I took a brief look at the 151st state house district recently, and have continued to keep an eye on the race between incumbent Republican Gene McGill and Democratic challenger Rick Taylor.
I found some interesting things on McGill. Here are some highlights:
McGill voted for the legislative pay raise, took the unvouchered expenses, voted for the repeal and paid the unvouchered expenses back.
According to his own website, McGill has continued to work as a manufacturer's representative for the Mutimer Company, which is based in Plymouth Meeting and provides air moving equipment to the industrial and pharmaceutical industries.
McGill is currently living rent-free in a house owned by Horsham Township. From the Intelligencer ("McGill defends rent-free deal," by Paul Ruppel, 4/25/06):
McGill is one of two officers of the Historic Property Preservation Institute, which buys, repairs and finds new uses for significant structures.
His preservation group and another nonprofit hold a 10-year lease on Horsham's 10-acre Penrose-Strawbridge property, located near the Willow Grove military base and the Graeme Park state historical site.
From the same article:
McGill insists, however, there is nothing wrong with his living rent-free at a springhouse on the township-owned Penrose-Strawbridge property off Governor Road. He is doing labor and renovations on the site and keeping detailed records.
From the same article:
McGill — a six-term legislator seeking re-election this fall — said the springhouse was in a sorry state when he moved in. He had separated from his wife but says he lived elsewhere in the interim.
Using only $13,000 of the state's money so far and $22,000 worth of private donations, McGill says he has done “the lion's share of repairs,” from new heating and electrical systems, windows and roofing to tasks like clearing felled trees.
While he does not pay rent, McGill is covering electric and heating bills and buying bottled water because the residence is on well water.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review broke the story on April 24 ("6 lawmakers funnel $29M to pet nonprofits," by Brad Bumsted and Debra Erdley). It includes this paragraph:
McGill obtained $47,000 in state grants for the institute. He also lives rent-free in a township-owned building the Institute is restoring. McGill insists he personally labors to restore the historic springhouse at no charge in lieu of rent.
McGill said he keeps detailed records of his labors. He said he's done everything possible to minimize any conflict with his role as legislator, including a check with House GOP attorneys before proceeding.
He may be following the letter of the law but the spirit is another matter. Rep. McGill has two jobs (presumably the nice people at Mutimer pay him), gets a car allowance, per diems for his legislative work, and managed to steer $47,000 of state money to a project that is providing him a free place to live. Sure he pays the utilities and heat and has to buy his own water, but I don't think that is a real hardship. Honestly, I'm amazed he has found the time to do repair work on the house he lives in. Don't the two jobs keep him busy enough?
Those who live in the 151st district may want to check into Rick Taylor, an Ambler Borough Councilman running against McGill.