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Two checks written by a candidate for Beaver County treasurer from his official campaign committee bounced at the end of last year. Cebran Netherland says an error by Huntington Bank is responsible for a financial mess his campaign committee found itself in, and he has documentation to bolster his claim.
But reports filed by Netherland’s finance committee with the Beaver County Bureau of Elections show his campaign failed to detail the problematic financial transactions.
Cebran Netherland, nephew of Beaver County President Judge Richard Mancini, was appointed by Treasurer Connie Javens in Feb. 2014 to fill a newly created position of Hotel Tax Collector. He was promoted to First Deputy Treasurer two years later in March 2016.
After Javens decided in 2018 she would be retiring when her term expires at the end of this year, Netherland announced his Democratic candidacy for the seat and on Oct. 25 opened up the “Committee To Elect Cebran ‘CB’ Netherland.”
Netherland listed his wife, JoLynn, as committee treasurer.
According to Democratic party officials, Cebran Netherland made a $100 donation to their annual Christmas party on Dec. 14. But the check from his campaign committee was returned NSF (not sufficient funds). Netherland wrote a second check from his campaign committee on Dec. 20 in the amount of $130, enough to cover the original $100 check plus a $30 bounced check fee the Democratic Committee was charged by its bank. But that check then bounced too.
“The first I knew there was something wrong was when I was told by (the Democratic Committee) that my check didn’t cash,” Netherland said.
“I was shocked because I had money in my account. I contacted Aimee from the bank, she said she was so sorry, it was an error on their end and it was being taken care of. I sent another check and I got another call from (the Democratic Committee) that my new check didn’t cash either. I called the bank again because I didn’t know what was going on. Aimee told me again it was an error on their end. What it was I still don’t know.”
Netherland said he was just ramping up his committee when the problems arose, and to this day has still not had his first fundraiser. Among the first modest contributors to his campaign was his grandfather, who recently passed away.
“It all just started with family help, a little bit of money to get me going,” he said. “I am broke as a joke.”
Netherland provided BeaverCountian.com with a copy of a vague email by Huntington Branch Relationship Banker Aimee Covel dated Jan. 9 taking responsibility for the problems.
“Through no error/fault of your own, your checking account was closed mistakenly. In the most simplest of explanations, a minor error in bank-generated documents was discovered and was corrected thanks to your cooperation. However, the account was mistakenly closed due to someone not clearing the original exception and this permitted the account to close out.”
Along with serving as the bank for Netherland’s campaign committee, Huntington is the primary financial institution utilized by the County of Beaver. Netherland touted the rapport he has built with companies the Treasurer’s Office does business with in his campaign announcement.
Netherland said the recent issues have not shaken his confidence in the county doing business with the bank.
“Since I’ve been first deputy treasurer, I haven’t had any issues with Huntington, I really haven’t,” said Netherland. “Whenever I have a problem I call them and they fix it immediately. … As far as my campaign account goes, ya I am a little concerned.”
Democratic officials say Netherland issued a third check to them on Jan. 18 for $160, enough to cover the original check for $100 plus the two bounced check fees the party was charged. Democrats say they took that final check to Netherland’s bank where they cashed it to ensure they did not have to deal with any further issues.
Netherland told BeaverCountian.com he provided the Democratic Committee with a copy of his email from Huntington Bank along with the third check.
Netherland switched parties and became a Republican at the end of January. He is expected to face off against Sandie Egley in the Republican primary for treasurer. Lori Bohach, Conway Borough and Freedom Area School District tax collector, is so far the only announced treasurer candidate on the Democratic ticket.
A campaign finance report filed by Netherland’s campaign on Dec. 6 shows he received a total of $290 in contributions during a reporting period spanning Oct. 23 to Nov. 26. Contributions were made by Robert Wolfe of $100 and Charles Conti of $40. Cebran Netherland made his own donation of $150. It is unclear when those donations were received because the committee failed to report the dates as required. The committee listed a total of $20 in expenditures — a donation to the Ralph Ramanna Spaghetti Dinner — leaving a reported ending campaign account balance of $270.
The committee filed its next report on Jan. 29 for the period of Nov. 27 to Dec. 31, a time frame when the checks to the Democratic Committee were written. That report showed an additional contribution of $120 from Robert Wolfe on December 20, but listed just $24.14 in expenses paid to Harland Clarke Checks for committee checks. The committee reported an ending balance of $395.86.
The campaign committee did not disclose anywhere in the finance reports its checks to the Democratic Committee on Dec. 14 for $100 (check 102) or on Dec. 20 for $130 (check 103).
The only potential hint of the problematic financial transactions came under a section of the report titled “Refunds, Interest Income, Returned Checks, Etc.,” where Netherland’s campaign reported a “Returned check fee refund” on Dec. 19 from Huntington National Bank in the amount of $30. Despite reporting a refunded $30 fee from its bank, the campaign committee did not report it had ever been charged a $30 fee to begin with.
“I didn’t write anything on my finance report because none of these checks actually cashed, they were just kind of like nothing,” said Netherland. “I am still new to these finance report things too, so I thought I would file this on my finance report that is due in May. I’m not hiding anything whatsoever.”