Planes, Wine, and PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason–Something Stinks in Cambria County

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Something stinks in Cambria County politics.

For Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason, that stink is the smell of money.

Since Republicans took back the majority on the County Board of Commissioners, three county insurance contracts have gone to Chairman Gleason’s insurance firm, and now Gleason and his political backers are potential investors in a private label wine plan orchestrated by his hand-picked County Commissioner in Cambria County.

PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason

PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason

Gleason worked hard to take back the Cambria County courthouse for the PA GOP in 2011.  With direct control over the PA Republican Party’s “Chairman’s Fund,” Gleason directed close to $200,000 in mailers and media expenditures to make sure that Republicans Mark Wissinger, a former commissioner, and Doug Lengenfelder, a retired Air Force colonel, took the majority seats.

When Legenfelder became President Commissioner, contracts began to be steered Gleason’s way. Arthur J. Gallagher & Co is the insurance brokerage and risk management services firm that acquired The Gleason Agency and its affiliate, Gleason Financial, in 2011.

Under the buyout plan, Gleason continued to operate his location in Johnstown.

As soon as the first insurance policy to come up for renewal was presented to Commissioners Legenfelder and Wissinger, they named Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services as the county’s broker instead of continuing with the Ebensburg Insurance Agency.

When Gallagher was appointed to act as county healthcare consultant, Minority Commissioner Thomas Chernisky pointed out that “the healthcare committee had, for years, done exactly what Gallagher was now being contracted to do, in-house, at no cost to the county.”

Most recently, Legenfelder and Wissinger voted to award the workers compensation insurance program to Gleason’s company.

All this was good news for the Chairman, whose 2011 investment in Legenfelder and Wissinger paid off not just politically, but financially.

Cambria County Commissioner Douglas Legenfelder

Cambria County Commissioner Douglas Legenfelder

Now, Gleason and Legenfelder look to be diversifying their portfolio.  Their next move: the wine business.

In 2012, Commissioner Legenfelder began pitching the idea of creating a free trade zone at the Murtha Airport. According to Legenfelder the first use would be shipping in Argentine wines to be bottled at the airport by a small Somerset winery, Glades Pike.

Legenfelder had plans to visit Argentina with Rob Gleason and his wife after the 2012 elections but those plans were postponed until last week.

In 2013, Legenfelder continued to push the free trade zone idea, again with the wine scheme as the lead project. Cambria County sources are now saying that Legenfelder has morphed his original scheme into a plan to create an imported private label.

In February, Chairman Gleason, Commissioner Legenfelder, and Rex McQuaide left for Argentina with their spouses.

Gleason was brought along as a potential investor.

Rex McQuaide and his brother Rick are longtime GOP operatives and donors with strong connections to Gleason.

Sources claim that an attorney from the Glades Pike winery was also joining the trip, and the Cambria contingent included around 15 people.

They are visiting six of the top wineries in Argentina, and portions of the trip are being charged to Cambria County taxpayers through the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority.

On February 12th, the Cambria County Airport authority awarded a $13,272.44 contract to José E. Latour of Miami to travel with the contingent to Argentina and to pay the costs of Mr. Latour’s travel.

A Cambria County source says that Latour “has done zero Free Trade Zones” and “Latour’s specialty is EB5 programs.”

A different Cambria County source says that Commissioner Legenfelder has contacted the PLCB about the private label, though it is unclear if the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was represented on the trip to Argentina.

This potential wine deal is all taking place in the shadow of “Vinogate.” Several former members of the PLCB are under investigation for receiving favors from PLCB private label wine vendors.

Most recently, PLCB Executive Joe Conti stepped down “for conflicting accounts he and [P]LCB marketing director Jim Short gave when the Tribune-Review raised questions about how TableLeaf wines, one of the agency’s eight in-house brands, were brought to market and who was involved in the decision-making process.”

Conti is a former Bucks County Republican state representative and state senator.

From the Tribune-Review:

LCB Chairman Joseph “Skip” Brion of Chester County, whose term began after nearly all the in-house brands had been approved, said in October that he started an internal investigation into how the brands were developed. Brion has not commented on his findings.

Brion was nominated to the PLCB by Governor Tom Corbett and served as chairman of the Republican Committee of Chester County.

On February 14th, the Vice Chair of the PA GOP, Joyce Haas, sent out an email to supporters detailing the benefits of privatizing state spirit sales. Keystone Politics has obtained a copy of that email, excerpted below:

I wanted to share with you an article I wrote while thinking about Governor Corbett’s plan to get Pennsylvania out of the business of selling alcohol.

Will you read it and forward it to a friend?

I’m sure you agree that our current system is not only inconvenient; it doesn’t make any sense. That’s exactly why Governor Corbett’s plan is so important: it’s commonsense.  No more having to go to three different stores for three different products. Beer and wine in grocery stores.  And the best part? Selling the state stores will create $1 billion in revenue that we can invest in public education.

It looks like some of the revenue created would also go directly to Chairman Gleason, should he go through with backing the Argentinian private label with Commissioner Legenfelder.

Taken together, it is beginning to look like Chairman Gleason is using his political connections to enrich himself and his party loyalists. Between the insurance contracts with the county, trips to Argentina with his political backers, and a move for a private label that he stands to benefit from, something stinks.

About Jake Sternberger

Jake Sternberger is a recovering/relapsing political professional who has been a contributor to Keystone Politics since 2011. Sternberger covers campaigns and elections for KP, drawing from his experience working on local, county, congressional, and statewide PA races doing field, oppo, comms, and as CM. He is currently a law student. Email: jakes@keystonepolitics.com Twitter: @JakeSternberger
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15 Responses to Planes, Wine, and PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason–Something Stinks in Cambria County

  1. Cambria County Democrats are doing what about this? They should be able to dump these clowns next election, if they know what they are doing.

  2. jiffy says:

    Contracts are to be awarded under a competitive bidding process. This is blatant law breaking and the Cambria County D.A. should be bringing charges right now. The fact that there is no prosecutorial interest in this – or any other blatant corruption – is a sad testament to the skills and morality of the current D.A. Crooks will steal. That is their nature. However, we the people have prosecutors to stop them.

  3. PAINDY1 says:

    Anybody but Corbett; it’s as simple as ABC http://youtu.be/M-aSjHnbw18 Tom Corbett has surrounded himself with political operatives like Rob Gleason and family who want to use their position as party fund-raisers to promote their for-profit causes-themselves. It amazes me how TEAPARTY people hate government; but suddenly support government aid when it is for them. Yes but Chairman Rob is a MAKER not a TAKER-he sits with Corbett in Corbett’s Harrisburg Camelot as a White Knight at the CORBETT Round Table. Meanwhile the Corbett White Stallion is drowning in the Harrisburg SWAMP!

  4. Joe beta says:

    Lengenfelder was lesser of two evils at election time but he has made up the ground. The insurance scam is bad, the money moving…vowing not to use county cash to vacation in Argentina then giving county money to airport authority who then pays for that trip is borderline money laundering but the county hires of failed Gleason republican candidates is just the kind of patronage we wanted to end. Doug is a laughingstock but a necessary one if we were going to drive support for Corbett. Now the retired colonel who has fast earned a brutish rep with women is more baggage for a Gov under fire

  5. Joe betcha says:

    Sorry mister beta, typo

  6. Benshoff23 says:

    Commissioner Lengenfelder is one shady guy. He has been nothing but disruptive to business in Cambria County. Take a look at the job loss and lack of development under Lengenfelder. NDIC, SCI Cresson, and now Lockheed Martin. This guy is a Gleason puppet amateur. Clearly this is a ploy to strengthen Corbett in the T.

  7. PAINDY1 says:

    http://youtu.be/4Spy3Nd2D6w It is fitting that PAGOP Chair Gleason and Doug Legenfelder are learning from Argentina. Cambria was home to convicted party boss, John Tarquato and Judge O’Kicki. Oh AG KANE, there is so much work to do and so little time. Many questions that need to be answered.

  8. Joe betcha says:

    I don’t know about shady but the female leaders in the county call him bully. Still I think he is a Corbett puppet not a Gleason muppet although I admit its tough to separate the two

  9. missy says:

    Chairman Gleason is not a bully to females. He goes to church every day and lights a candle to the Virgin. He is pro-life and I would not listen to some hussies who do not like his deeply held morality. If he needs to get taxpayer funds through no bid contracts then I know that at least some of those tax dollars go to church and not immorality.

  10. PAINDY1 says:

    http://youtu.be/MS_bN5ECJTI Holy Mother of God, Missy! You shouldn’t be lighting candles for PAGOP Rob Gleason or Mr. Corbett. I light candles everyday for AG Kathleen Kane. I pray that she remains beautiful, pure, steadfast and ZEALOUS! AG Kathleen Kane, I offer this diddy for you: “Trample out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” http://youtu.be/wpZ3jPMM5Ac

  11. Joe betcha says:

    Bully bully bully…Never said he wasn’t a church goer but there is no doubt more than a few community leaders who happen to be women call him a bully. For a lot of men who want women in their place they are blind to their abusive ways. You calling these women hussies for no other reason than they feel they have been treated with a lack of respect by “commander Legenfelder” is hardly fair but if it makes you feel better Legenfelder has been spotted bullying others as well. Like a male camera man for WJAC Tv who had the nerve to ask a question of. A Gleason when the sweetheart consultant deal was handed out and even a fellow commissioner who spoke at a commissioners meeting (that’s right he yelled at a fellow commish for speaking) they were both men so maybe he is a bulky to all but for the women on the receiving and of one of his rants it seems blatantly sexist.

  12. Friend of Penn Highlands Community College says:

    I also hear Doug Legenfelder is threatening to take money from the Cambria Community College for economic development-Gleason Economic development. WOW! I guess if your a Gleason MAKER; You can become a GLEASON TAKER. Taking even from the 47% who want to lift themselves up!!! But what the hell, has anything worthwhile ever come out of a community College.

  13. CambriaQueen says:

    It is ridiculous that Gleason has not been prosecuted yet, along with his buddy Corbett. Attorney General Kane will take down Corbett, now we just need the Cambria DA to take down Gleason and his sellouts Legenfelder and Wissinger. Who cares about the residents of Cambria County as long as Gleason can make some more money, who cares if people lose their jobs, as long as Gleason can get another contract.

  14. Coop says:

    Legendfelder is a tool and will never be re elected

  15. Zappa says:

    Missy, It’s clowns like you that are so blind that you cannot see dirtbags like Gleason using the church as a credibility booster. That guy could be convicted of murder and you would still say “he goes to church everyday, look at all his morality!” He’d cut the throats of a hundred people if it meant putting another buck in his pocket. Stop kidding yourself and get a clue. Putting a twenty in the plate at church doesn’t give you carte blanche to taxpayers money.