"What's black and white and read all over?"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Posted 11:36 PM by

DeNaples arraigned in near-empty Slotsylvania courtroom

The statewide media missed Louis DeNaples' arraignment Wednesday, just as they've missed his political connections to Slotsylvania's power elite.It seems ironic that casino owner Louis DeNaples was arraigned Wednesday in a near-empty courtroom one tumultuous week after he was indicted on perjury charges for allegedly lying about his mob ties to a Dauphin County grand jury and the state Gaming Control Board.

But hey, that's what happens when the prosecutor lets you turn yourself in to face the charge at your earliest convenience, not the media's.

And so the public hearing went on, away from the TV cameras, photo-ops and spectacle that have dogged the 67-year-old Dunmore billionaire since last Wednesday.

The best an Associated Press reporter could do was talk to the Dauphin County court clerk's office afterward and learn that no filings resulted from the proceedings. District Attorney Ed Marsico, who has been accused by DeNaples' lawyers of grandstanding, didn't return phone calls and the office of Judge Todd Hoover would not release details about DeNaples' court appearance.

The AP did talk to Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for DeNaples, who said defense attorney Richard Sprague moved for a jury trial and asked for materials in the possession of prosecutors that may or may not have been presented to the grand jury, as well as transcripts of the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses - including indicted alleged mob boss Billy D'Elia. No preliminary hearing date has been set.

Other media accounts tonight have simply quoted or used the AP.

Reporters playing catch-up is nothing new here in Slotsylvania.

For instance, not a single newspaper connected the financial dots yesterday between Anthony Ceddia, the newly appointed trustee running DeNaples' casino now that he's barred from it, and state Gaming Control Board member Jeff Coy. (The linkage was Ceddia's $950 in political contributions to Coy when he was still a state representative.)

However, Dave Janoski, projects editor at the Citizens Voice in Wilkes-Barre and a former Times-Leader co-worker during my time there, did manage to find another Coy-Ceddia connection. Coy was on Shippensburg University's board while Ceddia was its president.

In fact, Coy was the chairman of the trustees at Shipp and served on the search committee that selected Ceddia, who became the longest serving president in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education with 23 years of service before he retired in 2005. Both also served together on the Orrstown Bank board of directors.

Mary DiGiacomo Colins, the Gaming Control Board's chairwoman, told Janoski that Ceddia has had relationships with several members of the control board.

Such time-consuming Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon games are often necessary to understand why politicians behave the way they do - like handing a $300 to $800 an hour job (Colins didn't even know how much) to a former university president without any kind of public hiring process.

Colins told The Morning Call of Allentown that the seven-member gaming board began considering trustees several weeks ago amid speculation of a DeNaples arrest and that Ceddia was among 10 to 12 individuals reviewed.

Who the rest were, how they were contacted, by whom and why Ceddia was finally selected is anyone's guess. That's nothing new, really. The control board has been mired since its 2004 inception on public allegations that most of its workings have been cloaked in politics and backroom deals with some of the biggest powerbrokers and deepest pockets in the state.

Why the hiring process could not be done in full public view is a question that should be posed not only to the control board, but every legislator in the state and Gov. Ed Rendell, whose gubernatorial campaign accepted $115,000 in contributions from DeNaples.

DeNaples' Mount Airy casino will pay Ceddia's hourly fee, whatever it is, plus liability insurance for him and must agree not to hold Ceddia responsible if his decisions as trustee harm the resort, Colins told the newspaper.

So Ceddia's taking the money and not the blame if he screws up. Wonderful.

One attorney for DeNaples, John Donnelly, publicly objected to Ceddia's appointment Tuesday - and not because of the secret way it was carried out.

"The Gaming Control Act does not permit the board to appoint trustees," said Donnelly, a lawyer in Atlantic City.

The act doesn't forbid them. In fact, it doesn't say anything.

Legislators never envisioned this happening when they approved the 146-page act in one-night, without public comment on the eve of the July 4, 2004 holiday.

However, it was easily predictable given their haste to ram-rod it into law by gutting a pre-approved and unrelated two paragraph bill about background checks for harness racing employees - then getting the state Supreme Court to say the method was perfectly legal (possibly in exchange for judicial raises).

I've always found sunlight to be a most effective disenfectant in such matters and will continue shining what little I can muster with what time I can devote.

To that end, let me acknowledge a mistake in yesterday's blog. I wrote in both a cutline and one sentence that Ceddia was president of Susquehanna University, which is an expensive private college. He headed Shippensburg University, a state-owned school. Although I did have it right later in the blog, I corrected both boneheaded (and sleep-deprived) mistakes this morning. Weirdly, nobody else even noticed it except Google, which picked up the erroneous cutline.

Here's one somebody did. The initial post of this blog said Donnelly was a control board member based solely on my misreading of a Tribune-Review article. I should have double-checked his name with the control board's Web site. I regret that mistake, as I do all of them.


For more about Louis DeNaples and to read my complete take on this long-predicted Slotsylvania snafu, click here.

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