Anti-abortion contractor launches suit against Auditor General

Written by Katie Meyer | Mar 16, 2017 5:22 PM

DePasquale said the lawsuit is baseless, and he plans to fight it for as long as necessary. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is, for the first time in his tenure, on the receiving end of a lawsuit from an organization he was investigating.

Real Alternatives--an anti-abortion nonprofit that gets money from the state--is suing because they say DePasquale is overstepping his legal authority.

The group has been operating in Pennsylvania for more than 20 years, and gets about $7 million a year in state funding to, as they say, provide "women in unexpected pregnancies with compassionate, caring and free services throughout the commonwealth."

The group allocates resources to various subcontractors, which help carry out its mission. It charges a three-percent fee to those subcontractors, which it says goes toward "promoting the development and expansion of Real Alternatives initiatives."

DePasquale's audit began last September when the Department of Human Services--which oversees Real Alternatives--became concerned that it couldn't track where the proceeds from the fee were going.

DePasquale said the accumulated fees over the last five years have amounted to almost a million dollars the state can't trace.

"What is it in that 3 percent fee that they so want to hide from the people of Pennsylvania?" he asked.  "Are they funneling campaign contributions? I mean what are they doing with that money?"

He said the lawsuit has made him even more suspicious, and suggested that it's possible the group is spending Pennsylvania taxpayer money on out-of-state costs.

"It is my view that the legislature and the governor should absolutely not give Real Alternatives another dime unless the people of Pennsylvania know what they're doing with this 3 percent fee," he said.

Real Alternatives maintains the fee is only levied on private funds, which it gets from "other corporate contracts." On Wednesday, it filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court accusing DePasquale of improperly auditing money that is not under his jurisdiction.

"It's a shame that we had to go to court to get the Auditor General to obey the law," said Matthew Haverstick, the lawyer who's representing Real Alternatives. "But since he's unwilling to do it on his own we really had no choice."

DePasquale said such lawsuits are extremely uncommon, and this one came as a complete surprise. Up until Wednesday, the Auditor General's office had been under the impression Real Alternatives would cooperate with the audit.

DePasquale said nevertheless, he is prepared to fight the suit for as long as necessary--even up to the Supreme Court.

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