The Economy Borough Democratic Committee and the Beaver County Democratic Committee have filed a series of formal complaints against several Democratic primary candidates, along with the Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough, alleging criminal violations of Pennsylvania’s election laws.
Mayor David Poling, Chairman of the Economy Borough Democratic Committee, and Dr. Michael “Doc” Sisk, Beaver County Democratic Committee Chairman, sent two letters this month to Bureau of Elections Director Doreen Mandity, Beaver County Commissioners Amadio, Spanik, and Nichols, and Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh.
The first letter, dated September 9th, requested criminal investigations be initiated into two 2013 Democratic primary candidates: George E. Fitzgerald, who campaigned for Mayor of Economy Borough, and Mary Jo Sivy, who campaigned for Tax collector.
“Both candidates failed to submit a 30-day post primary campaign finance report, which is required, if a candidate’s expenditures exceed $250.00 under the Pennsylvania election laws,” wrote Poling and Sisk. “The Economy Borough Democratic Committee is prepared to show documented proof to the Director of Elections, The Board of Elections, and District Attorney that both candidates campaigns included several mailers, door-to-door canvasing materials, and hand-outs for poll workers.”
The second letter, dated September 17th, asked county officials to begin an investigation into the Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough. “The Economy Borough Democratic Committee of Economy Borough, PA is filing a complaint to the above stated officials and requesting an investigation be made into the 30-day post primary campaign expenditure report for The Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough,” wrote Poling and Sisk. “The Economy Borough Democratic Committee is prepared to show documented proof to the Board of Elections and the District Attorney that the amount of expenditures reported by The Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough is false.”
Officials endorsed and supported by the Bipartisan Committee of Economy Borough have made the news several times over the past few months. In May of this year, a landscaper filed a police report against Economy Borough Councilwoman Courtney Barthelemy, accusing her of following him and shouting profanities at him after she nearly struck his vehicle on election day. In July, Councilman Dr. Gregory Trecha resigned from office after an investigative report by the Beaver Countian exposed racially charged postings he made via his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The Bipartisan Committee’s campaign finance report, submitted by Richard Lapinski, reported total expenditures of $978.27 during the primary elections, a number the Democratic Committee said was grossly underreported in violation of law.
Richard Lapinski told the Beaver Countian he agrees with the Democratic Committees that his group spent far more than it reported during the last cycle, but insists they have done nothing wrong. “Their allegations that we underreported are all false,” said Lapinski during a brief phone interview. “I’m saying all of the reports haven’t been filed yet.”
Lapinski said invoices for things like printing and mailers weren’t received by the group until after the end of the post-primary reporting period, which is why they weren’t listed on their campaign finance disclosure forms. “The additional expenses were paid after the filing date, and they’re due by the next reporting period and they will be on our next report,” said Lapinski. “This is just a way of smearing candidates that don’t mean anything.”
The Economy Borough Democratic Committee and the Beaver County Democratic Committee both say the law is clear, that expenditures must be reported as expenses are incurred, not as debts are paid. They say if the Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough now reports additional campaign contributions and expenditures from the primary election, they’re doing so only because they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
“It’s apparent to the members of The Economy Borough Democratic Committee that this committee has not disclosed accurate expenditures, in kind contributions, or total contributions,” concluded Mayor Poling and Dr. Sisk. “Thousands of dollars were spent in the current 2013 primary election for mailers supporting these candidates as well as door-to-door canvassing materials. Let it be known, for the record, the same bulk mail permit number and union bug label that appeared on all Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough printed mailers also appeared on all George Fitzerald’s and Mary Jo Sivy’s campaign mailers.”
Attached to the complaints filed by the Democratic Committees were multiple exhibits they say prove the Bipartisan Committee spent far more than they’ve disclosed to the public.
1. Exhibit A – 8 X 12 two sided mailer Permit No. 5703 Allied Printing trade union label Pittsburgh, PA No. 39. These mailers were mailed to 3,137 registered democrat voters and 2,465 registered republican voters residing in Economy Borough, PA. The USPS bulk postage standard rate at $0.38 per piece, postage cost $2,128.76 – this does not reflect any additional design or printing cost.
2. Exhibit B – 5.5 X 8 two sided mailer Permit No. 5703 Allied Printing trade union label Pittsburgh, PA No. 39 These mailers were mailed to 3,137 registered democrat voters and 2,465 registered republican voters residing in Economy Borough, PA. The USPS bulk postage standard rate at $0.33 per piece, postage cost $1,848.66 – this does not reflect any additional design or printing cost.
3. Exhibit C – A copy of Economy Borough Police Department report detail page dated 05/16/2013, location Conway Wallrose Road and Bock Lane. Richard Lapinski reported damage to a political sign placed by the Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough. Mr. Lapinski reported to officer David Farrah the cost of the sign was $150.00. There were seventeen to twenty signs placed in Economy Borough, PA with the exact construction of the sign that was reported damaged and valued at $150.00 by Richard Lapinski in the attached police report.
4. Exhibit D – A copy of a photograph of the Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough sign along with the demographic locations of seventeen of the signs that were positively identified. Sworn affidavits, if necessary, from the Economy Borough Democratic Committee members, residents, and candidates that identified the signs at specific locations in Economy Borough, PA may be submitted via request from the District Attorney.