News & Brews November 17, 2023

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Pa. Treasury preps to pay sexual harassment settlement in Vereb case

The Post-Gazette reports, “The state Treasury Department has received formal requests for payments totaling $295,000 tied to the settlement of a sexual harassment claim against” Gov. Shapiro’s former Secretary of Legislative Affairs, Mike Vereb. “The requests cover about $196,000 for the former employee who lodged the complaint … and a total of about $99,000 for two law offices…. Of the total, $250,000 will be drawn from the Employee Liability Self-Insurance Program…. The other $45,000 of the payments will come from the governor’s office.”  Meanwhile, lawmakers are proposing changes to how Pa. handles cases like this. Among the proposals is one that would “create a framework for the state to seek reimbursement from people whose actions result in settlements or judgments paid by the state.”

Shapiro: No lobbyists … never mind, just kidding

The Inquirer reports that after promising that his administration would have a “complete and total zero-tolerance policy toward lobbyists.,” Gov. Shapiro earlier this month “named Gregory C. Thall, a longtime government official who now works as a lobbyist, as chairman of the $35 billion-asset State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) pension plan.” This has raised concerns over conflicts of interest, as “Thall’s clients include a money management firm that handles millions in state pension money.”

Shapiro nominates new members to Charter Appeals Board 

The Inquirer reports that Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recent nomination of several new members to the state’s Charter Appeals Board is being praised by those who favor school choice. The Board has had vacant seats in recent years, leading to criticisms of “inefficiency.” And while “Traditional public school advocates object to [the board’s} ability to circumvent local school board decisions …  charter advocates see it as essential to ensure due process.” Shapiro’s nominees must be approved by the Senate.

How free is Pa.? 

The CATO Institute has released its 2023 edition of Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania ranks only 18th on the list. Now, you might say we could be worse. New York, after all, is 50th. But middle-of-the-pack when it comes to freedom should spur lawmakers to remove roadblocks to freedom—and it should spur Pennsylvanians to remove from office lawmakers who fail to do so.

Former Pa. city manager facing federal charges

I’ve shared before the investigation surrounding charges that former DuBois City Manager John “Herm” Suplizio allegedly stole more than $600,000 from taxpayer funds. Now, Suplizio and another city employee, Roberta Shaffer, are facing federal charges. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the two had been arrested and “indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of conspiracy and federal program fraud.”

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