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Gov. Wolf joins state and City of Harrisburg officials in lawsuit to recoup losses from failed Harrisburg Incinerator Project

Harrisburg City Sells Incinerator, Is Now Debt-Free

HARRISBURG — The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Harrisburg filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court Monday seeking payment for damages from several firms involved in the Harrisburg Incinerator debt crisis, court documents show.

The office of Governor Tom Wolf is named as one of the petitioners in the suit, which alleges that numerous law, financial and engineering firms engaged in professional malpractice, fraud and unjust enrichment claims to convince Harrisburg city officials to sign off on a guarantee of a retrofit project in 2003.

“It is time to hold those responsible for the failed incinerator debt scheme accountable and recoup the taxpayer dollars wasted by their negligence and deception,” Wolf said in a statement. “This project, started in 2003, represents the worst of how lobbyists and special interests bilk taxpayers for their own gain. My administration is standing up to these interests on behalf of the taxpayers and we will continue to fight to stop anyone that uses deception or fraud to take advantage of taxpayers.”

The commonwealth and the City of Harrisburg paid more than $12 million in legal fees alone to the defendants in the complaint, and incurred almost $360 in debt financing for the project, which ultimately failed and left Harrisburg on the brink of financial collapse.

Included on the list of defendants in the suit are the law firms:

  • Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney
  • Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel
  • Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellot
  • Foreman & Caraciolo

Also named as defendants are the financial firms:

  • RBC Capital Markets Corp.
  • Public Financial Management

The engineering firm Buchart Horn Inc. is also named as a defendant.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were part of the group that came up with the retrofit plan and provided city officials with misleading information designed to win their approval.

The project’s failure forced Harrisburg to engage in a recovery plan that includes higher taxes for city residents, reduced pay and benefits for city employees, the sale or lease of public assets and significant use of state funding in an attempt to recover the debt it incurred.

The suit seeks unspecified damages “to be determined at trial, plus interest costs and punitive damages.