The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission said on Thursday that the former chairman of the Cambria County War Memorial Arena Authority violated the state’s Public Official and Employee Ethics Act during his time as the leader of the authority’s board.
Under the terms of a consent agreement, Dean Gindlesperger was directed to pay the state $1,000 per month for the next 18 months, a total of $18,000, according to an order distributed Thursday that summarizes the Ethics Commission’s final adjudication order. He was also directed to pay $2,000 to the Ethics Commission, representing a portion of the costs it incurred while investigating the matter.
Gindlesperger issued a statement Thursday in which he denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that everything he did while a member of the authority “was done with the taxpayers’ best interests in mind” and that his actions “saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“I am confident that anyone who reads the full findings (of the Ethics Commission) will conclude that, at all times, I acted in the best interest of the arena and the citizens of Cambria County, of whom I am proud to be one,” he said.
One of the allegations against Gindlesperger had to do with his alleged participation in the awarding of a $130,000 contract for the installation of a new scoreboard at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial to Amphype Signs LLC, a company that is partially owned by his son, Ryan Gindlesperger, according to the Ethics Commission.
According to the Ethics Commission’s order summary, Dean Gindlesperger denied having committed a violation of the Ethics Act in relation to the installation of the new scoreboard and denied knowing that his son was a part-owner of Amphype Signs LLC.
However, he agreed that the Ethics Commission could, by circumstantial evidence, “convince a fact finder that he violated (the Ethics Act) in relation to his participation in the Authority Board’s discussion and official action to effectuate purchase/installation of a new scoreboard, resulting in a private pecuniary benefit to Amphype Signs LLC,” according to the order summary.
‘No bad intentions’
In his statement, Gindlesperger said that the scoreboard in question was the cheapest of any of the quotes received by the arena authority, adding that the scoreboard’s video capabilities bring in advertising revenue.
“I received no money related to the scoreboard,” he said.
“I did not know my adult son was affiliated with the company that sold the scoreboard. In the resolution with the Ethics Commission, I refused to admit any wrongdoing or pay any fine related to the scoreboard.
“Again, I did nothing wrong.”
Ryan Gindlesperger largely echoed those sentiments in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.
“Everything that did occur down there, I would say there were no bad intentions,” Ryan Gindlesperger said. “I grew up playing down at that arena. I love the arena. I want to see the arena do well. Obviously, I want to see the community do well. I think that everything that did happen down at the arena, it benefited the taxpayers.
“The ethics situation, I think, is unfortunate. I think it is politically motivated. Knowing things now that I did not know then, do I think there are things that could have been done differently? Yes. Absolutely. But we can’t go back and change the past.
“I think at that particular time, having the information that we had then, I think everybody was trying to make the arena better. I think that was the goal all along.”
Ryan Gindlesperger added: “I have personally tried to support the arena in every way possible over the years, donating countless hours of work at no fee, as well as supporting it monetarily, having paid more than $18,000 over a two-year period for box rentals, tickets, and food and beverage – not to mention the tens of thousands of advertising dollars that my ad agency has placed there under my direction.”
Other allegations against Dean Gindlesperger had to do with the negotiation of contracts under which a company he runs, Allegheny Field Services, received $600 per month from arena management company SMG for the storage of glycol for the arena’s ice rink’s surface.
Training, legal advice
Per the terms of the consent agreement between the parties, Gindlesperger violated the Ethics Act when he entered negotiations with SMG “to lease warehouse property owned by a company of which Gindlesperger is an owner,” the Ethics Commission said Thursday. Those negotiations resulted in a “private pecuniary benefit to that company,” the commission added.
Another violation of the Ethics Act occurred when “a contract for storage ... was entered into between a business with which Gindlesperger is associated and SMG/the authority,” the Ethics Commission said in its order summary.
In his statement, Gindlesperger said that “there was no wrongdoing, period,” in the contracts with SMG and maintained that the contracts saved taxpayers a total of more than $300,000, adding that the arena now pays $1,000 per month for half the glycol storage space Allegheny Field Services had provided. He said that the members of the authority believed, based on legal advice they received at the time, that the contract was valid.
“Nonetheless,” he added, “because I now understand that the agreement to warehouse was in violation of the rules, I have agreed to forfeit any funds my business received for the warehousing. Had I been advised of the impropriety of this lease, I never would have entered it or continued it.
“Unfortunately, as the Findings acknowledge, the members of the War Memorial Authority were never provided any training related to the Ethics Act from the Cambria County Commissioners.”
Gindlesperger resigned from the arena authority in August 2018, following a request by Cambria County Commissioners Thomas Chernisky and William “B.J.” Smith that he do so. The commissioners’ office declined to comment on Thursday, but Cambria County Solicitor Bill Barbin said, “We’re happy that this is over for everybody.”
No action is planned by the board against Gindlesperger, since he is no longer a member, according to Barbin.
Barbin said he thinks the Ethics Commission conducted a “very thorough investigation of the matter.”
“When this was first brought to our attention that there was a question about these things, I advised the commissioners that this was beyond our ability to investigate,” Barbin said. “The commissioners don’t have their own investigators or detectives or anything like this. It was beyond our ability.
“The state legislature set up the State Ethics Commission to handle these kind of cases. We took all the facts that we were aware of and referred them to the State Ethics Commission.”