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'[I]t is the concern of myself and many of my colleagues how several people we entrusted with leadership encouraged, ignored or failed to perceive these alleged illegal plots though it is charged that they were carried out by their closest staff members at such a large scale. … Whether the Democratic Leader was knowledgeable of the alleged corruption or ignorant of it, he should be held accountable that it evolved under his leadership. The most honorable approach would be for the leader to acknowledge that gross error and step down. ... I have consulted with enough of my Democratic colleagues to know that the failure to recognize the facts will only exacerbate the damage.' - Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, in an open letter on Thursday By Peter L. DeCoursey and Kari L. Andren Capitolwire HARRISBURG (July 17) – Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, became the third House Democrat on Thursday to call for the resignation or ouster of House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene. To read his letter, CLICK HERE. As dozens of House Democrats in small groups and telephone calls on Wednesday sought to figure out how, when and if they should depose DeWeese from his leadership post, or secure his resignation, more also spoke up to defend DeWeese and criticize a “rush to judgement" on him. The caucus dissension and debate are becoming increasingly public after the Bonusgate grand juries alleged House Democrats paid taxpayer-financed bonuses to staffers for campaign work and used millions of dollars of official work hours for campaigns. DeWeese’s closest legislative ally, former House Minority Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver, was charged with more than 50 felony counts and more than 40 were alleged against former DeWeese chief of staff Mike Manzo. The Associated Press on Wednesday quoted DeWeese as saying charges filed by Attorney General Tom Corbett and a grand jury "report vindicates me and I really believe that our leadership team for the last 17 months has handled this terrible crisis in the best way conceivable.” Readshaw sent an open letter Thursday afternoon with his views the day after Reps. Bill Keller, D-Philadelphia, John Yudichak, D-Luzerne, and Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, all said they called for DeWeese’s resignation six months ago in a closed-door caucus retreat. Readshaw briefly praised DeWeese for what he termed significant legislative accomplishments by the caucus, and then wrote that DeWeese was responsible for what happened when he led the caucus.
DeWeese spokesman Tom Andrews responded: "Bill had a long conversation this afternoon with Harry, his fellow former Marine colleague, and Bill feels very good about the conversation. Majority Leader DeWeese is intensely focused on his job as House Majority Leader. He and the House Democratic Caucus are looking forward to achieving the goals of Pennsylvanians during a productive fall session. Beyond that, he has nothing further to add to what he’s already said about the grand jury’s report." To read the Democratic Caucus reform report sent to members, CLICK HERE. In his open letter, Readshaw wrote: “The grand jury, judges and trial juries will sort out who was or was not guilty of serious criminal offenses, but it is the concern of myself and many of my colleagues how several people we entrusted with leadership encouraged, ignored or failed to perceive these alleged illegal plots though it is charged that they were carried out by their closest staff members at such a large scale. “No matter the level of our individual ethics, when the accused were led to their arraignments, their hands cuffed behind their back, the shame spread to all members of the House and especially the Democratic Caucus. Our credibility as lawmakers was trampled in the public's eyes. It is a humiliation that will take years to reverse. “Likewise, it was a humiliation of every Democratic staff member. The overwhelming majority of our staff are decent, hard-working people despite the misconceptions some in the public may express. How is it that so many of them were allegedly misused in the way described in the Attorney General's report? “Our staff have families, dependents, bills and other obligations like every other worker. Obviously, when faced by pressures to perform certain tasks as alleged, the average staff member who may have been involved could envision the alternative of the loss of their income and health benefits for themselves and their dependants and potentially devastating damage to pension benefits earned through years of honest work. “As is becoming clear from the report and the administrative people charged with involvement, staff in general had no avenue of relief from such pressures that did not involve risk of potential retribution. “Where does the ultimate responsibility for the fostering of such an atmosphere lay? ... In the House Democratic Caucus that responsibility lays with the Democratic Leader -- at least it should, but in this instance, the buck is being passed. Whether the Democratic Leader was knowledgeable of the alleged corruption or ignorant of it, he should be held accountable that it evolved under his leadership. The most honorable approach would be for the leader to acknowledge that gross error and step down. "... I have consulted with enough of my Democratic colleagues to know that the failure to recognize the facts will only exacerbate the damage."
Four House Democrats from a list of 29 supporters supplied by DeWeese staffers as supporting him took different positions than Readshaw, and in some cases, from each other. Of the 29, Capitolwire spoke to 16 so far. Speaking on condition of anonymity, only 10 of them say DeWeese will finish this session as Democratic Leader. But those 10 defend him on and off the record. Rep. James Roebuck, D-Philadelphia, said that he is "basically of the mind that until there is evidence that (DeWeese) has somehow done something that was wrong, I don't know what we're talking about. I'm still supporting him because nothing has changed to not support him. Until there is a specific charge against Bill DeWeese, I support him. If he is charged, at that point he certainly should be gone. That changes the whole thing we're talking about.” Roebuck did say he supports the calls for a caucus meeting to discuss a possible reorganization that could depose DeWeese, because "there's always room for discussion to look at where we are and what we need to do.” Some other lawmakers agreed. “I think it's premature for Leader DeWeese to step down ... DeWeese has brought us to a majority and provided good leadership in working with the governor in working to pass excellent legislation," said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne. "If anything's going to be done, it should be done in private and we should meet as a caucus and discuss openly in our ranks what our future should be.” Pashinski said he would support Keller, Yudichak and Frankel if they wanted to have "an emergency caucus meeting to discuss the things at hand. I would have no problem meeting with all members of the Democratic caucus, in the company of Leader DeWeese, to discuss the future of the caucus, but that should be done in private and I think the request for him to step down is premature. "I do support him ... there's nothing that indicates to me that any kind of request for DeWeese to step down is appropriate at this time. A meeting to discuss, is appropriate.” Pashinski said that the Democratic caucus is a family and: "When there's a problem in the family, the family should get together and discuss it ... and we should make that decision internally." Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, said: “At this point, I have no qualms with what Bill DeWeese has done in my two years If he is found derelict of the duties, in the court or in the caucus, then he should be replaced. Right now, I am keeping an open mind, but from what I have seen in 18 months, he has led a caucus that has produced for the people of Pennsylvania. Of course, we have concerns about what happened before many of us were elected in 2006, and I am outraged by these allegations. We are going to sit down as a caucus and make sure we keep the best people. And I will go into that process with an open eye.
“I wlll not prejudge someone until I have all the facts, and let’s be honest, the facts are not favorable so far.” Asked if he would vote for DeWeese to stay in his post in a reorganization vote, Conklin said he was “not a guaranteed vote for DeWeese, nor will I throw him under the bus, either.” Rep. Christopher Sainato, D-Lawrence, was not a supporter of DeWeese when the caucus elected DeWeese as their leader. But Sainato said he's not among those who are now asking DeWeese to step down. “If he's charged, he should step down," Sainato said. "That has not happened at this point. "He was the leader who was elected at the will of the caucus and at this point I'm supporting him as the leader of the caucus. If people want to make a change, they can make one in November. That's the next leadership election ... Then everyone who wants to run can run.” Responding to Frankel and other Democrats who have said DeWeese could put the House Democratic majority at risk in the fall elections, Sainato said: “Bill DeWeese isn't going to make someone here lose. I can't see (that) anyone is going to lose their election because of Bill DeWeese or any other elected official or even Gov. Rendell ... Each person is running on their own record. They need to get out there and explain to voters what they've done and what they've accomplished.”
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