George Hatalowich, Penn Pike's former #2, liaison with E-ZPass being fired
By Peter Samuel
George Hatalowich former number two and E-ZPass expert at the Pennsylvania Turnpike was asked by Governor Tom Corbett's office to resign last Thursday, we're told by a source close to the Turnpike. Hatalowich's response was 'No, I'm not resigning.' As a result he is being "terminated" this week, we understand.
Hatalowich, 45 is described by people around the Governor as the leading holdover from the Fumo era at the Turnpike. Fumo a former state senator is serving a multi-year jail sentence for corruption and large-scale petty thievery, part of it connected to Turnpike affairs.
The new Governor, Tom Corbett was reported to have "gone ballistic" late January on hearing that the Turnpike Commission board had given Hatalowich a new job as 'senior adviser' and Turnpike Representative to the E-ZPass Group where he is chairman of the Executive Committee. His appointment was made before the Governor's representative, transportation secretary Barry Schoch could take his position on the Commission board.
Hatalowich as chief operating officer (COO) was #2 at the Turnpike from early 2007 when Kevin Longenbach left the Turnpike until the Jan 25 meeting this year moved Craig Shuey, former government relations officer (lobbyist) into the COO position.
Hatalowich was described as a major practitioner of hardball pay-to-play politics in which people doing business at the Turnpike or getting jobs there were expected to pitch in with time and money for favored elected officials.
He had a key position of chief contracts officer 2003 to 2007, and prior to that was in the engineering department.
During the last election campaign Hatalowich reportedly worked long hours for the election of the Don Onorato as governor and other Democrat Party candidates for elected positions. Turnpike people quipped that he was Chief of Party Toll Operations for his fundraising and reported that he used Turnpike telephones and office equipment, although much of this was conducted "off site."
A number of law suits for wrongful dismissal have cited Hatalowich inspired appointments as purely political with better qualified but less political people passed over or moved out. Jobs were created specially to get a politically favored person on the Turnpike payroll.
The present governor Tom Corbett as attorney general in 2010 was almost certainly briefed on grand jury investigations of wrongdoing at the Turnpike.
The situation was confusing with the Turnpike itself initiating a number of its own investigations, which led to a total of about twenty dismissals.
Last April Hatalowich got publicity after an off-duty late night incident in his private car when he drove into the perimeter fence of the Hershey entertainment park. Police charged him with drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident. No one was hurt.
We received emails from a person signing himself Friend of George praising George as a "great leader" and a "great guy" who was active in the community, attended church regularly and coached his kids sports teams, saying our reportage of George's Hershey fence incident was "despicable" and "sadistic."
Friend of George said the incident was the result of George's marital problems and goaded us to write about them. We didn't.
Some months later a Turnpike employee contacted us to say she had found copies of Friend of George emails to us on the hard drive of her personal computer at the Turnpike including TOLLROADSnews replies. She copied them back to us.
Friend of George was George himself, she said, accusing him of making unauthorized use of her computer when she wasn't present. One of the emails for example was dated 6:20am, before she got to work.
He did work long hours.
It is unclear who will chair the executive committee of the E-ZPass Group with Hatalowich's departure from the Turnpike. He was credited there with being extremely expert in E-ZPass matters and a major figure in the interagency group's activity, including its procurement of new transponder-reader technology - "not easily replaced" one official says of him.