As Perzel trial nears, grand jury’s recommended reforms ignored

    Former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel faces trial on corruption charges the day after Labor Day. Three of his co-defendants, including his brother-in-law, may testify against him.

    But while the criminal case proceeds, legislative reforms recommended by an investigating grand jury have been ignored.

    It was nearly two years ago that Perzel, a once-powerful Philadelphia Republican was charged along with nine others with using $10 million worth of taxpayer-funded staff, computer time and other resources for partisan campaign work.

    Nils Frederiksen of the state attorney general’s office said two defendants, including Perzel’s brother-in-law Samuel Stokes, are no longer contesting the charges.

    “Both entered pleas of guilty to felony charges related either to conspiracy or conflict of interest,” Frederiksen said. “Both have also agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.”

    A third defendant is also expected to plead guilty.

    The grand jury that brought the criminal charges also recommended that the Legislature put an end to its practice of handing millions of taxpayer dollars to partisan caucuses.

    Lawmakers have ignored that suggestion. Tim Potts, co-founder of the group Democracy Now, said the kind of partisanship practiced in the Capitol leads inevitably to trouble.

    “When things get so partisan, you see the temptation to use taxpayer money to do anything,” Potts said. “You have so many people on the staff who are there primarily for political reasons. And there needs to be a much brighter line between what is governmental work and what is political work.”

    Perzel’s attorney, Brian McMonagle couldn’t be reached for comment. Perzel told the Philadelphia Daily News he will not seek a deal with prosecutors.

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