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Bullskin Township officials ordered to repay legal expenses

| Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

The state Ethics Commission on Tuesday ordered Fayette County officials to repay taxpayers for use of a publicly funded lawyer to defend allegations of ethics violations two years ago.

Bullskin Township supervisors Walter Wiltrout and Thomas Keefer, along with former Supervisor William H. Geary, must each pay $2,610 to cover legal expenses associated with a complaint filed against them in 2014 involving allegations they received an improper vehicle allowance from the township, the commission ruled.

The supervisors settled the case and agreed to repay $3,000 for use of township vehicles as well as $1,000 to the ethics commission to cover investigation costs.

The settlement did not require the supervisors to admit any wrongdoing.

Township solicitor Donald J. McCue represented the supervisors during the investigation.

The commission determined public officials cannot use taxpayer money to defend themselves against alleged violations, Executive Director Robert Caruso said.

“For at least 30 years, the commission has said that if you're investigated for a potential violation and make the decision to defend yourself, you cannot use public funds for that defense,” Caruso said.

McCue on Tuesday declined to say whether the supervisors will appeal the commission's order.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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