March 02, 2015

Judge Orders Aliquippa Councilman Removed From Office

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A Beaver County Judge has ordered an Aliquippa Councilman removed from office, determining he was not qualified to appear on the ballot last fall.

Common Pleas Judge Gus Kwidis ordered Aliquippa Councilman Robert E. Rager removed from office effective immediately.

An investigative report by the Beaver Countian last August first revealed that Rager’s position as an employee of the Aliquippa Water Authority may prohibit him from running for a seat on City Council. Provisions of the Pennsylvania Code, which regulate Third Class Cities including Aliquippa, forbid employees of a City from serving as members of Council. The code states in part that no “officer or employee of said city, or of any department thereof, nor any member or employee of a municipality authority of which the city is a member, shall serve as a councilman during his continuance or employment.”

Following the election, Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker contacted District Attorney Anthony Berosh to lodge a complaint against Rager. District Attorney Berosh subsequently filed a lawsuit against Councilman Rager, alleging he was in office unlawfully and should be removed.

The City of Aliquippa joined the lawsuit as a co-plaintiff (intervenor) in the case. Aliquippa was represented by attorney Michael Wojcik of Pittsburgh, Rager was represented by attorney John Havey of Aliquippa.

Rager’s attorney argued that Aliquippa wasn’t actually a “member” of the Aliquippa Water Authority, and therefore he was not prohibited from serving on Council. Judge Kwidis issued an order late yesterday rejecting that position and removing him from office.

“Given the interrelationship, and potential conflicts, between the two entities, this court concludes that the City of Aliquippa is a member of the Municipal Water Authority,” wrote Judge Kwidis in his ruling. “The plain language of the statute in effect at the time of Rager’s election prohibits a councilman from also being employed by a municipal authority established by the city […] Rager was not qualified to serve as councilman for the City of Aliquippa and he shall be removed from said position.”

In March of this year, another candidate for Aliquippa City Council was convicted of perjury after a judge ruled he had lied about his place of residence on his nominating petitions. District Attorney Anthony Berosh’s Office prosecuted a case against Robert Dean Williams after an investigation by County Detectives independently confirmed the findings of yet another investigative report published by the Beaver Countian. Williams’ name never made it onto the ballot — he withdrew his candidacy after several citizens of Aliquippa filed a lawsuit against him.

About The Author

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John Paul is a Beaver County native and the founder of BeaverCountian.com He reports full-time for the Beaver Countian, specializing in investigative journalism with an emphasis on public corruption.

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8 Comments

  1. Profile photo of not sure
    not sure

    So now, on the surface most people will look at this and say “oh well, no big deal here.” So think on this. Rager is represented by John Havey who now has an office with Myron Sanovich. Ragers daughter works for Sanovich and is going to run against Werme for prothonotary. What are these guys up to? My bet, it has something to do with money, pun intended. Why is Walker so openly and bitterly fighting with Salt Smith? Will the next appointee to council also be a water authority employee? Some sort of crazy stuff is happening and it is like a bad plot to dumb and dumber.

     
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  2. Oldwob

    Rereading the Beaver Countian from back in November, I was struck by Mr. Rager’s implicit acknowledgement at election time that he was disqualified to take the council seat. Yet he chose to fight a clearly losing battle in the courts, which has allowed him to represent the city’s citizenry for 8 months. Rumor has it that Mayor Walker intends to fill the seat with his pal Ken Thornton, rather than Ella Hudson, a previous council member whom Walker had suggested last Fall was his personal choice.
    Fairness and any sense of democracy would demand that a new election be held. Appointment to a 4 year term? Not right.

     
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    1. Profile photo of not sure
      not sure

      Oldwob, Doctor Ken Thornton is on the water authority. And yes, he spells out Doctor on his business card. Logic would follow, that if one person was just removed from council for being on the water authority, the appointee would be someone surely not also serving on the water authority. The fact that mayor Walker can appoint someone to council for a 4 year term seems to undermine the whole process to begin with. The real question is, what are Havey and Sainovich up to? Does Sainovich also serve as solicitor for the water authority? Why is there all this friction between the two entities? Havey worked on privatizing the Water Authority a long time ago to put it into the hands of CJ Betters. Now you have a mayor who was backed by George David to rest control of Aliquippa out of the hands of Salt Smith and install Sainovich as the solicitor for the city. What are these guys really up to?

       
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  3. voter

    I believe that people go out to vote for the best person to do the job for the people..In this case I believe there should be another election to revote, why should Dwan pick the new council member? @ not sure I agree with you, that whole circle is strange. Why he hates Salt Smith so much is obvious HE’S JEALOUS of him, Salt has done alot for people in that town, he helped people…Why is Dwan always running to the District Attorney’s office? I don’t believe Rager did anything criminal and I think he should be able to serve and Aliquippa has it’s own Solicitor use him that’s what he gets paid for, then they hire a second lawyer to waste tax money they don’t have. NEXT ELECTION CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH.

     
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  4. Mungo Jerry

    Seems to Mungo that all these parties involved are simply pre positioning themselves to reap some big paydays once the whole marcellus well gig gets up and running around the quip town! Wait til we start getting earthquakes like Oklahoma and Arkansas. Well at least brick pointers and window repair will be in high demand!

     
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  5. Used to be a Beaverite

    What this article doesn’t point out is that the Third Class City Code has changed and the provision in there detailing Rager’s inability to serve on council is now omitted.

    Also, @Not Sure, the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa is NOT privatized. And the appointment will not be for a four year term. Get your facts straight before you go spouting your opinions as truth.

     
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    1. wellactually

      The code did change. However, it wasn’t until after Mr. Rager took office. Also, he knew how the code read and ran anyway. Should he be removed from office, I would assume he is going to appeal, he will be elgible to run again because of the rule change. Long story short, the code is not retroactive, so he illegally ran for office.

       
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