Pa. House Democrats' bill for bonus probe is $1.4M
7/31/2008, 3:20 p.m. EDT
By MARK SCOLFOROThe Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The state House Democratic caucus disclosed Thursday that it has paidlawyers and consultants more than $1.4 million in public money for help responding to aninvestigation into whether government funds and resources were illegally used for politicalcampaigns.The figures obtained by The Associated Press include $618,000 the caucus has paid so far to about adozen lawyers who represented more than 135 caucus employees and a small number of Democraticstate representatives.The caucus also has paid about $800,000 to Chadwick AssociatesInc., a Washington, D.C., firm that is helping it respond to theattorney general's investigation."We understand that this is a substantial expenditure of public funds, but we believe strongly that it was entirely appropriate under the circumstances to facilitate the truthful cooperation of the caucus'staff with the attorney general's investigation," said Bill Chadwick, a lawyer and president of the firmthat bears his name.Caucus employees approached by investigators or subpoenaed could seek representation by contacting Bill Sloane, the caucus' chief counsel and compliance and ethics director. Sloane,Chadwick and another lawyer worked together to determine which lawyer to provide.Chadwick said the outside lawyers were selected, in part, for a willingness to be cooperative with theattorney general's office, a "rapport" with state prosecutors and relevant expertise."This is not a case for 'My Cousin Vinny,'" he said. "You need someone who understands grand jury investigations."Caucus records show payments to 13 lawyers or law firms. The largest recipient was the Philadelphiafirm Conrad, O'Brien, Gellman & Rohn, which has received $320,000.Billing records show lawyers were paid to review documents and press accounts, attend meetingsand legal proceedings and make phone calls. They were reimbursed for meals, travel and otherexpenses. Hourly rates varied considerably, in some cases reaching $400.Conrad, O'Brien chairman Jim Rohn said the firm represented about 45 current and former caucusemployees "and took them through the process of cooperating with the government and telling thetruth." He declined to identify the employees.
Earlier this month, 12 people associated with the House Democratic caucus were charged with theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy. Defendants include former Whip Mike Veon,current Rep. Sean Ramaley, the former chief of staff to Majority Leader Bill DeWeese andother high-ranking caucus employees. All the charged employees are either suspended without pay or were forced out in November.