One Man, Many Opportunities to Disappoint the Public

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August 26, 2014; Business Insider

Some people just inspire confidence. Hence, a 26-year-old in Harrisburg has held a number of positions where he oversaw finances in public trust and, in at least one of those positions, he is being charged with embezzlement.

The City of Harrisburg has had several distinct honors as of late. It was the first municipality ever in the history of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to be charged with securities fraud, nearly declared bankruptcy in 2011, and in 2010 was voted by Forbes as one the best places in the United States to raise a family. As the city starts to dig itself out of its financial problems, a recent challenge brings reminders of its past.

The city’s part-time treasurer, John Campbell, was recently charged for stealing $8500 dollars in his previous position as executive director at Historic Harrisburg Association (HHA), which he held simultaneously with his post at the city. HHA did business under contract with the city, running Lighten Up Harrisburg, which collected public donations to replace burned-out streetlights and decrepit light poles. Campbell used the bank account for the fund to pay medical and student loan debts.

While in a part-time role with the city, Campbell also worked for Equality Pennsylvania as their Director of Development. Equality Pennsylvania has suspended Campbell, stating that Campbell did not have access to any of the financial mechanisms of the organization, that there was “no reason to believe there was any wrongdoing with his work at our organization,” and that “Campbell has performed well in his duties.”

HHA learned of the financial loss while conducting an audit of the account and is going to seek full restitution from Campbell. The City of Harrisburg is doing an audit, though it doubts that any malfeasance occurred there, and it has asked Paul Wambach, a former city treasurer for nearly 20 years, to come out of retirement. Campbell is expected to turn himself in this week.—John Brothers