A contract Sheriff George David signed with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not legally bind the county, according to Beaver County Solicitor Joseph Askar.
At the beginning of this year, Sheriff David moved advertisements for Sheriff Sale listings from the Beaver County Times to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. David said at the time he made the decision after discovering the Post-Gazette’s rates were some 60% cheaper than those he had been paying to the Times. Critics alleged the Sheriff’s move was an act of retaliation, aimed at Times political columnist JD Prose. The Times said they would have matched the Post-Gazette’s rates if he had approached them before making the move.
The contract came under scrutiny by the county’s legal department earlier this month when the Beaver Countian filed a series of Right-To-Know requests, seeking access to the document.
“There is no resolution for this contract, and the contract is not between the county and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette […] The contract does not legally bind us” said Askar, who declined to elaborate on what that may mean for the future of the Sheriff’s relationship with the Pittsburgh newspaper.
Askar sent a request to Sheriff David’s Solicitor, Myron Sainovich, asking for a legal justification of the contract. “Myron did not respond to us” he added.
Albert Torrence, Solicitor for Beaver County Controller David Rossi, told the Beaver Countian that elected row officers do not have legal authority to sign contracts without approval from the Commissioners. But the Controller’s obligation, or ability, to halt payments made on the contract remains in question — The checking account being used to pay the Post-Gazette is controlled by the Sheriff directly. “He has his own checking account, and the money is coming into and going out of there, not an account that I control” said Rossi, who also noted his office audits the account every two years. “Ultimately this falls on the Commissioners to decide what they want to do.”
In an interview with the Beaver Countian earlier this month, Commissioner Dennis Nichols said the county hasn’t “taken any formal position yet or acted on anything” related to the contract. He went on to say that “for the most part the Commissioners feel if you can do business in Beaver County and you can do it competitively, then that’s what we want you to do.”
Commissioner Tony Amadio has previously declined to comment when questioned about his opinion of the Sheriff’s move to the Pittsburgh newspaper.
Estimates of the contract’s value for the year provided by several county officials have varied greatly, from as low as $90,000 to as high as $250,000.
Although all of the county’s other legal notices continue to appear in the “Public Notices” section of the Beaver County Times, the legally mandated advertisements for Sheriff Sales listings were left to appear in the middle of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s “Sports” section last week.
[divider /] In The Interest Of Full Disclosure: In April of 2012, this reporter provided a truthful statement to the Beaver Police and the Pennsylvania State Police, following an incident involving Beaver County Sheriff George David.