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PA opioid trust plans more secret meetings

Plus, State Police still don't know how server issue will impact cases.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Wednesday, March 6, 2024
Today: Payment secrecy, impact unknown, not public, blight business, fracking harms, and a second chance in Philadelphia. Happy Wednesday.

Counties will soon have to report how they spent millions of dollars they received from the first rounds of opioid settlement payments in Pennsylvania.

But members of a trust that oversees county spending are preparing to first review the information in secret, despite a court order requiring the trust to follow the state's Sunshine Act.

The planned private meetings are the latest way that the trust board is distancing its operations from public oversight and input.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Oversight board will secretly review how Pa. counties spent millions of dollars to fight opioid crisis.


"I do not think a guy who just dumped diesel fuel into my river should be getting a raise, let alone a multi-million-dollar raise."

—Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, who represents the site of a recent derailment, on news that Norfolk Southern's chief executive got a 37% raise

'All Sun, No Shade' Beach Towel

Get our limited edition towel in celebration of Sunshine Week, coming up March 10-16.

Promote government transparency & tan lines, all in support of Spotlight PA's vital journalism. SHOP THE PRE-SALE NOW >

BLACK WALL STREET: Join us Thursday, March 7 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on the history of Harrisburg’s Black Wall Street and the people working to preserve its legacy and ensure a future for Black-owned businesses. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.


A snapshot of winter captured by a Huntingdon County trail camera, via James G. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.IMPACT UNKNOWN: A Pennsylvania State Police official told lawmakers this week that the agency still doesn't know what impact the accidental deletion of thousands of records from state servers will have on criminal cases, PennLive (paywall) reports. Col. Christopher Paris said 87% of affected records have been restored; reconstruction efforts are underway in other cases.
  • RELATED: State Police to expedite body camera rollout after Philly official’s excessive force claim, via Capital-Star
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.NOT PUBLIC: Commonwealth Court has denied right-wing "election integrity" investigator Heather Honey's effort to make raw data associated with ballots available to the public, the AP reports. As Spotlight PA and Votebeat previously reported, Honey's research has achieved a remarkable level of national salience among the far right, despite being replete with errors.
  • RELATED: Conservative group sues state for right to publish Pennsylvania voter lists online, via WVIA
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.BLIGHT BUSINESS: A state law aimed at fighting blight has empowered nonprofits run by real-estate investors to sue for conservatorship and take control of properties, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. The law's defenders say it has been an effective tool at cleaning up nuisance properties, but a Penn analysis found it has disproportionately harmed Black and Asian property owners.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
SOLITARY END: Caine Pelzer has spent the past 15 years in solitary confinement inside Pennsylvania prisons, something he described as "torture of the mind." A federal court settlement that stems from a suit he brought claiming cruel and unusual punishment will allow him to enter the general population, the Erie Times-News reports.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.NEVER THE SAME: After Pittsburgh-based EQT expanded its natural gas fracking in Knob Fork, West Virginia, four families said they experienced cardiovascular, neurological, and respiratory symptoms and abandoned their homes. PublicSource reports on the families' efforts to get state and federal investigators to take their complaints seriously.
IN MOURNING: At least three young transgender people have died in Lancaster County over the past year, including Ash Clatterbuck, described to LNP as "a magnetic personality with a big laugh and a quick wit."

WHOLE NATION: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) wants to take the commonwealth's Whole-Home Repairs Program national. 

SECOND CHANCE: A Philly program gives people with no prior convictions found with an unlicensed gun a chance to avoid criminal charges. The crime is a misdemeanor everywhere expect the city because of a state law.

PENN PAPER: The person who owns a Scranton building featured in the title sequence of The Office is asking fans to chip in for exterior repairs.

FERC FEEDBACK: Community members are fighting back against a proposed hydropower facility on the Susquehanna River that would flood more than 500 acres and displace 50 property owners.
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: Felicity

Congrats to our daily winners: Sandra G., Beth H., Kevin M., Ted W., Elaine C., Sandi H., Tracy S., Jody A., Stacy S., Mike B., Don H., Susan R., Marty M., Joe D., Pat D., Nan S., Judith D., Linnea C., Jon W., Bob C., David T., Jerry H., Vicki U., Pat E., Mark C., Chris M., Dan A., Jane R., Richard A., Fran C., Daniel M., Susan N., Beth T., Jim L., Connie O., Perry H., Mary S., Georgann J., Craig E., Rick W., Lex M., Alan B., Stanley J., Daniel S., Kim C., Joyce C., Joan F., Julie K., Ada M., Amelia M., Bill Z., Ernie R., Mike H., Marie B., David W., Tish M., Gretchen K., Abigail S., John P., John A., Lauren B., Adrien M., Wendy A., John C., Lynne E., Tom M., Janet S., Tina H., David M., Elizabeth R., Kimberly B., and Leann T.
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