Former Harrisburg mayor Stephen Reed broke his silence about the city's incinerator debt crisis during a state Senate committee hearing Thursday, but his testimony did little to satisfy critics.
After Reed agreed to tell the truth, Senator Mike Folmer asked him a question many waited a long time to hear.
"No one did anything wrong? If that's true, how did the city, authority, and county end up with the huge financial challenges they are now facing?" Folmer asked.
"Because, the initial cost estimate to retrofit and expand the Harrisburg resource recovery facility was significantly under-estimated," Reed replied. "That is the genesis of all of this."
Reed referred to several deals surrounding the overhaul and retrofit of the incinerator in 2003. Former Harrisburg Authority board member Fred Clark worked for Reynolds Construction at the same time he was chair of the board, according to a forensic audit with accused Clark of double-dipping and brokering the deal that also paid him.
Clark while under oath denied any wrongdoing.
"I, Fred Clark, have never spoken to one board member, one executive director, not the mayor, not any official who, or in part with Reynolds, doing business with the authority or Barlow," Clark said. "Never happened, not even with Barlow."
Barlow was another company hired to retrofit the incinerator. Clark is said to have brokered that deal as well.
Both Clark and Reed deflected questions by claiming they "had no idea" the costs would be so high.
"I am more than fully convinced that a governmental body owning and operating a facility that is that sophisticated is probably not a good idea," Reed said in hindsight.
Former Harrisburg Authority member Eric Papenfuse and current member Bill Cluck both testified that each alerted the proper authorities about possible illegal deals. Both claimed no one would listen.
Papenfuse and Cluck asked the Senate committee to subpoena James Ellison to testify at the next hearing on October 29. Papenfuse described Ellison as the "mastermind" behind Linda Thompson's mayoral campaign. He accused Ellison of cooperating with Reed and others to get Thompson elected so she could take the brunt of the debt crisis.
A graph presented during the hearing dating back to 1998 showed the biggest debt shortfall happened in 2010 when Thompson took office.
Senator John Eichelberger and Senator John Blake lead the committee hearing.
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