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Penn State spent $500K on football police overtime

Plus, the best Spotlight PA stories and investigations of 2022 so far.

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August 11, 2022 | spotlightpa.org
Best so far, private water, State College event, football overtime, under indictment, prison death, no contest, and policy watch.
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More than halfway through 2022, Spotlight is pausing to look at our best stories and investigations of the year so far.

Our reporters have probed dangerous cannabis claims, exposed late-night emails between a lawmaker and lobbyists, and highlighted serious issues with a police hiring database. Their work has been cited in editorials, discussed by powerful lawmakers, and praised by readers for revealing issues that otherwise would have remained hidden and untold.

Revisit these stories and more.

Also this week, Stephen Caruso reports on a bill that would make it easier for private water companies to target municipal authorities for acquisition

The proposal is billed by supporters as a way to increase the reliability, quality, and security of Pennsylvania’s water supplies. Critics call it a back door to privatization.

"Legislators in Harrisburg come up with many, many different types of proposed regulations on our industry. And unfortunately, most of those legislators have no idea what they’re talking about."

—Anthony Bellitto Jr., of the North Penn Water Authority, on a bill that would make it easier for private companies to acquire water systems


» TALK OF THE TOWN: On Friday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. ET, meet our new State College regional bureau team, get an inside look at what we're investigating, and tell us how we can better connect with you. RSVP here. Tell us what you want to know about the bureau at events@spotlightpa.org


» WATCH: A free virtual panel on the new Pa. budget and what it prioritizes

» Wolf sues GOP-led legislature to block abortion, voter ID questions from reaching Pa. ballot box


Penn State spent half a million dollars on police overtime at football games in 2021

Penn State University paid $572,119 for officers from five Centre County police departments to work overtime at football games last year, according to data from the agencies. 

Police departments in the Borough of Bellefonte, Ferguson Township, Patton Township, Spring Township, and the Borough of State College all provided security detail and traffic assistance during the seven regular-season games at Beaver Stadium in 2021. 

At the end of the season, the university reimburses the cost of these overtime hours to each department at double the officers’ regular hourly rates.
The State College Police Department, which had 61 uniformed employees in 2021, logged more overtime hours for Penn State than any other local agency. The department reported its officers worked more than 2,000 hours at the games for a total reimbursement of almost $399,000.

The four other local police departments worked an average of 412 hours for Penn State football security and were paid between $24,000 and $58,000 for the year.

Penn State would not provide details on overtime reimbursements to Spotlight PA because the information “is not considered public.” All five local police departments provided the reimbursement information upon request.

The true amount of overtime paid likely exceeds half a million dollars because it does not include reimbursements made to Pennsylvania State Police, who also provide gameday security. Trooper Christopher Fox, the public information officer for the seven-county region including Centre, declined to provide the amount the university paid State Police in 2021, saying he did not want to comment on Penn State’s behalf.

While working football games is a good opportunity for officers to earn extra money, all five police departments said they don’t sacrifice their regular patrol operations on these days. 

The Bellefonte Police Department, which had 10 full-time, uniformed officers last year, won’t send the four-officer detail requested by Penn State if it can’t fill its borough patrols that day, said Chief of Police Shawn Weaver. He often patrols such Saturdays, he said, so his officers can work the games. 

State College police, who also serve Harris and College Townships, increase their patrols in the borough on Friday and Saturday nights during home game weekends in response to the influx of visitors, said Capt. Greg Brauser. Because officers work more shifts these weekends — they might patrol Friday night and then provide security at the football game the next day, for instance — he said fatigue can become a problem.

State Police recruit officers from across Pennsylvania to work football games so that the agency doesn’t have to decrease patrols or overschedule local officers, Fox said. 

While Penn State football was a major source of police overtime in 2021, police officials said the Centre County Drug Task Force run by the state attorney general’s office also played a role. Most of this extra work — which was reimbursed by the attorney general’s office — went to detectives, whose overtime pay totaled $154,886 last year.

Officers also earned overtime when they had to attend court proceedings outside of their normal hours, police officials told Spotlight PA. —Emma Dooling, Spotlight PA

UNDER INDICTMENT: Federal authorities have indicted the owners and managers of two western Pennsylvania nursing homes — including Beaver County's Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, site of one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks of the early pandemic — for health care fraud, per TribLIVE. The facilities are accused of keeping staffing levels below standards and falsifying records to cover it up. U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung said the alleged offenses predate the pandemic. 

DEATH RECORDS: Minutes after Dauphin County Prison staff pepper-sprayed Ishmail Thompson, put a spit hood over his head, and locked him into a restraint chair, he was found unresponsive and in cardiac arrest. He died days later. PennLive obtained use-of-force and autopsy reports to piece together what led up to his death, one of at least 16 connected to the jail since 2019, and to fill in gaps in the official narrative.

NO CONTEST: A major Pennsylvania pipeline developer has pleaded no contest to criminal charges stemming from what the state AG's office said was the systematic pollution of waterways and residential water wells, the AP reports. The company, Energy Transfer, will pay $10 million to restore watersheds and streams along the Mariner East pipeline route. It also agreed to independent testing of residential water.

WATER WARS: Lobbyists for private water companies that are looking to acquire more publicly owned utilities in Pennsylvania — often leading to higher bills for consumers — spend so much time at the state capitol "that they have become part of the furniture," The Nation reports. Meanwhile, a bill that "big water" executives say could help them acquire more systems is slowly advancing in Harrisburg.

POLICY WATCH: Municipal governments in Pennsylvania — from Pittsburgh to small towns like Radnor — are looking to limit the enforcement of new abortion access limits in a post-Roe world. Bolts magazine says it's experimental policymaking meant to "shield residents from the impacts of abortion criminalization," but one expert says "intense" inter-jurisdictional conflicts abound.

» AP: Pennsylvania defense attorney pressured clients into sex, AG says

» CNN: Mastriano refuses to answer January 6 committee questions

» INQUIRER: Oz scored a $50,000 annual tax break on his Montco manor

» POST-GAZETTE: Lawmakers, lobbyists mingle out of the public eye

» WITF: Lowest funded schools lay out plans for millions in new funding

Send your answers to riddler@spotlightpa.org.

BEAN WATER (Case No. 159): Without writing anything down: If coffee is 97% caffeine free, how many cups would someone have to drink to equal the amount of caffeine found in a regular cup of coffee? 
Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.
Last week's answer: A wedding ring. (Find last week's clue here)
Congrats to Jeffrey F., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Donna D., Peter S., Joe S., George S., Fred O., Tish M., Jon N., Annette I., Mary B., Dennis F., and Michael H.
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