The Nitty Gritty On The Huge Pa Turnpike Scandal

03.14.13 | Sarah Harnisch

A new 88-page state report charges a former state senator, three former top Turnpike Commission officials and four others with running a years-long "pay-to-play scheme" that forced companies to make campaign contributions or provide gifts to them or politicians in exchange for winning millions of dollars in state contracts. During a news conference Wednesday, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said the grand jury found enough direct evidence to warrant charges against the eight men. She declined to say whether any other elected or appointed officials had been investigated. The probe is continuing. These are the details of the men charged.

ROBERT MELLOW

Age: 70
Who he is: Once one of the most powerful figures in state government, Mellow was a former Senate President Pro Tempore and a longtime leader of the Senate Democrats. Hailing from Lackawanna County, Mellow spent four decades in the state Senate and was the longest-serving member of the Legislature when he retired two years ago. He's serving a federal prison sentence for misusing taxpayer resources to bolster election campaigns.
The charges: Two counts corrupt organizations, two counts of restricted activities, one count of commercial bribery, one count of unlawful bid-rigging, one count of restricted activities, one count of criminal conspiracy, and one count of failure to file expense account.
The details: As Senate Democratic Leader, Mellow allegedly worked to steer contracts to favored vendors and improperly sought campaign contributions from turnpike staff and vendors, according to the grand jury report. Mellow also received trips to New York Yankees games. Mellow is already serving a federal prison sentence for improperly using taxpayer funds and resources for election campaigns.

MITCHELL RUBIN
Age: 61
Who he is: The former chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Rubin was fired from that post by then-Gov. Ed Rendell. In ousting him, Rendell cited "overwhelming" evidence that Rubin accepted $150,000 in taxpayer-paid work that apparently was never done.
The charges: Three counts of unlawful bid rigging, two counts corrupt organizations, two counts of restricted activities, one count commercial bribery, and one count of criminal conspiracy.
The details: Rubin allegedly exerted improper influence on the awarding of contracts. The grand jury report also states that he inappropriately urged turnpike vendors to make campaign contributions. He also improperly benefited from turnpike work he steered to City Line Abstract Company, according to the grand jury report.

JOSEPH BRIMMEIER
Age: 64
Who he is: The former CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Brimmeier ran the toll road from 2003 to 2011. He was appointed by former Gov. Ed Rendell.
The charges: Two counts corrupt organizations, two counts of unlawful bid-rigging, two counts of restricted activities, one count of commercial bribery, one count of criminal attempt, and one count of criminal conspiracy
The details: The grand jury report describes Brimmeier as a “heavy handed” executive directly and improperly steering the awarding of lucrative contracts. Quoting from the report: “ Brimmeier quickly aligned himself with the Senate Democrats and took orders directly from Senator Mellow, or his Chief of Staff Anthony Lepore, concerning the awarding of Turnpike contracts to particular vendors, and political fundraising efforts required of Turnpike personnel and Turnpike vendors.”

GEORGE HATALOWICH
Age: 47
Who he is: Former Chief Operating Officer (“COO”) and former ContractsAdministrator of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
The charges: Seven counts of restricted activities, three counts of unlawful bid-rigging, two counts of corrupt organizations, one count of commercial bribery, one count of criminal attempt, and one count of criminal conspiracy.
The details: The grand jury report says that he was heavily involved in directing Turnpike contracts to favored vendors. He allegedly solicited campaign contributions from turnpike vendors for senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns. The grand jury report states that Hatalowich was “extremely active in the political fundraising activities.”

DENNIS MILLER
Age: 51
Who he is: An executive with Ciber, a firm that has secured tens of millions in turnpike contracts.
The charges: One count of unlawful bid-rigging, one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of restricted activities, and one count of criminal conspiracy.
The details: He improperly tilted the contracting process by using a friendship with a turnpike official to steer work to his company. “Miller also developed a close relationship with Hatalowich and often bragged of his relationship to Rubin,” the grand jury report said.

JEFFREY SUZENSKI
Age: 63
Who he is: The owner of Commonwealth Consulting Services, Inc. and a partial owner of Twin County Construction
The charges: one count of restricted activities.
The details: Suzenski “lavishly entertained” Turnpike officials – Rubin and Hatalowich specifically – in his efforts to improperly steer contracts to his companies, the grand jury report stated.

MELVIN SHELTON
Age: 81
Who he is: Former Turnpike employee
The charges: Two counts of theft by unlawful taking, two counts of theft by deception, two counts of misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions, one count of unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles, one count of perjury, one count of false swearing
The details: Shelton allegedly operated turnpike vehicles, obtained turnpike resources, such as gasoline, for his own personal use, and took payment for hours he didn’t work, according to a criminal complaint.

RAYMOND ZAJICEK
Age: 67
Who he is: Former Turnpike employee
The charges: Two counts theft by unlawful taking, two counts theft by deception, two counts of misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions, one count of unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles, and one count of simple assault.
The details: Zajicek allegedly used a Turnpike vehicle for personal use and accepted payments for hours he didn’t work, according to criminal complaints.