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Turnpike Chief got new $40K Vehicle one Week Before Tolls Increased

Pa. Turnpike commission chairman William Lieberman got a brand new Jeep Cherokee last month at a cost of about $40,000.

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – Next time you stop to pay a toll on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, remember how those dollars are being spent.

Following on the heels of an audit report revealing that the Turnpike Commission purchased new vehicles for the members of the five member panel that governs the agency, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that commission chairman William Lieberman got a brand new Jeep Cherokee last month at a cost of about $40,000.

He was given the new car exactly nine days before the turnpike increased tolls on motorists for the fifth consecutive year.

Here’s what the Inky’s Paul Nussbaum uncovered:

Lieberman, a Pittsburgh insurance executive, received the 2013 Grand Cherokee on Dec. 28 to replace a 2012 Grand Cherokee that he had received a year earlier. That one cost turnpike users $38,448.

The year-old Cherokee was handed down to fellow Commissioner Pasquale “Pat” Deon, a Bucks County restaurateur and beer distributor (and SEPTA board chairman), to replace his turnpike-issued 2008 Dodge Magnum…

…A free car, for personal as well as official use, is a perk of being one of four turnpike commissioners, along with a $26,000 salary ($28,500 for Lieberman as chairman), a no-limit expense account, and a free pass on all tolls…

…By contrast, the commissioners of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority get no free cars, no salaries, no free passes for tolls, and no reimbursement for using their own vehicles, NJTA spokesman Thomas Feeney said.

It’s worth noting that a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a base value of about $27,500, according to Edmunds.com, an automotive retail website.  So it’s a safe bet that Lieberman’s new ride is not the economy package.

But that should not be much of a surprise.

That recent audit by Auditor General Jack Wagner found the turnpike spent more than $400,000 on new vehicles for commissioners between Jan. 2007 and Aug. 2011.  The commissioners were allowed to use their nearly limitless expense account to cover the cost of fuel and maintenance for those vehicles as well.

In the scathing audit report, auditors said they could find “no convincing reason” for commissioners to be allowed to use commission-purchased vehicles for personal use.

Meanwhile, tolls have been hiked five years in a row and the turnpike’s debt has increased by 200 percent since 2007 – and 42 cents of every toll dollar is put towards that debt.

Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.

Jane January 30, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Thanks for writing and publishing this. So many people get up in arms about programs to bring food or medicine to the poor, when they should be a heck of a lot angrier about this kind of stuff.
concerned citizen January 30, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Bunch if thieving lowlife excecutives who love to rip off the public!
The Illuminati January 30, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Maybe we will see Deon's parked out front of his new beer distributor in Wrightstown? Hey since its taxpayer funded, free beer deliveries for all!
TF January 30, 2013 at 08:18 PM
That's absolutely ridiculous. Bad enough they give these people free cars who obviously do not need them but then they give them no limit expense for fuel and maintenance on top of that!! If they have so much excess cash to afford this then go right ahead but then don't even think about asking me to pay more. I try to avoid the turnpike at all cost and look for back roads to get where I'm going. All the more reasons to keep doing that.
mitch January 30, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Bet these same guys complain about public employee unions...
Andrew Funk January 30, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Right on Mitch! Also, why not a more fuel efficient vehicle? What justifies an SUV?
Jane January 30, 2013 at 09:45 PM
Andrew, I was thinking the same thing! Being that we the taxpayers are paying for his fuel too.
kevin January 31, 2013 at 01:13 PM
i can't find any info online (maybe it's just been too long?) but wasn't the PA turnpike originally only suppose to be a toll road to pay for it's initial construction?
James Kephart Jr. January 31, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Turnpike should be free. I wonder how many people that hate the turnpike commission support the way PA handles the sales of alcohol? The States control of alcohol also needs to change. Gov't really is not very good at running much of anything. The less we have Gov't doing, the better off we all are.
Joe Albin February 01, 2013 at 12:35 AM
These scumbag commissioners want to get rid of the toll takers jobs by charging more for cash paying motorists. Maybe they should get rid of themselves instead and save a whole lot of money in the process by not buying any vehicles.
Millie February 01, 2013 at 05:04 AM
And why a brand new one when he had a 2012 one!!? And got all the bells & whistle's on top of it! No wonder the Turnpike's broke! They should get what Jersey Turnpike's comissioners get!

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