Rendell names new Turnpike chair

March 23, 2009 1:10:48 PM PDT
Gov. Ed Rendell is removing Chairman Mitchell Rubin from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and replacing him with Philadelphia lawyer Michael Pratt. Pratt served as Philadelphia's chief deputy city solicitor for several years while Rendell was mayor in the 1990s. He also was the chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association last year.

In a letter to Rubin, Rendell noted that Rubin has received a target letter from federal prosecutors stemming from activity that was described in the recent federal corruption trial of former state Sen. Vincent Fumo of Philadelphia. Rubin has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Last week, a jury convicted Fumo on all 137 corruption counts against him, including two that Rendell said required the jury to conclude Rubin and his company, BNR Preferred Revenues, never performed the work required under a state contract they held. The contract with the state Senate Democrats, which ended in 2004, provided $30,000 a year for five years.

"Under these circumstances and others, it is inappropriate for you to remain as a commissioner," Rendell said in the letter.

Rubin did not immediately return a telephone message left with the commission seeking comment Monday.

The Philadelphia jury also convicted Rubin's wife, longtime Fumo aide Ruth Arnao, of all 45 counts against her.

Fumo, a Philadelphia Democrat who wielded considerable clout as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, hand-picked Rubin for the commission. The move was part of a deal with then-Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, to win Senate approval for his other appointees in 1998.

Rubin was reappointed by Ridge in 2002 and by Rendell in 2006. As chairman, he was paid $28,500 a year.

On Saturday, Rubin, 57, informed Rendell that he was taking an unpaid leave of absence, citing personal reasons.

In the prolonged fraud and obstruction case that culminated in last week's verdict against Fumo, prosecutors accused Fumo of financing his lavish lifestyle by defrauding the Senate, a nonprofit community organization he started and the Independence Seaport Museum of more than $3.5 million.

Fumo is free on $2 million bail. His sentencing is scheduled for July 13.

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