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Jubelirer's wife quits Turnpike commission

Saturday, August 07, 1999

By Joe Grata and Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

The wife of a state senator has resigned from her job at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and a turnpike computer technician has been fired after officials discovered nude photos that had been shot in the turnpike administration headquarters building near Harrisburg.

Deborah Eckert Jubelirer, 43, wife of state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, R-Altoona, resigned Thursday as assistant deputy executive director in the turnpike's marketing department.

She had been suspended from her $66,539-a-year job earlier this week by turnpike Executive Director John Durbin after officials learned that a nude photo of her was in the computer system in the turnpike commission offices.

Also on Thursday, Durbin fired Kenneth R. Manherz, 45, of Harrisburg, a $43,389-a-year technician who worked on the turnpike's internal computer system. Manherz was accused of shooting the photos with a high-tech digital camera that belonged to the turnpike commission.

Bill Capone, deputy executive director in charge of the marketing department, confirmed the job actions yesterday but would not comment on the dismissals.

Capone, other turnpike officials and state officials said yesterday they were not permitted by law to comment on personnel issues.

"It is an internal matter that was investigated promptly and completely," Capone said. "We consider the matter closed."

Robert Jubelirer, who is Senate president pro tem, was in his Altoona legislative district yesterday morning, but an aide, David Atkinson, said he had no comment. Aides said Jubelirer had no knowledge of the matter and that he has separated from his wife.

Capone said Manherz, a six-year employee, had access to the turnpike-owned digital camera that was used to take the pictures and the ability to download photos onto turnpike computers.

Turnpike administrators had received reports that nude photos were on the turnpike's internal computer system before they discovered the photos that Manherz is accused of taking of Deborah Jubelirer. At least one other female employee at the turnpike building in Highspire, Dauphin County, appeared in the photos. Officials indicated her role was minor and no disciplinary action was taken.

While turnpike officials would not provide details of exactly what took place or when, word of nude photos of turnpike employees being found in the turnpike computer system spread rapidly.

"People who saw them said they were 'pretty lively,' " said a secretary who spoke only on the condition that she not be identified. "It's unbelievable that something like this happened."

At least a dozen other employees at the turnpike administration building said they were aware of the incident, as did a legislative staffer at the state Capitol.

Deborah Jubelirer started working for the turnpike on April 27, 1994, as a $42,000-a-year marketing department representative.

Durbin told The Philadelphia Inquirer during a 1997 interview that Robert Jubelirer had called him in mid-1996 to say "Deb was extremely qualified" for a promotion to her position as an assistant deputy executive director.

That promotion triggered a protest from Jayne Garver, currently manager of the commission's property division, who claimed in a lawsuit that she had been unfairly denied the position because the senator was dating Deborah Eckert. Garver said Eckert had a high school education while she had a bachelor's degree and more experience. Garver received $250,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

Jubelirer and Eckert were married Aug. 17, 1997. It is the third marriage for each of them.

The two Pennsylvania Turnpike commissioners who live in the Pittsburgh area could not be reached for comment.

A secretary for turnpike Chairman James F. Malone III of Fox Chapel, an attorney, said he was out of town.

Turnpike Commissioner James Dodaro of Whitehall did not return calls Thursday and yesterday.

State Transportation Secretary Brad Mallory, also a member of the turnpike commission, did not wish to comment on the matter, said his press secretary, Rich Kirkpatrick.

Durbin, who was Deborah Jubelirer's boss in the fare collection department, also refused to comment.

Staff writer Pete Shelly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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