Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has close personal and political connections to a tiny Pennsylvania college that is negotiating a no-bid contract to train intelligence analysts for the sprawling agency.
Late last month, the Department of Homeland Security filed notice it was entering into negotiations on a sole source basis with Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., to develop and run an intelligence analyst certificate program for the department. Mercyhurst is a liberal arts, private, Catholic school located on the eastern shore of Lake Erie. The school has an enrollment of about 3,100.
In a Center for Public Integrity report published yesterday (March 16th), Mercyhurst officials said there were no personal or political connections between Ridge and the college. The director of the intelligence analysis program at Mercyhurst, Robert Heibel, went as far as to tell the Center: “We’ve always done it the old fashioned way. We’ve earned it.”
Mercyhurst officials also told the Center that the college had an official policy of not releasing the names of its board of trustees to the public.
But further investigation by the Center has revealed that Marlene Mosco, who was installed as chairperson of the Mercyhurst College Board of Trustees last year, is one of Ridge’s oldest and best friends, as well as one of his top political supporters.
Mosco knew Ridge in high school and in the mid-1970s introduced him to her future husband, Homer Mosco, who is identified as Ridge’s best friend in many published reports. A 2003 article in Ridge’s hometown paper in Erie quotes Marlene Mosco saying of Ridge and his wife Michele after the couples went out to dinner in 1977 “…from that point forward, we’ve all been friends.”
In code of conduct forms filed when he was governor of Pennsylvania, Ridge said he co-owned an investment property with Homer Mosco in North Palm Beach, Fla. A later filing said Ridge sold his interest in the property in 2001.
Marlene Mosco was co-chairperson of the state finance committee for the Tom Ridge for Governor Committee, according to Mercyhurst’s alumni magazine. In 2001 Marlene Mosco was chairperson of the Erie County Convention Center Authority when then-Gov. Ridge presented a $32 million check to the group to finance a new convention center on the city’s waterfront.
A new academic building scheduled to open this fall on a satellite campus of the college will be named the Tom and Michele Ridge Health and Safety Building. School officials say the decision to name the building in honor of the Ridges was made several years ago when the Erie native, who was then governor of Pennsylvania, helped secure $2 million in financing for the project.
Michelle Petrovich, a spokesperson for DHS, said, “There is absolutely no connection between former Secretary Tom Ridge and the selection of Mercyhurst for this contract.”
Marlene Mosco could not be reached by telephone before publication.
Mercyhurst responded to the original story earlier today.