The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

January 9, 2013

Wagner takes aim at Pa. turnpike 'culture'

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Jack Wagner devoted his final news conference to one last plea that someone pay attention to the debt crisis at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Wagner leaves office at the end of the week and newly elected Auditor General Eugene Dipasquale will replace him.

Wagner has repeatedly criticized the financial management of the turnpike commission as well as the state’s bungled Act 44 plan that required the turnpike commission to begin paying PennDOT millions of dollars in exchange for the right to add tolls on Interstate 80.

The federal government forbids Pennsylvania from tolling I-80, but the turnpike commission has been making its payments, running up a debt that has exceeded $8 billion, Wagner said.

But the turnpike commission has contributed to its problems by employing risky financial practices, such as an interest rate swap that ended up costing the turnpike commission $108.9 million, a cost the auditor general said will end up being passed along to taxpayers and toll-paying motorists.

The turnpike commission has also been lax about requiring that its employees only use commission-issued EZ passes for work purposes.

On top of all that, auditors found that the turnpike officials spent $60,000 on meals and lodging during the four-year period reviewed.

Auditors reviewed 183 travel expense vouchers, which contained incomplete or vague descriptions of the business purpose and generally did not include receipts, the auditor’s report found. Wagner’s staff pointed to three specific instances - a July 2009 meal at a restaurant close to the turnpike headquarters that cost $174.56; a June 2009 meal in Hershey that cost $135.68 and a February 2010 meal at a restaurant in Harrisburg that cost $494.10.

”As Harrisburg-based auditors, we know the above examples to be relatively expensive meal charges,” the report states. “For example, for a restaurant tab to total nearly $500, we would hope it represented a meal for a large group of people conducting turnpike business and involving no alcohol. However, because the expense voucher included no mention as to the number of attendees or the purpose of the meal, we could not determine that.”

Text Only
Local News
  • Audit calls for better record-keeping policies

    The annual auditor’s report for the City of Farrell was presented by City Manager Michael Ceci to council members Monday.

    August 1, 2014

  • trout island trail paving Hot on the trail

    Work began last week to pave a section of the Trout Island Trail, replacing a crushed limestone surface.

    August 1, 2014 3 Photos

  • CIRT team in Jackson Center Man arrested after shooting standoff

    One Jackson Center man is recovering from a bullet wound, and the borough resident accused of shooting him sits in jail after a long night of drinking that state police say turned into a case of attempted homicide.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sharon Speedway location City on track for new Speedway store

    Speedway is lining up its administrative and bureaucratic cones on plans for the gas station and convenience store chain to zoom into downtown Sharon.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Guards, county OK deal

    County officials and guards at the Mercer County Jail have reached a tentative contract agreement that, if approved, halts the idea of privatizing operations at the facility.

    July 31, 2014

  • Doss: Public has right to know

    A major part of Farrell council’s work session Monday was spent deciding whether or not to inform the audience about an unofficial police proposal from the City of Sharon.

    July 30, 2014

  • Budget falling short despite tax hike

    Farrell residents may have seen an income tax increase this year, but the city isn’t seeing the extra dollars City Manager Michael Ceci budgeted for.

    July 30, 2014

  • oakwood graves 1 Resting together

    Visitors to Oakwood Cemetery would see many  familiar local names if they looked down the hillside to the left just inside the gate on Sharon’s North Oakland Avenue.

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • Police: Kids in car were OK

    The mother of two young children was drunk and passed out when police found them all in a car parked along a city street, Sharon police said.

    July 29, 2014

  • To talk – or not – about police

    The mysterious agenda item, “No. 10,” at Farrell’s council meeting Monday became the center of a heated workshop and business session.

    July 29, 2014

  • Community thanks its first-responders

    Sharpsville honored its emergency responders Sunday at an event that included Mertz Towers residents as special guests.

    July 28, 2014

  • Drilling boom challenges state inspectors

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 28, 2014

  • Kidds Mill Covered Bridge A span of time

    Four generations of the Cadman family have enjoyed the Kidds Mill Covered Bridge, which is in Pymatuning Township near where the family’s ancestral farm is located.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • Intruder hurts woman, takes $5

    A home invasion in Hermitage Friday night sent an elderly woman to the hospital and netted the robber $5.

    July 27, 2014

  • national night out March against crime set for Aug. 5

    At the last Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission meeting, Chief Riley Smoot Jr. presented the number of incidents for each of the four communities in May.

    Farrell topped out at 819.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo