House speakers get reprieve from criminal history plaques

Harrisburg

FILE- In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo an America flag flies at the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The portraits of three former Pennsylvania House speakers who went to prison on corruption-related charges have received a reprieve of sorts.

In one of his last acts in office, Mike Turzai, who in June resigned from his post as House speaker and his House seat, quietly ordered the removal of the plaques describing the former speakers’ criminal histories that had hung from their portraits in the Capitol’s marble corridors since 2014.

House Clerk Dave Reddecliff said Turzai, a Republican, requested the plaques’ removal before he resigned, Pennlive.com reports. The plaques were removed with no fanfare or public notification.

Turzai, who took a job as general counsel for the Pittsburgh-based natural gas division of Essential Utilities Inc., declined comment to Pennlive.

The plaques had been hung under the portraits of Republican John Perzel and Democrats Herbert Fineman and Bill DeWeese while Republican Sam Smith was speaker.

The idea for the plaques was a compromise with lawmakers who wanted the portraits removed, Smith told Pennlive. At the time, critics had said the portraits of convicted former lawmakers shouldn’t be displayed near the likes of Ben Franklin.

On the Senate side, a criminal history plaque continues to hang beneath the portrait of Robert J. Mellow, a former Senate president pro tempore.

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