Pa. Turnpike Commission fires 12 over abuses

Posted: September 26, 2010

Officials at the Pennsylvania Turnpike have fired 12 employees in recent months as part of continuing investigations into theft, waste, and corruption.

Seven toll collectors, one equipment operator, and four management employees, including the turnpike's director of maintenance, "have been terminated as a result of findings from the OIG [Office of Inspector General] and other internal investigations," Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo said.

In addition, "the commission this year has referred a number of cases to external agencies for further investigation and possible prosecution, but we cannot provide details as the cases involve ongoing investigations," DeFebo said.

Several of the fired turnpike managers were politically tied to well-known Philadelphia figures, including U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and jailed former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo.

All of the dismissals involved "theft of turnpike funds, time, materials, or equipment," DeFebo said, without saying exactly what the violations were. The toll collectors were accused of taking money.

The most recent dismissals came Sept. 8, when two managers at the eastern regional office in King of Prussia were summarily escorted from the building by investigators.

Turnpike workers identified the two as Melvin Shelton, assistant director of projects, and John Travelina, workers compensation field representative.

Travelina served for years as a director of Fumo's nonprofit organization, Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods. He is a nephew of longtime Fumo friend Roseanne Pauciello, a ward leader in South Philadelphia.

Shelton was a ward chairman in Philadelphia's 34th Ward in Overbrook, where Brady is the ward leader.

Brady was a turnpike commissioner from 1991 until his election to Congress in 1998. Brady's son, Robert F. Brady, is a top executive at the turnpike, serving as its director of operations for the eastern region, where Shelton and Travelina worked.

In early August, Michael P. Haney, the turnpike's director of maintenance, was dismissed for alleged theft of services.

Shelton and Travelina could not be reached for comment. A phone message left at Haney's Montgomery County home was not returned.

In April, a district maintenance superintendent in Northeast Pennsylvania, Joe Soriano, was dismissed, reportedly for using turnpike time and employees to work on his race car at the turnpike's District 4 maintenance facility.

Soriano could not be reached Friday.

The dismissals of the four managers were first reported in Toll Roads News, an Web-based industry newsletter.

The turnpike, long a refuge for patronage workers and political favorites, has been under increased scrutiny in recent months.

Last year, the turnpike's first-ever inspector general, Anthony L. Maniscola, prompted the termination of 32 turnpike workers on allegations of various offenses, most involving theft.

A state grand jury in Pittsburgh and the FBI also are investigating allegations of corruption at the turnpike, and several former employees have sued the Turnpike Commission, contending they were fired for trying to expose fraud at the agency.

Mitchell Rubin, a former Turnpike Commission chairman, was sentenced in March to serve six months of house arrest and repay $150,000, in a plea deal related to federal charges that he obtained $150,000 through Fumo, a friend, for work he did not do.

Maniscola, a former investigator for the state Attorney General's Office, was named inspector general in February 2009.

Last February, he said his office's investigations had sent several cases to state police and the Attorney General's Office for possible prosecution.

The turnpike has established phone and e-mail tip lines for employees and residents to use in reporting suspected fraud, theft, or corruption.

They may call 1-888-317-3110, send an e-mail to tip_box@paturnpike.com, or write to PTC Tip-Box, Box 19, Highspire, Pa. 17034-0019.


Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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