PA Auditor General DePasquale Criticizes County Officials For Accepting Voting Machine Vendor Gifts

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale wants to strengthen state laws against accepting gifts after an audit determined that officials in 18 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties accepted gifts, meals or trips from firms competing to sell new voting machines to counties ahead of the 2020 election.

Counties across Pennsylvania have been mandated to buy new voting machines that produce paper records. DePasquale says the federal government found that Pennsylvania was targeted for hacking by Russian actors in the 2016 election.

Counties should “make the decision based on who has the best ability for voters to cast safe and secure and reliable votes, not who provides a dinner,” says DePasquale. He says he intends to refer the findings to the state ethics commission for further review.

DePasquale also discussed a recent performance audit of the Wilkinsburg Borough school district. He says he expects the school district will eventually dissolve. His audit details severe financial struggles, further qualifying the district for financial watch status, which allows officials to receive help from state Department of Education advisors.

DePasquale is expected to host a community forum Thursday evening in Penn Hills to discuss ideas to improve its school district's finances. A 2016 audit identified mismanagement and a lack of oversight as root causes for its growing debt problem, exacerbated by a new high school and the consolidation of several elementary schools. The school board this week voted to seek a 6 percent tax increase and previously cut numerous teaching and administrative positions.

Elsewhere in the program:

In the latest episode of Still Working, 90.5 WESA explores people whose work allows the world to keep humming along: a facilities director at an ice rink, a dentist, and a mechanic.

Voters in the 37th state Senate district, which includes airport area suburbs and the South Hills, will hold a special election to fill the seat held by Guy Reschenthaler before he was elected to Congress. 90.5 WESA’s Chris Potter spoke to D. Raja, the Republican nominee. Raja says he’s opposed to a severance tax on natural gas and discussed his past lawsuits against former contracting employees. The special election takes place April 2.

And the Trump administration unveiled the final draft of a rule to cut federal funding for health care providers who perform abortions or refer patients to other clinics that perform them. The funding comes through the Title X program, which funds breast cancer screenings, STI and HIV tests and birth control. 90.5 WESA’s Lucy Perkins looks at what the proposed policy might do to Planned Parenthood, which provides about 40 percent of Title X services nationwide.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.