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4 remain on mayor ballot in Clairton

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 9:34 a.m.

Clairton's Democratic contest for mayor remains a four-way race, at least for six more days.

On Wednesday, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James gave Councilman Richard Ford III two days to resubmit his statement of financial interest.

Mayor Richard Lattanzi's attorney Glenn A. Smith will have two days to respond and then Lattanzi's challenge of Ford's candidacy will be aired before James April 3 at 1:50 p.m.

James considered challenges to municipal ballot positions for the May 21 primary.

Smith contends that Ford failed to disclose all sources of income and names and addresses of creditors to whom he owed $6,500 or more.

“He's hiding tax debt owed to the city,” Smith said.

“My client reasonably believed payment was made in good faith,” Ford's attorney Burrell Brown said.

Ford and Lattanzi share the ballot with Councilman Terry Lee Julian and former council candidate Kenneth Barna.

Julian is running for re-election to council in Ward 3. He is challenged by legal secretary Levina B. Lasich, who is seeking to remove Julian from the ballot for mayor and council, claiming that Julian owes more than $34,000 to the city and Clairton City School District.

James tossed that challenge because Lasich did not file it in a timely matter.

Julian said he may take legal action, because documents attached to Lasich's petition gave incorrect information about what he still owes from a venture that went out of business in 1996.

He said the documents should have come through a right-to-know process, not from tax collectors for the city and school district.

Liberty's Democratic council contest remains a five-way race, but may prompt a rare plaintiff's appeal to Commonwealth Court.

“My understanding is that we are going to appeal,” attorney J. Jason Elash said after James upheld the candidacy of incumbent S. Larry Sikorski.

Elash represents South Allegheny High School teacher Mark A. Suckfiel, who challenged Sikorski over the alleged lack of a statement of financial interest, also known as an ethics statement, in the Liberty borough office.

Sikorski said he submitted a statement in time, but that it became lost behind file cabinets, a claim disputed by other borough officials.

“If it had been there I would have asked for a copy of it,” borough secretary-treasurer Debbie Helderlein testified.

Elash, a former Liberty solicitor, had borough solicitor George Gobel as his co-counsel, while attorney Matthew D. Racunas and his associate Kristin Mackulin represented Sikorski.

“We have a lot of hot-shot lawyers here,” James joked.

James told Sikorski to submit an amended ethics statement to the borough by Friday.

“I have to thank Mr. Racunas for his excellent work,” Sikorski said. “He did a tremendous job against the whole borough.”

A Dravosburg challenge was averted when Democrat Deborah Poppell withdrew her candidacy for council.

She and former police chief Kenneth Holland quit the race prior to a Wednesday deadline for withdrawals.

Incumbent William J. Snodgrass Jr. challenged Poppell's Democratic Party registration.

Snodgrass remains on the May 21 primary ballot with fellow incumbents Barbara J. Stevenson and Jay McKelvey and former borough postmaster John Palcsey.

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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