The former chief of staff for a state legislative leader testified Wednesday that his boss knew bonuses were paid to reward employees for their help on political campaigns.
Michael Manzo made the accusation during a preliminary hearing for two people charged with using state workers and equipment for campaigns. It's the first time anyone has publicly accused House Democratic leader Bill DeWeese of knowing about the bonuses and why they were being given out.
Asked under cross-examination whether DeWeese knew bonuses were going out for campaign work, Manzo replied, "I believe he did, yes." Manzo said the use of bonuses as rewards for political work began in 2004 and resulted in a tenfold increase in volunteers for Democratic candidates.
"From a political standpoint, it was certainly successful," he said.
In a statement Wednesday, DeWeese, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, called Manzo "a desperate, disgruntled former employee whom I fired last year for dishonesty and self-dealing," adding that "his motives are suspect and his opinions are just not credible."
But Manzo's attorney, Jim Eisenhower, told reporters that "he (DeWeese) directed that certain bonuses be given."
Eisenhower said Manzo "has a reputation for honesty and credibility in Harrisburg, and we'll let the process take its course."
Some legislators have suggested DeWeese step down from his leadership post because the activity occurred on his watch.
Manzo, who worked for House Democrats from 1994 to 2007, is one of 12 people charged in the Capitol scandal, in which prosecutors allege widespread diversion of state government money, equipment and employees for electioneering.
Ten defendants have waived their right to a preliminary hearing, so the two-day hearing that concluded Wednesday dealt with Rep. Sean M. Ramaley, the sole sitting legislator to be charged, and Anna Marie Perretta-Rosepink, a former Beaver County legislative aide. Each has denied wrongdoing.
Dauphin County President Judge Richard Lewis on Wednesday afternoon concluded that there was enough evidence to warrant a trial for the two defendants.
All those charged are associated with the House Democratic caucus, although Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett has said both parties in the House and Senate are being investigated and he expects more arrests.