Ernie Holmes in the thick of trouble off the NFL playing field again, what else is new? Well, toss in Steeler teammates Franco Harris and L.C. Greenwood, as Newsweek magazine does in its current issue - with the intriguing headline, "Offside in Pittsburgh?" - and a government investigation is what's new.
Who were Ernest Lee, Social Security No. 455-84-4216, and Henderson Green, S.S. No. 480-90-8751, who went to the Allegheny County Manpower Department to collect some back pay from a federally funded job training program in Pittsburgh? They were accompanied by former Steeler receiver Dave Smith, investigators told Newsweek, adding that Steel Curtain linemen Holmes and Greenwood are in Social Security files as Ernest Lee Holmes, 455-82-4216, and L.C. Henderson Greenwood, 428-90-8751. And that the two claimants bore freshly taken, suspect ID photos.
The digits that the district attorney is really worried about add up to $2 million in possible fraud and kickbacks in operation of the Manpower program, more than $15,000 of it channeled away the past couple of years through "Lee" and "Green." Allegheny County D.A. Bob Colville said he has evidence that the agency under former director Robert Hawkins "hired" nonexisted employees and awarded inflated contracts to minority firms, which kicked back funds to program officials. Franco Harris was often seen in the company of Hawkins - and Harris' sister and six Harris friends, including an airline stewardess based in Atlanta, were on the Manpower payroll.
Harris, Greenwood and Hawkins have denied any wrongdoing. The investigators aren't saying the football players were knowingly involved in the fraud, if any. That's why the question mark in the Newsweek headline . . .