A contract signed by Sheriff George David with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is now facing scrutiny by county officials, after a Right-To-Know request was filed by the Beaver Countian.
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. Sheriff David denied the accusation, but acknowledged he didn’t approach the Beaver County Times before making the change — The Times said they would have matched the Post-Gazette’s rates if he had.
Following a meeting with Beaver County Times Publisher Lisa Reese about JD Prose, David said he would be willing to return to the local paper. But he told the Times he wouldn’t be able to make the move, until after a contract he signed with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette expired at the end of October.
But now the county’s law department is researching if the contract Sheriff David signed with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was even legal to begin with.
At the end of April, the Beaver Countian filed a Right-To-Know request seeking a copy of Sheriff David’s contract with the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, and a copy of the resolution passed by the Commissioners authorizing it. Several days later, the county responded with two documents — A copy of the signed Post-Gazette contract, and a letter stating an accompanying resolution did not exist.
According to County Code, Commissioners have the sole authority to enter into contracts. Row officers are generally required to have a resolution passed by the Commissioners approving a contract, before it can legally be executed.
Beaver County Solicitor Joseph Askar told the Beaver Countian his office was unaware of the contract signed by Sheriff David, until after the Right-To-Know requests were made. Askar said he is now reviewing the legality of that contract along with Assistant Solicitor Andrea Cantelmi.
The county has requested Sheriff David’s Solicitor Myron Sainovich provide a legal justification for David signing the agreement without a resolution from the Commissioners. Sainovich previously told the Beaver Countian he researched the Sheriff’s advertising relationship with the Post-Gazette, and determined it to be legal. He also said he was actively encouraging municipalities in Beaver County where he serves as Solicitor to make the switch as well.
Al Torrence, Solicitor for Controller David Rossi, said he was also asked to review the contract. Rossi told the Beaver Countian he was researching the legality of advertising public notices for Beaver County, in a newspaper published in Allegheny County — Section 110 of County Code states legally mandated advertisements or notices must be published in a newspaper of general circulation “printed in the county”, when available. Sainovich has said that because the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is circulated in Beaver County, it meets the statutory requirements for Sheriff Sale listings.
Under Pennsylvania County Code, any official actions taken which are not properly advertised as required by law, are considered to be non-binding.
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.
[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.