COATESVILLE (AP) – Two former officials of a Chester County school district who resigned following a text message scandal have now been charged with having stolen money from the district. Former Coatesville Area School District superintendent Richard Como and athletic director James Donato are charged with theft of school district funds and violations of the state’s ethics act for public employees. Both resigned in September of last year amid allegations that they had exchanged racist and sexist text messages on their district cellphones. Chester County prosecutors said material in the messages also prompted an investigation into possible financial improprieties. Donato’s attorney said allegations that his client committed crimes to support a lavish lifestyle “couldn’t be further from the truth.” Como’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
MECHANICSBURG (AP) – Someone is spreading holiday cheer by covering $50,000 worth of layaway accounts at a Cumberland County store. Manager Steve Myers said the benefactor showed up at the Wal-Mart in Mechanicsburg before noon Monday with a cashier’s check that barely covered the balances on about 100 accounts. Monday was the deadline to pay off layaways. The store was about to cancel the accounts and refund the partial payments. Instead, store associates called customers to give them the good news, although some suspected it was a joke. The donor describes himself as a successful businessman. Similar gestures include one last week at a Toys R Us in Bellingham, Massachusetts, where a woman paid $20,000 to cover 150 layaway accounts.
LANCASTER – The Rescue Mission Food Drive, a partnership between Water Street, Bethesda, York, and Lebanon Rescue Missions has been going on since October 19 and continues through this Saturday, December 20th. Last year, the four area missions served almost 500,000 meals to the hungry and homeless. The goal is 300,000 pounds of food. They are currently at 182,507 pounds of food. Folks can fill a box or grocery bag with non-perishable food items (no glass containers please), and then drop it off at your local rescue mission, any Turkey Hill Minit Market or any M&T Bank in Lancaster, York, Lebanon, Dauphin or Cumberland Counties. Donations can also be dropped off at The Sharp Shopper in Ephrata, Leola, and Middletown; Fulton Bank at Annville/Cleona, Lebanon, Myerstown, and Schaefferstown; York Newspaper Company in York County; and Karn’s Foods in Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties. Your donation will go to the Mission that serves your county. Visit RescueMissionFoodDrive.org for more information. Another way to help is send a financial gift to your local rescue mission.
HARRISBURG – The Legislative Government Reform Caucus consists of about 40 PA state senators and representatives from both political parties. Since its inception in March 2013, the Caucus has met regularly to develop and promote legislation to reform state government. Caucus Co-Chair, Dauphin County Sen. Rob Teplitz says he will be introducing a number of good government bills when the new legislative session starts in January. One measure would ban January “Interregnum” sessions between the period of time between the swearing in of state lawmakers and the governor. Some Republicans are considering whether to have an “Interregnum” session with the new Legislature and outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett in order to address certain issues such as public pension reform and liquor privatization. Teplitz said a two week session next month doesn’t make sense. Other reform measures include suspending compensation for the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet officers, and the General Assembly if a budget bill is not passed by the June 30th deadline; prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars by all three branches of state government to hire lobbyists to lobby a sister agency; and requiring the Governor to report political contributions, in-kind donations or political expenditures made by an appointee that has been nominated to a cabinet office within 10 days of the nomination.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvanians seeking health insurance through the federally run exchange are bumping up against a deadline if they want coverage by Jan. 1. If they miss Monday’s deadline, they can still enroll through the exchange through Feb. 15. New enrollment figures in Pennsylvania aren’t available through the federal government. Non-profit health care advocates are trying to help people sign up and say they’re strengthening their focus on harder-to-reach populations, including those in more rural areas and immigrants. More than 317,000 Pennsylvanians signed up for coverage through a policy sold on the exchange during the first enrollment period from October 2013 through March.
HARRISBURG – Legislation will be reintroduced in the new legislative session to privatize and regulate Pennsylvania’s bail bondsman industry. The measure is intended to provide accountability, professionalism, and transparency to the practice of providing bail for those awaiting trial. The bill passed the state Senate unanimously in the prior session, and prime sponsor, Sen. Rich Alloway of Adams & York Counties, said that the industry is aware that changes are needed. He added that the bill provides a uniform collection of rules to regulate the bail bondsman industry along with criminal penalties for those who violate the law.
READING (AP) – A Berks County bail bondsman and three others have been charged with writing $2 million in fraudulent bonds. Authorities say the Ace Bail Bonds were not insured and used the same bond for multiple bail postings. 47-year-old bailbondsman Dean Gurney of Richland Township was arrested on several charges. The other defendants include Reading store owner Vincent Smith, his daughter, Kaley, and Adalberto Garcia, Jr. Berks County District Attorney John Adams says the counterfeit bonds were posted in about 20 Pennsylvania counties. He says people seeking to post bail were not involved in the alleged scheme. The four defendants were in custody after being arraigned.
LANCASTER – If you know a family in need, a colleague facing loss, a friend battling an illness or a neighbor in crisis, you can Share The Blessing this Christmas. The non-profit organization helps area individuals and families in need enjoy the holiday season. They facilitate this through the collection of food, clothing, gifts, and monetary donations that are used, in full, to provide hope and assistance to local families during a very blessed time of the year. The campaign invites area residents to nominate individuals or families who are in need of extra care and attention this holiday. Over the past five years, Share the Blessing has raised more than $500,000. You can nominate someone in need or make a financial contribution by going to their website – wwwShareTheBlessing.com. Checks can be also be mailed to Share The Blessing, P.O. Box 186, Elizabethtown, PA 17022.
HARRISBURG – Harrisburg’s Bethesda Mission will be using volunteers to help distribute this year’s Christmas dinner to some of the local poor and needy. While Bethesda is planning to serve a Christmas dinner at the Men’s Shelter at 611 Reily Street on Christmas Day from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., others who cannot make it to the Mission can have a hot meal delivered right to their door. The delivery is available within a five-mile radius of the Mission. Persons can call 257-4442, ext. 233 for Cindy or ext. 231 for Jenny. Let the person know that you need a meal delivered on Christmas and they will then complete a short form with the caller, identifying address, size of family, and other details. It’s very important to call the Mission by Monday, December 22 if you want to be included on the schedule of delivered meals.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania Gov.-Elect Tom Wolf vowed in his campaign to be “a different kind of governor” and he’s raising eyebrows as he demonstrates what that means. The businessman-turned-politician said he’ll break with tradition and solicit private contributions to finance the transition from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration to his new Democratic one. Wolf says taxpayers should not have to bear that cost. But the director of Pennsylvania Common Cause contends the transition is an official government task and taxpayers should foot the bill. Wolf also refuses to accept a salary as governor, bars his transition team members from accepting gifts, and plans to rent office space for his state police security detail when it guards him at his private York County residence, where he plans to live as governor.