David Unkovic quit as the state-appointed receiver for Harrisburg, Pa., because he found himself “in an untenable position in the political and ethical crosswinds,” he said in his resignation letter, which the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania released Monday.
Unkovic last week spoke of pressure from lobbyists for major creditors and state and regional political figures in the incinerator debt crisis affecting Pennsylvania’s capital.
Harrisburg owes $310 million in trash burner-related bond debt and has skipped $65 million worth of payments, and additionally missed two general obligation bond payments last month totaling $5.3 million.
Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to nominate a successor soon, subject to Commonwealth Court approval.
“I have done my best to use my powers as receiver to bring fiscal stability to the city of Harrisburg,” Unkovic said in a handwritten letter Friday to Commonwealth Court Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter.
“However, I find myself in an untenable position in the political and ethical crosswinds and am no longer in a position to effectuate a solution. I wish the citizens of the city of Harrisburg well in their ongoing quest for fiscal stability and good government, both of which they truly deserve.”
Unkovic, who served as receiver since November, said during his tenure that he found the incinerator bond deals “disturbing,” and also that he intended to seek more concessions from major creditors, including Dauphin County and incinerator bond insurer Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp.
County court Judge Todd Hoover, in a case brought by Dauphin officials, AGM, and others, ruled last week in favor of a separate receiver to oversee the operations and bond debt of the incinerator. On Monday, the Harrisburg Authority, the public works agency that runs the incinerator, filed a notice of appeal from Hoover's ruling, authority board member William Cluck said in a Twitter message.
Two days before he resigned, Unkovic asked the U.S. attorney and the Pennsylvania attorney general to investigate the incinerator bond deals, citing details in a forensic audit the Harrisburg Authority released in January.
Mark Schwartz, the City Council’s attorney, wants the court to follow up on Unkovic’s comments.
“Once that’s raised, I don’t think you can just move on to the next guy. I hope they can get to the bottom of what he means by political and ethical crosswinds and who pressured him,” Schwartz said. “Given the fact that he put the court on notice, I would hope that the court will hold a hearing asking him to expound. Maybe they can get the governor to testify what those political and ethical crosswinds were.”
Mayor Linda Thompson, while expressing regret over Unkovic’s departure, said the city’s recovery efforts will continue. “The ship is still sailing,” she said at a City Hall news conference on Friday.
Still, others worried about the latest development.
“The resignation is not good for stability for this community,” said David Fiorenza, a Villanova School of Business professor and former chief financial officer of Radnor Township, Pa.