Brentin Mock is a staff writer at CityLab. He was previously the justice editor at Grist.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, nearly went bankrupt. As Stephen Reed is charged with theft, bribery, corruption, and more, residents may now find out why.
Stephen R. Reed, the former mayor of Pennsylvania’s capital city Harrisburg, was charged with hundreds of counts of criminal theft, corruption, bribery, receiving stolen property and other crimes Tuesday morning. Reed served as mayor of Harrisburg from 1982 to 2010—almost 30 years—during which he made a number of questionable decisions with the city’s money. Most notably, he sought a collection of old Civil War relics in an ill-advised quest to turn the city into a museum destination. He also blew hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a mega-trash incinerator complex that never ended up generating the revenue for the city that he promised.
Both of these stunts figured prominently in the 499-count criminal indictment slammed on Reed Tuesday after a grand jury investigation. These decisions also played huge roles in bankrupting the city. In 2013, Harrisburg became the first city ever charged with securities fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission because of Reed’s lying about the city’s financial health.
Some of the things Reed is accused of, as Matt Miller of Pennlive.com has reported, are:
- Using the former Harrisburg Authority as a political ATM machine, dispensing hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund his star-crossed museum projects—often under the guise of "administrative fees."
- Bribing members of Harrisburg City Council to win passage of questionable bond deals—including at least one issue for the debt-laden incinerator that fractured the city's financial underpinnings and would later drive it to the brink of bankruptcy.
- Improperly siphoning off additional funds from the Harrisburg Parking Authority, the Harrisburg Civic Baseball Club and Harrisburg School District—three other entities under Reed's dominion during the years in question—to further his policy objectives.
Reed is currently free on a $150,000 unsecured bail, meaning he doesn’t have to pay anything unless he fails to attend his upcoming trial hearing, tentatively scheduled for July 24. Reed said in a statement to the press this morning that he looks “forward to waging a vigorous fight against these charges.” Here’s a full list, again from Pennlive.com, of the charges he faces, many of which are felonies:
- two counts of running a corrupt organization;
- two counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities;
- two counts of theft by deception, a first grade felony;
- one count of theft by deception, a third grade felony;
- one count of theft by deception, a second grade felony;
- seven counts of bribery;
- 158 counts of misappropriation of entrusted property;
- one count of tampering with evidence;
- one count of deceptive business practices;
- three counts of criminal solicitation to tamper with public records;
- three counts of theft of services, a third grade felony;
- 29 counts of theft by receiving stolen property, a third grade felony;
- 29 counts of theft by unlawful taking, a third grade felony;
- 110 counts of theft by receiving stolen property, a first grade misdemeanor;
- 110 counts of theft by unlawful taking, a first degree misdemeanor;
- 20 counts of theft by receiving stolen property, a second grade felony;
- and 20 counts of theft by unlawful taking, a second degree felony.