The $63.6 million convention center ‘swindle’: Who were responsible?

As part of the Martin Plan to save the Lancaster Convention Center, the county commissioners have agreed to guarantee the full $63.6 million in Convention Center debt.

Those who supported the project asserted this would never happen; those who questioned the project predicted it would.

NewsLanc has created a Dishonor Role of those who we believe stretched the bounds of ethical behavior and the law in bringing about the project.

Although we consider their roles in the matter reprehensible, this is not meant as an overall evaluation of them as individuals.

As indicated by the Fox 43 poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics, for NewsLanc to publish the names of all who opposed government guarantee of the project would require listing 78% of the county adult population.

The below list was drawn from “revised” chapters of our Convention Center Project series. We invite readers to draw their own conclusions.

We will soon publish an Honor Roll of the courageous officials and volunteers who publicly exposed falsehoods, devious dealings, and possible fraud.


Armstrong, Gibson – State Senator
Buckwalter, John H. – CEO Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.
Cooley, Nevin D. – President of various High companies
Darcus, C. Ted – LCCCA Chair who squelched dissent
Farina, Louis – President Judge who oversaw Grand Jury
High, S. Dale – Principle owner of the various High Companies
Kauffman, Terry – County Commissioner
Pickard, James – Early Chair of the LCCCA
Stevens & Lee law firm – Over time, they represented too many of the parties.
Thibault, Paul – County Commissioner
Totaro, Donald – District Attorney who persecuted Commissioners
Wachovia Bank – Officers who knew better.



  1. Just some of the names you left off your list:

    -Rufus Fulton – enabler to Barley (honorary campaign chairman) and original member of PSP

    -Tom Baldridge – served as head of Lancaster Campaign/Lancaster Alliance, proxy for PSP, rewarded with current job as Chamber President.

    -Tom Smithgall – served as PSP foot soldier, promoter and huckster, he got the $52K/month while PSP argued with the LCCCA for 2+ years.

    -Charlie Smithgall – torpedoed HACC deal for Watt & Shand building, shilled for PSP start to finish

    -Rick Gray – did an about face in 24 hours on actually studying the center before endorsing it

    -Charles Simms (Chairman)/Frank Mincarelli (Solicitor)/RACL – overpaying for the W&S building and serving as “money-launderer” for PSP and allowing the TAX-EXEMPT Marriott to exist.

    -Tourist Bureau Leadership – opted for political correctness and kept quiet in the face of a project they knew would fail and are now paying for it to the tune of $1 million a year

    -95% of all of Lancaster City Council 1999-2014 – Buried their heads in the sand and rubber stamped every aspect of this project

    -Ron Ford – a.k.a. “Paul Thibault’s SECOND vote” (ON EVERYTHING)

    There are two other key points to this that I believe have not received the attention that they should:

    1) The hotel tax covers the debt service. That has never been at issue. Even Gib was right when he suggested it would take a TMI “like-experience” to create the market conditions where the tax would not cover the bonds. The bigger question remains, what happens with all of the other expenses? Who pays to replace the roof, the carpet, the furniture? To cover the giveaways on space used to sell Marriott rooms? Where are the marketing dollars coming from? These are not the expenses that we have been encumbered to by the County, the bond/debt expenses, but they are the project’s expenses nonetheless. Who is going to pay for them? What happens AFTER the current deal with Wells goes ends? Are 10% interest rates a possibility after the Martin Plan expires?

    2) What are the realities to bankruptcy/insolvency of the LCCCA and/or the Lancaster County Convention Center? What were to happen if the center actually closed? What poison pills are buried into agreements negotiated by PSP if the center closes? Dale High, and his cadre, are far too smart to leave themselves exposed. Its time this aspect of the project be exposed.

    EDITOR: Please see our criteria re-stated in response to an earlier comment. Some were close calls.

  2. How about adding Marv Adams, former editor of the Sunday News, who declared that a volcano would erupt in Pequea Township before the Convention Center would have serious problems. Marv also instigated the infamous ‘countdown’ for the days remaining on the terms of the County commissioners who opposed this financial fiasco. Marv should put his money where his mouth was!!!!! As should everyone else listed above (other than the late John Buckwalter, of course).

    EDITOR: Please recall our criteria for the Dishonor List: “NewsLanc has created a Dishonor Role of those who we believe stretched the bounds of ethical behavior and the law in bringing about the project.” Adams may have misjudged the situation, but we are not aware of his stretching the bounds of ethical behavior and law.

  3. I beg to disagree with His Editorship about Marv Adams. His reprehensible “countdown” ran almost every Sunday regardless of whether there was anything new to report. Ethical journalism should not have a personal agenda, but his most certainly did.

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