Joe Brimmeier, who nearly ended up heading the Port Authority earlier this year, has now resigned from its board instead. The reason: a grand jury presentment naming Brimmeier and seven other officials tied to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a "pay to play" scheme. Brimmeier was the former CEO of the agency, where state Attorney General Kathleen Kane charged contracts were exchanged for campaign contributions.
Shortly after the grand jury's findings were made public, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald issued the following statement:
"Joe Brimmeier called me last night to notify me that he was submitting his resignation from the Board of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, effective immediately, in light of the charges announced this morning. He indicated to me that he is innocent of these charges, but would be focusing his time and attention on proving that. Our justice system is set up on the premise that all men are innocent until proven guilty. I believe that and wish Joe the best in facing this challenge."
It is a dramatic change of events at the Port Authority. Less than two months ago, Brimmeier joined a a Port Authority board majority to remove the agency's then-CEO, Steve Bland. The move came at Fitzgerald's behest, because as Fitzgerald later told reporters, "People were losing confidence in that system." Fitzgerald originally intended to name Brimmeier himself as Bland's replacement, but was pressured from a variety of directions not to do so. Fitzgerald was unhappy with much of that criticism at the time, telling reporters that Brimmeier, "worked his way up through the ranks" and has "always been a civil servant."
Fitzgerald may want to give those critics some thanks today.