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State Rep. Asks Top Turnpike Officials to Resign

With the Pennsylvania Turnpike deep in debt, and a toll increase set for January, state Rep. Peter Daley calls for the commission's top officials to resign.

 

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — Citing escalating debt and new borrowing, state Rep. Peter Daley, D-Washington, on Wednesday called for two of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s top officials to resign.

In a letter, Daley wrote that CEO Roger Nutt and COO Craig Shuey should leave, because they showed a “lack of leadership, inability to manage funds and failure as a fiscal watchdog for the Turnpike Commission.

Daley pointed to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which discussed the Turnpike Commission’s $7 billion debt.

They need to step down, there needs to be a revamping of how we do business with the Turnpike Commission,” Daley told PA Independent on Wednesday.

Daley also called for internal audit of the turnpike and an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and the auditor general.

Carl Defebo, spokesman for the Turnpike Commission, said Nutt and Shuey would remain employed at the commission for now, but declined to give further comment.

In January, Auditor General Jack Wagner said Act 44 of 2007 — which required the turnpike to pay the state Department of Transportation $450 million annually — was the major reason why the Turnpike Commission was “drowning in debt.”

PennDOT spent those funds on mass transit and various road and bridge projects statewide.

The commission’s total debt has increased from $2.6 billion to $7.3 billion since Act 44 was passed, said Wagner, who described Act 44 as creating a “debt time bomb” for the commission, resulting in higher tolls every year.

The Turnpike Commission in July announced that tolls would increase again in January 2013, the fifth time since Act 44’s passage. At the time of the announcement, Nutt said the toll increase was needed to cover the obligatory payments set up by Act 44.

Daley voted for Act 44 in July 2007, but neither Nutt nor Shuey was on the commission.

Daley on Wednesday said the Turnpike Commission’s problems predated that vote.

Act 44 may have helped to exacerbate this problem, but the problem was there before we passed that legislation,” he said.

Gov. Tom Corbett appointed Nutt to CEO of the Turnpike Commission in March 2011. Nutt is the father of Brian Nutt, a former chief of staff and political adviser to Corbett.

Shuey was named COO of the commission in January 2011.

Officials at PennDOT were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Contact Eric at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.

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