It is time to clear up the rumor that there is a grand jury investigation that involves GRO-Warren and the failed Allegheny Center for the Arts building project.
The rumor is true; there is such an ongoing investigation.
However, that's about the extent of the intelligence on the matter.
Grand jury proceedings in Pennsylvania are secret by law. The prosecutor who initiates the investigation and the 23 jurors who listen to evidence provided by witnesses are prohibited by law from speaking about the proceeding. Subpoenaed witnesses who testify are not subject to that restriction, however, and that's why information tends to leak from grand juries despite the restrictions.
The Times Observer has learned that a number of Warren residents who have been closely or loosely associated with the whole matter of the mess on Liberty Street have been subpoenaed to testify later this month.
However, among the things that are still hazy is the scope of the grand jury's work.
It is not clear, for instance, whether the grand jury sitting in Pittsburgh is looking at Warren's peccadillo as part of a larger investigation of the Department of Economic and Community Development, which provided the half-million dollars that was frittered away on two empty store fronts, or whether its target is ferreting out possible wrong-doing specifically in our little corner of the Commonwealth.
Make no mistake; grand juries are not convened for trivial matters. The investigations often take months and may or may not result in a finding that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against a person or group of people. If so, a "presentment" is issued summarizing the evidence and the recommendation for prosecution.
The prosecutor is not bound by the presentment; it is simply a recommendation.
Whether or when there is any public pronouncement resulting from this investigation is anyone's guess, though the simple fact that a grand jury has been called seems to indicate that someone in law enforcement is taking the matter seriously.