perception, I’m not saying there is government corruption,” Folmer said. “I’m just saying the perception is there. We need to put this to bed.”

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or Melissa@PAIndependent.com

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