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Monday July 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Neil Grover of Debt Watch Harrisburg on the Writ of Mandamus filed against Harrisburg City Council members.



By Neil A. Grover, Esquire Sunday, July 22, 2012

There was an attorney's telephone conference with the Commonwealth Court on Friday afternoon regarding yet another issue related to the Receiver's control over Harrisburg. Mark Schwartz was granted the right to withdraw from the case for nonpayment. For various other reasons, some unrelated to the matter, the Court rescheduled this week's hearing about City Council not raising taxes until August 14th at 10:30 a.m. Simple enough. But those facts don't tell the story.

The written letter submitted on behalf of the Office of Receiver about Council was harsh, arrogant and impatient. So too were the demands of the private-sector attorney for the Receiver in the course of the exchange. The Receiver appears ready and willing to use a heavy hand to show that the State expects the local officials and citizens alike to bend to their will, abide by their demands. The law be damned. Our City's issues are before the Courts, what sometimes are called cathedrals to the law. A Courtroom must be a place to sort out what is right and just. It should not be just an exercise, nor another show playing out in due-process-theater.

The process due each of us in any State or federal Court is guaranteed. It must be genuine, meaning that when a real dispute makes its way to a courtroom, the result must not be predetermined, the process not a mere exercise in formality. The Office of Receiver seems to demand otherwise. They seem at the ready to toss aside basic rights, in the name of a declared fiscal emergency. They show a willingness to ignore as niceties what most people know as due process, overlooking that their opponents are duly elected public officials representing the citizens who put them in office.

The Receiver appears to believe that BEFORE a genuine negotiation with the City's creditors can occur, City taxes must be raised and collected. Of course, that is not a real requirement, but instead a decision driven by advisers. Argued to be necessary, it embraces a false, ill-conceived premise. Moving forward against taxpayers before others presupposes that there must be no consequence, claim or remedy to pursue against those creditors who gamed our public finance system. It pays cheaters first. Heaping the cost of those payments on the backs of the People, it rewards those who pervert democracy, principles of capitalism and justice itself.

Our government, through the issuance of a Forensic Audit by The Harrisburg Authority (by law, an agency of the Commonwealth), shows that ALL of the bonds still owed on borrowings for the Incinerator were issued AFTER the incinerator already had shown it could not pay for itself. The oldest muni bonds still owed were issued, in part, to help refinance prior incinerator debt and past expenses, monies that a self-liquidating public project would already have paid. Nonetheless, those involved in making the deal work went on to prepare and submit paperwork to the State reporting the project to be self-liquidating. That certification was not true. Ever. Over a decade, that falsehood was nonetheless certified as true again and again, resubmitted every time the doomed project burned through a loan. By doing so, the money just kept flowing, the truth be damned.

If any of us purposely misstated the nature of our revenue to make sure we got a business or construction loan, would we know that we just crossed a serious line? Of course. Making such a knowing false statement to the government or a lender to get money or even better terms on money something we could get only if we lied is fraud. Even if we did it for our employer, with no additional benefit to ourselves (except keeping our job), we still would be responsible for aiding-and-abetting in the fraud, if not charged with out-and-out conspiracy in commission of a fraud. So why is borrowing-by-lying to get more cash for the Incinerator being treated as somehow different, as an innocent lie? In the realization of a public deceived, City Council has resisted demands that local taxpayers pick up even more of the tab for a fraud. Now, they have no attorneys. But to add insult to injury, the Receiver or at least his trial lawyer has advised the Court and other counsel that the Receiver does not concede that his Office should approve or authorize or release any City tax money for any attorney to represent the members of City Council, so members can properly defend themselves against questionable orders from the Receiver. In Court, the essence of the Receiver's legal claim is that Council members MUST just do as they are told. At the same time that he is blocking them access to a lawyer, the Receiver insists that Council members must respond in Court by filing proper legal papers or forfeit the right to defend themselves.

So our State government now asserts it can drag someone into Court, block access to legal representation and punish them for not properly defending themselves? We all know that game. We see it played out time and again. It's the game played in every dictatorship in history, but NOT HERE!

But surely, one might suggest, the Receiver has a good reason to reject that officials are entitled to the due process of law. So what was the reason proffered for the Receiver taking such an extreme position? The matter is simple. His attorney seems ready to throw away due process to speed things up, to finish up faster, or in his words, because "resistance has to end."

We the People have the right to govern ourselves and that means the right to resist injustice. Our rights are not going to be surrendered so the demands of boardroom gangsters can be satisfied. Not now. Not ever.

Archive video of Neil Grover May 16, 2012

Photo by Natalie Cake

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