Thank You Mayor Linda Thompson!

Make no mistake about it, this week’s SEC charge against and accepted by the City, was a charge against Linda Thompson for failure to disclose pertinent financial information. Did heads roll?  Was an apology forthcoming from the Mayor?  Did the buck stop with her? Of course not.

As I think about the Harrisburg incinerator and the millions of fees taken by lawyers, consultants and bankers well tied in to the status quo of City, County and State politics, I ask myself, what did Linda Thompson do to get those who profited from the bond issues to repay their ill gotten gain?  Answer: Nothing.

Actually, it is worse than nothing.  I was interviewed and brought to town by Controller Dan Miller not only to address the possibility of bankruptcy for the City as a way to preserve essential city services, but to bring proceedings against those who structured the bond issues. Those who profited should be paying off the bonds, not Harrisburg citizens.  Dan Miller wanted me to get to the bottom of things and I was prepared to do so.  The problem is that Mayor Thompson and her lawyers went to court to blocked me at every turn. The Bankruptcy Judge indicated that the outcome would have been different if she had been on board.

She paid lawyers to negotiate with the SEC.  They could have made it a condition of the City’s settlement with the SEC that the incinerator profiteers at least cough up their fees. I bet it did not even occur to the Mayor. Why elevate the interests of the public over the profiteers? Perish the thought.

Keep something in mind, bonds can only be issued if there is an approving legal opinion. Here, it is abundantly clear where the money went and it was not for an eligible purpose.  It was a ponzi scheme…. paying one credit card off with another until you run out of cards. The lawyers behind the deals were telling the state Department of Community Affairs one thing and the bond holders the direct opposite. They tell the State that the incinerator will pay for itself. They and the underwriters tell prospective bond purchasers that the incinerator is not able to afford the payments. Words such as fraud come to mind.

Forget all about talk that the D.A., US Attorney, or Pennsylvania’s Attorney General will  investigate and bring bad guys to justice. They have had more than enough time and have been given a road map. Forget the oblique statements about investigations. There is nothing behind the curtain and nothing up their sleeves. What is more, the perpetrators have political tentacles that run long and deep.

The City should have followed Dan Miller’s lead and brought lawsuits itself. It didn’t. We have only Mayor Thompson to thank for the situation.

Mark D. Schwartz, Esquire previously represented City Council, Council President Wanda Williams, City Controller Dan Miller and City Treasurer John Campbell.

Photo by Jayme Frye