CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Following his intuition that the people of Johnstown weren’t being told the full story, Rep. Frank Burns (D-Cambria) has uncovered “boldly contradicting emails” on Vision Together 2025’s refugee recruitment plan.
Burns said he made a Right-to-Know request of the state Department of Human Services (DHS) for copies of any documents dealing with the relocation or recruitment of refugees or immigrants to Cambria County – and he was startled at what he found in the response.
According to Burns, the response yielded emails from Vision 2025 CEO/President Mike Tedesco dating back to October 2021. The emails fly in the face of Tedesco’s assertions that Burns was among those “manufacturing controversy” and harming Cambria County’s image by calling for transparency from Vision and Tedesco.
Previous coverage on Vision Together 2025’s refugee plan:
- ‘Manufacturing Controversy’ Words fly over refugee plan in Johnstown
- Vision 2025 receives $100K to bring Ukrainian refugees to Johnstown
- ‘Human Capital’ New documents shed light on Johnstown refugee plan
“As a state representative who is accountable to the people, I set out independently gauge the depth and progress of Vision’s plan,” Burns said. “I suspected Vision was bypassing elected officials and the public by going directly to the Department of Human Services — and that certainly appears to be the case.”
It’s reported some of the emails Burns uncovered were between Tedesco and Frank Butcher, a program advisor for the Refugee Unit within the state DHS.
November emails show Tedesco telling Butcher and Dr. Amanda Vaglia of the Indiana Refugee Working Group that Vision “may be only a few weeks away from accepting our first families into Johnstown,” Burns noted. In February, Tedesco introduced Laquan Marshall of Johnstown Capital Partners as “a local property owner with a portfolio of housing units that may come in handy when placing newcomers to the community.”
Those emails from Tedesco and Butcher read:
Nov. 5, 2021
Thank you, Frank!
Dr., great to meet you! Here in Johnstown we are rapidly ramping up (to) accept newcomers. Next week, we (are) hiring a project manager to begin active coordinating efforts, so we may be only a few weeks away from accepting our first families into Johnstown. Can we perhaps meet soon to compare notes?
How are you looking on November 18? Happy to come your way.
Feb. 14, 2022
I want to introduce you to Laquan Marshall of Johnstown Capital Partners. He is a local property owner with a portfolio of housing units that may come in handy when placing newcomers to the community. On our end, the private sector has very much activated around attracting people here, so more to come on that subject!
Thanks for all you do!
Burns said these emails further erode Tedesco and Vision’s credibility as they further confirm a lack of truthfulness to their public pronouncements about how far along the plan was developed – and now show evidence of favoritism.
“Were all members of the Greater Johnstown Landlord Association introduced to the state Department of Human Services as potential landlords, or is Vision in the business of secretly picking winners and losers?” Burns asked. “It sure seems like Todesco and Vision 2025 are predetermining who is going to profit off of their efforts.”
Burns added that there were also a significant number of redactions in the documents and emails supplied by the state DHS. Burns said he understands and does not quibble with the redaction of personal information, such as Social Security and private phone numbers.
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However, Burns noted other redacted material fell under what DHS said was a legally exempted category of “a record of an individual’s medical, psychiatric, or psychological history or disability status, including evaluation, consultation prescription, diagnosis or treatment.”
Burns said that very broad definitions make it difficult, not impossible, to ascertain whether Vision’s stated plan to recruit “legally vetted” immigrants included any with medical, psychiatric or psychological problems.
“There may or may not be something there,” Burns said. “Once again, none of us outside of the Vision inner circle really know.”