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Judge overturns 3 challenges in Elizabeth Forward race

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 9:31 a.m.

Three candidates for Elizabeth Forward School District's board of directors remain on the May 21 ballot after Wednesday hearings before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James.

James overturned challenges to the candidacies of school director Mary Scarry and Elizabeth Township police officers Daniel J. Novacek and Jamie O. Evans.

All three cross-filed as Republicans and Democrats along with Francis Joseph Posa, Alexa R. Siemon and incumbents Robert E. Rhoderick Jr., Scott A. McVicker and Dorothy A. Wycoff.

An incumbent who isn't on the ballot, Philip Martell, contended that Novacek and Evans were ineligible under the state's First Class Township Code because they're police officers.

Thomas M. Castello, the attorney handling Martell's case as well as the one Posa filed against Scarry, said Novacek and Evans could run for constable but not for school director.

“The First Class Township Code says an officer cannot hold a position with the township,” the policemen's attorney Thomas S. Barry said. “This is the school district, and school districts are excluded from the code.”

For his ruling, James fell back on a case he quoted previously, where the late state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy ruled on a minor's run for magisterial district judge.

“He could run but couldn't be seated,” James said.

Allegheny County Elections Division solicitor Allan J. Opsitnick said the youth in question “would reach majority by the time he would have taken office.”

Still, reiterating his opinion in another case brought before him earlier this week, James said, “eligibility to hold the office is different from eligibility to run for the office.”

That's the point Martell intended to make should Novacek and/or Evans win election to the school board and not resign from the township police.

The two officers declined comment, but Evans said, “We just have to see how the process works out.”

Forward Township has as its police chief Mark Holtzman, a former McKeesport deputy chief elected while in that role and still serving on the McKeesport Area school board.

“McKeesport is a city,” Castello said. “City ordinances might be different.”

Posa challenged Scarry because of alleged discrepancies in ethics statements, also known as statements of financial interest, she filed last month with the district office as a school director and more recently with the Allegheny County Elections Division as a candidate.

James saw a minor problem regarding what she checked on boxes on each form, but found the forms were timely filed in the right places.

“I will give her leave to file within one week ... an amended statement to the (school) district office,” James ruled.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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