House GOP Leader Smith’s Statement on Perzel Indictment

Member Group : News Releases

HARRISBURG – House Republican Leader Sam Smith (R-Jefferson County) issued the following statement regarding criminal charges announced today by Attorney General Tom Corbett:

"Our Leadership Team has viewed this investigation, from the start, as a turning point and catalyst for change that will result in more efficient and effective government.

"As to today’s charges by the attorney general we, just as many Pennsylvanians, find them to be alarming and shocking.

"They are alarming in that if they are found to be substantiated by a judge and jury, it would represent an unacceptable breach of the public’s trust.

"They are shocking because our caucus has been committed to keeping the legislative activities apart from campaign activities.

"The grand jury’s findings have highlighted the lack of trust the public has in government today. We understand that. House Republicans, as a caucus, have long understood there is a difference between legislative work and campaign work.

"For more than a decade, House Republicans have had an established campaign office, fully stocked with office supplies, computers and campaign-paid staff. It is a place where all campaign activities take place and every caucus member and staff is aware of. It was always my understanding that we paid people – with campaign dollars – to work on campaigns and did not use legislative money to pay for that work. And it made sense as the separate office allowed members and volunteers to work off-hours – and off state property.

"Members of the Republican Caucus have understood there is a line between legislative work and campaign work. There is always some gray area, but our continuous goal is to narrow the gray area gap. When problems or questions arose, we tried to fix them, remaining conscious and mindful of the public interest.

"Since the 1980s, House Republicans have had a written employee handbook that includes a code of conduct, leave, pay and technology usage policies. These policies and procedures were crafted years ago and were aimed at protecting the public’s interest. They are now constantly updated as issues or problems are brought to our attention.

"Now, as a result of the investigation, new policies have been implemented. For instance, as a caucus, we banned contracting with service providers working for HRCC, and vice-versa – without exception.

"HRCC now has a fully campaign-dedicated executive director, political director and finance director whose only jobs are at HRCC. These positions eliminate the need for caucus employees to shuttle back and forth between payrolls and jobs.

"The caucus has also established a ‘Caucus Ethics Officer’ in the Legal Department to address questions raised by employees so that no staffer has any reason to feel uncomfortable about doing his or her job. If someone has any doubt as to whether they have been instructed to do something illegal or unethical, there is an immediate source available for consultation. We are committed to transparency in the way our members serve the public.

"Generally speaking, these House Republican policies and procedures have worked, and, with continual monitoring and updating, we anticipate they will continue to work when adhered to.

"From the start of this investigation, our fundamental goal was to cooperate.

"House Republicans met with investigators, compiled what amounted to millions of documents, electronic devices, and provided requested information as directed by Leadership. At all times, Leadership was clear in their direction to fully cooperate with the Office of Attorney General. We are troubled by the obstruction allegations contained in the presentment.

"The public has lost faith in their government. The findings of this investigation have highlighted that loss of faith. Since taking over as Leader of the House Republican Caucus in 2007, I have worked together with our new Leadership Team to change how things are done in Harrisburg. Our caucus has responded, but more needs done. We know this, we understand."

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