It's been months since the Senate Local Government Committee held its public hearings on the City of Harrisburg financial crisis. For those of us City of Harrisburg citizens---and hopefully those, too, from the surrounding communities---who have been waiting a long time for something encouraging happening to help explain the curious financial dealings of Harrisburg, waiting for the next step is grueling. We had hope when we heard the calls from many different people for an investigation into capital city's fiscal meltdown. We had hope when State lawmakers publicly heard and spoke about our problems. We had hope when Senator Folmer, along with Senators Rafferty, Vance and Volakovich presented Senate Bill 292, legislation appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate the financial transactions of the Harrisburg Authority, the City of Harrisburg, and Dauphin County to determine if criminal proceedings are warranted.
An investigation is vital to the City of Harrisburg’s survival and rebirth. Former Mayor Stephen Reed held office for 28 years and left this tiny city of less than 50,000, mostly low income, residents with over $300 million in debt. The reasons are questionable. The financial transactions have been defined as unusual and out of the ordinary, even by the professionals who worked on them.
As a result of a series of deals, the City of Harrisburg became solely responsible for an enormous amount of public debt. Looking over the evidence, a lot people and firms made a lot of money in the process, yet the citizens of the city are left broke. During his testimony in front of the Senate committee, bond attorney and former receiver, David Unkovic, called for either an investigation or the appointment of a special prosecutor because “This thing was so bad, it stunk like a kettle of rotten fish. The lives that are lived by the people in the city have been dramatically and negatively affected. I feel bad for city residents. They really have not been treated well by their officials or by the public finance industry.”
This trend has continued with an inexperienced new mayor; ACT 47 designation, bankruptcy prohibition, two receivers, a partial forensic audit of the Harrisburg Authority; ethic violations relating to Harrisburg Authority; continuing lawsuits; incomplete audits; and three tax increases.
As if that wasn't enough, we also are faced with incredible debt and deficiency at the Harrisburg School District resulting in the laying off of teachers, the closing of schools, and the cancellation of programs. Like the city, the school district is now under the oversight of the state as Chief Recovery Officer Gene Veno is questioning the school’s financial transactions. In many cases, the people and firms involved in the city's financial actions are the same ones involved in the school district's.
We, the people of Harrisburg, deserve truth and justice. We cannot be expected to be satisfied with short term solutions to satisfy investors. As part of the City of Harrisburg's recovery, we need a focused and serious investigation into what happened. The people who were involved had the knowledge and expertise, and someone other than the city residents must be made to share the responsibility of what went wrong. Everyone is being made whole except for the people of Harrisburg, and we're left behind; faced with a lack of basic services, with a steadily climbing crime rate, with lower property values, and with tax increases.
I hate to think the elected public officials were corrupt, but if they are, I trust that the judicial branch of the government will be there to rectify the situation and protect the citizens of Harrisburg. That is why I would like you to sign the petition to support Senate Bill 292 calling for a Special Prosecutor to investigate the City of Harrisburg’s financial transactions under former Mayor Stephen Reed. Please, support the people of Harrisburg.
Marie T. Ledger
A copy of David Unkovic’s prepared statement for the Senate Committee Hearing of Harrisburg’s finances is located here: http://www.todaysthedayhbg.com/pa-senate-committee-testimony-of-former-harrisburg-receiver-david-unkovic/
A copy of the letter from Pennsylvania’s Senator John Eichelberger (R-30), Senator John Blake (D-22), Senator Mike Folmer (R-48), and Senator-elect Rob Teplitz (D-15) have sent to District Attorney Ed Marsico in regards to the City of Harrisburg’s debt crisis is located here: http://www.todaysthedayhbg.com/pa-senators-to-dauphin-county-district-attorney/