Nov. 25, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Cleland Leaves Disability Group

• Bill Kuchera of Kuchera Defense Systems, a Johnstown-based contractor that has received millions in Murtha earmarks and claims to have hired dozens of people with disabilities from PAID;

• Daniel DeVos, president of Concurrent Technologies Corp., a nonprofit technology incubation center that Murtha helped establish in the late 1980s and that now has annual revenues of more than $230 million, more than 1,500 employees and buildings scattered around the 12th Congressional district — including the John P. Murtha Technology Center; and

• Ken Stalder and David Clifford, both lobbyists with Scialabba at KSA.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) also is an honorary board member and he credited Murtha with introducing him to the group.

Kennedy also is the only recipient of campaign contributions from what KSA calls its “leadership PAC.” On May 21, 2004, the KSA PAC — called the Working for Opportunity and Leadership Fund, or WOLF PAC — made two $2,000 contributions to Kennedy’s Congressional campaign and a $5,000 contribution to his PAC, the Rhode Island Political Action Committee. There is no record that the PAC has ever made any other political contributions.

PAID staffers said there should be little surprise that so many people affiliated with PAID also are affiliated with Murtha because the Congressman has been the primary source of economic development in the region for years. “Most of our jobs are defense industry jobs,” employment counselor Ann Michaels said. “That’s the growth area here,” she said, and Murtha’s earmarks are a major contributor to that growth.

Caulfield said Johnstown is small enough that many community leaders are on the boards of several groups, and most of them are likely to have connections with Murtha, who has represented the district since 1974.

Scialabba said he will turn anywhere he can for support to advance the cause of helping people with disabilities land full-time jobs. “I’m looking for someone to say ‘OK, let’s back these people,’” Scialabba said. “I just want to see this thing spread out.”

Since its creation, PAID claims to have helped 237 people with disabilities obtain permanent jobs, which other disability groups in the state say is an admirable achievement. But the organization has never been mentioned in a local newspaper and it does not appear to have ever been awarded any of the myriad citations given by agencies that employ people with disabilities. The only article written about the group appeared in an October 2006 issue of Exceptional Parent magazine, a Johnstown-based publication for families of people with disabilities. The article was written by Brenda Szelong, with no mention of the fact that she is on the PAID board of directors.

Shortly after Cleland announced he would be joining the board, a call to the PAID office in Johnstown to inquire about the group’s finances was returned by Michael Duga, Cleland’s then-chief of staff in Atlanta. Duga flew to Johnstown to meet a reporter and oversee interviews with Scialabba and other PAID staff members.

Though he does not have a disability, Duga said he had injured his knee and spent the day using a borrowed wheelchair and crutches.

Duga made broad claims about Cleland’s plans to lead the organization into national prominence, a commitment that Cleland apparently had no knowledge of.

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