Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Scandal aftershocks at Pa.'s largest pension fund

Plus, the death of a rural Pa. hospital.

The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

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

Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
Thursday, April 6, 2023
PSERS update, death of a hospital, Section 8 waits, power down, 2020 payouts, and what it's like to make 'Philly's best cheesesteak.'
There's new leadership at Pennsylvania's largest pension fund, but some of the problems that dogged the last administration — culminating in several high-profile resignations — have carried over. 

The Inquirer reports the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System is still paying lawyers to deal with the fallout of a scandal touched off by an exaggerated profit report and scrutinized land deals.

More than $6 million has been paid already, and ongoing litigation suggests an internal probe that coincided with investigations by federal authorities left some unanswered questions, reporter Joseph N. DiStefano adds. 

The PSERS fund is also offloading $1.4 billion in "directly-owned real estate," some of it priced at a loss, but officials wouldn't say how much of the proceeds would go to the agency or how it might be reinvested.

Read The Inquirer's full paywalled report: New PSERS bosses are selling properties and checking miscalculations from the last regime.

THE CONTEXT: After the $70 billion fund botched a crucial financial calculation in 2020, exaggerating investment returns, the FBI launched an investigation, the fund’s board began its own, and 100,000 public school employees suddenly faced paying more into the system.

By June 2021, board dissidents, including former state Treasurer Joe Torsella, were looking to oust the fund's top command and set a new investment strategy that was less expensive and more profitable.

DiStefano reports that as of last Friday, Torsella had resigned his board seat. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro — who said he favors low-cost index funds over the kind of high-fee private investments PSERS has come to rely on — is now tasked with finding and naming Torsella's replacement.

Find more PSERS scandal coverage in Spotlight PA's archives.

"This is how I want readers to receive my work one day: What you’re holding between your hands, this is it. This is how I survived."

—Abdelrahman ElGendy started recording the abuses of prison life in Egypt; he's now pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at Pitt
» 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

» 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 next 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

Elliott C. shared this photo of a Carolina wren singing in Lancaster. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A small bird in a tree with its mouth open.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.CLOSED CARE: The Inquirer (paywall) reports Berwick, Columbia County is without a hospital of its own for the first time in a century. State officials shut down the local ER in September, hastening a planned closure. It's one of five rural Pennsylvania hospitals that have closed since 2005, and it happened so fast that emergency patients are still showing up at its doors only to find them locked.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SECTION 8: Critics say Pittsburgh's housing authority is prioritizing redevelopment at the expense of a diminished and largely ignored Section 8 voucher program that leaves thousands on waiting lists, PublicSource reports. A former employee said in a complaint that the negligence was fueling an affordable housing crisis. The Office of State Inspector General said it lacks jurisdiction to investigate.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.RGGI MONEY: When Pennsylvania's largest coal-fired power plant announced this week that it's shutting down for good in June, it cited, among other factors, Pennsylvania's possible entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Weeks ago, Gov. Josh Shapiro revealed a budget plan that included $600 million in future revenue from the program, but his office insists his support for entry isn't a given

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SETTLEMENT FUNDS: Pittsburgh will pay $275,000 to seven people who were gassed and arrested during a 2020 racial justice protest in East Liberty, TribLIVE reports. Philadelphia is paying $9.25 million to protesters and residents who sued over what they deemed excessive force, reckless behavior, and discriminatory policing during 2020's George Floyd-inspired demonstrations there, per Billy Penn.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.TREE OF LIFE: Attorneys for accused Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers are again asking to have the death penalty thrown out in his case, saying the U.S. Department of Justice is arbitrarily seeking the punishment after failing to do so in other attempted mass shooting cases in which Jewish and Latino people were targeted, TribLIVE reports. The trial is set to begin later this month.

NEW LESSONS: Pennsylvania's Department of Education has launched a pilot program to teach K-12 students about the contributions of those with disabilities, hoping to promote inclusivity, Capital-Star reports.

BREATHING EXERCISE: The halls of Allegheny Health Network's West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh are alive with the sound of harmonicas as respiratory patients build their lung capacity with the instruments, via WESA.

BIG WIN: The Inquirer's readers have named Dalessandro’s the best cheesesteak in the city, with nearly a quarter of the vote. Bon Appétit shows you what it's like to work a shift at the Roxborough shop.

HOTEL FIRE: Five people were taken to a hospital after an early morning fire at Coudersport's historic Hotel Crittenden on Wednesday. 

LIFE STORY: A registered behavior technician, in an interview with Refinery 29, described "A Week In Lancaster County On A $25,000 Salary."

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: Ambulatory

Congrats to our daily winners: Eric F., Don H., John A., Karen W., Susan D., Tracy S., Tom M., Jon W., Jodi R., Becky C., Dianne K., Craig W., Johnny C., Jane R., Vicki U., Susan N.-Z., Barbara F., Kimberly D., Beth T., Kim C., Richard A., Dennis M., Daniel M., Bill S., James B., Sarah B., Keith W., Elaine C., John P., Vanessa J., Stanley J., Elizabeth B., Ada M., and David W.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Support it with a tax-deductible gift.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
228 Walnut St., #11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.

This email was sent to: <<Email Address>>

Receiving too many emails from Spotlight PA?

To change your newsletter subscriptions and frequency, you can update your preferences.

To stop receiving fundraising messages, you can update your preferences and select "Opt out of Fundraising."

To stop receiving ALL EMAILS from Spotlight PA, including all of our investigations and newsletters, you can completely unsubscribe here.