The Beaver County Board Of Elections has voted unanimously to refer a series of complaints filed against the Bipartisan Committee For A Better Economy Borough to the District Attorney’s Office for criminal investigation.
As the Beaver Countian was first to report last month, Mayor David Poling, Chairman of the Economy Borough Democratic Committee, and Dr. Michael “Doc” Sisk, Beaver County Democratic Committee Chairman, filed official complaints alleging election law violations back in September. The two organizations say George E. Fitzgerald, who campaigned for Mayor of Economy Borough, Mary Jo Sivy, who campaigned for Tax collector, and the Bipartisan Committee For A Better Economy Borough, all grossly underreported their contributions and expenditures during the primary election held back in May.
Elections Director Dorene Mandity has been handling the complaints on behalf of the Board of Elections under the counsel of County Solicitor Joseph Askar.
“The Board of Elections was advised of the complaint that was filed by Mayor David Poling and [Dr. Michael] Sisk,” Solicitor Askar told the Beaver Countian. “Elections Director Dorene Mandity sent out requests for information and documents to George Fitzgerald, Mary Jo Sivy, and Richard Lapinski of the Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough. That information and those documents were not provided. As a result, and in accordance with Pennsylvania Election Code, I advised the matter be turned over to the District Attorney for criminal investigation.”
District Attorney Anthony Berosh told the Beaver Countian he had not yet seen the complaint when asked about it earlier this week.
“I believe that County Commissioners, the County Solicitor, and the Bureau of Elections did the right thing by turning this over to the District Attorney for an investigation,” said Mayor Poling. “My personal opinion on it, is if you can’t be honest about money spent on a campaign finance report, how can you be transparent and accountable with government tax dollars?”
Richard Lapinski of the Bipartisan Committee did not return a message today seeking comment about the investigation against his organization. In a previous interview with the Beaver Countian held before the matter was turned over to the District Attorney, Lapinski had denied any wrongdoing. “Their allegations that we underreported are all false,” said Lapinski at the time. “I’m saying all of the reports haven’t been filed yet.”
After the Beaver Countian subsequently published its first article about the controversy, the Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough sent a representative down to the Bureau of Elections, where they filed paperwork officially disbanding their organization.
Richard Lapinski is the husband of Economy Councilwoman Michelle Lapinski, whose campaign was supported by the Bipartisan Committee.
Mary Jo Sivy did not return a message from the Beaver Countian seeking comment about the allegations lodged against her either. Mary Jo Sivy is the wife of Councilman Don Sivy, whose campaign was also supported by the Bipartisan Committee.
George Fitzgerald told the Beaver Countian he spent no more than $40 or $50 on his run for Mayor, and denies allegations that thousands of unreported dollars were poured into his campaign for signs and mailers. “What I spent it on was a ream of paper and black ink for my copy machine, that is it,” said Fitzgerald. He said he simply printed out fliers in support of his candidacy, which he then handed out door-to-door. George Fitzgerald said no money was spent on postage or outside printing costs, and that no mailers were sent out by his campaign.
But the Beaver Countian was able to obtain several copies of mailers sent to multiple different addresses in Economy Borough, purportedly coming from Fitzgerald’s campaign. The return address on those mailers is listed as 189 WALLROSE HEIGHTS RD, an address that records in the Beaver County Assessment Office show belongs to George Fitzgerald. At the bottom of the mailer is printed “Paid for by the Candidate, Labor donated.”
Other campaign materials seen by the Beaver Countian include “Elect George Fitzgerald Mayor” refrigerator magnets, which also say “Paid for by the Candidate.”
George Fitzgerald admitted to the Beaver Countian that his campaign was supported by the Bipartisan Committee of Economy Borough, but refused to identify any individuals from the group by name who worked on his election, or how much they may have spent on his behalf.
Other current council members whose campaigns were supported by the Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough include Council President Larry Googins and Councilwoman Courtney Barthelemy.
Former Councilman Gregory Trecha’s campaign was also supported by the Bipartisan Committee, and he was once listed as the organization’s treasurer. Trecha resigned from office back in June of this year, after an investigative report by the Beaver Countian detailed racially charged postings he made to his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The Bipartisan Committee’s campaign finance report, submitted by Richard Lapinski, reported total expenditures of just $978.27 during the most recent primary election. Poling and Sisk allege the group spent well over ten times that amount.