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Heyl: Pennsylvania’s slush fund audit an adventure in open records

Obtained under the federal Freedom of Imagination Act:

Pennsylvania Legislative Audit Advisory Commission

Meeting agenda

1. Call to order with chairman and state Rep. Mark Keller, R-New Bethlehem, striking cobwebbed gavel, raising cloud of dust

2. Pouring of ice water into member glasses

3. General discussion of nationally trending sports news

4. Reluctant review of why the eight-member commission exists

a) Keller to explain the panel reviews and releases a quasi-independent annual audit of the Legislature’s enormous slush fund (officially referred to as “legislative accounts”) that House and Senate leaders can tap at their discretion

5. Reluctant review of why the multimillion-dollar slush fund ostensibly is necessary

a) Keller to dust off time-tested excuse that the slush fund is vital to keep the Legislature operating in the event of a prolonged budgetary dispute with the governor

b) Snickering and chortling by members

6. Congenial lighting of cigars

7. Discussion on the prolonged delay of the release of the 2012-13 slush fund audit

a) Keller to note that commission is a tad behind the usual December release date for the audits

b) Keller to note that this is no big deal because there is no incentive to release the report in timely fashion; this is because of the vociferous criticism the Legislature receives when annually announcing that it sits on a gigantic sum of public money

c) Keller to note that when the commission released the most recent audit, for the 2011-12 fiscal year, not one lawmaker received a thank-you card for the slush fund dropping from $183 million to $141 million

d) Keller to note the feelings of many legislators were bruised by the lack of congratulations from constituents

8. Cheer-restoring bagel break

9. Discussion regarding when the 2012-13 slush fund audit should be released

a) Keller to note that although the commission’s preference would be to never release the document, that probably would violate the state Open Records Act

b) General condemnation of the Open Records Act

c) Keller to propose that the commission issue a statement saying that preliminary audit findings indicate auditors “found nothing out of the ordinary going on, so move along people, move along”

d) Keller to note that putting out such a statement probably would enable the commission to delay public scrutiny of the report until late June

e) Keller to note that waiting until late June likely would result in the audit receiving a minimum amount of publicity; attention will be focused on how the state will fill a prospective hole of as much as $1 billion in the state budget, which lawmakers must adopt by July 1

10. Applause for Keller’s ingenuity

11. Vote on a proposed slush fund audit release date

12. Self-congratulatory back-slapping and adjournment

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857.


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