Ethics complaints lodged in sting case

Posted: March 18, 2014

HARRISBURG - A longtime good-government activist in Harrisburg filed ethics complaints Tuesday against leading Philadelphia Democrats ensnared in an undercover sting investigation by the state Attorney General's office.

The complaints filed by Gene Stilp, a onetime Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor and Congress, came in response to a report in Sunday's Inquirer that at least five public officials, including four state representatives, were captured on tape accepting money or gifts.

Stilp filed two complaints, one with the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, and another with Ethics Committee in the House of Representatives. He is asking both bodies to launch formal investigations.

At the same time, he is calling on the four legislators to consider resigning.

"Save the citizens of the Commonwealth some time," said Stilp urged the committee in a statement released Tuesday. "Let someone who is not inclined to make these types of mistakes serve in the House. Take your medicine and move on."

Sources familiar with the investigation have told The Inquirer that prosecutors amassed 400 hours of audio and videotape that documented at least four Democrats taking payments in cash and money orders, and, in one case, a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet.

People with knowledge of the inquiry said those caught on tape include former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, who acknowledged that Ali gave her the bracelet.

Four state lawmakers also took money, the sources said: State Rep. Ron Waters accepted multiple payments totaling $7,650. Rep. Vanessa Brown took $4,000. Rep. Michelle Brownlee took $3,500; and state Rep. Louise Bishop accepted $1,500.

The investigation began in late 2010, when Gov. Corbett was attorney general. When Kathleen Kane took office in January of last year, she shuttered the probe. She has said she believed the investigation was poorly managed, marred by racism and relied on a confidential informant with little credibility.

Top prosecutors who launched the sting say they believe it was solid and contend that Kane, a Democrat, shut it down for political reasons. The Attorney General has vigorously denied that.

In his complaint to the House Ethics Committee, Stilp urged its members to investigate the four legislators, and to show that they take the allegations seriously by filing their own complaint urging the State Ethics Commission to take up the case.

"This investigation could possibly turn up more of such reported alleged illegal activity in other sectors of the House, and I would urge the House Ethics Committee to follow the trail wherever it leads," Stilp wrote.

House Ethics Committee officials could not be reached for immediate comment.

Stilp's complaint to the state Ethics Commission asks for an investigation into all four legislators, as well as Tynes.

acouloumbis@phillynews.com

717-787-5934 @AngelasInk

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