One of the most powerful Pennsylvania Republicans, LeRoy S. Zimmerman, has announced his retirement from a multibillion-dollar charity that will take effect at the end of this year. Zimmerman is overseeing the Hershey organization, which is under investigation by the Office of Attorney General. The Hershey Trust Co. made the surprising announcement earlier this week. A spokeswoman for the Hershey Trust, Connie McNamara, said that the resignation of Zimmerman has no relation to the investigation.
The Office of Attorney General announced the investigation after it was found that money meant for the Hershey School for impoverished children was spent on a golf course that was losing money. The project for the golf course cost $17 million and bought out the owners, which included the CEO of the Hershey chocolate company and a member of the charity’s board that originally approved the expenditures.
In a statement released by The Hershey Trust, Zimmerman decided to begin the retirement process on his own by not seeking reelection to the board of the Hershey chocolate company. At this time, Zimmerman had not announced that he wanted to relinquish all of his Hershey board positions.
McNamara said, “wanted to remain an active chairman of the organization and did not publicly announce his retirement until now.”
Zimmerman is the chairman of the board for the following organizations: the Hershey Trust Co., the Board of Managers of the Hershey School, and Hershey Entertainment & Resort Co. Zimmerman also sits on the board of the M.S. Hershey Foundation. According to the statement, Zimmerman is retiring from all of his board positions.
Created back in 1909 by Milton and Catherine Hershey, the charity originated as a school and orphanage. The charity is controlled by the boards and is endowed with the wealth of the Hershey family, valued at around $7.5 billion. The school for impoverished children is free to attend and is the only beneficiary of the estate. The school enrolls close to 1,850 boarding students and is located 90 miles west of Philadelphia on the PA Turnpike.
Zimmerman was the head of the organization since 2006 and still had a year remaining on his tenure when announcing his retirement. The charity has its annual meeting in December, which is when it will elect a new chairman for its main board. Milton Hershey setup the Hershey Trust, which is a state-chartered trust bank, created to manage the assets of the Hershey estate.
The spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office in Harrisburg, Nils Frederiksen, has not spoken to the media regarding the retirement of Zimmerman or how his retirement would affect the investigation. Zimmerman was the first elected attorney general in the state back in 1980. He said that age is one of the reasons why he is retiring. “I am deeply proud of what we have accomplished, especially the many additional children we have been able to serve. But I am 77 years old,” he said, “and it is time for me to retire.”