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Rep Mann, a top aide surface in Bonusgate emails

DeWeese OK'd extending Peter Schweyer's employment, records show By John L. Micek Call Harrisburg Bureau April 7, 2009 HARRISBURG – In 2005, then-House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese kept a top aide to Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh, on the job after getting an e-mail extolling the aide's campaign work for another Democrat, records show. ''He is knocking [on] doors … and has helped Jenn put together a fundraiser for our candidate,'' DeWeese's then-chief of staff, Michael Manzo, wrote of Peter Schweyer, then a contract worker for the House Democratic Caucus, and now an Allentown city councilman and still one of Mann's top aides. His contract was about to expire. ''Jenn Mann is asking that you consider extending the employment of Peter Schweyer for 60 more days,'' Manzo wrote that June. ''She said she is working very hard to find him a job.'' Mann said Monday that her efforts to find Schweyer a job had nothing to do with politicking. At the time, Schweyer was among scores of House Democratic staffers working on a special election between Democrat Linda Minger and Republican Karen Beyer for a Lehigh Valley House seat. Manzo also told DeWeese that Mann had donated $3,500 to the House Democratic Campaign Committee toward the special election. A day after receiving Manzo's message, DeWeese wrote back with a single-word answer: ''Ok.'' Within hours, Manzo e-mailed another House staffer and told him to keep Schweyer, Mann's aide since 2004, under contract.

Minger, the ''our candidate'' in Manzo's note, lost to Beyer in a district that includes parts of Lehigh County and a sliver of Northampton County. What DeWeese knew about campaign work by state employees is an open question as a probe continues into whether House Democrats used tax dollars to elect their candidates. DeWeese, of Greene County, has said he knew nothing about any such practice. Asked about Manzo's e-mail Monday, Schweyer said his work for Minger was done on his own time. He received no bonus for helping, state records show. Mann said she wanted to hire Schweyer full time or find him work elsewhere in the Democratic Caucus, based on his performance, not any politicking. ''I didn't write it. I didn't receive it,'' Mann said of Manzo's e-mail to DeWeese. ''I can't control the nature of it. Pete was hired to do his legislative duties, and that's what he did. If he wanted to work on a campaign or get a part-time job at a department store, he was free to do that.'' The e-mails were provided to The Morning Call by Brett Cott, one of a dozen people once connected to the House Democratic Caucus who face criminal charges stemming from an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption. Attorney General Tom Corbett is probing allegations that public money was used for political work, which is illegal. The probe has been dubbed Bonusgate because some employees received taxpayer-funded bonuses. The e-mails were among many turned over to defense attorneys by Corbett's office as a part of the discovery phase of the legal proceedings against Cott and others. Cott's former boss, ex-Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, was among those charged, as was Manzo, who has since pleaded guilty and implicated DeWeese. The race between Minger and Beyer figured prominently in a grand jury presentment brought by Corbett in July 2008. In it, the Republican attorney general alleged that the Minger race became known as an easy place for legislative staffers to make extra cash. Some 170 Democratic staffers signed up to help Minger and some were illegally rewarded with taxpayer-funded bonuses, it is alleged. DeWeese, now House majority whip, has not been charged in connection with Corbett's nearly two-year-old public corruption probe. In a statement, DeWeese's spokesman, Tom Andrews, said nothing improper had occurred regarding extending Schweyer's state role.

''On its face, the e-mail shows Rep. DeWeese responding to a request from one of his members,'' Andrews wrote. ''To suggest anything more has no basis in fact.Â…State law does not preclude caucus employees from doing political work on their own time.'' WHO: Peter Schweyer, Allentown councilman and a top aide to state Rep. Jennifer Mann, DLehigh. WHAT: Mann sought, and received, permission to keep Schweyer under contract after a Democratic staffer pointed to his campaign work. WHEN: 2005 race between Democrat Linda Minger and Republican Karen Beyer, the eventual winner. WHERE: Race was in part of Lehigh County and a sliver of Northampton County. WHY: Defendant in state Bonusgate probe releases e-mails that Attorney General Tom Corbett turned over to his defense attorney.