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Pa. Turnpike Chairman Got $40k Car Just Before Toll Hike

The Pa. Turnpike Commission chairman was given a new car nine days before the turnpike increased tolls on motorists for the fifth consecutive year.

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – Following on the heels of an audit report revealing that the Turnpike Commission purchased new vehicles for the members of the five member panel that governs the agency, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that commission chairman William Lieberman got a brand new Jeep Cherokee last month at a cost of about $40,000.

He was given the new car exactly nine days before the turnpike increased tolls on motorists for the fifth consecutive year.

Here’s what the Inky’s Paul Nussbaum uncovered:

Lieberman, a Pittsburgh insurance executive, received the 2013 Grand Cherokee on Dec. 28 to replace a 2012 Grand Cherokee that he had received a year earlier. That one cost turnpike users $38,448.

The year-old Cherokee was handed down to fellow Commissioner Pasquale “Pat” Deon, a Bucks County restaurateur and beer distributor (and SEPTA board chairman), to replace his turnpike-issued 2008 Dodge Magnum…

…A free car, for personal as well as official use, is a perk of being one of four turnpike commissioners, along with a $26,000 salary ($28,500 for Lieberman as chairman), a no-limit expense account, and a free pass on all tolls…

…By contrast, the commissioners of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority get no free cars, no salaries, no free passes for tolls, and no reimbursement for using their own vehicles, NJTA spokesman Thomas Feeney said.

It’s worth noting that a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a base value of about $27,500, according to Edmunds.com, an automotive retail website.  So it’s a safe bet that Lieberman’s new ride is not the economy package.

But that should not be much of a surprise.

That recent audit by Auditor General Jack Wagner found the turnpike spent more than $400,000 on new vehicles for commissioners between Jan. 2007 and Aug. 2011.  The commissioners were allowed to use their nearly limitless expense account to cover the cost of fuel and maintenance for those vehicles as well.

In the scathing audit report, auditors said they could find “no convincing reason” for commissioners to be allowed to use commission-purchased vehicles for personal use.

Meanwhile, tolls have been hiked five years in a row and the turnpike’s debt has increased by 200 percent since 2007 – and 42 cents of every toll dollar is put towards that debt.

Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.

Vote em out January 27, 2013 at 02:40 PM
typical cronyism, time for term limits of all politicians, starting right here in south Whitehall, Vote out Christina Tori Morgan for South Whitehall Commissioner this year when you vote, she has been there too long and has done too little to make a difference int he quality of life in South Whitehall other than raise rates for garbage
Kaos8 January 28, 2013 at 02:18 PM
I apparently need to go work for the Turnpike Commission! You never see these jobs posted on the PA State Job Website..Apparently, no one likes to give them up- now I can see why!

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