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A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes
September 27, 2021
New probe, demanding answers, lawmaker arrest, ballot review, school plot, and the 'deepfake' video that wasn't. Welcome to Monday.
Dear reader,

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Christopher Baxter, editor in chief
PENSION PROBE
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has joined the FBI in the investigation of Pennsylvania’s biggest pension fund, Spotlight PA and The Inquirer report.

The independent agency has subpoenaed records about the board’s adoption of a false figure for its financial performance — and about improper “compensation and gifts” possibly offered staff.

State employees are forbidden from accepting such gifts under a ban imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf. The subpoena issued to the PSERS school pension plan Friday was the first indication that investigators are looking into possible presents or money from investment advisers and consultants.

THE CONTEXT: The FBI and federal prosecutors launched a criminal probe of the $70 billion PSERS plan in March immediately after the fund’s board issued a brief statement revealing its belated doubts about the figure it endorsed in December for financial results.

While prosecutors and the FBI build criminal cases, the SEC pursues civil complaints. It has broad power to impose fines, discipline financial players, and order reforms. It can’t put anyone in prison.

Want to get caught up to speed on the saga? This explainer is for you.
 
URGENCY OF NOW
With so much on the line this fall — from redistricting to voting reforms to the GOP's review of the 2020 election — Spotlight PA's tough, nonpartisan journalism is more vital than ever. Give now and we'll DOUBLE it »
NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"They lost their baby — their daughter, their child, their sister — that spirit will never get a chance to grow or to see what it will become."

—William Felder of the Delaware County Black Caucus on 8-year-old Fanta Bility, who authorities believe was fatally shot by police officers

COVID-19 UPDATE: 85% of Pennsylvania adults have received at least one vaccine dose; West York Area School District wants to join the lawsuit against the state's mask mandate; and President Joe Biden urges those not eligible for booster shots to be patient. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
📅 UPCOMING EVENTS
» CRISIS OF CARE: Join us Friday, Oct. 8 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on rising rates of Alzheimer's disease in Pennsylvania, the barriers to care, and the solutions urged by advocates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

📷 POST IT
A snapshot from your newsletter writer's most recent trip to the Mahoning Drive-In Theater. Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
ARRESTED: Just a few days after being stripped of committee leadership and Capitol access, state Rep. Kevin Boyle was arrested and charged with harassment and violation of a protection from abuse order filed by his wife, The Inquirer reports. Democratic leadership says he has agreed to treatment for "mental health challenges."

NEXT UP: A controversial, partisan ballot review in Arizona is over (confirming, again, that President Joe Biden won), but a GOP state senator says Pennsylvania's investigation is still a go. Yet another state Democrat plans to file litigation in an attempt to shut it down

GRIM MILESTONE: Philadelphia has surpassed 400 homicides — "the highest number at this time of year in more than a decade," WHYY reports. Grassroots prevention groups say they could do more if given resources, while Mayor Jim Kenney promises grants are coming.

DYING WISH: Deanna Reber was a nurse at Reading Hospital for 29 years, serving in the intensive care unit despite being a cancer survivor. She died of COVID-19 this month, and the Reading Eagle reports her dying wish was for people to get vaccinated.

ALLEGED PLOT: The district attorney in Lackawanna County has accused four teens of plotting to carry out a school attack on April 20, 2024 — the 25th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. WNEP reports a search of one student's home turned up multiple explosives.
IN OTHER NEWS
FREE BIRD: Pittsburgh is still looking for a Steller’s sea eagle named Kodiak who escaped from the National Aviary this weekend, TribLIVE reports. He's been spotted around the North Side by folks brave enough to approach. 

ALL WRONG: Earlier this year, Bucks County DA Matt Weintraub accused a Doylestown cheerleader's mom of making a "deepfake" video of her daughter's rival. According to Cosmopolitan, the viral case has fallen apart.

THE END IS NEAR: County fair season is almost over (how!?), but there's still time in some parts of the state for funnel cakes, tractor races, and prize-winning pigs. The Pa. State Association of County Fairs has a rundown

PICKLED PRODUCE: If your zucchini plants are still producing, you may be looking for a new way to use them. I might try this recipe by Lori Fogg, aka a "Coalcracker In The Kitchen," for zucchini relish

'BIG SPIRIT': Leonard “Doc” Gibbs Jr., a Philadelphia native and bandleader for the Food Network’s Emeril Live!, died last week. The Inquirer described the percussionist as the "father of the Philadelphia drum scene.
THE SCRAMBLER
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.
 
E U O S I D U D C
 
Friday's answer: Rubenesque

Congrats to our weekly winner: Ann E.

Congrats to our daily winners: Irene R., Beth T., Don H., David W., Elaine C., Kim C., James B., Lynne E., Elizabeth W., Craig E., Mike B., Mary Kay M., Bill S., Tim B., Bill C., and Judith D. 
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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.

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