The Sequence of Events: A Record of Harrisburg’s Debt Crisis
On November 5th, we’ll choose our next mayor.
The main contenders—Eric Papenfuse and Dan Miller—are debating full force at one after the other public match.
Their most heated battleground is the “Harrisburg Strong Plan,” the plan devised to move the city towards debt relief, fiscal stability, and its own urban potential.
There is much argument, though, whether the plan does that or not. And the argument is not just left in the forum of those who are campaigning, but also making its way to city corners, coffee shops, and conversations.
As it should be.
We should be having an ongoing public discussion about the city’s recovery. Citizens and stakeholders alike should be continually collecting and sharing information about what’s going on, which is no easy feat around here.
At this point in time, it’s important to outline the sequence of events.
The candidates are referring to past plans, meetings, hearings, and stances. Therefore, it’s probably helpful for the public to review the dates, documents, and occurrences of the past three years.
Before Act 47 & Receivership, these were the financial recovery plans proposed
- 1/25/10: Management Partner’s Plan. Management Partners Debt Plan
- 5/26/10: Neil Grover’s Harrisburg Incinerator Debt Restructuring Proposal. Grover Incinerator Debt Plan
- 7/15/10: City Controller Dan Miller’s plan as presented on the City Controller’s website. Miller Incinerator Debt Plan
- 7/17/10: Harrisburg Authority Board Member Bill Cluck’s perspective of Harrisburg’s debt. Originally posted on the pennlive forum on July 17th, this is currently posted on Jersey Mike’s site. Bill Cluck’s Debt Statement
August 12, 2010: Harrisburg Debt Forum held at the Midtown Scholar
- #1: The Program
- #2: Cluck’s Timeline of Financial Crisis
- #3: Who Got Paid?
- #4: Sources of Payment
- #5: HA Debt 2003
- #6: Summary of Management Partners Recommendations
- #7: Timeline of Management Partners Recommendations
The Act 47 Process Begins
- 10/01/10: Harrisburg Application for Act 47 filed by Mayor Linda Thompson. Harrisburg Act 47 Request
- 10/20/10: Public Hearing on Harrisburg’s Act 47 application.
- 1/12/11: Public Announcement from DCED. Appointment of Act 47 Team. PA DCED Secretary Appoints Recovery Plan Coordinator for Harrisburg
- 2/14/11: Letter from Act 47 Team to Harrisburg Mayor & City Council. Spending Directives. Act 47 Pre-plan Recommendations
- 2/17/11: Public Announcement from DCED. Public Input Sessions. Act 47 Announcement of Public Meetings
- 3/15/11: Public Input Ideas. The Novak Group compiled public input suggestions from the 3/7/11 meeting. Public Input Ideas from March 7th Meeting
Cravath, Swaine, and Moore Come in Pro Bono because City Council needs help
- 2/24/11: Cravath, Swaine, & Moore Preliminary Report on Harrisburg debt crisis. Letter from CS&M to Harrisburg City Council
- 3/31/11: Cravath, Swaine, & Moore Report on Harrisburg debt crisis. Evaluation of Alternatives Available to the City of Harrisburg to Address Its Current Financial Situation
The Act 47 Plans filed and rejected
- 6/28/11: See a collection of Act 47 Plan Public Input submitted to the Act 47 Coordinator. Act 47 Plan Public Input
- 7/19/11: City Council voted to NOT ADOPT the Act 47 Plan. Bill 8-2011: Adoption of Harrisburg Act 47 Plan voted down 4-3.
- The Mayor has 14 days to come up with an alternative plan. Her plan is due to be filed by August 2nd.
- The Mayor has 14 days to come up with an alternative plan. Her plan is due to be filed by August 2nd.
- 7/22/11: Letter from PA DCED Secretary Alan Walker to Mayor Linda Thompson. Proposing a Timeline for the Harrisburg Act 47 Process
- 8/2/11: The Mayor’s Act 47 Plan. Mayors Proposed Act 47 Recovery Plan
- 8/22/11: The Mayor’s FINAL Act 47 Plan
- 8/23/11: Letter from PA Governor Corbett to Mayor Linda Thompson. Governor Corbett’s Response to City’s Recovery Plan
- 8/27/11: Letter from Harrisburg City Treasurer to City Council members. City Treasurer Letter to City Council Members
- 8/31/11: City Council voted to NOT ADOPT the Mayor’s Act 47 Plan. Vote 4-3.
- 9/12/11: Letter from the Act 47 Team to Mayor Linda Thompson on Harrisburg’s “stranded debt,” per the Act 47 Plans. Letter from the Act 47 Team on Stranded Debt
- 9/13/11: In a Motion to Reconsider a vote on the Mayor’s Act 47 Plan, City Council voted NOT To RECONSIDER. Vote 4-3.
The State pushes to take over the City
- 10/17/11: Senate Bill 1151 (amendment to municipalities financial recovery Act 47, allowingfor receivership) passes 177-18. Senate Bill 1151
- 10/20/11: The Governor signs Senate Bill 1151
- 11/3/11: The Secretary of DCED’s Fiscal Emergency Plan for the City of Harrisburg (be sure to scroll side to side as well as up & down to read whole plan)
The City files for bankruptcy & is dismissed from Federal Court
- 10/11/11: The City of Harrisburg files a bankruptcy petition. City of Harrisburg Chapter 9 Petition
- 10/13/11: City of Harrisburg files Motion to hold Status Conference. Motion to Hold Status Conference
- 10/14/11: Judge Mary France issues Order for Status Conference. Order Setting The StatusConference
- 10/17/11: Status Conference in Federal Bankruptcy Court
- 10/19/11: Judge Mary France sets deadlines and a hearing date. Hearing on validity of Harrisburg’s Chapter 9 Petition set for November 23rd @ 9:30am. Order Setting Objection & Briefing Deadlines and Setting Hearing Date
- 11/23/11: Order Dismissing Bankruptcy
Meanwhile, the push for Receivership continued…
- 10/31/11: First Public Consent Agreement meeting. Harrisburg elected officials agree to use the Coordinator’s Act 47 Plan as basis for the Consent Agreement, not the Mayor’s Plan.
- 11/7/11: Second Public Consent Agreement meeting. Harrisburg City Council unanimously agrees to send a letter to the City’s creditors asking for $100 million in concessions.
- 11/9/11: Letter from Dauphin County in response to City’s concession request. Letter to the City of Harrisburg
- 11/9/11: Letter from Assured Guaranty in response to City’s concession request. Letter to Mayor Thompson
- 11/11/11: Letter to City creditors, signed and sent by the Mayor and 3 of 7 City Council members. City of Harrisburg Letter to Creditors
- 11/14/11: Deadline for the Consent Agreement. The City does not file one with the State.
- 11/18/11: Directed by the Governor, the Secretary of PA’s Department of Community & Economic Development submits a petition to appoint David Unkovic as Receiver. Petition for Appointment of Receiver
- 11/21/11: City Council Majority’s attorney files Preliminary Objections. Objection to Appointment of a Receiver
- 11/22/11: The Office of the Mayor’s Response to the State Petition for a Receiver: The City of Harrisburg Response & New Matter
- 11/25/11: City Council Majority’s attorney withdraws his Preliminary Objections after the Federal Court dismisses the City’s Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Petition. Letter to the Commonwealth Court
David Unkovic, Receiver of Harrisburg, first receiver in PA
- 12/1/11: Commonwealth Court holds a hearing on the appointment of David Unkovic as Receiver for the City of Harrisburg
- 12/2/11: Commonwealth Court rules in favor of David Unkovic as Receiver. Memorandum and Order for the Appointment of David Unkovic as Receiver of the City of Harrisburg
- 12/16/11: Harrisburg Receiver David Unkovic holds public meeting on financial recovery plan at Midtown Scholar
- 1/18/12: Harrisburg Receiver David Unkovic holds public meeting at financial recovery plan at the Arsenal Building
The Forensic Audit Report on the Incinerator Retrofit Financial Transactions is released
- 1/18/12: Report on the Forensic Audit of the Harrisburg Incinerator & Exhibits to the Report on the Forensic Audit Harrisburg Incinerator
The Plan to save Harrisburg, signed Unkovic
- 2/6/12: Harrisburg Receiver David Unkovic’s Recovery Plan for the City: Receiver’sRecovery Plan
- 3/1/12: Commonwealth Court public hearing on the Receiver’s Recovery Plan
- 3/9/12: Judge Leadbetter approves Receiver’s Recovery Plan: The Order
- 3/30/12: Receiver David Unkovic submits his letter of resignation. Access the letter here.
- 4/11/12: Fred Reddig is appointed the Administrator of the Office of the Receiver until a new Receiver is appointed. Harrisburg Receivership Status Report
General William Lynch, the second Receiver of the City of Harrisburg
- 4/26/12: Judge Leadbetter Orders a Status Report on the appointment of the next Receiver. Order of the Commonwealth Court
- 5/11/12: The Office of the Receiver files a Status Report. Status Report 05-11-12
- 5/11/12: Directed by the Governor, the Secretary of PA’s Department of Community & Economic Development submits a petition to appoint Major General William B. Lynch as Receiver. Petition for Appointment of a Receiver
- 5/21/12: Judge Leadbetter orders that David Unkovic will appear as the Court’s witness at the petition hearing of William Lynch. Commonwealth Court Order
- 5/24/12: Judge Leadbetter approves the Petition of William B. Lynch as Receiver of the City of Harrisburg.
Lynch’s plan following Unkovic’s design
- 8/26/13: Harrisburg Receiver William Lynch submitted Modified Recovery Plan to Commonwealth Court. Read the “Harrrisburg Strong Plan” here
- 9/19/13: Commonwealth Court hearing on Receiver’s Modified Recovery Plan
- 9/23/13: Judge Leadbetter issues Order confirming Receiver’s Modified Recovery Plan. Commonwealth Court Order
Then there were the Senate Local Government Committee hearings on the City’s debt crisis
- 10/4/12: First Senate Local Government Committee hearing on Harrisburg’s debt crisis. Testifiers:
- Steven Goldfied of Public Resources Advisory Group who worked on the Incinerator Forensic Audit
Bernadette Barratini, Esq;
Tim Anstine, Esq; & Fred Reddig, representatives of PA’s Department of Community & Economic Development, which oversees municipal debt transactions
- Former members of The Harrisburg Authority (THA) Board: Eric Papenfuse and Fred Clark
- Stephen Reed, former Harrisburg Mayor
- Dan Lispi, former consultant to the Incinerator retrofit project
- William Cluck, community activist and current member of The Harrisburg Authority Board
- 11/13/12: Second Senate Local Government Committee hearing on Harrisburg’s debt crisis. Testifiers:
- Thomas Mealy, former Director, Harrisburg Authority
- Robert Kroboth, Business Manager, City of Harrisburg
- Jeff Haste, Commissioner, Dauphin County
- Bruce Barnes of Excel Financial Advisors/Milt Lopus Associates, former financial advisor to the City of Harrisburg
- James Losty of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), former financial advisor to the City of Harrisburg
- Andrew Giorgione, Esquire, former special counsel to THA
- Carol Cocheres, Esq. (Eckert Seamens), former special counsel to THA
- James Ellison, Esquire, former counsel to THA as well as former Chair of THA Board
- David Unkovic, Esquire, former Receiver of the City of Harrisburg
- 12/12/12: PA Senator Mike Folmer Presents Legislation Inspired by the City of Harrisburg’s Debt Crisis
- 12/12/12: The Letter Sent from PA Senators to the Dauphin County District Attorney On Harrisburg’s Debt Crisis
The lawsuits that were paused but potentially could still choke Harrisburg
See that list here. This list has not been updated since Receivership paused most of these processes in order to negotiate agreement.
The CIT trial in Federal Court
- 1/8/12: The Trial: THA vs CIT (Part 1)
- 1/12/12: The Trial: THA vs CIT (Part 2)
The complication of the Suburban Municipalities
This timeline doesn’t even list the countless City Council meetings and hearings; the press releases back and forth between City Councilors—most especially the “Fabulous Four”—and the Mayor. This list doesn’t list the every other weekly meetings of the Receiver’s Municipal Financial Recovery Advisory Council that began in April 2012 or the Receiver’s quarterly status reports to the court, but you can access the meeting minutes here and the reports here.
It doesn’t touch upon little “r” receiver versus big “R” Receiver, bankruptcy prohibition, or other battles waged.
It doesn’t recall atrocious bridge loans, audits delayed, or opportunities lost and gained.
There have been community meetings, public forums, and stories galore.
While the timeline is packed with long reads, lengthy procedures, and complications along the way, it basically tells the story of how Harrisburg got to where it is today.
With less than two weeks until the election of a new mayor, let’s at least agree on the facts of what has happened and the order it’s all occurred.
Illustrations by Ammon Perry: Doodletillomega