A grand jury investigating the failure of a downtown revitalization project is "alive and well" according to a person who has testified before it.
Warren Main Street President Dan Ristau said that he was subpoenaed and has already testified in front of the grand jury regarding the failed Allegheny Center for the Arts project and the $500,000 Anchor Building Grant originally used to fund the project. He informed City Council during Monday night's meeting that, "the grand jury was surprisingly knowledgeable. I want everyone to know that the grand jury knows a lot."
He added that he was "sitting there in confirmation mode" in response to the jury's questions.
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 over the last several weeks that a number of Warren residents who have been associated with the Liberty Street issue have been subpoenaed to testify.
However, among the things that are still hazy is the scope of the grand jury's work.
Ristau, citing information conveyed to him during his testimony, said that, "in the month to come, the other people who probably don't want to testify will be subpoenaed." He added that testimony will likely be concluded by the end of November with any indictments, if any, likely to come down after the first of the year
Ristau also informed Council that, "somebody within GRO-Warren... was going around telling some people, at least one person, that the city won't sue anyone because the city is implicated in this manner. I find that to be troubling."
At a special meeting in June, City Council unanimously authorized the appointment of special counsel, "to proceed with litigation involving the anchor building project."