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Hire of Tamir Rice's killer tore apart PA borough

Plus, GOP Rep. Scott Perry named in Jan. 6 House Committee's ethics complaint.

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Your Postmaster: Stephen Kearse
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Haywire hire, candidates confirmed, J6 hearing, highway help, garbage piling,  free payphone, land lottery, vintage signs, and the Philly flyover explained.
BROKEN BOROUGH

This summer, a tiny borough in northern Pennsylvania nearly saw its government implode after one hire drew intense local and national scrutiny that set off a string of resignations.

The first person to resign was Timothy Loehmann, a former Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, and was later fired for not disclosing that a prior employer had deemed him unfit for duty.

The Tioga Borough Council's decision to hire Loehmann to be its only full-time police officer followed a long line of troubling actions taken by the small community's leaders, and exposed the limits of a statewide hiring database for law enforcement.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Grudges, tribalism, and infighting rife in Pennsylvania borough that hired the cop who killed Tamir Rice.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania has more than 2,500 cities, towns, townships, and boroughs, and their governments have varying levels of oversight.

In small municipalities like Tioga, local officials control a wide range of critical services, and their personal conflicts can influence otherwise mundane operations.

No borough official has taken direct responsibility for the choice to hire Loehmann, but in the fallout of the decision, finger-pointing and public arguments revealed a dysfunctional dynamic among town leaders.

The incident also showed the limits of the 2020 law Act 57, which requires a database of certain misconduct records for law enforcement to be checked during hiring. employment records of law enforcement to be used during hiring.

Attorney General (and now Gov.-elect) Josh Shapiro reprimanded the Tioga Borough Council in a July letter saying it had not complied with the law. But the investigation found Shapiro's letter to be misleading at best, and regardless Loehmann's record would not have been included in the database because he had not previously worked in Pennsylvania.

June Spotlight PA investigation found that the database, championed by Shapiro, is hampered by loopholes and a lack of enforcement mechanisms.

NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"How damn long do I have to complain before someone does something?"

—former Marine and Glassport resident Dave Meckel on the constant air pollution in Mon Valley, which is home to multiple steel and coke plants
 
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A festive hare sculpture in Villanova. Thanks Don N.! Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

DAILY RUNDOWN
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PERRY REFERRED: The Jan. 6 Committee of the U.S. House issued criminal and ethics referrals Monday after a yearlong investigation of the lethal storming of the Capitol building. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) was among the four members of Congress referred to the House Ethics Committee for possible sanction, following his refusal to comply with subpoenas. Former President Donald Trump received the criminal referrals, which will be reviewed by the Department of Justice.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.ALLEGHENY NOMS: Republicans and Democrats in Allegheny County decided their candidates for three upcoming special elections for seats in the Pennsylvania House. The dates of those elections are at the center of a pending lawsuit filed by state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster), who is at odds with state Rep. Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia) over who currently controls the chamber. Meanwhile, a Republican is throwing her name in the ring to challenge McClinton as House speaker.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.KANE ACQUITTED: Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was acquitted of drunken driving and careless driving after a minor car crash in March in Scranton, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kane previously served jail time for leaking secretive investigative files and lying about it.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.FINANCIAL FLAGS: Unusual expenditures, unpaid bills, and self-sabotaging financial decisions can be signs of cognitive decline among older adults, WESA reports. Individuals and families dealing with Alzheimer's, dementia, and other age-related cognitive diseases are especially vulnerable to scams as well as financial abuse from relatives that can put housing and savings at risk.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.FREEWAY FUNDS: A $69 million grant from the federal government for the construction of the southern section of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway will go toward highway projects across Pennsylvania. PennDOT says the federal money will be available because the thruway's funding setup allows an equal amount of state money to shift toward other projects.
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IN OTHER NEWS

JET LOG: A fighter jet that graced Philly's skies Monday morning was escorting a civilian aircraft out of restricted airspace, Billy Penn reports. 

LOTTERY LOTS: LNP's The Scribbler column explains the lottery system through which lots were sold in early American towns like Millersville.

ALL ABOARD: Amtrak announced new trains will replace the decades-old fleets on the Pennsylvanian, Keystone, and Northeast Regional routes.

PHONE HOME: The installers of a refurbished and wifi-capable payphone newly set up inside Philly's Iffy Books hope the device can kickstart a revival of public communications infrastructure.

SIGN SEEKERS: Redditor u/jbilous shares swanky and slightly eerie nighttime photos of lit vintage electric signs in Milford. David Lynch would approve.

THE SCRAMBLER
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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
 
E F E H U O T M L 

Monday's answer: Desiccate

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Btfoos, Don H., Alan V., George S., Beck C., Susan Z., Irene R., Jon w., Tish M., Susan D., Kim C., Dianne K., Bill s., James, B., Stanley J., Starr B., & John P.
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