Thursday, January 15, 2009

PROLOGUE: Millions paid without due process

A bevy of consultants, paid well over $3 million, with their invoices hidden from the public’s view, methodically and systematically over-billed and submitted unsubstantiated bills over a four-year period to the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority while the executive director and board members condoned and participated in the waste of public tax dollars.

(Editor's note: The period reviewed of dysfunction ends with County appointees becoming the majority in the fall of 2007 which was soon followed by current Chair Art Morris being appointed by the City. Would that Art Morris and most current board members had been present at the outset!)

A search of thousands of documents, perhaps as many as 100,000 individual line items, obtained under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know law, reveals that, primarily over a four-year period, the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority board paid millions of dollars to consultants who billed up to $350/hour, some for work they never did.

Beneath the surface, however, virtually unseen by the public, various out-of-town consultants were hired, sometimes without a contract, sometimes with vague open-ended contracts, and were paid after board members unanimously approved bills, sight unseen, month after month and year after year, without requesting documentation for the charges.

As politicians and the Penn Square Partners, with their vested self interest to protect, constantly pushed for the $170-million hotel/convention center, the media and the public were being manipulated by a $600,000 propaganda campaign, paid for from tax revenues and orchestrated by public relations firms and consultants.

The first of a series of reports based on research by Jim Sneddon, former Editor and Publisher of the The York Dispatch and York Sunday News, will appear exclusively at this weekend.