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The stark cost of turnpike scandal

March 29. 2013 5:34PM
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Exactly what public corruption costs taxpayers and tollpayers is difficult to pin down, but if what a grand jury investigation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike found about just one contract is any indication, it’s beyond staggering.

Thanks to inside information that other bidders didn’t get — and an executive lavishing trips, gifts and dinners on turnpike officials, contributing $19,000 to campaigns of then-Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, and asking subcontractors to donate, too — Ciber Inc. of Colorado landed a turnpike contract worth $3.2 million in 2005 — despite IBM’s $496,000 low bid.

Then, in 2006, the Ciber contract was expanded by $62.7 million in a “dramatic and unprecedented” extension, according to the grand jury. And what did the turnpike get for its money, while tolls skyrocketed? What the grand jury called “repetitive, useless” and “make work” assignments. And the Ciber executive’s daughter, “with no experience whatsoever,” became a $100-plus-per-hour turnpike consultant.

The turnpike corruption probed by the grand jury cost “untold millions,” said state Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Combine that with what surely was other turnpike corruption, plus legislative and judicial corruption, and the total has to be mind-numbingly high — just for recent years.

Oh, did we mention that taxpayers picked up the nearly $260,000 legal tab for those implicated by the grand jury?

With so many betraying the people’s trust by plundering the public purse for personal and political gain, Pennsylvanians deserve answers: How much more corruption is there? And where — and how — does it ever end?

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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