Pa. Senate GOP subpoenaed in bonus investigation

February 12, 2008 3:52:20 PM PST
The state attorney general has formally requested the payroll records of Senate Republicans as part of his yearlong investigation into the possible misuse of bonuses for legislative staff. The subpoena from Attorney General Tom Corbett arrived over the weekend, and the rank-and-file Republican senators were told about it Tuesday before they left for a two-week break, said Sen. Joe Scarnati, the chamber's president pro tempore.

"Certainly it wasn't the highlight of my day, but I think it's a part of the overall investigation," said Scarnati, R-Jefferson. "We'll continue to be open and transparent and work with the attorney general and have this resolved quickly."

Corbett, a Republican, has been looking into whether the bonuses were illegally used to reward work performed on political campaigns. His office has sent subpoenas to both the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the House.

The Senate Republicans had been gathering and sharing information with Corbett's office on an informal basis even before they got the subpoena, said a top Senate GOP lawyer, Stephen C. MacNett.

Corbett is seeking a variety of personnel records, such as payroll, bonuses, time off and time worked, Scarnati said.

The House Democratic caucus previously disclosed that some of its employees had received subpoenas to testify before an investigative grand jury, and in August the Attorney General's Office seized 20 boxes of records from a House Democratic research office.

State prosecutors later won a legal battle that granted them access to those records.

Democratic and Republican leaders doled out nearly $4 million in bonuses in 2005-06 to hundreds of legislative employees. Some of the bonuses were well over $10,000 and many of the largest payments went to politically active aides who took leaves of absence to campaign.

Of that, more than $360,000 went to Senate GOP employees, according to records released by the caucus.

The payouts were revealed a year ago, when The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported that House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, had sent bonus recipients a letter telling them to keep quiet about the "extraordinary" bonuses because not everyone got one.