Corbett names huge cast to transition panels

HARRISBURG - Political donors and supporters. CEOs and priests. Republican bigwigs, tea partyers, even a sprinkling of Democrats.

All are among the 400 people Gov.-elect Tom Corbett has named to 17 committees on his transition team, a group he has tasked to examine every state department, help formulate policy, choose key personnel, and recommend ways to cut costs.

In releasing the names Tuesday, Corbett, a Republican who campaigned on a no-tax pledge, said he didn't check voter-registration logs when he made his picks.

"I didn't ask everybody their registration, I really didn't," Corbett told reporters at a transition team meeting in Harrisburg, where the teams had assembled Tuesday. "That's not a requirement."

"It's a wide spectrum of people," he added, including many who helped or worked for former Govs. Tom Ridge and Dick Thornburgh, as well as people who worked with Corbett years ago when he was in private practice as a lawyer.

The 17 committees, Corbett said, are to send him drafts of their findings and recommendations in the next few weeks, and issue a final report by early January. All members had to sign a confidentiality agreement, and it was unclear on Tuesday just how much of their work, if any, will become known to the public.

Corbett, who is to be sworn in Jan. 18, reiterated Tuesday that a top priority of his administration will be to present a balanced budget and resolve the state's projected $4 billion deficit.

Portions of the news release listing the 400 names reads like a who's who of the corporate, political, and lobbying worlds.

Among them: Alan Novak, former chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, who is a member of the committee advising on agricultural issues; John Hohenwarter, Pennsylvania's lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, who is a member of the group advising on energy and the environment; and David Hess and Brad Mallory, both former cabinet members in the Ridge administration.

In choosing the group that will advise him on education, Corbett included several staunch charter school advocates. They include Vahan Gureghian, a Gladwyne lawyer who operates the state's largest charter school, Chester Community Charter School in Chester.

Gureghian contributed $250,000 to Corbett's campaign and donated heavily to other Republican campaign funds as well, state records show. Gureghian was also named to cochair Corbett's working group on transportation and infrastructure.

Also on Corbett's education committee: State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, the Philadelphia Democrat who is one of the most vocal proponents in the legislature for charter schools and school choice, and David Pollard and Joel Greenberg, both with Susquehanna International Group.

Susquehanna International's executives - Greenberg among them - gave an astonishing $5 million to Williams' unsuccessful campaign for governor in this year's primary because they liked his stance on school choice, particularly his support for the use of publicly funded vouchers to enable more families to pay for private education.

"When I look at the list of people he's chosen for education, no one jumps out who is an advocate for traditional K-12 education," said Lawrence A. Feinberg, a Haverford Township school board member and cochair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, which advocates for public education.

From the Philadelphia area, Corbett turned to former Philadelphia mayoral candidate Sam Katz, as well as lawyer Carl Singley, a onetime ally of former Mayor John F. Street who later split from the mayor to support Katz. Singley is on Corbett's education committee; Katz is on the economic-development committee.

Corbett also tapped David Simon, executive vice president and chief legal officer at Jefferson Health System, to head an insurance committee and cochair a committee on welfare.

Simon was also named to the transition team's Health and Aging Committee.

 


On the Committees

A few of the better-known names on the transition committees announced Tuesday by Gov.-elect Tom Corbett. To view the entire list, go to www.philly.com/transitionteam

AGRICULTURE

Alan Novak, president, Novak Strategies; major figure in state and Chester County Republican organizations.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Alan Walker, Bradford Coal Co., is to chair this committee. Walker is an influential figure in the state's coal industry.

EDUCATION

Matt Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank in Harrisburg.

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

Nick DeBenedictis, chairman, Aqua America.

WELFARE

Peg J. Dierkers, executive director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Steve Suroviec, executive director, the Arc of PA, a group that advocates for people with special education needs.

Lawrence J. Tabas, partner, Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel. Major Republican Party figure in the Philadelphia area; general counsel to the state GOP.

LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

Edward Coryell, executive secretary, Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters of Philadelphia and Vicinity.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Carole Aichele, Chester County commissioner. She is to cochair this committee and serve on a "Commonwealth Committee" that will look at the state's Office of Administration and Department of General Services.

STATE

Joe Rocks, chairman and CEO of NHS Human Services Inc. Rocks is a former Philadelphia mayoral candidate.

TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Walter D'Alessio, president and CEO of Northmarq Capital. D'Alessio is former executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.


Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Dan Hardy contributed to this article.