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The inside story of Herm Suplizio and DuBois

Plus: Penn State denied students access to historical campus crime data, potentially violating the federal Clery Act

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This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.

November 9, 2023
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Inside this edition: How one man remade a small Pa. city while allegedly ripping off his neighbors, election results, northern lights, and Penn State students were denied access to historical campus crime data.
‘Richest Little City’
Nate Smallwood / For Spotlight PA

Real quick: In Herm Suplizio’s quest to make DuBois, Pa., a destination, state prosecutors allege that he lined his own pockets with hundreds of thousands of public and nonprofit dollars, Spotlight PA’s Min Xian and Angela Couloumbis report.

A little more: This is the city Herm Suplizio helped build.

As you enter from the east, a large sign is perched on an embankment covered with gray stone and a gentle waterfall. It towers over DuBois Avenue, and spells out D-U-B-O-I-S in bold, four-foot-tall white letters — the result of $2.3 million in federal, state, and city funding that Suplizio oversaw.

The small city about 100 miles northeast from Pittsburgh is home to three first-rate ball fields, each molded according to Suplizio’s dream to be a destination for youth and collegiate sports. He oversaw their development, and found the money to pay for them.

On the north end of town, Suplizio upgraded the Tannery Dam area, a serene and beloved local fishing spot, by adding lighting, restrooms, and a sidewalk. The money came via the state with help from former Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati — a “true friend” of DuBois, Suplizio has said.

This small city of about 7,400 people is in many ways an aberration. As many others like it across Pennsylvania have struggled to attract residents and investment, attention from Harrisburg, and coveted redevelopment dollars, DuBois — led by its city manager, Suplizio — has excelled.

As one of his supporters put it, he’s made DuBois “one of the richest little cities in all of Pennsylvania.”

But a massive corruption case brought against him by the state Office of Attorney General alleges Suplizio, too, was getting rich off DuBois’ success. Authorities allege he shrewdly used his power, network of political connections, and control over local organizations and charities to line his own pockets for almost a decade.

In all, they allege Suplizio stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in public and nonprofit funds. And the investigation appears to be expanding. Spotlight PA has learned that at least one current city official received a subpoena late last month to testify before a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh — while another employee was interviewed by the FBI — a sign that DuBois’ time under a microscope is far from over.

Suplizio has been suspended from his city job with pay since the charges were announced. He and his lawyers have said little publicly about the case, and have denied multiple requests for an interview for this story. He’s signaled to supporters that it’s all a big misunderstanding over what amounts to bad bookkeeping, and his allies on the City Council, along with the city’s solicitor, have circled the wagons around him.

For the past seven months, Spotlight PA has crisscrossed the city to speak with more than two dozen residents, elected officials, local business owners, community organizers, and nonprofit organizations. The newsroom filed a half dozen public records requests seeking a wide range of financial records — including city budgets, audits, legal bills, contracts, and bonus history — and attended city meetings and court hearings about Suplizio’s case.

The charges have led to uncomfortable questions about Suplizio’s time as city manager. Do his achievements stand on their own, or were they only borne out of entrenched corruption? If so, how could such crimes have gone unnoticed for so long?

But the story that emerges is as much about Suplizio as it is about a deep-rooted sense that if good things are happening in a community — especially amid the adversity faced by other small cities and towns in Pennsylvania — why question them, even when there are red flags?

The full story: Read more here.

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» Pa. Supreme Court election results: Democrat Daniel McCaffery beats Republican Carolyn Carluccio

» Pa. Superior Court election results: Democrats Jill Beck and Timika Lane win open seats

» Pa. Commonwealth Court election results: Democrat Matt Wolf beats Republican Megan Martin

» Voting machines in Northampton County printed ballots with errors in two judicial races

» Penn State denied students access to campus crime data. A student wants a federal investigation.

» Pa. has updated how it defines an ‘environmental justice area.’ Here’s why that matters for at-risk communities.


» RESULTS REVIEW: Join us, the New Pennsylvania Project, and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts on Thursday, Nov. 16 from 6-7 p.m. ET for a Q&A on the election results and what they mean for the future of the state. Register for the event here and submit your questions to
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The northern lights put on a show over Austin, Potter County — photo by Brian Reid of Eventide Light Photography.

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» CDT: Election results for Centre County school boards
» WPSU: Milk carton shortage leaves Pa. schools scrambling
» NCPA: Unofficial election results from around the region

» Mirror: 4 newcomers take spots on Altoona school board
» Daily Item: Union Co. senior housing project gets ARPA boost
Support Spotlight PA's independent, nonpartisan journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be TRIPLED.
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Nov. 9: Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway perform at the State Theatre in Centre County.

» Nov. 11: Santa paraglides into Beech Creek, Clinton County, at the Santa Jump Jamboree.

» Nov. 12: Folk singer Van Wagner performs and shares stories about Pennsylvania heritage at the Huntingdon County Arts Center.

» Nov. 13: Community members will gather for a silent vigil for peace 5 p.m. at the Allen Street Gates in downtown State College in Centre County.

» Nov. 15: The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State in Centre County presents “international percussion sensation” STOMP.
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