2011-02-17 / Local & State

Pa. Gov.’s Cabinet Choices List Financial Ties

By Peter Jackson

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Most of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Cabinet nominees are already in place in an acting capacity, working with the new governor to shape the administration’s policies and establishing themselves as the bosses of the departments that make up state government.

At the same time, they are getting acquainted with the state senators whose support they will need to win confirmation.

And to enlighten taxpayers concerned about who will be minding the store in Harrisburg – and spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars – they are filing mandatory statements of financial interest with the State Ethics Commission.

The statements – searchable online at http://bit.ly/gnIM2F – are more like rough sketches than fine portraits of the nominees, but they contain interesting facts that can be mined by any citizen curious about potential conflicts of interest.

A good example is the statement filed by C. Alan Walker, Corbett’s first Cabinet nominee and his choice to head the Department of Community and Economic Development, which oversees a large array of programs that provide aid to communities and businesses.

Walker, 66, is a former coal industry executive from Clearfield who has a long business resume and a reputation as an activist in community and civic organizations. He is a past chairman of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and a generous supporter of the Republican Party who state records show contributed more than $90,000 to Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign.

His statement of financial interest lists 13 companies as direct or indirect sources of income in 2010, including six in which he held at least a 50 percent stake, and identifies a halfdozen other companies of which he is the sole or majority owner.

Walker’s companies all currently function as holding companies for his land, buildings and other property, said Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley, to whom Walker referred questions about his business interests. Harley also said Walker stopped taking any salary from them in December, when he was nominated.

None of Walker’s companies does business with the state and if they do, he would recuse himself from such transactions, Harley said.

Also referring questions about his statement to the governor’s office was Daniel P. Meuser, Corbett’s prospective revenue secretary – Pennsylvania’s tax collector.

Meuser stepped down in 2008 as president of Pride Mobility Products Corp., an Exeter-based company that sells power chairs, scooters and other equipment for people with physical problems that limit their mobility. He retained nearly 5 percent equity in the company last year.

Meuser, 46, also held a 20 percent share in two real- estate companies – Commonwealth Resources in Honesdale and Fairland Resources LLC in Wysox – and owned two rental properties in Harvey’s Lake, Pa., and Oak Beach, N.Y. Harley said Meuser will continue to accept dividends from Pride Mobility, but will not profit from the real-estate firms or rental properties.

“His only income is going to be from the state,’’ Harley said.

Meuser spent $1 million of his money on an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination in northeast Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District in 2008. He contributed $50,000 to Corbett’s most recent campaign, according to state reports.

The governor said he is not concerned about conflicts of interest among his top advisers, even though he said many of them are taking pay cuts to work for the state.

“They have to follow the rules,’’ Corbett said Thursday. “The conflict-of-interest rules are out there. The ethics rules are out there. They will abide by that.’’

“These people are giving up great incomes, or putting them in suspension, to do this,’’ he said. “They’re not coming here for a big- paying job. They’re giving service to the people of Pennsylvania.’’

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