Recently I wrote on an issue in the 151st state house district. Incumbent GOP State Rep Gene McGill has been living in a township-owned house, exchanging renovation work for rent. There are a few sticking points. He is on the board of a non-profit organization that received state money to pay for part of the renovation. The plot thickens. McGill did not apply for permits to do some of the work on the house. In addition:
McGill, a Republican who represents eastern Montgomery County, said he used some state grant dollars to install a new wood-burning stove, upgrade the plumbing, renovate the bathroom and make other improvements since he moved into the house on the township-owned Penrose-Strawbridge property off Governor Road early last summer.
The Intelligencer has asked to see the inside of the springhouse since late April, when reporting on the $47,000 in state grants that McGill helped secure for his historic preservation group. The lawmaker only agreed to give The Intelligencer access to the property if he were allowed to review the story before publication and was guaranteed it would appear on the front page.
(Source: "McGill: $34,000 spent on home renovations," By Melissa Busch The Intelligencer 06/22/06; full article here).
Another article in the Intelligencer on 6/27 ("McGill gives old home new look," by Paul Ruppel) noted that some of the work on the house had been done by Navy volunteers and prisoners on work release. McGill is quoted as saying:
But, if he had it to do over again, the 151st District Republican admitted he would have paid the historic preservation group and gotten a check back for hours worked. “And then, there wouldn't have been a question.”
The Intelligencer ran an editorial, "Sweat equity or sweet deal?" on the situation today. It includes the following paragraphs:
Maybe the average taxpayer could start a nonprofit to fix up historic homes and get state money to help fund it. But we suspect it's a bit easier to direct grants in your organization's direction of you're a state legislator.
McGill also go to use free labor to help him with the work, from Navy volunteers who hleped put on the roof last weekend to inmates on work release.
Sure, volunteers work for plenty of nonprofit organizations, but we supsect it's easier to get prison inmates to come and help out when it's a state legislator asking for a hand.
There's the rub. It is the appearance of preferential treatment, whether there actually is any or not.
Voters in the 151st will have a choice in November between Rep. McGill and Rick Taylor. The race was noted in The Capitol Wire on June 26th by Peter L. DeCoursey ("Major forces shaping fall House races").