by Christiaan A. Hart Nibbrig
The Lancaster County Convention Center and Hotel project was originally conceived as a $75 million project ($45 million private and $30 million public). The final cost of construction: nearly $180 million.The final cost estimates do not include a new parking garage, or interior work that will be done to any of the historic properties adjacent to the development. All but $11 million of funding is either taxpayer dollars, or guaranteed by the taxpayers.
FebruaryThe 115 year-old landmark and historic Watt & Shand department store is sold to the York-based Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. Three years later the downtown store is closed.
The Lancaster Alliance is formed. The non-profit Alliance is comprised of twelve prominent business leaders. The group includes S. Dale High, Jack M. Buckwalter, and Rufus A. Fulton, who would later form a small private partnership, Penn Square Partners, that would build a Marriott Hotel on Penn Square. High, Buckwalter, and Fulton, along with retired CEO of Armstrong Industries, William Adams, form the “executive committee” of the Alliance.
The Pennsylvania Third Class Convention Center Act is signed into law by Governor Robert P. Casey. The law allows counties to impose a room rental tax to build convention centers. The bill was written by the Reading-based Stevens & Lee law firm, which was also the registered lobbyist of High Industries, the General Partner of Penn Square Partners. Stevens & Lee was also the long-time solicitor of record for Lancaster County, in this capacity for more than a decade. (By 1999, Stevens & Lee could list among its many clients, Berks County (Pa.) and the Berks County Convention Center; and Luzerne County (Pa.) and the Luzerne County Convention Center.
Bon Ton executives encourage Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) to move into the former Watt & Shand building. The move is supported by Democrat mayor Janice Stork and several business leaders, including Lancaster Newspapers’ CEO, Jack Buckwalter.
Bon Ton, Inc. closes downtown Penn Square store. The historical landmark Watt & Shand building will sit vacant for more the next decade.
Paul R. Thibault upsets incumbent county commissioner James Huber in the March 17 Republican primary, virtually assuring election in November in overwhelmingly Republican Lancaster County.
Paul R. Thibault is elected Lancaster County Commissioner. Thibault, Connecticute born, raised in Canada, was not endorsed by the county Republican party. He did have the endorsement and substantial financial backing of the Lancaster Alliance. Thibault becomes chairman of commissioners’ board upon election.
HACC trustees vote to purchase the Watt & Shand building. HACC counts on more than $8 million in state funding.
Lancaster Campaign, a private subidiary of the Lancaster Alliance, is formed. Thomas Baldridge is named Executive Director. The campaign’s stated purpose to improve Lancaster business and culture.
Former Lancaster mayor Art Morris criticizes the HACC plan. “I have a number of concerns, but a significant one is the tax base of this city,” Morris says. The ex-mayor makes no such objections when the property is later taken off the tax rolls.
The HACC plans call for razing slightly over 25 percent of the total space to make room for 90 parking spaces, an unloading area outside a day care center, and an outdoor play area. The Watt & Shand facade would be preserved.
The college plans to move from its campus at Burle Industries to the downtown site in the fall of 1998, using 75,000 square feet, with long-term plans to double that usage. The county plans to move in at about the same time, leasing 30,000 square feet for five years.
HACC application denied by state department of education on March 27, killing the move of the community college downtown.
Lancaster Campaign hires LDR, International to “create a diagnosis and prescription for revitalizing Lancaster.” The LDR study is headed by Bert Winterbottom.
Lancaster pharmacist, Republican Charlie Smithgall, is elected mayor. Smithgall was an outspoken and vigorous opponent to the HACC plan.
Smithgall takes office on January 4. Former Pennsylvania Commerce Secretary, James O. Pickard, is named special economic advisor to the mayor. Pickard takes no salary, but says one of his primary aims is “finding a use” for the Watt & Shand building.
On January 12, Lancaster city officials announce the city will buy the Watt & Shand building. “We’re in serious negotiations. I’m very optimistic,” Smithgall’s economic advisor James Pickard is quoted in Lancaster Newspapers.
A spokesman for Bon-Ton confirms that a sale appears imminent. “I’d say the discussions are focused on legal issues,” the spokesman says. “I don’t think there are any impediments out there.”
Pickard says the cost of the building will be “substantially under the $2 million.” Pickard says private investors will lend that money interest-free to the city to make the purchase. The city’s action forestalls a public auction of the building, a move that officials like Smithgall fear could put ownership of the building into the hands of an out-of-town speculator.
Pickard says he expects the city will sign an agreement to buy the building within a week, and will settle on the property by the end of February. He says he hopes to see the building in the hands of a private developer within six months.
The partnership of Penn Square Partners is formed. High Associates is the General Partner, with Lancaster Newspapers and Fulton Financial limited partners. It is announced the the Partners are negotiating to buy the Watt & Shand building.
Watt & Shand building is purchased by Penn Square Partners from the Bon-Ton for $1.25 million on Feb. 17. “We’re looking at all the options,’ says Dale High, president and CEO of High Industries Inc., parent company of the real estate group. “We see it as a mixed-use building.” [emphasis aded]
The LDR Plan, aka, “the Winterbottom Study,’ is released. It suggests: “Build on the visual impact of the ‘New Lancaster Square West’ to create an opportunity site on Lancaster Square East for a small, state-of-the-art conference center of approximately 40,000 – 50,000 square feet. Work with the new owners of the Hotel Brunswick to assure the hotel’s linkage with the conference center, and that its redevelopment includes not only interior renovation, but an external, architectural enhancement of the building façade – an entirely new image. All of this will create a major ‘people place’ for Lancaster and establish the city as an important visitor destination.” “With upgrading of the [Brunswick] hotel,” wrote Winterbottom on page 52 of the report, “there is the opportunity to create a small, state-of-the-art conference center and additional hotel space.” Winterbottom’s cost estimate for his “state-of-the art-conference center“: between $6-$7 million.
The Pinnacle study, also commissioned by the Lancaster Campaign, recommends the Lancaster Square location for the center. Lancaster Newspapers fails to push for release of that study. The results are never released.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who took office in 1995, signs $750 million Stadium Bill, allowing money for the project to flow to Lancaster. House Appropriations chairman, John Barley, a Lancaster Republican, plays a key role in the passage of the bill. The $15 million in state grants to get the project started is seen as reward for Barley’s role in the Stadium Bill’s passage.
The Lancaster Campaign funds another study of the project. The Ernst & Young, “Market Study, Cash Flow Estimates, and Economic Impact Analysis.” The study is released to the Campaign in July.
In anticipation of a room rental tax, the Greater Lancaster Hotel and Motel Association (GLHMA) conducts a survey of 58 hotels listed with the county’s Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (PDCVB). Of the 58 establishments, 54 vote against the tax-dependent project; three abstain pending more information. There is only one supporter among the hotels contacted —the Hampton Inn, owned by High Hotels, a subsidiary of High Industries, a partner in the project.
The Ernst & Young report is released, and is used by the sponsors’ to justify the “feasibility” of the project. “It is important to note,” the Executive Summary states, “that this does not take into account the estimated costs associated with the development of each Scenario, the financial feasibility or the anticipated returns”. [Emphasis added.]
The release of the Ernst & Young “Market Study” of 1999 is also handled very differently from the Winterbottom study, which was highly publicized and freely disseminated. The Lancaster Campaign’s Chairman, Tom Baldrige, promisedsthe GLHMA members a complete copy of the report would be available to them.
In a letter to Allan Erselius, Executive Director of the PDCVB, August 12, 1999—four weeks after receiving the completed Ernst & Young report—the Campaign’s Baldrige rescinded his offer to the hoteliers to release the complete Ernst & Young study.
“At the most recent meeting with hoteliers,” Baldrige writes, “I assured them that they would get copies of the complete Ernst & Young study as a means to further their due diligence on the project. Unfortunately—and with much apology—I have been informed by Ernst & Young that I am not permitted to share the complete report.”
The full report, which was finished in mid July, 1999, was not released publicly until after the County Commissioners passed the Hotel and Motel Room Sales Tax on September 15.
Ernst & Young also said in its report: “We also believe that the county commissioners should impose a room tax on hotels throughout the county to help pay to build the convention center and to promote tourism in both the city and county.”
In three separate resolutions, numbers 44, 45, & 46, on September 15, the three Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, under the Third Class County Convention Center Act of 1994, voted unanimously to establish the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority, impose two taxes: a 3.1% hotel/motel room tax and a 1.9% excise tax. Twenty percent of the room tax, and the excise tax would go to the Lancaster Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau. The rest would go to the Convention Center Authority. The taxes would be levied solely on the hotel and motel owners of Lancaster County. The taxes would commence January 01, 2000.
In Harrisburg, on October 19, Armstrong introduced an amendment to House Bill 148, originally intended to authorize county appropriations for Flag Day observance, and used that pretext to re-enact the Convention Center Act with a single change. Armstrong changed only the scope of the Convention Center Act. This was known afterward as the “Armstrong Amendment. Here is the original language of the 1994 Convention Center Act:
“This Act shall not apply to a county which has an existing convention center which covers an area of more than 40,000 square feet.”
This is Armstrong’s 1999 change:
“This subdivision shall not apply to a county which has an existing convention center owned by, leased by or operated by an existing authority or the Commonwealth with covers an area of more than 40,000 square feet.” [underline added]
By amending the scope of the Act, Armstrong rendered the principal legal challenge on Section 13102 invalid.
There was not a single word of the change – to a law that directly impacted the people and economy of Lancaster County – published in any of the Lancaster Newspapers until after the bill passed the Senate (October 20, 1999) and the House (October 26).
Standing before nearly 500 cheering people, including the leading Lancaster political and business establishment, on South Queen Street, Gov. Tom Ridge Thursday made a very public display of support for a proposed downtown convention center in Lancaster with an oversized $15 million check.
January 01, 2000. Room rental and excise taxes take effect.
Political activist and independent journalist, Ron Harper, Jr. launches website, 5thestate.com. Harper combines facility with digital technology; rabbinical knowledge of the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitutions; and the physical energy of a hyperactive humming bird, to wreak a most unique kind of civic havoc in Lancaster
Oblenders’ property sold to the Convention Center Authority for $625,000.
On March 24, a group of 37 hospitality establishments, large and small, across Lancaster County engage the Harrisburg-based law firm of Mette, Evans, and file a civil lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas in downtown Lancaster. The suit asks for declaratory and injunctive relief on a total of eight counts of alleged federal and state violations of Constitutional rights.
The hotel and motel owners argue:
“The County Ordinances, the City Ordinance and the Armstrong Amendment, facially and as applied to the Plaintiffs, constitute arbitrary, capricious, irrational and unreasonable regulations and legislation which violates Plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights as secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States…”.
The hotel and motel owners argue that the tax imposed “a substantial burden on the Plaintiffs without a corresponding benefit or with a disproportionately low benefit from the tax revenues.” (The lawsuit is heard first in December, 2000.)
The LCCCA-appointed “Tourism Task Force,” recommends the board expand the size of the convention center from 61,000 square feet to at least 100,000 square feet.
“We strongly recommend the authority employ further research to study why the convention center should be initially designed and built to be no less than 100,000 net square feet of exhibit space,” says Bradley Clark, chairman of the task force and member of the LCCCA board of directors at the July meeting.
In addition to Clark, a commercial realtor, the task force members include three representatives from the hotel industry; two restaurant executives, a theater director, a Lancaster Alliance director, and two members of the county visitors’ bureau board of directors.
At its monthly meeting on July 27, the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority approves an operating budget that includes a $750,000 reserve fund for litigation defense. “The $750,000 is an opening number,” Pickard says.
At the August LCCCA meeting, the board commissions PricewaterhouseCoopers (Pricewaterhouse), an international hospitality consulting firm, to examine the viability of a larger convention center facility, and essentially re-size and update the Ernst & Young market analysis of 1998. The cost of the new study: $77,000.
As it did with the Ernst & Young report, Lancaster Newspapers reports that Pricewaterhouse was conducting a “feasibility study.” This is misleading. Pricewaterhouse never claims it to be more than a market study, nor did it perform a genuine feasibility study.
Both the Ernst & Young and Pricewaterhouse reports recommended a single or “common” manager for the hotel and convention center.
At the LCCCA meeting on November 8, 2000, representatives from Pricewaterhouse deliver their findings to the board and the public. .
The Pricewaterhouse consultants estimate construction costs for the larger facility could reach $35 million, which could support a facility as large as 114,000 square feet – nearly double the original projected size.
The increase in cost, from the previous high estimate of $30 million, would fall directly on the taxpayers, particularly the county hotel owners.
On December 5, 2000, a Lancaster County judge rules that hoteliers can’t use some evidence they had hoped to introduce during their trial. Judge Louis J. Farina decides three key areas of questioning are off limits to attorneys representing the now 11 hoteliers suing Lancaster city, the county and Lancaster County Convention Center over the legitimacy of a hotel room tax.
Farina upholds a request from the county’s attorneys that forbids hoteliers’ attorneys from raising three issues during the trial. They are a 1998 convention center study completed by Boston-based Pinnacle Advisory Group; the political process by which the 5 percent hotel room tax was passed by county commissioners in September 1999; and evidence fueling “conspiracy theories” that the convention center project was inappropriately orchestrated by Lancaster community leaders.
The LCCCA mails approximately 20 requests-for-proposals to potential managers of the convention center. By March, the board winnows the number to five firms, and by May, 2001, three companies make the ’short list’ as finalists: Spectacor Management Group, Global Spectrum; and Interstate Hotels.
All three firms are based in Pennsylvania, and experienced managing large and small conference and convention centers nationally. Spectacor, headquartered in Philadelphia, has the most experience with convention centers, managing more than 90% of the public convention space in the country, including several of the largest facilities in Pennsylvania. Global Spectrum, also based in Philadelphia, manages the Philadelphia Convention Center, among other large centers. Interstate, a Pittsburgh-based company, has a long partnership with Marriott Hotels, and also manages many large conference centers, and several convention centers across the country.
State Sen. Gibson E. Armstrong leads a delegation of city leaders and businessmen to Washington, D.C., Thursday requesting up to $25 million in federal funds to revitalize downtown Lancaster. “If we can bring home $23 million from the state for revitalization of downtown Lancaster in the last two years, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get something from the federal government,” Armstrong is quoted in Lancaster Newspapers. “We pay federal taxes, I just want our fair share.”
The Redevelopmen Authority for the city of Lancaster (RACL) votes unanimously on May 22 to nullify the Stevens/Smith easements held by the Trust. The Intelligencer Journal reports:
“Nullifying the easements on the historic properties is valid, as long as the convention center authority buys the Swan Hotel,” said Thomas Weber, chairman of the redevelopment authority.”
The Authority now could do what it pleased with the properties, and it did.
In May, and again in August, 2001, the Greater Lancaster Hotel and Motel Association (GLHMA), sends a letter to Pickard and the LCCCA board urging a separate manager for the convention center, distinct from the still-unnamed hotel operator.
“The bottom line is that we opposed a common manager, period,” says Rodney Gleiberman, General Manager of the Continental Inn and GLHMA member, today. “We were not opposing this common manager, or that common manager. We opposed all common managers based upon the inherent conflict-of-interest, and what we knew would be another item to tip the scales in favor of the hotel competing against us on an uneven playing field.”
On July 24, 2001, Penn Square Partners, announces that Marriott has been selected as the hotel ‘flag’ under which its hotel will be built, and that Interstate will manage the hotel.
The next day, July 25, Nevin Cooley, High Industries executive and Penn Square Partners President, urges the LCCCA board to select Interstate as joint manager of both the “private” hotel and “public” convention center.
This is when the battle explodes. The fight is staged on the front pages of Lancaster Newspapers, which finds itself with a hot news story in the usually slow ‘dog days’ of August.
On August 15, the Tourism Task Force comes back with its recommendation regarding the single manager question. By a vote of 7-2, the Task Force recommends that Spectacor manage the convention center. The two Task Force members to dissent and vote for Interstate are Jack Howell, director of the Lancaster Alliance, and Deirdre Simmons, a director of the Fulton Theatre, who admitted not to have read or reviewed any of the proposals.
The next day, August 16, a group of prominent hoteliers wrote a letter to Chairman Pickard, among other suggestions, stating: “We experienced SMG’s proposal first hand and found their presentation compelling. We left the meeting optimistic that SMG’s expertise in operating similar Convention Centers coupled with Interstate’s proven track record in successful hotel management will provide the Penn Square Project the best management team possible.”
On August 17, the Intelligencer Journal published an article, “WILLOW VALLEY WEIGHS IN ON MANAGER BID,” describing how the management of the Willow Valley Resort, which had been in lockstep with the Partners and the Authority until this point, recommended Spectacor and separate management.
In a letter to the Authority board urging a single manager, signed by all three Penn Square Partners – High, Lancaster Newspapers, and Fulton – the Partners write: “Despite the naysayers, Penn Square Partners persisted by investing substantial time, effort and money to promote this vision for a better Lancaster. The opponents chose to litigate and undermine the collaborative efforts proposed by Penn Square Partners and the authority. Their sole goal was to delay, postpone and destroy the project and the corresponding benefits to the community.”
August 22, three top hospitality industry experts, each with decades of experience, speake on behalf of separate management for the public convention center. One of the experts, Robert Butera, president and CEO of Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center, questioned whether, in fact, common management was a condition Marriott placed on Penn Square Partners.
On September 12 , 2001, the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority holds its scheduled meeting less than 24 hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Banks, schools, libraries – the entire country is closed; its people in collective shock the day after the attacks. But the convention center authority is open for business the very next morning.
Pickard decides the LCCCA could not delay, by even a single day, the vote on which company would manage a convention center in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The chambers at the Southern Market Center were unusually crowded, especially for a morning meeting. Approximately two-thirds of the audience members were in favor of Interstate managing the convention center.
S. Dale High speaks at the meeting, saying: “As we saw with the Twin Towers yesterday, these things can be taken away very quickly.”
Lancaster Judge Louis Farina, after having gutted the hoteliers’ case with a number of devastating preliminary rulings the previous summer, decides against the hoteliers on all counts.
The bottom line rulings: the hoteliers did not prove that the “burden” of the room tax outweighed the “benefit” from spillover business the center would generate; the room tax was Constitutional; and the ‘Armstrong Amendment’ of 1999 was not “special legislation,” and would therefore stand.
It was a clear and decisive win for the sponsors, but far from the final battle of this increasingly nasty civic conflict. Within days, the same 11 hotel owners filed an appeal with the Commonwealth Court.
On January 24, in a 6-1 ‘en banc’ (full, seven-judge panel) written ruling, the Commonwealth Court remanded the case back to the Common Pleas Court in Lancaster and back to Farina. The appellate court decision was sharply critical of Farina’s judgment, writing, at one point, “This doesn’t make sense.” The Commonwealth Court essentially told Farina, ‘Get it right this time.’
The LCCCA respondsby hiring renowned and politically well-connected Philadelphia lawyer, Richard A. Sprague, to petition to have the case heard not at the county level, but elevated to the State Supreme Court. Sprague, whose long career includes defending the rich and high profile, including basketball superstar Allen Iverson on gun charges, was and is a “power lawyer” of tremendous clout in the legal community throughout the state. (Sprague later hired retired State Supreme Court chief Justice, Stephen Zapella, to review the Stevens & Lee legal bills. Zapella ruled in Sprague’s favor when the convention center case came before him.)
Michael Carper, a former banker and property manager with hotel executive experience, is as the LCCCA’s first professional Executive Director. Carper quits suddenly after just six months on the job. The circumstances of Carper’s departure are sealed in the confidential termination agreement between Carper and the Authority.
Pricewaterhouse 2002 “Update Draft,” submitted to LCCCA. Study is later withdrawn by the consulting firm due to changes in size, scope, and cost of project.
In an April 20, 2002 published Letter to the Editor of the Sunday News, Lancaster businessman, Chris Kunzler publicly raises the issue that a government guaranteed bond will be necessary to finance the convention center:
“The convention center alone is expected to cost $55 million, with $15 million supposedly coming from the state. The hotel tax is generating approximately $3 million a year. This $3 million in tax revenue will not come close to servicing the debt on a $40-million bond issue. Let’s not forget the ongoing operating losses of the convention center and the money being spent to promote it. Who will guarantee this bond? And when the project fails, where will the funding come from then? Taxes? Who will be responsible for the losses—the community, with additional taxes?”
Attorneys for the Authority – Sprague and Scott Spencer of the Stevens & Lee firm — and those representing the hotel owners – Christopher Conner and Kathy Simpson from Mette, Evans — submit written briefs before the State Supreme Court. The LCCCA submits 50 pages of argument and 92 pages of supporting documents.
In an application dated September 13, 2002, James Pickard, then chairman of the Convention Center Authority, had represented the following to the State on an application for a $15 million grant: “Please see the attached Market and Economic Analyses for the Proposed Lancaster County Convention Center prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC. This report represents the results of the market and economic feasibility for the project and includes a recommended building program and utilization estimates as well as a financial and economic impact analysis.” In a signed, official application
In a rare joint press conference, on December 6, 2002, the top Lancaster county and city officials, along with Chairman Pickard, express their collective outrage at the hoteliers, and their intention to counter sue them under the Dragonetti Act, which addresses the issue of filing frivolous lawsuits.
Republicans Dick Shellenberger and incumbent commisssioner Pete Shaub, and Democrats Molly Henderson and Bill Saylor win their parties respective primary elections. Shellenberger and Shaub are virtually assured of election in November due to the heavy Republican majority in the county. The Democrats traditionally have a two person race for the remaining seat on the board of county commissioners.
Attorney Jim Clymer files to runs for County Commissioner. Clymer, the national chairman of the Constitution Party, runs on a platform of shrinking government. He is also strongly opposed to the convention center project.
Clymer is a low-key, but skilled campaigner and attracts significant media coverage. The Sunday News runs a front page article with the headline, “Clymer Calls Election Tune: Constitution Party candidate defines issues in commissioners’ race; now both major parties fear he stands a chance.”
Clymer forces all of the candidates to take a position of the expected vote for a county bond guaranty. The convention center is the major issue of campaign.
David M. Hixson is hired as Executive Director of the LCCCA. Hixson is recommended by Jim Pickard. He is to oversee the authority’s day-to-day activities and manage all phases of the project – contracts, construction, personnel, bill paying – from the Authority’s position.
The round-faced, bespectacled, 37 year-old Hixson isn’t a particularly articulate or dynamic speaker. Hixson has no experience in either the hospitality or convention center industries. Most of his former positions were as a press spokesperson. He had a supervisory position with the department of labor and industry in the Ridge administration before coming to the authority.
Shaub and Shellenberger begin to meet with Lancaster County solicitor, John Espenshade, a Stevens & Lee partner, to discuss selling the county-owned Conestoga View nursing home. Because Shellenberger is not yet elected, the meetings are not Sunshine law violations.
On October 16, 2003— without a request from the LCCCA— County Commissioner Chairman Paul Thibault and the board votes to hire bond counsel to explore a county guaranty.
Six days later on the 22nd of October, the commissioners hold a public meeting to discuss the bond guaranty.
On October 29 the $40 million county guaranty is passed (2-1, Shaub votes no) in the form of County Ordinance 73,
Shellenberger, Shaub, Henderson are elected county commissioners on November 6.
The C.H. Johnson study is released. The study is another market study commissioned by the sponsors.
County Commisssioners Shellenberger, Shaub, and Henderson take office on January 8.
On January 12, the 63 year-old Ted Darcus, a former high school basketball star, is voted by his fellow board members chairman of the Convention Center Authority board.
Darcus seems to take meeting management tips from his predecessor on the board, Jim Pickard, who ran the LCCCA meetings with an authoritarian, imperious iron gavel. As with Pickard, under Darcus questions from the public – during public meetings – go unanswered. Darcus, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Lancaster, could be a rude and belligerent chairman. He has a habit of intentionally looking down at his desk when a member of the public was speaking, often pretending to read or write while citizens tries to make their points. Questions from board members are openly discouraged.
Gary Heinke is hired as Chief Services Officer for the county, and he begins work on March 29, 2004. Weeks later, his job responsibility are expanded to include supervising five new departments, and overseeing Conestoga View
|A rare disagreement between PSP and the LCCCA surfaces when the LCCCA take an option to buy the Hotel Brunswick, a block away from the proposed site. The Authority threatenes to move the proposed convention center to Lancaster Square. This dispute is resolved and the project continues at the Penn Square location.|
The amendment commonly known as ‘Act 23.’ is passed in the PA legislature. The principal author of the Act 23 amendment [12 Pa.C.S. §3406(b)(11)] is Sen. David Brightbill, a Lancaster County Republican. Brightbill’s amendment adds language allowing “convention centers” and “hotel establishments” to fall within the Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement Program (IFIP) funding guidelines. (Brightbill goes on to work for the Stevens & Lee law firm, counsel for the Convention Center Authority, after leaving the legislature in 2007. Sen. Gibson Armstrong was also a co-sponsor of Act 23.)
The IFIP was orginally intended as a state financial assistance program in which the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”) provides multi-year grants to eligible applicants. Grant recipients through this program sell bonds to finance qualifying “infrastructure and facilities” expenses, and then uses grant funds from DCED to pay debt service on the IFIP bonds.
December 17, 2004, the Intelligencer Journal publishes an article (“City to buy Watt & Shand”) outlining a plan by which the city of Lancaster, via RACL, would purchase the landmark building from Penn Square Partners.
The article, by Dave Pidgeon, describes an agreement whereby the RACL would buy the building from Penn Square Partners, then lease it back to the Partners, who would then have an option to re-purchase the building in 20 years. No purchase price for the building was mentioned in the December article.
Unlike the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) proposal the sponsors were pitching to the School District of Lancaster, the RACL plan would totally exempt the hotel from property taxes. With city ownership of the building, RACL could now apply for state loans or bonds on two issues of $24 million and $12 million, totaling $36 million. The bonds for the $12 million issue would be funneled through the Department of Community and Economic Development under the IFIP, and Act 23 amendment.
The plan would also allow the City of Lancaster, through RACL, to apply for an annual grant through the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which rebates to PSP an anticipated million dollars of annual state sales tax generated directly or indirectly by the convention center project. (Eventually the rebate was pledged to service a $14 million loan from Fulton Bank.)
With the support of Democrat Henderson, Shellenberger takes over as chairman of commissioners board. This move estranges Shellenberger and Shaub, growing increasingly bitter as the year goes on.
|The Brookings Institution releases a study of publicly owned convention centers titled “Space Available – The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy”. This report, written by professor Heyward Sanders of the University of Texas, suggests that publicly owned convention centers rarely generate the promised economic development. Sanders shows that most centers and attached hotels usually turn into taxpayer burdens..|
The private sponsors lobby school board members to adopt their TIF issue proposal. In a letter to the president of the school district, Patrice Dixson, Penn Square Partners President Nevin D. Cooley bases his argument on a market study, which he incorrectly, and repeatedly, characterizes as a “feasibility” study. It was later certified that the study was, in fact, a market study, not the much more comprehensive ‘feasibility’ study which projects revenues and expenses, profits or losses.
|A local organization called The Lancaster Group conducts a study of 25,808 people in eleven locations around Lancaster City and County, asking them whether they support or oppose this project. More than 89% of those polled do not want to see the project built.|
Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson send “57 Questions” to PSP, RACL, and the LCCCA. Penn Square Partners and RACL answer none of the questions. The LCCCA answers fewer than half.
Intelligencer Journal publishes March 12 poll, three days before the School Board TIF vote, the results show 93% of respondents oppose the plan.
On March 15, at McCaskey High School, in a 7-1 vote (one abstention), the School Board of Lancaster refuses to back the private sponsors’ TIF proposal.
After the vote, the sponsors and the newspapers suggest the TIF defeat is fatal to the project. “Supporters of a downtown Lancaster hotel and convention center on Thursday pulled the plug on a tax relief plan they said was needed to support the project. And the center project remains barely alive today,” read a New Era article days after the vote.
The fight over the TIF activates two citizens, Randolph Carney, and April Koppenhaver. Both would often attend the public meetings. Carney also carefully monitored the many complicated financial documents and agreements that were generated from the project. He posts many of the documents on a website he runs, LancasterFirst.org. [writer’s note: Carney’s collection of documents and his analysis have been used in the convention center series.]
April 12 City council votes to apply for $36 million in Act 23 funding.
April 20 Lancaster City Controller R.B. Campbell is presented with documents related to the financing of the Act 23 grants.
April 22 Controller Campbell sends letter to Mayor Smithgall stating that he would not execute the documents in question until he had received comfort in the form of an independent review by counsel of the Controller’s choosing to investigate the issues raised by the county solicitor’s memorandum.
April 22 the Mayor sues the Controller to compel him to sign the documents.
April 25 the Controller is ordered to appear in common pleas court, judge enters a preliminary “Mandamus” order requiring the Controller to execute the documents and, in the alternative, allowing the Mayor to sign as attorney-in-fact.
April 27 The April 25 court order made permanent
In early May, Campbell files appeal with Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The County files an amicus brief on behalf of Campbell. Campbell loses appeal on September 14, 2005.
Writing that “the project today is very different today than what we studied,” the lead Pricewaterhouse consultant withdraws the firm’s name from study it performed.
Local businessman and philanthropist, Robert E. Field, becomes interested in the project. Field is concerned that the popular support for the project depicted in the media was not a true reflections of the general sentiment of the county. As an experienced hotelier (though with none in the area), he had explored buying the Brunswick, and was not persuaded the market could support the hotel.
Field personally meets with Rufus Fulton, CEO of Fulton Bank, to discuss the project. Fulton referred Field to Jack Buckwalter, Chairman of Lancaster Newspapers, who in turn suggested that Field meet with developer S. Dale High, who was the general partner in Penn Square Partners. The meetings leave Field dubious of the project’s viability.
At a regular commissioners’ meeting on July 6, the county commissioners’ vote unanimously to enter into an agreement to sell Conestoga View. The decision to sell the facility ignites a summer-long firestorm of criticism on the pages of all three Lancaster newspapers.
On September 1, 2005, the three county-appointed board members are: Judy Ware, John Fry, and Garth Sprecher. Ware, a former art teacher and, with husband Paul Ware, a philanthropist whose four-year term was coming to an end on September 15, 2005. During her time on the board, Ware is regarded as an enthusiastic supporter of the project. Although Ware and the sponsors of the project want her to be re-appointed to the authority board, Shellenberger and Henderson replace her when her term expires.
Ware’s replacement on the LCCCA board is Laura Clampitt Douglas, a tough, smart, sophisticated businesswoman who doesn’t suffer fools. At Douglas’ first LCCCA board meeting, she peppers the chairman, Ted Darcus, and executive director, Dave Hixson, with questions and comments on bills the board was paying.
John Fry, president of Franklin & Marshall College, a private, liberal arts college located in the northwest section of Lancaster city, was appointed to replace Jim Pickard on the LCCCA board in 2003. Pickard’s second term had begun only a month earlier.
With two documents – the minutes of a commissioners’ meeting and a letter confirming the minutes – Chairman Shellenberger brings county treasurer and fellow Republican Craig Ebersole to meet with Fry and show him the letter and minutes indicating his term was expiring. The next day Fry submits his resignation to the county commissioners.
“I don’t believe in serving on boards where I am not wanted,” Fry wrote in a letter to Shellenberger. “For reasons that are not clear to me, you have requested that I immediately submit my resignation as a member of the Authority.”
Shellenberger and Henderson appoint Deb Hall, president of the Ephrata Chamber of Commerce, to the LCCCA board. Like Douglas, Hall is intelligent and tough-minded. If anything, she has a harder edge than Douglas, and she, too, questions about the project.
Six days before the final vote to close the Conestoga View sale, on September 22, 2005, Senator Gib Armstrong and Lancaster Mayor Charlie Smithgall publicly call for Commissioner Shellenberger’s resignation.
“The guy is out of control,” Armstrong was quoted on the front page of the Lancaster New Era. Armstrong, citing Shellenberger’s alleged pressuring of John Fry to resign from the LCCCA board and the handling of Conestoga View as the reason for asking for Shellenberger’s resignation.
The sale of Conestoga View was voted on September 28, 2005. Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson vote to sell the facility; Shaub dissents. The coverage of the sale continues to be overwhelming critical of “the commissioners.”
LCCCA board member, businessman, Garth Sprecher, one of only two original board members still serving on the LCCCA board announces he is resigning from the board on October 15. “Don’t read anything into this,” Sprecher says at his last LCCCA meeting. “I’m just tired.”
Sprecher’s seat is temporarily filled by Timothy Lease, a general manager of a large Mountville motel. Lease resigns suddenly after less than a week due to personal issues. He is replaced weeks later by another Shellenberger and Henderson pick, Jack Craver. Craver is a former hotel executive with decades of experience in the hospitality industry, including management of the world renowned Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Heinke, Shellenberger’s friend hired as Chief Services Officer for the county in 2004, was first mentioned as a target of investigation on October 24. In a New Era article, “Who is Gary Heinke?” questions are raised by Art Morris about Heinke’s background and credentials listed on his resume.
On that same day, October 24, the commissioners announced they are ordering an investigation into Heinke’s hiring. The head of the county’s human resources department, Thomas Myers, is to lead the investigation.
The next day, October 25, Heinke tells the commissioners the information on his resume is accurate.
Later that day, the 25th, an article published by the New Era (“A question of credentials”) uncovered several glaring misrepresentations on Heinke’s resume. It is also revealed that Gary Heinke not only received advice from Shellenberger, Shaub, and solicitor John Espenshade prior to his hiring, but he also substantially lied about his work experience and educational credentials.
On October 28, Gary Heinke resigns as Chief Services Officer.
November 6. Democrat Rick Gray defeats Smithgall to become Lancaster’s new mayor.
On November 10, the day the Myers Report is to be released, Lancaster County District Attorney, Donald Totaro, announces his office is beginning a grand jury investigation. Totaro, who hasn’t read the Myers-Hoffman Report at the announcement, and blankets the fifth floor with more than 80 subpoenas, including all three Lancaster County Commissioners.
Fox 43 -TV in York, along with Opinion Dynamics, sponsor a public opinion survey regarding the convention center project. The study is underwritten by Robert Field. The questions are developed by Fox 43 and Opinion Dynamics, which perform surveys for the Fox network among many other national clients. The startling revelation is that 78% of those with an opinion disapproved of the county guaranteeing any portion of the convention center bond issue.
Field, very dissatisfied with how the newspapers report the principal findings of the survey, pays several thousand dollars for a half-page advertisement in the morning and afternoon newspapers for the publication of the entire report, word for word.
Robert Field commissions real estate consultant Mark A. Kenney, M.A.I., to certify whether the studies performed on the project were, as had been represented, “feasibility” studies.
Kenny’s report concludes his report dated December 22, 2005:
“In conclusion, my review of the five reports discussed above indicates that they are meant to be market or marketing studies, and neither are represented as feasibility studies nor include sufficient information or analysis to be considered feasibility studies.”
Robert Field launches the website, NewsLanc.com.
Lancaster County Convention Center Authority (LCCCA) board members Laura Douglas, Deb Hall, Jack Craver hold public meeting at Farm & Home Center on January 4. Meeting is attended by mostly project opponents. Mayor Rick Gray, who took office only the day before, appears at the meeting and denounces opponents and supports the project. The meeting, and Gray’s remarks, are well-covered in the local print media.
Also on January 4, County Commissioner Molly Henderson sends letter to LCCCA and Mayor-elect Gray making four proposals regarding project:
Gray appears at the January 11 county commissioners meeting and tells commissioners if they want a feasibility study they should pay for it themselves. Commissioners consider offer but do not act immediately. Gray soon backs away from call for study, and adds conditions for its performance. He also attacks Commissioner Shellenberger for his own conditions to the study. Exactly one week after he publicly denounced opponents of the project and spoke in favor of it, newly elected Lancaster City Mayor Rick Gray crashed the county commissioners meeting.
In a joint letter to Shellenberger and Gray dated January 11 (copying all three Lancaster newspapers) Robert Field offers $50,000 to subsidize a feasibility study on the project. saying he would subsidize the cost of the feasibility study in the amount of $50,000. Field writes: “I applaud Mayor Gray’s suggestion that the Commissioners order and pay for a feasibility study and his commitment that, if the project is not feasible, to end his support for the $137 million downtown revitalization initiative. …. Should funding be an obstacle, I am prepared to contribute $50,000 toward the cost of a comprehensive feasibility study of the convention center and hotel, …”
At their January 18 meeting, the County Commissioners vote 3-0 to contact Pricewaterhouse about performing complete feasibility on project. Ten days later, on January 28, Pricewaterhouse declines to conduct the feasibility study. No public explanation is given.
On January 31, the final sale is completed for RACL ownership of Watt & Shand from Penn Square Partners. The city agency pays $7.25 million. The original purchase price in 1998 was $1.25 million. Story is not reported until February 9 by Lancaster Newspapers.
Also on January 31, the Historic Preservation Trust gives approval to develop historic Thaddeus Stevens interactive museum on site of Stevens’ former home and office.
NewsLanc discovers and reports on February 2 that the project hasn’t gotten necessary “Highway Occupancy Permit” from the PA Dept. of Transportation (PennDOT). The private partners petitioned for a waiver for Traffic Impact Study, but PennDOT rejected the partners waiver request.
At their February 8 meeting, the County Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson vote to solicit “Requests for Proposals” to perform first comprehensive feasibility study on project. Shaub dissents.
On February 15, the Lancaster County Commissioners vote to hire Pannell, Kerr, Forster (PKF) Consulting to perform feasibility study. PKF is preeminent in hospitality consulting. The cost of the study is projected to be $115,000. Robert Field ups his contribution to $65,000.
February 22. Lancaster County Commissioners file lawsuit challenging ACT 23 funding of project.
February 22. Former county commissioner Paul Thibault criticizes selection of PKF, saying the consulting firm is biased because it served as expert witness in hotelier litigation.
February 22. LCCCA board member Jack Craver writes letter to editor calling for full comprehensive feasibility study.
February 23. LCCCA chairman Ted Darcus wants “gag” order imposed after Craver’s letter is published. “We can’t have people doing their own thing,” says Darcus.
February 23. LCCCA executive director Dave Hixson announces his board will not cooperate in any way with PKF study. Penn Square Partners president Nevin Cooley says the same, as does the city agency, RACL, that purchased the Watt & Shand building.
February 24. LCCCA purchases laundry property on East King Street, adjacent to the project site.
February 25. County commissioner Pete Shaub publicly criticizes selection of PKF to perform feasibility study.
February 28. County challenge to ACT 23 funding is heard in Commonwealth Court. County is represented by special counsel, Howard Kelin.
March 1 County commissioner chairman Dick Shellenberger rejects offer from LCCCA chairman Ted Darcus that offered the LCCCA taking county debt if commissioners would drop lawsuit and kill feasibility study. Shellenberger declines, saying, “I am not interested in horse trading.”
March 4 Asbestos and hazardous debris is removed from Watt & Shand building in preparation for demolition.
March 5 Robert Field has Sunday News opinion item published: “Why subsidize a feasibility study?” Field writes: “Having determined that we were on the cusp of spending $140 million (most of it financed by the public) on a project that had not been subject to a professional economic feasibility evaluation I believed it imperative that a genuine feasibility study be undertaken.”
March 13 Penn Square Partners releases self-perfomed “study” showing ‘worst case’ scenario impact on city and county taxpayers. The study says that if county overnight stays declined by an unthinkable 29%, and no one used either the hotel or convention center, that the taxpayer cost would be, at most, $24.39 per city taxpayer, and $2.46 for county taxpayers. The “study” is given prominent placement on the front page of the Local News section.
March 20 LCCCA seeks 19 construction contracts for project. Board members Douglas, Hall, Craver protest receiving documents related to bid process only days before the vote. “It’s more of ‘we’ll ram this through, regardless,’” said Deb Hall.
March 21 State Senate passes amendment to Act 23 legislation by gutting another bill and inserting the Act 23 reforms, which directly benefit project and renders Commissioners lawsuit moot. The move is orchestrated and moved through the Senate by then Senate Appropriations chairman, Gib Armstrong. This is the second time Armstrong has ‘strong-armed’ legislation directly benefitting the project. The bill goes to the House and is met with sharp criticism by the entire Lancaster County Republican delegation, who complain about the secretive “heavy-handed tactics” of Armstrong.
April 6 Armstrong’s bill is withdrawn from a House vote due to heavy protest from Lancaster
April 13 LCCCA board tables motion introduced by Laura Douglas to cap spending on project. There are no effective restraints on the cost of $140 million project.
April 25 Redevelopment Authority for the city of Lancaster (RACL) announces floating an additional $2 million bond, making city exposure $14 million.
April 26 State House passes Armstrong’s amendment, 146 to 41. All Lancaster County Republicans vote against the bill that directly benefits project and renders county lawsuit moot.
May5 The PKF “Executive Summary” is released. Among its conclusions are that the project will lose $1.3 million per year and that project sponsors should consider “downsizing” or “find an alternate use for the site.” The report is immediately excoriated by project supporters.
May5 It is reported in Lancaster Newspapers that the preliminary demolition of Oblender’s building was conducted without a city demolition permit. Demolition is temporarily halted. This is a rare public embarrassment for project sponsors.
May7 LCCCA announces that the construction bids will be opened in two phases: smaller contracts May 9; the rest May 17. The reason for the delay is that contractors are said to need more time to study project.
May9 First construction bids unsealed by LCCCA. Thirteen bids are received for four contracts: pre-cast concrete, laundry service, food service, fire protection.
May10 County Commissioners Henderson and Shellenberger vote to petition the state Department of Community and Economic Development to review the county’s 2003 $40 million bond guaranty. Commissioner Pete Shaub votes against the motion, and publicly charges his fellow commissioners with violating the Sunshine Law: “Commissioner Henderson and Commissioner Shellenberger, you continually violate the Sunshine law.”
May12 Pa. Governor Edward Rendell signs Act 23 bill, as amended by Sen. Armstrong. This codifies the RACL/PSP tax issue on the hotel tax issue. Penn Square Partners will not pay property taxes although it will be the “primary user” of the hotel. It is a major victory for project sponsors.
May17 LCCCA opens remaining construction bids. The low bids immediately put the project $13.6 million over budget, from $89 million to $102.6 million.
May24 The Intelligencer Journal reports that the LCCCA bids actually put the project $25.4 million over budget. Sponsors are urged by commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson to abandon the project; sponsors vow not to “throw in the towel.”
May24 At its regular public meeting, Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson vote to revoke the $40 million county bond if the LCCCA re-markets bonds to get tax exempt variable or fixed rates. The motion, introduced by Henderson, and is made despite objections from county solicitor Howard Kelin, directs that the county guaranty is revoked if there is a change in the tax status of the bond. The resolution, like many introduced by Henderson, was clearly drafted by a sophisticated legal mind. Her husband, Alex, an experienced attorney is thought to be the drafter of these motions.
May24 At the same meeting as the Henderson resolution, Shellenberger and Henderson refer to a “Plan B” alternate use for the site. Marilyn Berger, a high end real estate broker; Lehr Jackson, an eminent developer; and William Roberts, a re-storer of historic properties were negotiating to purchase the former Watt & Shand property to convert to condos and shops. The Berger-Jackson-Roberts alliance is not disclosed at this point.
May31 At a special commissioners’ meeting in East Donegal Township, Commissioner Henderson publicly questions whether the geographic area from which the hotel and motel room rental tax was drawn is legal. “[I]t is time for the county commissioners to reconsider whether or not the entire county is the appropriate area for the bed tax,” she said at the meeting.
June1 Demolition resumes after sponsors acquire permit. Large portions of the home and business of Thaddeus Stevens are razed. The budget gap is still not filled.
June 8 LCCCA board member, Deb Hall, introduces a motion to have a “legal audit” of legal fees paid by the Authority. The motion does not pass.
June 8 High Construction Company resigns as “Construction Manager” of the project in order to bid for the lucrative “General Trades” contract. As Construction Manager, High Real Estate was involved in setting bidding criteria, giving the company a distinct competitive advantage when it bid for the contract.
June 13 LCCCA board votes 4-3 to sue Lancaster County Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson. They are joined in the suit by Penn Square Partners and RACL. An affidavit submitted by the LCCCA financial advisor said the two commissioners were creating “immediate, imminent, and irrevocable” harm to the project.
July 12. Madenspacher hearings begin. The LCCCA, city, and Penn Square Partners, have sued county commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson, arguing they are threatening the project with attempts to revoke bond guaranty.
July 12 Horst Hotels, LLC and Ephrata Motels Partners sue RACL, LCCCA, and Penn Square Partners, arguing the room tax is unconstitutional.
July 17. Madenspacher hearings end.
July 25. Madenspacher issues temporary injunctions against Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson, enjoing them from tampering in any way with the county guaranty or county financing of the project.
July 27. The last of the construction bids is opened, with High Construction – another subsidiary of the majority partner in PSP – the only bidder. Combined with bids opened previously, the project at least $20 million over budget. Penn Square Partners immediately declares: “It is unlikely that we can organize any combination of resources and strategies that will allow us to move forward with the project as currently designed.” Another headline: “Bids doom center plans: Penn Square Partners says $20 million ‘gap too great.’” The project is practically pronounced dead.
August 4. The county’s lawsuit challenging the Act 23 funding is defeated in Commonwealth Court, which holds Act 23 does not violate the uniformity clause of the state constitution.
|August 11. Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray introduces a plan to deal with the $20 million funding gap by shifting funds between accounts, demanding over $5 million in concessions from contractors, and soliciting $3 million in to purchase an “easement” for the facade of the Watt & Shand building.The press coverage of Gray’s ‘miraculous’ bridging of the deficit are normally used for the end of war, or mass killing, or major political assassination.
(Writes Randy Carney: “But by December of 2006, this plan had been proven to be nothing more than “smoke and mirrors,”when most of the projected savings failed to materialize. As a result, the LCCCA board is forced to increase borrowing from $42 to $64 million, bringing the total projected cost of the project to approximately $170 million.”)
August 15 LCCCA approve 13 contracts in a 4-0 vote. Later that evening, the RACL board approves the same contracts.
August 24. After meeting with attorneys for the county and project sponsors, Judge Madenspacher announces there will be hearings scheduled for September 28, 29 to address the county bond guaranty.
August 29. Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson vote to appeal the Commonwealth Court Act 23 ruling to the State Supreme Court.
September 15. Horst Hotels, and Ephrata Motel Partners withdraw their lawsuit against RACL, LCCCA, and Penn Square Partners. The hoteliers wanted the tax abolished and the funds they paid refunded to them.
September 28, 29 Madenspacher hearings begin again, focusing on the 2003 $40 million partial county guaranty. The county’s counsel, Howard Kelin, argues that the inconsistecies between the bond agreements renders the guaranty invalid. Counsel for the sponsors argues the agreements are substantially the same and binding.
October 13. Four-foot high Watt & Shand letters are removed from the building.
October 24. Madenspacher issue permanent injunction against Commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson, preventing them from revoking the county’s guaranty of the project.
October 31 Shellenberger and Henderson again vote to appeal a legal defeat. They vote to appeal the Madenspacher decision in Commonwealth Court.
November 8. Lancaster County commissioners Shellenberger and Henderson write a letter to M&T Bank demanding that project developers have construction financing in place before floating the construction bond. County special counsel, Howard Kelin, gives the bank a November 15 deadline.
November 16. The LCCCA financial advisor, Thomas Beckett, announces at its meeting that the cost of the project has grown $10.1 million, bringing the total now to $165.5 million, according to Lancaster newspapers.
November 22. The State Supreme Court rejects county appeal without hearing the case. They also decline to hear a companion suit filed by city resident April Koppenhaver, who is suing regarding the city Act 23 financing.
December 13. At a LCCCA finance committee meeting, financial adviser Beckett again announces the project will cost an additional $5 million, bringing the total now to $170.5 million.
December 14. After a 13-month grand jury investigation, Commissioners Dick Shellenberger and Pete Shaub plead guilty to two violations of the state’s Sunshine Law related to the sale of Conestoga View. Commissioner Molly Henderson pleads guilty to one Sunshine Law violation. Shellenberger and Shaub are fined $200; Henderson, $100.
December 14. At the regular LCCCA meeting, the board votes 4-3 along city/county lines to increase borrowing limit from $47 million to $64 million. The board also votes to authorize its advisers to negotiate bond interest rates.
December 15. Lancaster president judge Louis J. Farina orders the grand jury report sealed for a minimum of 20 days to allow those criticized in the report time to respond. The date for release is given as January 8, 2006.
December 26. Commissioner Pete Shaub announces he will resign his office, effective February 4, 2007, with eleven months remaining in his term. Shaub says he will return to the construction industry.