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Mayoral candidate off Homestead ballot, Ford on in Clairton

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 4:06 a.m.

Mayors in Clairton and Homestead batted .500 in bids on Wednesday to bump opponents off the May 21 Democratic primary ballot.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph M. James found that Homestead Councilwoman Zaneta R. Hines filed her statement of financial interest with borough officials too late to qualify for a challenge of Mayor Betty Esper.

On the other hand, James ruled that Clairton Councilman Richard Ford III did not commit a fatal error with his statement of financial interest.

“We believe that the statement has not been amended properly,” said Glenn A. Smith, attorney for Mayor Richard Lattanzi, at the continuation of a hearing last week on Ford's candidacy.

Smith's filing stated Ford owed money to the city of Clairton, Clairton City School District, Clairton Reinvestment Corp. and the Internal Revenue Service.

Ford's amended statement listed all those entities as creditors, but listed the federal tax lien and the obligation to CRC “under protest,” adding the statute of limitations had expired on the CRC claim.

“I think it is an attempt to deceive the voters,” Smith said.

James disagreed and overruled Lattanzi's objections to Ford's run for mayor.

“The statement is a list of creditors,” James said. “The citizens of Clairton know he owes that money and he's listed it.”

Ford also is running for re-election in the city's Ward 2 but was not challenged there.

Councilman Terry Lee Julian and former council candidate Kenneth Barna also have filed to take on Lattanzi in Clairton. Julian survived a challenge to his mayoral and Ward 3 council bids last week, filed by his council opponent Lee B. Lasich.

“It was unnecessary for me to come down here again,” Ford said after the hearing. He also said Lattanzi apparently agreed, because he didn't show up for the hearing.

“He's on other business,” Smith said.

In the Homestead case, Hines acknowledged, “I filed late (with borough officials). I forgot about it.”

She did file her statement on time with Allegheny County Elections Division, elections manager Mark Wolosik said.

James said the courts and legislature are forgiving regarding an error on the statement, but aren't when it comes to filing “at the appropriate place and on time.”

“Does that eliminate me from running as a write-in?” Hines asked.

“Nothing can stop running as a write-in,” James replied.

Esper declined comment after the ruling, except to say, “The law is the law.”

Even with the ruling Esper isn't alone on the May 21 ballot. Emergency medical technician Henry A. White also is seeking the Democratic nod to be mayor of Homestead.

No Republicans are filed for mayor or council in either municipality.

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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