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How a Pa. city manager allegedly fleeced taxpayers

Plus, how much 2023 Pa. Supreme Court candidates have raised.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Monday, April 10, 2023
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Corruption case, big money, flight plan, similar circumstances, state expulsions, abortion rulings, and Erie's total eclipse. This is PA Post. 

City Manager Herm Suplizio's March arrest for the theft of more than $600,000 in public funds rocked DuBois, home to 7,400. 

Now, the sweeping corruption case has residents questioning how such a large theft could occur in a place so small without anyone noticing.

Spotlight PA reports the answer may lie in failed checks and balances and an optional form of government that gives city managers broad powers.

Read the full report: How a Pa. city manager allegedly stole thousands of taxpayer dollars with virtually no oversight.

THE CONTEXT: The alleged scheme was so elaborate, according to the AG’s office, that investigators with extensive backgrounds in organized and financial crimes were brought in to untangle a web of money moving in and out of accounts with little oversight or accountability.

DuBois is one of only a handful of cities in Pennsylvania that has adopted an optional form of government known as a "council-manager plan." It gives an appointed city manager broad powers over day-to-day operations.

In theory, checks and balances exist for tracking city finances, but testimony heard by a grand jury in the case revealed significant blind spots. Additionally, some funds Suplizio is alleged to have pilfered were overseen by non-government entities with unclear accounting practices.

Former DuBois City Manager Ron Trzyna told Spotlight PA: "We as city residents and taxpayers [are] just as much at fault as the government. I fault them because they didn’t oversee things. But I also fault all the citizens in the city of DuBois, and myself included, that we … never questioned."


"I have some serious concerns about the background of this individual that is rumored to be the next chief of police."

—Beth Pittinger of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board on controversy surrounding Mayor Ed Gainey's reported chief of police pick
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» High court candidates with party backing show fundraising edge

» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado

» Court decision does little to clear up ballot curing confusion

» Supporters hope Pa.’s new legislature will embrace open primaries

» How unequal policies disenfranchised Pa. voters in 2022

» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary; deadline May 9

Support Spotlight PA's public-service election and voting coverage now. Become a sustaining monthly donor and get your gift matched 12X! 
PRIMARY PRIMER: Join us Thursday, April 13 from 6-7 p.m ET via Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s Supreme Court candidates and why the 2023 election matters. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County, via Amy Z. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MONEY RACE: Once home to the most expensive state Supreme Court race in U.S. history, Pennsylvania's 2023 high court contest is set to draw big money as well. Spotlight PA reports candidates for this year's pivotal vacancy on the bench raised about $365,000 in cash and in-kind donations between the beginning of the year and late March, the money coming from wealthy donors, their own bank accounts, unions, and in one case, failed gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.PRIVATE JET: A private jet flew Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi to the Rose Bowl amid financial problems and looming budget cuts at the university. But who paid for it? Officials told Spotlight PA the money came from a self-sustaining unit or self-funded department and is not connected to the school's budget deficit. Penn State has previously declined to share the costs of operating its own aircraft.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.FATAL HOLDS: Mercedes Alaimo, 25, died by suicide two days after entering Luzerne County's prison. Her family believes distress due to opioid withdrawal and a lack of supervision led to her death, WVIA reports, citing a death there under similar circumstances in 2018. The Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project says the prison offers only one opioid treatment, naltrexone, which works after withdrawals.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CAPITOL CASES: Tennessee is in the spotlight following the expulsion of two Black, Democratic lawmakers over an anti-gun violence protest. PennLive reports it's happened here, adding that more than a dozen Pennsylvania lawmakers have been expelled for offenses ranging from “contemptible language” to federal crimes. Only once was it for behavior that loosely resembled what happened in Tennessee.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DUELING RULINGS: Reuters reports the legal battle over medication abortion is only beginning after Friday's dueling federal court rulings over FDA approval of mifepristone. Spotlight PA reported in October that the pills are highly sought-after here due to state rules limiting brick-and-mortar clinics and the services they provide. Gov. Josh Shapiro reiterated his support for the option in a Saturday tweet.

JEEPERS PEEPERS: There are two stories I wish I would have read before consuming copious amounts of Peeps over the weekend: 1) This charming, Willy Wonka-ish profile of the Bethlehem factory that makes them, and 2) this less charming story about their red dye content

SOCIAL SUITS: Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pennsylvania's second-largest district, has filed suit against social media companies over worsening teen mental health, following in the footsteps of Seattle-area school districts and Bucks County on the other side of the state.

BAD BLOOD: The Inquirer (paywall) is not holding back on the PA Chamber's "Coolest Things Made in PA" contest, saying it gave short shrift — or no shrift at all — to Pennsylvania's largest city: "We investigate how a sandwich with French fries on it beat out the Declaration of Independence."

ERIE ECLIPSE: State Sen. Dan Laughlin (R., Erie) wants to remind everyone that the next total solar eclipse will pass directly over Erie on April 8, 2024, adding: "[There] won’t be another till 2099. Book your hotel rooms now, we’re expecting about 100,000 visitors." Local businesses are jazzed.

PA TRAILBLAZER: QBurgh reports on the passing of "trailblazing Pittsburgh transgender advocate Wendi Miller," who employed predominantly trans women at her East Liberty business, which served as a refuge and center for the city's emerging trans community beginning in the 1980s.

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.

Friday's answer: Miraculous

Congrats to our weekly winner: Sarah B.

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Craig W., Mike B., Don H., Jon W., Barbara F., Judith D., Fran B., Irene R., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Susan D., Kimberly D., Kim C., Dianne K., Daniel M., Vicki U., Eddy Z., Dennis M., James B., William Z., Bill S., Starr B., Wendy A., Jane R., and Bob C.
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