Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lest we forget. A past cry for criminal investigation

Editor's note on letter reproduced below: In 2006, the three members of the Convention Center Authority wrote to the district attorney and asked his assistance in obtaining access to information concerning what conmprised over $7 million in invoices from the law firm of Stevens and Lee. Ted Darcus, Chair, gave ongoing litigation as the reason for withholding the information. With litigation ended for several months, NewsLanc has asked the Authority for access to the billing information under the State's Right To Know law. The Authority has failed to deliver the documents even after a 30 day extension to which it was entitled and has requseted another 30 days to decide what it will do.

September 12, 2006

Hon. Donald R. Totaro
County of Lancaster
Office of the District Attorney
50 N. Duke Street
Lancaster, PA 17608

Subject: Suspicious expenditures by Lancaster County Convention Center Authority

Dear Mr. Totaro:

The undersigned -- Deb Hall, Jack Craver, and Laura Douglas -- serve on the sevenperson LCCCA board and have been blocked by Chairman C. Ted Darcus and Executive Director David W. Hixson in performing our oversight responsibilities.

Our specific concern here is that we have become aware that almost $7 million in legal fees have been paid to the law firm of Stevens & Lee over several years on the basis of over two-hundred invoices with no additional information attached than "For professional services rendered on behalf of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority."

On June 7, 2006 I wrote on the behalf of the three of us to Chairman Darcus requesting that the process of validating payment to the law firm be placed on the agenda for discussion at the June 8 meeting.

The matter did not appear on the agenda for the June 8 meeting. Mr. Darcus commented that the request had not been submitted in, what he considered a timely manner. At that meeting I, therefore, requested, publicly, that the item be placed on the agenda for July’s meeting. Mr. Darcus, however, suggested that I could move that the item be added right then to the current meeting. I did so. Then, at Chairman Darcus's urging, though without any further explanation, the Board voted not to place the matter on that evening’s agenda. Nor was it added to the agenda of the June 13, 2006 special meeting.

On June 27, 2006, I once again wrote on behalf of the three of us to Chairman Darcus and again requested the matter be placed on the agenda for the July 13, 2006 meeting. Despite the ample notice, especially since the meeting was rescheduled for July 27, 2006, I received no response and the matter was not placed on that agenda nor on the August 14, 2006 (postponed from August 10) agenda.

Under any circumstance the expenditures of so much taxpayer money should be cause for
careful scrutiny. The recent controversy pertaining to Stevens & Lee’s billings to the County for the Conestoga View Nursing Home underscores our concern. It is clearly in the public interest that our Board discuss whether the Stevens & Lee invoices are being properly verified in a normal business manner.

The LCCCA has spent almost $19 million dollars of taxpayers' money to date. The refusal to permit even a discussion of how the money has been paid raises serious questions about the propriety of those expenditures.

I want to emphasize that, at this juncture, the issue is the unwillingness of Chairman Darcus to permit a discussion of the matter, not whether the current procedures are correct. Since Chairman Darcus and the other board members cannot possibly know what questions and constructive suggestions we may have based upon information so far at our disposal, there can be no possible justification for, but only suspicions about, the gagging of our legitimate requests.

Therefore, we ask that you expand any investigation of billings by Stevens & Lee pertaining to Conestoga View to billings of Stevens & Lee pertaining to the LCCCA and, if no investigation is currently taking place, that you initiate one.

_________________________ ____________________ ___________________
Debra A. Hall Jack Craver Laura Douglas

Copy: Tom Corbett
Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
16th Floor
Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Cc: C. Ted Darcus
Joe Morales
Willie Borden
D. M. Schwanger
David Hixson
John Espenshade

Enc. Email: Deb Hall to Ted Darcus, et al. 6/7/06 Accounting Audit of Legal Services
Email: Deb Hall to Ted Darcus, et al. 6/21/06 Requests for itemized invoices
Email: Deb Hall to Ted Darcus, et al. 6/28/06 Agenda Request