Twenty-nine Beaver County officials and employees last week received State Ethics Commission notices of intent to commence civil penalty proceedings for failure to either file or correct deficient financial interest statements for the years 2014 and 2015.
County Commissioner Sandie Egley got her letter on Jan. 7. Egley, who was elected in 2015 and took office at the end of that year, said she didn’t know she was required to file the statement.
“I don’t believe I did (know to file for 2015),” Egley said Wednesday. “I believe all the candidates on the Republican side asked and were told by the elections bureau that we didn’t need to because we were a candidate (that year.)”
Bureau of Elections Director Dorene Mandity on Wednesday said she made a mistake in not sending the newly elected officials the forms, and mistakenly believed they didn’t need to be filed for the previous year. Mandity, who has been with the department since 1997 and the bureau’s acting and future director since 2002, said, “I didn’t think they were required.”
The State Ethics Commission requires an annual statement of financial interest for the previous year to be filed by all incumbents and candidates for state, county and local elected and appointed offices, as well as the attorneys they hire to conduct public business.
The form also must be filed annually by all public employees responsible for making or recommending action regarding contracting or procurement, administering or monitoring grants or subsidies, planning or zoning, inspecting or licensing, regulating or auditing any person, or any other activity with an economic impact.
Former officials must also file the form with the governing body the year after leaving the position.
The county list of people who received the notices also included incumbents and longtime employees required to file the financial interest statement. The ethics commission gave those affected a 20-day grace period to file or correct deficiencies. After that, it could levy a daily $25 civil penalty for each violation – up to $250 each – until the complete statement is received.
The commission also warned that failure to comply could prohibit officials from “continuing upon his duties or receiving compensation from public funds.”
County Controller David Rossi, who has been in that office since 2008, received the notice. He said it’s the first time the county’s ethics statements have been audited since he has been in county government.
“I don’t know if it was random or if there was another reason for why they did the audit,” Rossi said. His “deficiencies” included not checking a box and listing his employer as “Beaver County Controller” instead of the correct “Beaver County.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the elections office had received the majority of needed new or corrected forms.
The complete list of those affected includes:
Jay Alstadt, chief deputy sheriff, 2014 and 2015
James Amato, treasurer’s office solicitor, 2015
Theresa Antoniazzi, clerk of courts chief deputy, 2014 and 2015
Aziz Ahmed, district attorney first assistant, 2014 and 2015
Janice Beall, recorder of deeds, 2014 and 2015
Anthony Berosh, former district attorney, 2014 and 2015
Paula Boyd, chief deputy controller, 2014 and 2015
William Calhoon, chief deputy controller, 2014 and 2015
Dan Camp, county commissioner, 2015
Andrea Cantelmi, deputy county solicitor, 2014
John Cashdollar, prothonotary’s office solicitor, 2014 and 2015
Sandie Egley, county commissioner, 2015
Garden Fedeles, sheriff’s office solicitor, 2015
David Gabauer, county coroner, 2015
Charles Gibbons, first deputy treasurer, 2014
Tony Guy, county sheriff, 2015
Connie Javens, county treasurer, 2014
Ricardo Lacklow, county financial administrator, 2015
Vincent LaValle, courthouse chief of staff, 2014 and 2015
Dean Michael, chief deputy sheriff, 2015
William Pasquale, chief deputy coroner, 2015
Tracy Patton, chief clerk and chief deputy recorder of deeds, 2014 and 2015
Jennifer Popovich, first assistant district attorney, 2015
David Rossi, county controller, 2014 and 2015
Teri Tatalovich-Rossi, coroner, 2014 and 2015
Albert Torrence, controller’s office solicitor, 2014
Ronda Wagner, chief deputy prothonotary, 2014 and 2015
Joseph Weidner, chief of staff and chief clerk, 2015
Nancy Werme, prothonotary, 2014 and 2015
The state’s Public Officials and Employee Ethics Act is intended to police the following:
– Potential conflicts of interest, defined as a qualifying public official or employee using any information for direct benefit either personally or by immediate family.
– Anyone attempting to give anything of monetary value to a public official or employee personally or to an immediate family member with the expectation of future reward or influence.
– A public official personally soliciting or accepting anything of monetary value in exchange for promised future reward or influence.
– Honorariums, or payment for something that wouldn’t require a fee.
– A public official or employee accepting anything of monetary value from financial transactions or employment terminated contingent on the assumption of the public role in exchange for future reward or influence.
– A public official or employee or their immediate family members entering into any office-associated contract worth more than $500 must be publicly disclosed and go through an open and public process.
– Public officials or employees can’t accept financial or promised benefit for an entire year after leaving the post by representing someone before the governmental body they formerly represented.
– Former executive-level state employees for two years can’t accept employment or represent a business he helped recruit or expand.
Finally, the act requires that any public official or employee publicly disclose any potential conflict of interest before any vote and abstain from voting. However, if the legally required number of people needed to vote can’t be met, the person is allowed to vote as long as the conflict has been disclosed.
Those required to file the form must list the following for the prior calendar year:
– Any real estate interests, including any leases, purchases or condemnation proceedings.
– All creditors with an interest rate exceeding $6,500 debt individually, including those held solely or jointly with another, including a spouse. This excludes home mortgages and home equity loans.
– All direct or indirect income sources, including money or something of value that was given in the past in expectation of a future service.
– All gifts valued at $250 or more received by anyone who is regulated by or has contracts with the individual’s governmental body.
– All non-governmental, non-public entity transportation, lodging or hospitality expense reimbursements from a source, if the amount combines to more than $650 in the calendar year.
– Any office, directorship or employment in any business entity whether or not it includes income.
– Any financial interest of 5 percent or more in any for-profit entity.
– Any transferred financial interest of 5 percent or more in any for-profit entity to family members or otherwise.
If a violation is found, the ethics commission states a person can’t “undo” or negate it. It would be considered a mitigating factor in an investigation.
Violating the act’s requirements regarding making and accepting anything of monetary value in return for promised future reward or influence is a felony and includes fines of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both. It’s a misdemeanor to violate the financial statement requirements and carries a fine of up to $1,000, one year in prison, or both.
If the violator gained financially, the act requires him to pay back three times the amount gained. Violators could also face public impeachment or disciplinary action.
The commission can recommend criminal charges, but only a district attorney or the state attorney general can file.
BeaverCountian.com’s John Paul contributed to this report.