Ex-Clairton manager sentenced for bid-rigging scheme

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Former Clairton city manager Ralph Imbrogno was sentenced today to five months in a halfway house and another five months under home detention for theft from a program receiving federal funds.

Imbrogno, 65, now of Elizabeth Township, also must pay the West Mifflin Area School District $94,439, or roughly half of what his son's painting business was paid for work it got without submitting bids or through a rigged bidding process.

"Defendant's bid rigging scheme constituted a betrayal of the trust placed in him as a public official," said U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon. She weighed that against his remorse and history of public service in sentencing him to less than the 10 to 16 months in prison suggested by federal guidelines.

"I'm very happy that West Mifflin is getting $94,000 back in restitution," said school board member Phil Shar. "I think the judge's sentence was fair, and I hope this is the first of many dominoes to fall."

Imbrogno worked with former West Mifflin Area Superintendent Patrick Risha, who retired in 2009 and died in 2010, to steer painting contracts to the former's son, Anthony Imbrogno, prosecutors have said.

The contracts were initially below the $5,000 threshold requiring public bids, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bloch. Then, she said, "greed" took hold, and the contracts approached $10,000. Ralph Imbrogno had friends of his submit bogus bids that were always slightly higher than Anthony Imbrogno's price quotes.

Ms. Bloch said that painting previously had been done by maintenance staff, and the paint was supplied by the district, so none of the money needed to be spent.

She said that district maintenance director Sandy Wells was ordered by Mr. Risha to direct contracts to the Imbrognos, and business manager Dennis Cmar didn't know of the scheme, and in fact "started to question the legitimacy of these contracts."

The restitution is based on the total of the contracts that were awarded through rigged bids, and does not include the contracts for which no bidding was required.

"At the time that the activity was going on, I just didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong," Imbrogno said. "It was too good to be true, and it turned out it wasn't good."

The defendant's "motivation was solely to provide a painting contract for his son to get his business going," said Dan Konieczka, the attorney for Imbrogno. He called the sentence "lenient."

Imbrogno was Clairton's manager for 11 years, until 2010. He is free until U.S. marshals order him to report to a halfway house. After his sentence, he will be on federal probation for three years.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.


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