Friday, October 29, 2010

Eachus's Potential Ethics Problems Over "Air Corruption" Flights

In what is being labeled as a case of "jet lag" House Majority Leader Todd Eachus is being taken to task over his bogus claims that he didn't have to report flights he accepted from now admitted felon Robert Powell aboard his jet, earning the Pulp-Fiction like name of "Air Corruption". Steve Mocarsky penned this story today in the Times Leader.

Eachus said he wasn’t required to report the flight on his 2007 filings with the state Ethics Commission because “it was in the act of work, at least the way I consider it.” He initially said the value of the flight was “below the reporting threshold."

Dave Georges, Eachus’ campaign spokesman, said legislative counsel told him last week that the flight did not have to be reported because it “was taken in the discharge of his duties and he did not profit from it personally.” He said last week the 2007 flight was the only one Eachus made on the jet.

If legislative counsel, which SOP previously reported at 12 firms with 27 contracts and amendments, gave advice Mr. Georges should produce the written opinion. Eachus, like his former boss Paul Kanjorski, must feel he can make up his own rules.

Here's what others have to say on the matter.

Steve Miskin, House Republican Caucus spokesman, said the trip should have been reported. “When you attend a press conference, you are deriving a benefit. You get your picture in the paper, you get on the news; that’s a benefit,” he said.

Robert Davis Jr., a Harrisburg attorney who limits his practice to attorney ethics matters, said he has had clients who were confused about the instructions.

“A fair reading … would leave people wondering whether to report it or not. … But I would think the better judgment would be to list it,” Davis said, adding it might be difficult to determine the value of the flight or flights.

Dick Denison, president of Denison Jet Sales, Greer, S.C., was hired to sell the jet in 2009. He estimated the cost to operate the plane at about $2,000 per hour.

Capt. Ross Aimer, CEO of Aviation Experts LLC, San Clemente, Calif., agreed with the $2,000-per-hour figure and estimated the flight time from Hazleton to Harrisburg at 12 minutes, from Hazleton to Allegheny County at 45 minutes and Allegheny County to Harrisburg at 20 minutes. But charges begin from the moment the plane is powered up until the engines are turned off, which could add half an hour to an hour to the calculations, he said.

Can Mr. Eachus explain to the public how attending a private firm's media circus is part of HIS legislative duties?

Tarah Toohil, Eachus’ Republican challenger for his seat in the 116th Legislative District(and an attorney), said Eachus should have reported both flights on his ethics forms. “We have a real problem with a lack of ethics here; that’s very apparent.”

By SOP's calculations the cost of these particular double round trip flights approaches $3,000.00. The jet flew to Harrisburg to pick Mr. Eachus up and bring him to Hazleton. Then it took him back to Harrisburg and returned to Hazleton. Do your own calculations based on the information from the aviation experts and see if Mr. Georges and Mr. Eachus pass the smell test?

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