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Top execs quit Pa. pension fund as scandal swirls

Plus, House GOP threatens local officials over mail ballot count.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
November 19, 2021
PSERS shakeup, little recourse, ballot counts, pay cut, dire warning, benefit blockers, and a 'courtesy' headache. It's Friday. Enjoy your weekend.
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"And if anything happens at that prison, he needs to be held accountable to the highest extent of the law."

—the Rev. Larry Walthour II, of York's Shiloh Baptist Church, on York County's renewed deal with a prison contractor accused of leading inmate abuses
We built Spotlight PA on the premise that Pennsylvanians will pay for unique, high-quality investigative and accountability journalism that holds our elected officials to account, keeps tabs on our tax dollars, and calls out wrongdoing.

Now, as 2021 comes to a close, we need your help to continue our work in 2022. Make a gift of any amount right now and as a special bonus, your contribution will be DOUBLED. Now is the time to join the fight for the truth.
» PUSH BLOCK: U.S. Rep. Fred Keller (R., Pa.) has introduced a resolution aimed at overturning the Biden White House's vaccine rule for businesses with 100 or more employees, Capital-Star reports. 

» STUDENT DEBT: Pennsylvania nurses who worked at a qualified nursing facility during the pandemic could be eligible to have up to $7,500 of their student loan debt paid off with COVID-19 relief funds.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Thanks, Don H., for this shot of Beartown Rocks in Clear Creek State Forest. Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
FORCE REVIEW: The fatal police shooting of Christian Hall happened when his hands were in the air but was justified, according to authorities, because Hall had a pellet gun that looked real. In Pennsylvania, DAs who work closely with police decide whether officers who kill should be charged — and there is little recourse should anyone disagree. It's also nearly impossible for state investigators to intervene uninvited.

BALLOT COUNT: Top Pennsylvania House Republicans are threatening to impeach Lehigh County Board of Elections members over their decision to count mail ballots without dates from the Nov. 2 election. The board's decision has prompted at least one candidate to take up a legal challenge. Philadelphia backed off a similar plan following identical impeachment threats back in June.

PAY CUT: Somerset County DA Jeffrey Thomas is still in office and making $185,665 a year while awaiting trial on sexual assault charges. But a new state law could see his pay suspended as soon as next month, the Tribune-Democrat reports. A bill signed into law by Gov. Wolf this week makes it illegal for prosecutors to oversee their offices without active law licenses. Thomas lost his last month.

CRISIS WORK: Workers say York County's child welfare office is understaffed and undertrained, putting the children they're charged with protecting at greater risk. "The concern is we're going to have some dead children," said one worker who spoke with the York Dispatch on condition of anonymity. Meanwhile, the county is not revealing key staffing numbers to judge the full extent of the problem.

PROOF OF ID: WESA reports the identity verification system Pennsylvania put in place to stop fraudulent unemployment claims is also stopping some legitimate ones. The ID.me verification system uses facial recognition technology and other means to confirm claimants' credentials. But critics say the system has become a hurdle that some Pennsylvanians are struggling to overcome.

UNDERTOW: First Ryan Layne's vehicle was towed from a legal Philly parking spot to make way for an Adam Sandler film shoot. Then it was taken to a private lot where it was ticketed and ultimately towed again. The Inquirer reports it's called courtesy towing, and Ryan is not feeling the love.

EMPTY SUIT: The group suing over Pittsburgh's planned removal of a Christopher Columbus statue says Mayor Bill Peduto threatened to fire art commission members that didn't vote in favor of taking the statue down. But WESA reports the allegation may hinge on a mischaracterized email.

CHANGE AGENT: When Cynthia Moore-Koikoi was born, The United Methodist Church was still segregated. A woman of color, Moore-Koikoi is now bishop of the church's western Pennsylvania conference, telling PublicSource she's living proof that churches can change.

HISTORY DIG: The 90-year-old Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex saw plenty of repairs during pandemic downtime, unearthing artifacts from its time as a World War II repair and training facility, WGAL reports.

WISE OWLS: The northern saw-whet owl is a small bird with a big following. Bird-lovers from Somerset County to Lackawanna County are staying up late to band and study the nocturnal birds, which migrate this season.

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