Republican and Democratic state lawmakers today unveiled a proposal to create a Public Integrity Commission to investigate government corruption. With legal proceedings still pending in the legislative Bonusgate scandal and a Luzerne County judge recently found guilty of taking kickbacks in exchange for convicting juveniles and sending them to privately-operated prisons, the sponsors of the measure decided it was time to tackle corruption.
Tim Potts, president of the nonpartisan citizens' group Democracy Rising, says the Public Integrity Commission (PIC) is "long overdue" and is needed because none of the scandals that have come to light are the result of investigations by the attorney general, the auditor general or the state police....
"The bonus scandal itself only came about because of an accident. A letter got leaked that wasn't supposed to be leaked, and that's what got now Governor (and former Attorney General) Corbett working on it. But none of the law enforcement agencies had the kind of power and exercised the kind of power that the Public Integrity Commission will."
The 7 member commission will be named by the governor who will select from a list of nominees from a panel that includes district attorneys, law school deans and citizen advocates. Potts says no political party can have a majority on the PIC.
The commission, which would have to be confirmed by the Senate, will be paid for by making permanent a $2 surcharge on court filings. Potts says it will have the authority to investigate alleged corruption at the state, county and local levels...
"One of the most important parts about this is that the Integrity Commission will have its own cadre of trained law enforcement investigators who will have the power to bring a case all the way to the point of prosecution and then give the case to the (state) attorney general or the district attorney or whoever the appropriate law enforcement prosecutors might be."
Potts says with 50 co-sponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate he believes the proposal has a good chance for passage..."I think that most lawmakers especially those elected since 2006 (after the pay raise controversy), understand they've got to deliver on higher standards of public integrity and this is one way to do it."