Capitol Roundup: Auditor General livid at Wyoming County over unclaimed state funds

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — Auditor General Eugene DePasquale this week said he is furious at Wyoming County officials for continuing to shirk their responsibility to claim $226,962 in bridge inspection reimbursements from PennDOT.

The situation was revealed in an audit released last week.

“I’m livid at county officials, who seem unfazed about ignoring $226,962 in available funding — instead of passing the buck, they should be claiming it,” DePasquale said in a news release. “It’s dereliction of duty to fail to obtain every cent of gas tax funding so that residents and first responders can avoid long detours because of bridges and roads in need of repair.”

The audit found the money was not claimed because county officials failed to submit the required paperwork for more than 11 years, spanning his and the previous auditor general’s administrations.

“I really shouldn’t have to tell county officials how to do their jobs, but my office is working with PennDOT to make sure the county gets every dollar still available to be claimed,” he added. “County residents pay gas taxes every time they visit the pump, so why can’t county officials bother to fill out the paperwork to reap the benefits?”

Five previous audits, dating to 2007, have recommended officials in Wyoming County seek the reimbursements. It is unclear how much PennDOT will reimburse because some of the claims are so old.

Wyoming County officials offered no explanation why they did not request the reimbursements, or what they intend to do in the future, according to the audit which examined the liquid fuels fund in 2016.

The audit also found Wyoming County officials failed to designate nearly $100,000 in liquid fuels funds to road projects. Because county officials failed to designate the funding, PennDOT guidelines call for the county commissioners to distribute half of the unencumbered, or undesignated, funds to the municipalities in what is called a forced distribution.

The liquid fuels funding that PennDOT provides comes from a one-half cent tax collected on each gallon of gas purchased at the pump.

The Wyoming County Liquid Fuels audit report is available online at: www.PaAuditor.gov.

Shapiro: Man violated

the Stolen Valor Act

Attorney General Josh Shapiro this week announced his Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs have settled a case against a Pennsylvania man for lying about his military service and violating the Stolen Valor Act.

Tapan Patel, of Bucks County, allegedly made misrepresentations of his military service for the purpose of obtaining employment. Patel was in fact a former Junior Enlisted Servicemember who never served in combat. When applying for jobs, Patel was dishonest about his status as an officer, lied about combat service, and misrepresented various awards and decorations including the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, and “Navy War Medal,” which is not an actual award of the U.S. Navy.

“This man’s decision to lie about military service and awards for personal gain is disgraceful,” Shapiro said. “His actions not only violate the Stolen Valor Act, they dishonor the heroic women and men who have sacrificed to serve our country and who have been awarded the military’s highest awards. By holding him accountable, my Office is working to protect the honors our veterans have earned.”

The settlement, an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, reached with Patel provides for $10,000 in civil penalties and costs, $2,500 of which is suspended. Any violations of the agreement would subject Patel to the $2,500 civil penalty as well as an enhanced penalty of $5,000.

If you suspect that someone is misrepresenting their status as a service member or a veteran or the nature of their goods or services, or if you are a victim of a veterans’ scam, file a complaint by calling 717-783-1944 or emailing [email protected]

Pa. health secretary warns

of dangers of concussions

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine and Penn State Health officials this week emphasized the dangerous impact of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) on student athletes as preparation for the winter sports season takes place.

“Student athletes need to be aware of the dangerous effects of concussions and traumatic brain injuries,” Levine said. “Taking precautionary measures to protect themselves during play is vital to their overall health and academic performance. TBIs can occur in any sport, but collisions in sports such as basketball, ice hockey and wrestling are common during the winter sports season.”

A concussion is a type of TBI that changes the way the brain normally works. It occurs when the brain moves rapidly within the skull from a bump, blow, or hit to the head. A concussion can also occur from an external jolt to the body without directly hitting the head. Once the injury occurs, the brain is at risk of developing further injury and is sensitive to any increased stress until it fully recovers.

Symptoms can show up immediately or may not appear until hours or even days after the injury. Concussion symptoms, such as headaches and disorientation, may quickly disappear but can return. Other symptoms of a concussion include:

• Loss of consciousness

• Seizures

• Increased sleepiness

• Persistent vomiting

• Dazed or stunned appearance

• Clumsy movements

• Being forgetful or confused

• Mood behavior (personality) changes

After a concussion, students often report experiencing diminished mental energy and becoming cognitively fatigued more easily. The state recommends that every school district establish a Concussion Management Team.

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By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.