October 4, 2008

State Seeks Criminal Probe of Ex-Port Authority CEO

By Jim Ritchie

State Auditor General Jack Wagner on Thursday said he wants criminal investigators to determine whether the Port Authority of Allegheny County gave an illegal retirement package to former CEO Paul Skoutelas.

Wagner, a Democrat seeking re-election next month, asked Republican state Attorney General Tom Corbett to investigate Skoutelas' benefits, which included a monthly pension payout of more than $9,000. Corbett is seeking re-election.

"The staggering magnitude of the funds provided to Mr. Skoutelas and promised to him for the rest of his life -- which could easily exceed $3 million -- is a violation of the public trust," Wagner wrote in a letter to Corbett dated Sept. 30.

Skoutelas retired in 2005 and took a job at Parsons Brinckerhoff, a planning and engineering firm with an office Downtown. He was the authority's CEO from 1997 to 2005 and was replaced by CEO Steve Bland.

Skoutelas did not return phone messages seeking comment. He was receiving a $195,000 annual salary when he retired in 2005.

Corbett's office has not decided whether to investigate.

"We've received the letter, and it's currently under review," said Kevin Harley, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.

Both Wagner and Corbett are considered potential candidates for governor in 2010.

Port Authority's board in 2007 determined Skoutelas' benefits were too high and cut his monthly pension to $5,947 -- reducing it by the $3,115. It continues to demand in a lawsuit that Skoutelas repay nearly $65,000.

The transit agency since has eliminated several of the benefits for executives, amounting to about $11 million in annual savings, Bland said.

Among the Port Authority payouts to Skoutelas questioned by Wagner:

$306,746 to reimburse him for his purchase of more than 20 years of service applicable toward his retirement and pension.

$270,000 in deferred compensation.

$106,202 for unused vacation time. Skoutelas received six weeks of paid vacation while employed.

$380,214 as a lump-sum pension payout under a special retirement plan implemented by Skoutelas.

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