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Harrisburg, Penn. treasurer allegedly embezzled from nonprofit

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - The treasurer of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's capital city which nearly went bankrupt three years ago, on Tuesday was accused by prosecutors of embezzling from a nonprofit organization he ran.

John Campbell, 26, who was elected in 2011, was charged with felony theft and fraudulent conduct for allegedly stealing nearly $8,500 from Historic Harrisburg Association, where he was executive director until April and which did business with the city.

Campbell, who was out of town due to work, was not immediately arrested. Dauphin County District Attorney Edward Marsico said Campbell was expected to surrender in a few days.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse said that he expects Campbell to resign as city treasurer soon. If he does not, the city will go to court to force him out.

Papenfuse does not believe city accounts were compromised, and a current audit is being expanded to cover the treasurer's office, he said.

In 2011, reeling under a mountain of debt tied to renovations of the city trash incinerator, Harrisburg filed for bankruptcy. The filing was later thrown out after the state banned it.

Marsico said Campbell wrote himself checks from the "Lighten Up Harrisburg" account, which collected public donations to replace burned-out streetlights and decrepit light poles. He allegedly used the stolen money to pay medical and student loan debts.

The city treasurer is paid $20,000 annually and the job is not full-time, so it was not unusual that Campbell held a second job.

Historic Harrisburg, which informed Marsico of the loss earlier this month, said in a statement that it was shocked and saddened by the embezzlement and will seek full restitution from Campbell.

The loss was discovered in July when the "Lighten Up Harrisburg" bank account was reconciled in preparation for reimbursing the city for work it had done on the street lights.

Campbell resigned from the Historic Harrisburg job in April, according to the affidavit filed by Marsico, to take a job as development director of Equality Pennsylvania, which promotes gay and lesbian rights and is based in Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

That group suspended Campbell on Tuesday, Executive Director Ted Martin said in a statement. Campbell does not have access to bank accounts, check writing, or cash handling as a part of his duties there.

"Campbell has performed well in his duties," Martin said. "We have no reason to believe there was any wrongdoing with his work at our organization."​

Campbell was a close political ally of Papenfuse, who introduced him at his victory rally when he was elected mayor last year.

Paul Wambach, who was city treasurer for nearly 20 years, came out of retirement on Tuesday to fill the job until the city council can appoint a successor to Campbell, Papenfuse said.

(Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg; Editing by Hilary Russ and Jonathan Oatis)

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