State prosecutors began presenting evidence Monday against two Luzerne County Transportation Authority officials during their preliminary hearing in the LCTA “ghostriders” case.
Among those who testified Monday against Executive Director Stanley Strelish and Operations Director Robb Alan Henderson were former LCTA board member Robert Turinski and Laverne Collins, director of the state Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Public Transportation.
The hearing before before Magisterial District Judge David H. Judy of Middletown will continue Tuesday morning with more testimony.
With the release of a grand jury presentment on June 4, the Office of Attorney General Kathleen Kane charged Strelish, 60, of 17 Dogwood Drive, Wilkes-Barre, with 47 criminal counts, among them theft by deception, tampering with public records, unsworn falsification, false swearing and obstructing justice, and Henderson, 58, of 230 Harland St., Exeter, with 27 counts that include conspiring to tamper with public records, aiding the commission of a crime and conspiring to obstruct justice. Both are free on $25,000 unsecured bail.
As a result of the charges, the LCTA board put the two officials on administrative leave on June 10. The board voted unanimously to allow Strelish and Henderson to use their accrued personal, vacation and sick time until it is exhausted. After that, the pair will continue on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of their criminal cases.
The charges followed an investigation by PennDOT which concluded earlier this year that $3.16 million in overpayments of state funding were made to the LCTA over a six-year period based on inflated passenger counts. The charges against Strelish and Henderson are related to those passenger counts.
During a grand jury investigation headed by Kane’s office, eight bus drivers testified that Strelish and Henderson instructed and pressured them to inflate passenger counts by threatening layoffs if state funding decreased because of declining ridership.
They testified they pushed a button on the fare box multiple times to record senior citizen riders that weren’t actually on the buses.
The investigations became part of the “ghost rider” scandal, so named when the allegations were made public by County Councilman Edward Brominski in July 2012.