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Little transparency in clergy sex abuse relief blunder


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Joseph Darius Jaafari
February 11, 2021
Few answers on constitutional blunder, first trans elected official makes a move, creepy revenge on your ex for V-Day, counting birds, fearing birds, and a hot dog honor. It's Thursday, y'all. We're almost there. 

The Wolf administration is refusing to answer questions about how a state agency derailed a ballot measure meant to go before voters in May to decide whether survivors of decades-old sexual abuse should have an opportunity for legal recourse, Spotlight PA has found. 

Last week, the Department of State, which oversees elections, disclosed that it had failed to advertise the proposed constitutional amendment as required by law, preventing the question from appearing on the ballot in May. 

The stunning admission devastated clergy sexual abuse survivors and others who are time-barred from bringing litigation under the statute of limitations, and led to the swift resignation of the agency’s top official, Kathy Boockvar.

Since then, however, the administration has refused to answer repeated questions from Spotlight PA about how the error happened, who else might be responsible, and what specifically has been done to prevent it from happening again. Officials have, however, conceded they had no formal process in place.

THE CONTEXT: One source familiar with the process said that, generally, the agency’s legislative affairs staff plays a key role in tracking legislation, including proposed amendments, and informing the agency’s top lawyers and senior staff of where they stand in the legislative process.

The Office of State Inspector General is investigating the mistake, but its reports are not released to the public unless allowed by the governor. After our story published, Wolf's office committed to be transparent with the report.

Time will tell.

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“I have a lot of unanswered questions that I have come to realize I am not going to get answers to."

—A mother of a woman whose daughter died of an overdose, but may be among hundreds who are not counted in the state's drug crisis reports
VACCINE UPDATE: The state rolled out a tool that tells Pennsylvanians when they are eligible for a vaccine, though it does nothing to help them find and schedule an appointment. RSVP for FREE for our reader Q&A on the vaccine and latest variants at 5 p.m. today. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: Some confused and snow-covered flamingos spotted in Franklin county. Thanks the photo, Neal W.Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
JAIL COUNT: Allegheny County has reduced its jail population by 36%, according to the Post-Gazette, citing a report by a Chicago-based justice fund that is re-upping the county's grant of $2 million to continue the work. The money used to pay for assistant public defenders. 

TRANS VISIBILITY: Tyler Titus, the state's first openly trans-non-binary elected official, announced their run for Erie County Executive after a three-year run on the Erie County School Board, according to QBurgh.com. Titus (who is also appropriately from Titusville) had been a social worker and therapist for foster youth before going into politics. 

CAPITOL ARREST: A Lebanon County lawyer was has been indicted on a charge of making threats to murder Democratic members of the U.S. Senate, according to the Morning Call. Pennsylvania State Police arrested Kenelm Shirk at a gas station near Shippensburg on Jan. 21 and found several firearms and a large amount of ammunition. 

NIMBY: After police pepper sprayed a woman in her own backyard and arrested her for disorderly conduct, a court has dismissed some of the charges against her, PennLive reports. The judge said the charge should have never been brought against the woman and called the case "unwinnable" because you can't act disorderly on your own private property. 

TWO REALITIES: Bruce Castor, the Pennsylvania lawyer who is representing Donald Trump in his impeachment defense, said his meandering speech Tuesday was "by design," and the former president had no issues with his opening remarks. Though CNN reports Trump was screaming at the TV as other GOP-ers panned Castor's speech.

JUST DESSERTS: In lieu of Valentine's Day, I'm going to try out the Lehigh Valley Zoo's alternative: name some crickets after former lovers and staff there will feed them to some animals. Who's got abandonment issues now, Mike the cricket?

IT'S A BIRD! No, really, it's a bird! The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up, and this year is expected to feature the largest number of bird watchers participating from home. Last year, 268,674 people submitted 6,942 species. 

IT'S A (SCARIER) BIRD!: Residents in Bristol are spotting a "very aggressive" hawk dive-bombing squirrels, raising fears they might pick off their teacup poodles or chihuahuas. So, if you decide to go bird watching, maybe leave Fluffy at home... and inside. 

AW SHEETZ: The popular gas station chain announced pay increases for most employees and 12 weeks of paid leave for new mothers. Now the only question that remains is who has the better milkshakes, Sheetz or Wawa? Send us your vote.

DOG-DIGGITY: If you've ever wanted to visit one of the hot dog capitals of the U.S., look no further than Philadelphia. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council ranked it fifth in the nation, and the city also made the top 10 in sausage sales. The study also found hot dog and sausage sales climbed with more people cooking at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Scintillating

Congrats to our daily winners: Jessica K., David I., Dixie S., Neal W., Craig W., Gerald W., Susan D., Irene R., Beth T., Ron P., Carolyn T., Mary Ellen T., Jill G., George S., John C., Carol D., George S., Dianne K., Joel S., Kim C., Rick D., Donna W., Christopher R., David W., and Patricia R. 
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