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Members Urge Investigation:
Will District Attorney Totaro Act?
Frustrated in their attempts to have the propriety of legal invoices discussed by the Convention Center Authority, three board members have written to District Attorney Donald R. Totaro, urging him to investigate the issue.
The invoices in question involve the payment of more than $6.5 million in fees to the law firm of Stevens & Lee, the Authority's solicitor.
"Under any circumstance the expenditures of so much taxpayer money should be cause for careful scrutiny," the letter states. "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 letter concluded: "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."
County Budget 'Trouble'?
More Lancaster Newspapers' Spin
In a continuation of its self-serving attacks on County Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson, Lancaster Newspapers announces, "Trouble on way: County budget is in the red," suggesting county fiscal mismanagement is responsible for the deficit.
County Administrator Don Elliot was noncommittal at the commissioners' meeting regarding the severity of the deficit, and suggested that reduced state and federal funds also impact local budget shortfalls. Elliott said he would present a comprehensive report Sept. 20 forecasting the $300 million county enterprise that employs nearly 2,000.
After making the obviously bogus claim on Aug. 11, 2006, that the $20 million convention center/hotel project construction gap was filled - - and at length quoting its chairman, Jack Buckwalter, in an attempt to validate the misinformation - - the monopoly lancaster Newspaper, Inc., is seeking legal protection against possible lawsuits.
As reported in the Lancaster New Era: "[Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.] has established a limited liability corporation, Penn Square Limited, to hold its financial interests in the development of a downtown Marriott hotel at the site of the former Watt & Shand building."
Fortunately for the public, this liability shield will not protect the monopoly Lancaster Newspapers from being held accountable for self-serving and misleading representations on behalf of its 44% ownership stake in the convention center/hotel project.
Researchers Reveal "Extremely
Serious" Vulnerabilities in Recently
Purchased E-Voting Machines
In a paper published on the Internet Sept. 15, a group of Princeton University computer scientists reported they created demonstration vote-stealing software that can be installed within a minute on a common electronic voting machine. The software can fraudulently change vote counts without being detected.
The report appears at itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting.
How Will Convention Center Sponsors Fill Budget Gap?
It is becoming increasingly clear that sponsors of the proposed convention center/hotel project are having a hard time filling a $20+ million construction budget gap. Despite misleading headlines from the monopoly press, the huge gap has yet to be filled.
Sponsors haven't detailed where the $5.25 million in savings from a third attempt of "value engineering" will come from, especially since construction contracts have been awarded; or why they included $3 million from the Historic Preservation Trust, a falsity that the newspapers later had to retract; nor why the $7 million for the parking garage counts as filling the deficit when the garage wasn't even in the budget.
We set forth three possible scenarios and pose one question:
1) Increase convention center/hotel debt through additional taxpayer guarantees;
2) Seek more governmental grants after project is well underway;
3) Invest $15 million in additional equity investment.
Which is least likely?
"I guess we would agree that from a design standpoint the project has evolved but
in terms of the program that hasnít changed that dramatically."
- - David Hixson, Executive Director of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority, responding to PricewaterhouseCoopers removing its name from its own study because the project was "very different" than the one it studied in 2000 and updated 2002.
Project cost 1999: $75 million
Project Cost when PwC removed its support: $129 million.
Project Cost today: $160+ million