Grand jury probes Pittsburgh police contract
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A federal grand jury investigating the way a contract was awarded to a former friend of Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper heard testimony on Tuesday from three people.
Entrepreneur Art Bedway, his wife, Colleen Bedway, and Pittsburgh police Sgt. Gordon J. McDaniel, who oversees the bureau's vehicles, all testified on Tuesday. Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said Chief Harper, who has been out of town attending to a family matter, had "no statement to provide."
She said last week that the chief "has said that he doesn't know [about any investigation] at this point."
Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said federal prosecutors have not made the administration privy to any details of the grand jury proceedings, but the mayor stands by his statement from last week: "I've talked to the chief. Certainly he has professed to me that he's done nothing wrong. And at this point he has my full confidence."
Mr. Bedway, 63, of Robinson was once a friend of Chief Harper and for a time employed the chief's wife, retired city police officer Cynthia Harper, as a consultant for Carnegie-based Victory Security, a private security firm that gained recognition for helping to clean up the East Hills and provided guards for the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.
Former city computer information systems employee Christine Ann Kebr, 56, of Castle Shannon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy last month and faces an April 4 sentencing after she admitted to taking two bribes worth $6,000 and steering a $327,000 police radio installation contract to Alpha Outfitters, a firm also connected to Mr. Bedway. Mr. Bedway has pleaded not guilty to related charges of mail fraud, bribery and conspiracy.
Alpha Outfitters was created in July 2006. Though it appeared to have been run by a woman, Lois Kolarik, who was an employee of Mr. Bedway, federal prosecutors have said she was just a straw owner.
Chief Harper was promoted from assistant chief to his current rank in late October of 2006.
Prosecutors have said that Mr. Bedway, Ms. Kebr and an unnamed third person met around Oct. 27, 2006, to talk about Alpha Outfitters. They wrote in a criminal information that Mr. Bedway and Ms. Kebr met at Victory Security's office and outlined Alpha Outfitters' bid for installing radios and computers in police cruisers, and that Ms. Kebr then engineered the city's process to make sure that Alpha Outfitters received the contract.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette chronicled the ties between Mr. Bedway and Chief Harper in a September 2011 story. At the time, Chief Harper said that he hadn't spoken to Mr. Bedway in "about a year now" and that he avoided the contracting process because of his friendship with Mr. Bedway. He also said that by that time his wife had already left Victory to halt rumors within the security industry about his wife's work there.
Mr. Bedway's attorney, Martin Dietz, said at the time that Mr. Bedway had no involvement with the contracting process.
Mr. Bedway referred all questions to Mr. Dietz, who declined to comment, as did attorneys representing Chief Harper and Sgt. McDaniel. An attorney representing Ms. Kebr could not be reached.
First Published January 23, 2013 12:00 am