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Ex-Turnpike CEO can't get $300K reimbursement for legal fees in pay to play scandal, Pa. court says

Former Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Joseph Brimmeier III has failed to convince a panel of state judges that the Turnpike Commission should reimburse him for more than $300,000 he spent defending himself in the pay to play scandal.

The Commonwealth Court judges on Monday dismissed a lawsuit Brimmeier filed seeking that money, finding, among other things, that the commission is immune from most of his financial claims.

That decision, presented in an opinion by Judge Anne E. Covey, comes nearly two years after Brimmeier pleaded guilty in Dauphin County Court to felony conflict of interest charges. He is serving a 5-year probation sentence.

Covey’s opinion could mark the end of a quest that began less than a month after his conviction when Brimmeier asked the commission to reimburse him for $300,261 that he said were tied to his successful defense against most of the pay to play charges filed against him by the state attorney general’s office.

He claimed his employment contract with the commission specified that he had to receive that repayment for legal defense of charges on which he was not convicted.

Brimmeier , 68, of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty to the ethics count under an agreement with prosecutors. He admitted to accepting hospitality and political donations for then-Gov. Ed Rendell from a contractor in return for steering work that firm’s way. Those charges were tied to Brimmeier’s advocacy for Orth-Rogers & Associates to receive a contract for a fog detection and traveler information system, court filings show.

In return for his guilty plea, prosecutors dismissed multiple other criminal counts, including bribery and bid-rigging, against Brimmeier, who was the turnpike’s CEO from February 2003 to March 2011.

Covey noted in her opinion that the legal basis for Brimmeier’s plea for attorney fee reimbursement is unclear “when doubt exists regarding whether Brimmeier’s plea constituted a successful defense.”

Brimmeier was among eight people – turnpike officials, a state senator and employees of contractors – who were charged by the AG’s office in March 2013. Despite considerable fanfare over the arrests, none of the accused went to jail by the time the prosecutions concluded in November 2014.

No defendant received more than a probation sentence.

Brimmeier could appeal the Commonwealth Court ruling to the state Supreme Court.

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