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Pennsylvania official checks into rehab following arrest

  • Story Highlights
  • Acting Secretary of Labor Sandi Vito charged with public drunkenness last week
  • Vito entering rehab for two weeks, Pennsylvania governor's spokesman says
  • The same day as her arrest, Vito backed out of interview with CNN
  • Interview was to cover state's use of debit cards for unemployment benefits
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit
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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Pennsylvania's acting secretary of labor and industry has entered a rehabilitation program for at least two weeks after her arrest on a public drunkenness charge last week.

Sandi Vito, Pennsylvania's acting labor secretary, has entered a rehab program, the governor's spokesman says.

Sandi Vito, Pennsylvania's acting labor secretary, has entered a rehab program, the governor's spokesman says.

Just a few hours before her arrest, Sandi Vito backed out of a scheduled interview with a CNN correspondent about the state's controversial use of debit cards to pay unemployment benefits.

Vito, who was appointed acting secretary of labor and industry in February 2008, "has entered a treatment program for two weeks," according to Gov. Ed Rendell's chief spokesman.

"The governor awaits her return before making any final decisions on her future," the spokesman, Chuck Ardo, told CNN on Monday.

CNN had been invited to a public appearance that Vito was making in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, to ask her about the fees banks impose when people choose to receive their unemployment benefits by debit cards instead of checks. Video Watch how bank fees can surprise people on unemployment »

Those fees range from forty cents to check a balance by telephone, to $1.75 if the debit card is used outside the two free withdrawal periods banks allow. Approximately 925,000 Pennsylvanians were unemployed last month and most used debit cards to receive payments, Pennsylvania officials said.

"Arrangements have been made for you to interview Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary Sandi Vito in Allentown tomorrow at approximately 1 p.m., to discuss our unemployment compensation debit card program," David Smith, a spokesman for the department, e-mailed CNN prior to the scheduled meeting.

Yet when a CNN correspondent, accompanied by a camera crew, attempted to interview Vito, she said she did not have the time and ducked out the back door of an elementary school where the public appearance was being staged. An official from her department did give CNN an interview.

Later that same night, Vito was arrested on a charge of public drunkenness at the Hilton Hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to Harrisburg Police Chief Charles Keller. News of her arrest did not become public until late Friday.

"I deeply regret that my actions earlier this week caused embarrassment to the administration and the commonwealth," Vito said in a statement issued to CNN by her office. "I take full responsibility for those actions."

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"This incident has had a profound personal effect on me," her statement continued. "Today, I am entering an alcohol treatment program because it is the right thing for me to do."

According to public records, Vito earns a salary of $136,120 annually. Her appointment as permanent secretary of labor and industry was to have been brought before the Pennsylvania legislature in a few weeks.

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