Tuesday, July 19

Feckless Exhibit #3: Mark Dambly

This is installment three of a multi-part opinion/analysis series that will highlight some interesting information about current and former members of the Penn State University Board of Trustees. Exhibit 3:  Mark Dambly.

by BHF23

After reviewing the previous installments of the series, I realize that our examination of the November 2011 trustees has suffered from a complete absence of two things: 1. feck; and 2. actual convictions.

Let’s talk about Mark Dambly. 

While a student at Penn State in 1979, Mark Dambly pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge and spent five days jail following an altercation in downtown State College.  Those close to the story called it a "sweetheart deal."  You can read the details below.

I won’t transcribe WJAC-TV’s interview from November of 2013 with him here, but I will say that Dambly’s comical denial of any recollection of the event lacked only a “Yeah….that’s the ticket” flourish at its conclusion. 

You’d think the interview might also have jogged Dambly’s recall of a more recent arrest on DUI, possession of marijuana and moving violations charges in Chester County on April 22, 1987. Dambly entered a one-year Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition plan on August 18, 1987, paying costs and fees, and having his license suspended for three months. So now we’ve got “convictions” covered.

Maybe the memory thing is a chronic problem. Dambly also wasn’t quite sure when he learned about the Sandusky investigation, first pointing to Cynthia Baldwin’s report to the board in May of 2011, but later telling the New York Times: “We found out about it when the rest of the world found out about it.” Or possibly before or after that. Or maybe last Tuesday.

More disturbing as it relates to his current responsibilities are this paragon of virtue’s business history and associations. His Rewis & Dambly Developments, Inc. real estate partnership defaulted on a $1.3 million loan in 1992. His company’s (Pennrose Properties) preferred general contractor, J. J. DeLuca Co., Inc. was caught urging his subcontractors to submit $1.6 million in false invoices to the developer of a $79 million townhome/condo project in South Philadelphia, eventually resulting in a net $2.3 million award against DeLuca. (J. J. DeLuca Company, Inc., Appellant v. Toll Naval Associates, Toll PA GP Corp., Inc., and Toll Bros., Inc., Appellees, 56 A.3d 402 (2012), 2012 PA Super 222)

Allegations of political palm-greasing surfaced following a fund-raiser Dambly held for Republican U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon in September of 1992 (County Democratic vice chairman Joseph Merlino: “The word is, if you want to do business in Delaware County, you’ve got to do this to get into the club.”). So what’s Dambly been up to lately? Here are a few random facts for you: 1. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has been accused by the U.S. Justice Dept. (4/21/16) of taking bribes and kickbacks, treating campaign contributions “as incentives for past, continued and future official actions, and conspir(ing) and agree(ing) to commit extortion and bribery offenses in violation of federal criminal law”; 2. Since 2003, Dambly’s PAC has been Pawlowski’s largest single contributor at $42,000; 3. Dambly/Pennrose Properties have been awarded several contracts in Allentown, including one in 2013 for $45 million to develop a seven-story apartment and retail complex in the downtown area; and 4. On 1/27/16, Dambly and Pennrose were named in a subpoena related to the federal investigation of Allentown’s contracting practices. Cynics might suggest that two or more of these facts could be related. Me? I think he just forgot how this might look. I’m sure everything is fine.

Senator Dominic Pileggi
Former PA Governor
 Ed Rendell
At any rate, Dambly’s sponsor (mover and shaker Dominic Pileggi)and Governor Ed Rendell don’t need no stinkin’ background checks. Rendell appointed Dambly to the Penn State board effective October 2010. 

Mark, a solid “move on” guy, was elected to the executive committee in March 2012, and was given the combination to the safe on July 1, 2013, when Chairman Keith Masser appointed him to the first of three consecutive terms as chairman of the board’s Finance, Business and Capital Planning Committee.

Three years in a row. Somebody (Masser? Or someone else?) sure wants him in that position. In charge of, among other things, major construction projects. Dambly, Masser, former Second Mile financial guy Cliff Benson and Mary Lee Schneider also comprise the Finance subcommittee. I ran out of fingers and toes trying to add up the dollars in projects Dambly has gotten approved by the board since 2013. It’s a lot. In the board meeting of 11/20/15, he famously stomped his feet, held his breath, took his ball and went home when John Hanger, the non-voting representative to the board appointed by Governor Tom Wolf, dared ask a few questions about $101.7 million in requested expenditures for a residence hall and student union and dining building at Penn State Brandywine, and a student apartment building at Penn State Abington. Unmoved by the whining of the thrice “troubled” Dambly, Hanger responded: “I find it really remarkable - the tone of trustee Dambly’s comments. I will also say that this governor and his representatives on any board are not rubber stamps. And at least I do not apologize for asking tough questions, even if it’s relatively late in the process. Those questions are going to be asked and if people don’t like it, it’s kind of too bad, because we’re going to keep asking the tough questions.”

On 12/15/15, the Board rubber stamped the request. (Sorry…sometimes I can’t help myself.) See, this was seven months after Gov. Wolf had announced that Pennrose Properties had been awarded $11 million in tax credits over 10 years for a senior housing and office space project in…you guessed it…beautiful downtown Allentown! And John Hanger is now asking those tough questions at home in Massachusetts, after resigning to “spend more time with his family.” (Clarification: That is a point of information, not a suggestion that his departure is related to his questions at the board meeting.)

So…this $100+ million project? Sure would be an easy way to siphon buckets of money out of the till. StinkStankStunk has done some great work on this, and concluded that for $100 million, the project could be completed with enough left over to buy a couple small islands and a decent NBA free agent. Budget and cost review? Financing? Appraisal? Construction draw requests? Validity of invoices? Developer’s fees? Delays and cost overruns? “Contingencies”? Disbursements…disbursements…and more disbursements? All that and who knows what else, watched like a hawk by…Mark Dambly! So who’s watching Dambly?

In November of 2011, Mark Dambly knew what had to be done: “I personally thought that Joe did not fully meet his moral obligation and for that reason I felt he could no longer lead the University. I offered the thought, the trustees considered it and the feeling was unanimous.”

Ladies and gentlemen…Penn State’s financial watchdog and moral compass…a man with real conviction(s): Mark Dambly.

Sleep well. I’m sure everything is fine.

Update:  Mark Dambly is up for election as the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees which will occur this Friday when they meet at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. 

1 comment:

  1. So the BoTs, administration, whomever does no background check? Jiminy Crickets! Retail stores, restaurants, anywhere does background checks. These people are jokes.