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Harrisburg's Wild West artifacts to be auctioned - abc27 WHTM

Harrisburg's Wild West artifacts to be auctioned

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Harrisburg's Wild West artifacts have been corralled by a county judge, and will finally be auctioned off, Mayor Linda Thompson announced Tuesday.

Old sheriffs badges and vintage pistols are just a couple of the Wild West museum artifacts collecting dust in storage have now been approved for auction -- but not before a fight between Thompson and Harrisburg Controller Dan Miller.

"We can't afford to delay this any further because our goal is to get ourselves out of debt," said Mayor Thompson during a Tuesday press conference.

For nearly a year, Miller refused to sign a contract with the Gurnsey's Auction House to sell the items. Miller claimed city council had to approve the contract. Thompson pointed out that they did in 2006. Miller argued the city had to estimate how much will go to the budget and stood firm on his stance. Thompson took her fight to court.

Last week, Dauphin County judge Bernard Coates Jr. ordered Miller to sign the auction house contract. Thompson said Miller has no choice or he will "be held in contempt of court."

Originally, the auction was planned for this past July. Litigation battles delayed the sale. A reason why Thompson blamed Miller for the city losing out on cash now.

"Had the auction occurred as planned, millions of dollars would have entered the treasury… two months ago," she said.

Now, Thompson said whatever the city generates from the auction will be used to pay down the $7 million owed for a housing lease for the fire and police safety bureaus.

In a rare occurrence, Harrisburg City Council member Brad Koplinksy was on the mayor's side.

"I'll agree with the mayor 100% when she's right, and she was right in this instance," said Koplinksy.

Everyone involved does blame former Mayor Steve Reed for putting the city in the position to begin with. In the mid-90's Reed began purchasing museum artifacts with his 'Special Projects Fund,' money he borrowed from the Harrisburg Authority.

Records show Reed spent $8.3 million for the artifact. Now, the Gurnsey's Auction House estimated the value of the lot is $3 to $6 million. Take out 12 to 19 percent commission for the auction house and the rest will be divvied up between the city and HA. Authority member Bill Cluck attended the press conference.

"The bottom line is … we intend to be cooperative with the city so that the maximum revenue goes to the city to pay down the city's debt," said Cluck.

Thompson believes once Miller signs the contract this issue will be resolved.

"We would hope that the controller would respect the judge's decision so he would sign the agreement so we can all move past this and move on."

Dan Miller told abc27's Dave Marcheskie he did not speak to his attorney nor did he sign the contract.

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