Ex-mayor of Pennsylvania's capital charged with corruption

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The former mayor of Pennsylvania's capital city was charged Tuesday with wide-ranging corruption charges, including allegations he unlawfully used public money from various agencies to buy hundreds of artifacts for a planned Wild West museum and other historical attractions.

The hundreds of counts, including criminal solicitation, theft and bribery, revolve around former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed's practice of getting city agencies or entities to borrow money for some sort of project and then secretly diverting some of that money over his 28-year tenure, Attorney General Kathleen Kane told reporters at a Capitol news conference.

The diverted money then went toward another purpose that Reed thought would benefit him and left the debt-laden city careening toward bankruptcy, Kane said.

"This diversion was actively hidden from investors and the city of Harrisburg," Kane said.

In part, he used the money to buy roughly 10,000 "artifacts and curiosities" for museums that never opened, the attorney general's office said. Artifacts included a life-size sarcophagus, antique firearms, a full suit of armor and a vampire hunting kit that Reed bought for his own gratification, prosecutors said.

In 2001, Reed opened the National Civil War Museum on an abandoned reservoir overlooking the Capitol — even though none of the war's major battles played out in the city. His dream of building the National Museum of the Old West next to it stalled after City Council members found out from a newspaper reporter about his practice of taking taxpayer-paid trips to antique shops around the county to amass his collection.

He also had hoped to open museums dedicated to sports and African-American history.

He later auctioned off some artifacts, while the attorney general's office found others in a recent search of his office and home. Many were improperly stored and in poor condition when the attorney general's office found them, prosecutors said.

"His home was literally cluttered with all these items," Kane said.

In one case, Reed tried to sell at least 20 city-owned firearms on consignment, prosecutors said.

The borrowings included more than $200 million for the renovation of the city's aging municipal trash incinerator that went awry. Ultimately, the renovated incinerator was never able to produce enough revenue to repay the debt before the city sold it as part of a bailout plan by the state.

Reed, who appeared at an arraignment Tuesday morning in suburban Harrisburg, said he will fight the charges.

"I am concerned that misperceptions and politics are intertwined in these accusations," Reed said in a prepared statement. "I regard service as mayor to be a sacred trust and a calling to high and noble purpose."

Reed was defeated in the 2009 primary and left office in 2010, as Harrisburg was staggering toward bankruptcy, unable to pay its debt. It became Pennsylvania's first municipality to be taken over by the state, in part because of the incinerator debt. It clocked in as Pennsylvania's most deeply indebted city per capita.

Kane said investigators are looking into allegations of misconduct by others, and she expects more charges to be filed.