Three board members of a nonprofit agency founded by state Sen. Vince Fumo told a jury at Fumo's federal corruption trial yesterday that the agency's board did not hold any board meetings - until December 2003.
That was a month before it was publicly disclosed that the FBI was investigating Fumo.
The three board members - John Sfrisi, Joseph Russo and Jeff Travelina - testified they were present at the December 2003 meeting and were asked to sign a stack of documents ratifying resolutions and past expenditures by Citizens Alliance from 1991-2002.
The three board members, all of whom joined Citizens Alliance's board around 2001, testified that they had not looked over any papers they signed.
"Why did you sign them?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Zauzmer.
"Ruth [Arnao] told me to sign them and I signed them," said Sfrisi, a high-school history teacher and a Democratic city committeeman who likes to doodle.
Arnao is Fumo's co-defendant.
Russo and Travelina offered similar responses to the Zauzmer's question.
Defense attorneys suggested that was not unusual because all three had signed up to join Citizens Alliance as a civic duty and had no role in its day-to-day management.
The board members said they were unaware of any expenditures that Citizens Alliance or its for-profit subsidiaries made for goods and services before December 2003, including vehicles and power tools and expenses for political activities and polling.
They testified that they couldn't recall ever being consulted to approve the expenditures.
Prosecutors say that Fumo controlled Citizens Alliance and that he and its former executive director, Arnao, looted it of more than $1 million for their personal and political benefit.
Defense attorneys have said that goods and services provided to Fumo by Citizens Alliance were compensation for fundraising Fumo did for the charity.
Fumo litigated a settlement with Peco Energy in the late 1990s as part of electric deregulation in Pennsylvania, and the utility agreed to make a $17 million donation to Citizens Alliance.