Emergency meeting for missing DRPA e-mails?

Posted: July 05, 2014

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who chairs the board of the Delaware River Port Authority, said Thursday that he was considering a request for an emergency board meeting to address the apparent loss of internal e-mails that were subject to a federal criminal investigation.

The request for the emergency meeting came from Philadelphia union leader John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, who represents Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on the DRPA board.

"All of the facts need to be presented to and discussed among the entire board in an open and transparent manner," Dougherty said in a letter Monday to Cawley. "To do anything less is to invite further scrutiny from law enforcement agencies and lend credence to the growing speculation that certain former and/or current DRPA officials may have obstructed justice."

The Inquirer reported last week that e-mails sought in a federal probe of the DRPA appeared to have been erased.

DRPA officials said the loss of the e-mails was inadvertent, and blamed faulty software.

The e-mails were among communications and documents that federal investigators instructed the DRPA to preserve in March 2013 as part of an investigation into millions of dollars in politically connected "economic-development" spending by the DRPA.

The Corbett administration notified the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia last month of the missing e-mails, following an internal report from a lawyer hired by the DRPA.

Gov. Corbett, along with Gov. Christie, oversees the bistate agency that operates four toll bridges and the PATCO commuter rail line between Philadelphia and South Jersey.

"We received Mr. Dougherty's request and are currently reviewing it," Cawley said through a spokesman Thursday. "This matter is the subject of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation with confidentiality requirements set forth by the Department of Justice.

"Because the DRPA intends to continue fully cooperating with the federal government, we must review their requirements before providing Mr. Dougherty with a response."

Dougherty could not be reached Thursday for comment.

In his letter, Doughtery requested that lawyers hired by the DRPA to represent it in the federal probe attend the emergency board session to answer questions about the lost e-mails.

"Both Auditor General DePasquale and I are uncomfortable approving legal bills put before the board when we have no idea what tasks the outside legal counsel is being asked to perform," Dougherty wrote. "We request that all attorneys of the Duane Morris law firm who are involved in this process be present at the emergency board session to answer the board's questions."

The lost e-mails apparently were deleted from the computer of John A. Rogale, the DRPA's director of labor contract compliance, during an 18-month period in 2012 and 2013.

Rogale, who retired from the DRPA in April 2013, was the former president of the Washington Township Council and an aide to John Matheussen during Matheussen's tenure as a Republican state senator.

Matheussen brought Rogale with him to the DRPA when he became chief executive of the agency in 2003. Matheussen resigned in January when Christie appointed him a Superior Court judge.

Officials at the DRPA said that Rogale was not involved with economic-development spending at the DRPA, and that the loss of the e-mails apparently was caused by a malfunction of software that was supposed to preserve all e-mails.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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