Civil liability limited in Harrisburg debt crisis

     Reporters flank former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed after his arrest on bribery, theft and corruption charges. (Diana Robinson/WITF)

    Reporters flank former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed after his arrest on bribery, theft and corruption charges. (Diana Robinson/WITF)

    County and city officials and some advisors are protected because they were released from liability as part of the city’s debt reorganization.

    Private sector parties blamed, in part, for Harrisburg’s financial crisis still do business. They work, speak publicly, sit on boards — in the capital city, the Commonwealth and elsewhere.

    Gov. Wolf and officials with the state Department of Community & Economic Development say they plan to go after some of them. Pursuing civil damages for Harrisburg’s fiscal mess has been part of the distressed city’s recovery plan all along, including how to split any proceeds.

    A request for proposals from experts to handle the case is posted this week on the Department of General Services website, first reported by PennLive.

    DCED spokesman Lyndsay Kensinger confirmed the state published the ad because officials had reached an impasse in negotiations with the professionals potentially liable for their role in creating Harrisburg’s massive debt.

    Current and former elected and appointed city and county officials, Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp employees and their agents are not being pursued for civil damages, thanks to a release that was part of the city’s debt reorganization 19 months ago.

    The release doesn’t mention criminal penalties, though. Those are still forthcoming against people in addition to Mayor Stephen Reed, according to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, her agents and their grand jury investigation report.

    The jury’s report names most witnesses who testified since January 2014 before the 23-person panel convened in Pittsburgh.

    Reed was charged last week with 499 counts of corruption, bribery and theft. He’s out on $150,000 bail.

    The seven-term mayor, who served six years in the statehouse and three as county commissioner as well, is due to appear again Sept. 14 in Dauphin County.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.