Pennsylvania’s fall gubernatorial campaign is getting nastier.
A billboard that went up on Tuesday evening in the Harrisburg area accuses GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner of being heavy handed with customers of his trash hauling company who don’t pay their bill.
It states, “”Scott Wagner’s Penn Waste sued 6,979 Pennsylvanians. Learn Why.” It provides a web address for “Pennwastealert.com.” The website accuses Wagner’s business of using “strong-arm tactics” and repeatedly violating state environmental rules.
The billboard, which is visible along Route 581 westbound near the ramp for I-83 south, was paid for by a Democratic-leaning advocacy group called PA Spotlight. The group has purchased four other billboards that will go up in locations in York and Dauphin counties later this week.
“PA Spotlight believes it’s important to bring all aspects of Scott Wagner’s business record at Penn Waste to light,” said the group’s executive director Eric Rosso. “The intimidation and aggressive tactics are deeply concerning for working families and municipalities that contract with Penn Waste.”
Wagner’s campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo didn’t deny the group’s claims. Instead, he dismissed them as not out of the ordinary for a trash hauling company and part of what goes along with running a business.
“Independent fact checkers have noted that Scott’s record of regulatory compliance is in accordance with industry averages,” Romeo said, about the group’s environmental violations claim.
As for the number of lawsuits, he said, “Penn Waste is required by their contracts with municipalities to continue to make collections regardless of whether the company receives timely payment, so lawsuits are sometimes necessary in order to make sure customers pay their bills. Scott has always said that government should never spend more money than it takes in and that’s how his business runs as well.”
Wagner is facing off against Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf in the Nov. 6 election, along with two others: Green Party candidate Paul Glover of Philadelphia and Libertarian candidate Kenneth Krawchuk of Montgomery County.
Wolf campaign spokeswoman Beth Melena said the Wolf campaign has no affiliation with PA Spotlight and offered no comment about the billboard or its message.
This is not the first time the issue of lawsuits filed by Penn Waste against its customers has been raised.
In Wagner’s 2014 state senatorial campaign, political opponents sent out a mailer featuring an elderly Springettsbury Township woman who Penn Waste sued for nonpayment of trash bills. Wagner reacted to that attack the same way his campaign spokesman did on Thursday about the billboard – Penn Waste’s contracts with municipalities permit it.
PA Spotlight officials called that case the tip of the iceberg after scouring the dockets of magisterial district courts in Cumberland, York, Dauphin and Lancaster counties from January 2012 through this past May. That exercise is how it arrived at the number of lawsuits Penn Waste filed against customers as topping 10,000 and involving the nearly 7,000 different customers referenced on the billboard.
“Wagner is a quintessential intimidator who sues those without the means or ability to fight back,” Rosso said. “His actions can compound the financial problems for working families.”