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'Unprecedented fraud' case against state contractor


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 9, 2021
'Fleeced workers,' executive action, not in Kansas, clergy trial, migrant detention, judging ballots, and snakes alive. It's Friday. Hip hip. 

A major Pennsylvania government contractor is accused of siphoning millions of dollars in retirement and health benefits from its employees in what Attorney General Josh Shapiro is calling "the largest prevailing wage criminal case on record," Spotlight PA reports.

Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., a State College construction and paving company that has been paid more than $1.7 billion for state projects, was charged Thursday with four counts of theft following a three-year investigation by Shapiro's office. 

"They fleeced workers to put more money in their pocket," Shapiro said in announcing the charges. "They were engaged in a massive, unprecedented fraud."

THE CONTEXT: Alleged violations of state and federal labor laws form the basis of the charges. Those laws require all employers that receive state or federal funding to pay workers an established "prevailing wage" that's broadly reflective of industry or occupational standards.

Put more plainly, these pre-set rates — based on economic surveys — keep contractors from cutting compensation to lower costs and increase profits. But that's exactly what investigators say Glenn O. Hawbaker did with $20 million in retirement and other benefits meant for its employees.

In a statement, the third-generation, family-owned company said it had "cooperated fully" with investigators, adding, "While we believe that we have always acted in accordance with all state and federal laws, in an abundance of caution, the company immediately changed its prevailing wage practices."


"I don’t believe it. Every time they tell us [it’s ready to go] they end up rolling it back."

—Sen. Cris Dush (R., Jefferson) on the planned implementation of a new state unemployment compensation computer system in June

VACCINE UPDATE: Vaccine providers recommend registering now if you're planning to get a shot when eligibility opens to all Pennsylvanians 16 and up on April 19. Millions more will be eligible overnight, vastly expanding the pool and demand. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» FIGHTING MISINFORMATION: Join Spotlight PA at 5 p.m. April 20 for a conversation and reader Q&A about how partisan groups are masquerading as local news in Pennsylvania and undermining public trust. RSVP FOR FREE

POST IT: A view of the Susquehanna River from Lancaster County, courtesy of Deputy Editor Sarah Anne Hughes. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
GUN CONTROL: President Joe Biden announced six executive actions to address gun violence yesterday — including new limits on untraceable, homemade firearms and pistol braces, USA Today reports. Biden also wants state governments to take action. Meanwhile, two Pennsylvania cities are suing for a chance to pass their own measures.

DRAFT HOUSE: Kansas' controversial, Trump-aligned former elections chief met with Harrisburg Republicans this week to talk election policy, immigration law, and the intersection of the two, the Capital-Star reports. Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler) praised Kris Kobach's input as GOP lawmakers eye new voting and immigration rules.

DEFROCKED: A former priest and Pennsylvania native is headed back to trial for child sex abuse in East Timor, 10,000 miles from his native Allegheny County, the Associated Press reports. Richard Daschbach faces more than a dozen criminal counts. All involve allegations kept quiet because of his "rock star" status in the Southeast Asian nation

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: A contested Berks County migrant detention center is empty now, but reports indicate it might not stay that way for long. First: NBC10 reports ICE is eyeing the space as a possible processing center for migrants and asylum-seekers. Then: WITF reports on private discussions about actually expanding its capacity.

VOTER GUIDE: Judgeships are some of the most powerful positions in state government, and they're on the ballot this May. But while these are highly consequential posts, the candidates are some of the least recognizable in politics. Luckily, a trio of public-radio journalists put together a handy guide to help you decide.
HISTORY LESSONS: Dickinson College's tangled history with slavery and race is the focus of a new walking tour at the Carlisle campus, PennLive reports, part of a national reckoning about race and higher learning. "It’s diversifying the history, not erasing it," one professor said.

SNAKE PITT: The search for a massive snake that captivated Pittsburgh social media — and media media — yesterday has been called off. Specialists say the lengthy black rat snake, first photographed by a city park-goer, is a native species and belongs there, per TribLive. Carry on, snake. Carry on.

JAWN JAWN: NPR's Code Switch podcast wants to know what "jawn" means, asking Philadelphians to send a voice memo "this very minute" with their name, age, race, pronunciation of the word, and how they'd use it in a sentence. Here's the Twitter callout in full.

DRINK UP: Philly’s first Latino-owned distillery, and one of just a handful nationwide, is now making small-batch whiskeys in Kensington, AL DÍA News reports. Elsewhere in town, Teatro del Sol is looking for promising Latino playwrights to write the next chapter of bilingual theater, per WHYY.

ON THE TRAIL: Are the Bidens a Pennsylvania tourist attraction? The state's official tourism office thinks so, having launched a self-guided road trip retracing the first couple's roots from Scranton to Philadelphia, CBS 21 reports.
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: Hyacinth

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Craig W., Neal W., Susan D., Jessica K., Bill C., Irene R., Dixie S., George S., Keith F., Becky C., Elaine C., Kevin H., Meg M., Elizabeth W., Dennis M., Kim C., Tish M., Beth T., Ben S., Jill A., James B., Debra K., Heidi B., Karen W., Joel S., David W., Bob R., Patricia R., Christine M., Rick D., Suzanne S., and Carol D.
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