Friday, August 15, 2014

Did Corbett pay rent for apartment 402?

Gene Stilp, government reform activist and candidate for the state House of Representative, has sent a letter to Governor Corbett asking him if he paid fair market rent for an apartment he lived in while he was Attorney General. The apartment is owned by Martin Lane, who has donated at least $88,000 to Corbett’s political campaigns and gave $1800 toward the cost of Mrs. Corbett’s inaugural gown. The governor must quickly provide an answer to this and several other questions Stilp posed in his letter and in a complaint filed at the Ethics Commission involving the appointment of Sheri Phillips as Secretary of the Department of General Services. The letter from Stilp to the governor, his ethics complaint and supporting documentation can be seen at

Stilp has asked serious questions that deserve prompt answers. To understand the basis for these questions, readers need to understand the context and the relationships among Corbett, Martin and Phillips.

Martin G. Lane, Jr. is a Harrisburg businessman who owns several insurance agencies and property management companies, including Aegis Security, JGS Holdings and JGS Management. He also owns unit 402 in a high-end condominium property at 2837 North Front Street in Harrisburg, one of several units in the building he has owned over the years, including unit 302. Martin contributed at least $88,000 to Corbett’s political campaigns and donated $1,800 toward the cost of Susan Corbett’s $10,076 inaugural gown.

Sheri L. Phillips is currently Secretary of the Department of General Services. Prior to holding the secretary position, she was Director of Management Services in the Attorney General’s office while Corbett was the Attorney General. As of February of 2011, she resided in unit 302 at 2837 North Front Street in Harrisburg. She also owns a 10% interest in Lane’s JGS Holdings and JGS Management and has listed she received direct or indirect income from Aegis Security. In subsequent financial disclosure filings, Phillips lists her address as 401 North Street in Harrisburg, which is her work address.

While he was Attorney General, Corbett lived in unit 402 of 2837 North Front Street. From 2008 to 2013, Corbett accepted $18,000 in gifts from political contributors, all of whom do business with the state. The gifts include a luxury yacht vacation, an all-expenses paid trip to New York City that included hotel, dinner and a Broadway show and transportation on private planes and helicopters. Some of the gift-givers received state benefits in the form of appointments to influential boards and commissions, favorable government agency decisions and the passage of legislation favorable to their financial interests. Other than the donation toward the gown, Corbett did not disclose receiving other gifts from Lane.

Given his history of accepting gifts from political donors, Corbett must quickly confront any appearance of impropriety regarding his residence in a Martin Lane owned property. He can easily do that by providing rent receipts or other proof that he paid fair market value rent for Apartment 402 at 2837 North Front Street, Harrisburg.