Pattye Benson

Community Matters

George Hatalowich

What’s in the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Water?

What is wrong with the Pennsylvania Turnpike officials . . . they seem to have a high propensity to break the law. Have you been keeping track? There has been a steady flow of Turnpike officials in the news, including three arrests of Turnpike officials.

The latest Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission official caught red-handed was their chief operating officer. George Hatalowich, CFO was arraigned this past week for an incident that occurred in April. Hatalowich was charged with drunk driving, causing property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. He drove a car that spun out of control, then crashed in to a Hershey Park fence. However, that was not the end of it – he then drove off, heading north in a southbound lane. Police stopped him and his blood alcohol level was about double the legal limit.

Good news for the Turnpike Commission . . . Hatalowich was driving his private vehicle and was not on public time when the accident occurred. Hatalowich is in the process of applying for admission to the state’s rehab program, which is available to first time DUI offenders. If the program, which includes a suspended license and safe driving classes but no jail time, is fully completed by the offender, the DUI record is expunged. If the application is rejected or the program is not successfully completed, the offender will still face a criminal trial.

Hatalowich’s DUI charge follows the February resignation of Tim Carson, who was the vice chair of the Turnpike Commission. Carson had a couple of drunk driving accidents in 2003 and 2006, however unlike Hatalowich; Carson was driving state-owned vehicles. After Carson’s second DUI in 2006, he got a Turnpike Commission employee as a chauffeur. The chauffeur, Mimi Lindelow, was officially a Turnpike marketing/community relations officer but she spent much of her time driving Carson places in his Turnpike vehicle. Carson apparently had to be driven places because his driving license was suspended for a period following his second DUI conviction. However, Ms. Lindelow’s chauffeuring continued beyond the time he must have had his license restored. Here’s a downside to Carson’s resignation . . . he had to give up the Turnpike car and the ‘chauffeur’. Guess it’s back to her 9-5 desk job as the Turnpike’s community relations officer for Ms. Lindelow.

There was also the firing of the chair of the Turnpike Commission, Mitchell Rubin. Governor Rendell fired Rubin in March 2009 after the FBI began investigating Rubin for his connection to a political corruption scheme that was the mastermind of state Senator Vince Fumo. As an update, Rubin was sentenced to 6 months of house arrest in April. Fumo is serving a 54-month sentence in a federal prison in Kentucky.

Wonder what’s in the Turnpike Commission water? Speaking of the Turnpike Commission, I am a member of the Turnpike Commission Roundtable group and I have not received any communication for several months. What’s the status — does the Turnpike widening project continue to remain on hold? What about the Rt. 29 slip ramp? Or the sound walls along Yellow Springs Road? Maybe our elected officials could ask for an update from the Turnpike Commission.

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