The prosecution's star witness is on the stand today in the legislative corruption trial of former State Representative Mike Veon of Beaver Falls and 3 former aides. They are charged with using state taxpayer money for bonuses given to public employees to do campaign work. Mike Manzo is the former chief of staff to Representative Bill DeWeese who was House Democratic leader during the bonus period. Manzo is an admitted co-conspirator in the scheme to use $1.5 million in tax money for the illegal bonuses and is testifying as part of a plea bargain.
DUQ's Capitol reporter Scott Detrow is covering the trial and says that Manzo testified that the motivation for the bonus scheme was simple to win back control of the House; but they needed bodies in the field and tried pushing and cajoling to get people to volunteer to do campaign work, but that wasn't happening. Manzo says once they started offering financial incentive, people started coming out of the woodwork.
According to reporter Detrow, Veon's defense attorney, Dan Raynak has been raising many objections to the e-mails to Veon that indicate that certain legislative aides were doing a good job with campaign work and suggesting they get bonuses. Raynak is questioning the authenticity of the e-mails.
Manzo says while he was DeWeese's chief of staff, he worked with Veon on the bonuses but "I had to believe in my heart of hearts that he (DeWeese) knew people were being compensated for campaign work.
The defense has yet to question Manzo.