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State Rep. Mike Zabel accused of sexual harassment

Plus, PSU wants to drop oversight inspired by hazing death.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Thursday, March 2, 2023
House harassment, frat oversight, school money, train safety, uncanny valley, Cop City II, presidential mullets, and Fallingwater's leaky roof.

A lobbyist for one of Pennsylvania’s most influential unions has named state Rep. Mike Zabel (D., Delaware) as the lawmaker she said sexually harassed her as they discussed a bill outside the Capitol in 2019.
The lobbyist, Andi Perez of Service Employees International Union 32BJ, told the story publicly during a January stop on then-state House speaker Mark Rozzi's listening tour but didn't name Zabel until now. 

Spotlight PA spoke to a woman who was with Perez at the time of the incident and corroborated her story. Spotlight PA also viewed a text message Zabel sent to Perez the day after she said the harassment occurred, in which he confirmed the two met and apologized for his "bad manners."

Read the full report: Lobbyist says she was sexually harassed by Pa. lawmaker Mike Zabel, calls on him to resign.

THE CONTEXT: Recounting the incident, Perez said Zabel "decided to caress my leg while I was wearing a skirt all the while telling me he was impressed by my passion and knowledge of the issues we were discussing." Perez added: "I moved away from him hoping he would stop — he did not."

Perez and others are now calling on Zabel to resign. He had yet to respond to the allegation as of Wednesday evening.

Perez said she reported the incident to state House Democratic leadership the day after it occurred but declined to say how they responded. She later tried to file a complaint with the state House Ethics Committee but was turned down because she wasn't an employee of the chamber.

Democrats say that will change under new House rules, adopted Wednesday along party lines, that bar members from sexually harassing “any individual” while performing official duties, on state House property, or at a state House-sponsored meeting or event. The rules expand who can bring complaints, closing a loophole that protected offenders and their jobs.

Read the full report: New Pa. House rules expand who can file a sexual harassment complaint against lawmakers.


"The people thought they were electing a councilman, but instead they elected a minion for John Dougherty and Local 98."

—U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Schmehl sentencing former Philadelphia councilor Bobby Henon to 3.5 years in prison on federal bribery charges
Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all new monthly gifts will be matched 12X!

Kohler Park in Horsham by Faith K. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.

A golden sunset is seen through trees and reflecting on the surface of a pond.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PSU OVERSIGHT: Penn State appears to be ending Greek life rules it put in place after Timothy Piazza's hazing death. In an internal memo obtained by Spotlight PA, the university says it's time to "recalibrate ... so the pendulum moves toward chapter self-governance, and away from University monitoring and intervention." Piazza's father, for one, thought the changes would be permanent.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.BUDGET PLAN: Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro will give his first budget address on Tuesday, and the poor school districts that won a landmark school-funding lawsuit want a significant down payment and a plan to overhaul the system, the AP reports. Shapiro has said it's unlikely he'll propose a new system. But his lieutenant governor hinted that a funding response will be a major part of his budget plan.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.CRASH REPORTS: A Pennsylvania state Senate committee has voted to subpoena the CEO of Norfolk Southern for his testimony on last month's toxic train derailment near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. In other news: CEO Alan Shaw is set to testify before the U.S. Senate next week, where a push is underway to impose new federal safety rules and financial consequences for rail companies.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.POLLUTED IN PA: The train that crashed in East Palestine was headed to Conway, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Ohio River. Grist looks at the rail disaster against the backdrop of proliferating petrochemical development in the river valley, calling it "the newest incarnation of industrial exploitation for a region that has been plagued by legacy pollution since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution."

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.COP CITY NORTH: City Paper reports that Pittsburgh is planning a police training facility 30% more expensive than Atlanta's "Cop City" and funded by public money. In 2020, the city acquired a former Veterans Affairs Hospital in the Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood to build a regional training facility for police and emergency responders. Officials have recently said the project will cost more than $120 million.

BUSHY RUN: Pennsylvania officials now say they'll let this year's Battle of Bushy Run reenactment proceed after announcing a ban on simulated warfare in state parks and portrayals of Native Americans by non-Native actors. TribLIVE reports the status of next year's event is unclear.

SINKING FEELING: An abandoned boat has been slowly sinking on the Allegheny River near downtown Pittsburgh for months. But KDKA-TV reports every agency they contacted said it's not their problem.

FALLINGWATER: Architect Philip Johnson once called Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands "a seventeen-bucket house." Why? Turns out Wright's buildings were known for leaky roofs

MULLET STATE: Twitter imagined mullets being worn by the two U.S. presidents from Pennsylvania — Joe Biden and James Buchanan. Here are seven questions for the best actual mullet in Pennsylvania today.

MESSAGE RECEIVED: The family behind a 50-year-old message in a bottle that was found at a Perry County park last month has been located. "Oh, yeah, that's my handwriting," Donna Moore told WGAL.

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.

Yesterday's answer: Encyclopedia

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Vicki U., Eric F., Craig W., Joel S., Brandie K., Elaine C., John P., Barbara F., Cate B., Susan N.-Z., Don H., Richard A., Jon W., Bruce B., Lynne E., John F., Kimberly B., Marty M., Jerry G., Kelsey L., Paul P., James B., Dianne K., Ada M., Dennis M., Tish M., Wendy A., Myles M., Bill S., Diane C., Linda D., Susan D., Michael P., Terry P., and Jane R.


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