A longtime Haverford Township commissioner and Delaware County courthouse employee was charged yesterday with felony bribery and theft.
A separate grand jury report accused Fred C. Moran and his allies of furthering their political ambitions at the expense of taxpayers.
The 34-page report, resulting from an investigation that began in November 2004, pulled the lid off a controversy surrounding the sale of the 212-acre site of the former Haverford State Hospital.
Besides filing criminal charges against Moran, the grand jury recommended an overhaul of Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act - including the implementation of criminal penalties - to prevent municipal officials from governing behind closed doors.
Moran, 61, a Republican commissioner who has represented the township's 4th Ward for nearly three decades, is facing three felony counts - one of bribery and two of theft - as well as a misdemeanor count of obstructing the administration of law or other governmental functions.
He is accused of attempting to extort $500,000 from Goldenberg/Pohlig, the developer of the state hospital site, on the township's behalf. The criminal complaint also accuses Moran of charging taxpayers for more than $8,500 in personal expenses, including home-phone and Internet bills.
At his arraignment yesterday before Magisterial District Judge John Capuzzi, Moran declined to speak to reporters or to say whether he would resign from the board of commissioners.
The charges, however, could cost Moran his $54,000-a-year job as a "system analyst liaison" in Delaware County's courthouse.
County Council chairman Andrew Reilly said he would recommend that Moran be suspended without pay with the intent to terminate, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Reilly said Moran was hired in 2002 at the request of former Common Pleas President Judge Ken Clouse, himself a former Haverford commissioner and solicitor.
The grand jury's report found numerous instances in which Moran and his political allies in Haverford operated outside the public's view to control the sale and development of the hospital site. A new deal was negotiated after Moran's faction fell from power.
The grand jury said Moran and George Twardy, a former commissioner who heads the Haverford GOP, "circumvented any notion of an appropriate public sale process" for the property by "secretly" giving Goldenberg/Pohlig information about a competitor's purchase offer.
The report said that Moran agreed in December 2003 to pay $600,000 to a project consultant "without the public's knowledge" and that township officials "intentionally lied or remained silent" about the payment.
"That was like a midnight raid on the taxpayers' coffers, and they got caught," said Haverford Commissioner Andy Lewis, a Moran foe who in November 2004 alerted the county district attorney's office to the alleged misconduct.
Patricia Biswanger, a Republican committeewoman who joined Lewis in filing the 2004 complaint, wrote in an e-mail from London, where she is vacationing: "This should send a very clear message that it's no longer business as usual in Haverford."
State Attorney General Tom Corbett said in a statement that the investigation "demonstrates the efforts that some public officials will make to advance their own private interests at the expense of the public's right to be informed."
He said the state's Sunshine Act and related laws are "ill-equipped to combat this problem and are desperately in need of enhancement."
Corbett's office said a copy of the grand-jury report would be sent to every member of the Legislature. *