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Official remade city while allegedly fleecing it

Plus, Dems sweep statewide judicial contests.

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Thursday, November 9, 2023
In today's edition: Paper trails, official sweep, big wins, another special, Kensington Guard, suburban stall, and Ohio says yes to cannabis.  
When Herm Suplizio became city manager of DuBois, he wanted to see it become a world-class venue for youth and collegiate baseball, believing the tourism dollars and economic impacts would surely follow. 

Backed by his political and professional networks, and a steady flow of redevelopment grants, DuBois undertook a series of ambitious projects on his watch — sports-related and otherwise. One supporter said Suplizio made DuBois "one of the richest little cities in all of Pennsylvania."

But Suplizio is now charged in a sprawling corruption case in which authorities allege he used his positions of power to enrich himself via large sums of diverted public and nonprofit money, leaving investigators to untangle a complex financial web dating back almost a decade. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: The inside story of how one man remade a small Pa. city while allegedly ripping off his neighbors.

THE CONTEXT: In all, prosecutors allege Suplizio stole more than $550,000 from the city, the DuBois Volunteer Fire Department, and the DuBois Area United Way. He's also accused of using money belonging to a community festival to pay his credit card bills and make political donations.

An unusual form of government — known as a council-manager plan — gave him exceptionally broad powers. Meanwhile, the public projects and improvements continued to roll, thanks in no small part to Suplizio's powerful friends, including former president pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate, Joe Scarnati, who became so inextricably linked with the wave of state grants coming into DuBois that they were nicknamed after him.

DuBois also benefited from private donations from wealthy entrepreneurs and organizations. That money, according to interviews, was also leveraged through relationships that Suplizio had forged.

How he did it all remains unclear. Several people who spoke to Spotlight PA privately attributed his successes to a combination of charm and luck: Suplizio, they said, is charismatic, and he possesses a gift of gab that enables him to sell his vision for the city at every turn.

"We will be following up with Northampton County and ES&S in the coming days to determine why the error was not identified prior to Election Day."

—Secretary of State Al Schmidt on a voting machine glitch seen in Northampton County Tuesday; officials said it won't affect the count
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Make a tax-deductible gift to Spotlight PA and ensure this vital work can continue in 2024. Put another way, without you, Spotlight PA ceases to exist.

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» RESULTS REVIEW: Join us, the New Pennsylvania Project, and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts on Thursday, Nov. 16 from 6-7 p.m. for a Q&A on the election results. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

Dusk at Lake Jean in Ricketts Glen State Park, via Don H. Have a photo you'd like to share with the whole commonwealth? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A very blue image of a still lake reflecting the waning light of a clear sky at sunset.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.JUDICIAL SWEEP: Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Timika Lane is the projected winner of Tuesday's election for an open seat on Pennsylvania's Superior Court, delivering Democrats a sweep of four statewide judicial races that drew huge sums of money and lots of outside interest. The AP called the race for Lane Wednesday morning. Unofficial results had her with 25% of the vote.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.'BLUE WAVE': The Philadelphia Inquirer (paywall) reports Democrats built on 2022 midterm successes in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, winning marquee races, a closely watched commissioners contest in purple Bucks County, and highly politicized collar county school board contests. The latter includes a sweep of seats in Central Bucks School District, an emblem of the culture war that drew big money.
  • RELATED: If vote count holds, Democrats will lead Dauphin County for 1st time since at least 1919, via PennLive
  • GOP sweeps two Lancaster County school board races; Dems sweep a third and earn seats in a fourth, via LNP (paywall)
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.SPECIAL SETUP: Another special election for control of the state House is on the horizon. State Rep. John Galloway (D., Bucks) won a Falls Township district judge contest on Tuesday and is set to assume the role in the new year. Galloway could resign his House seat at anytime, setting up a special election in a district that Republicans are eager to flip. Democrats currently have a one-seat House majority.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.ON GUARD: Philadelphia's next mayor is a pro-police, pro-stop-and-frisk Democrat who pledged an aggressive approach to public safety during the campaign, even calling for the deployment of the National Guard to help address the drug problem in Kensington. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro would need to sign off on such a plan. He told The Inquirer: "That’s not something I’m contemplating at this time."

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.REDZONES: Bolts magazine reports the suburbs were key in Allegheny County DA Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s reelection win over progressive Matt Dugan. Reporter Alex Burness tweeted: Parts of the Pittsburgh area most affected by incarceration and violent crime wanted change in the local justice system. We wondered: Were suburban voters ready for reform? Last night’s map has the answer: No.

RELIGIOUS RULE: Pennsylvania's 74-year-old ban on teachers wearing religious garb and symbols in school is officially off the books. Critics maintained it was always sporadically and subjectively enforced.

MAYOR-ELECT: Chester's ongoing bankruptcy case has revealed new levels of government dysfunction in the city. On Tuesday, voters elected Stefan Roots their next mayor. Here's why he's optimistic for the future.

NEXT DOOR: Ohio is indeed the latest of Pennsylvania's neighbors to greenlight recreational cannabis. Homegrow is set to start there in December. Dispensaries will likely take much longer to root.

HISTORY SHOW: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania turns 200 years old next year and it's celebrating with exhibits of some of the 22 million historical items currently in its collection, WHYY reports.

NORTHERN LIGHTS: A colorful aurora borealis turned swaths of North America and Europe red, pink, purple, and green this week. Here's what it looked like from Potter County, via redditor u/EventideLight.

Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be TRIPLED.
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 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Toothsome

Congrats to our daily winners: Vicki U., Kimberly D., Susan R., Ted W., John E., Mark O., Beth T., Stacy S., Elaine C., Kathie M., Jane R., Barbara F., Richard A., Marty M., Tom M., Carol S., Jon W., Marianne A., Don H., Craig E., Karen W., Joyce C., Matt P., Marie B., Suzanne S., Jeff F., Lynne E., Johnny C., John H., Robert D., Susan N.-Z., Dan A., Stanley J., David W., Alan B., William Z., Kim C., Alice B., and Daniel M.
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