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Primary challenges awaiting court action

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 2:56 a.m.

Attorneys and clients in two Mon-Yough municipalities are waiting for Commonwealth Court to act on appeals in Democratic primary ballot challenges.

Staff at the appeals court's Harrisburg office said Tuesday they received all the required paperwork in Liberty and Clairton challenges.

In Liberty, South Allegheny High School teacher Mark A. Suckfiel is trying to remove incumbent S. Larry Sikorski.

In Clairton, incumbent Richard Lattanzi is trying to remove Councilman Richard Ford III from the mayoral ballot.

The issue in both municipalities is the statement of financial interest. Suckfiel alleged that Sikorski failed to file it on time with borough officials, while Lattanzi alleged that Ford did not file a proper statement.

Commonwealth Court also received trial court records from Allegheny County, where Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James ruled that Sikorski and Ford could remain on their respective May 21 ballots.

On Tuesday the appeals court received a supplemental record of trial court documents and a transcript in the Lattanzi-Ford case.

Lattanzi's Mt. Lebanon attorney Glenn A. Smith contended that Ford owed money to the city of Clairton, Clairton City School District, Clairton Reinvestment Corp. and the Internal Revenue Service.

Ford, who is represented by Clairton attorney Burrell A. Brown, amended his statement as ordered by James.

He 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.

Smith said Ford is trying to deceive the voters.

James said the citizens of Clairton are aware of Ford's obligations and overruled Lattanzi's objections to Ford's run for mayor.

Liberty's filings occurred a business day ahead of the Clairton filings, with the last filings taking place on Friday.

McKeesport attorney J. Jason Elash represents Suckfiel, while White Oak attorney Matthew D. Racunas represents Sikorski.

Suckfiel challenged Sikorski over his alleged failure to file a statement of financial interest, also known as an ethics statement, for a proper time stamp 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 before James.

Sikorski remarked after James ruled in his favor that he had the entire borough against him.

Elash, a former Liberty solicitor, had current borough solicitor George Gobel as his co-counsel before James, while Racunas was assisted by attorney Kristin Mackulin.

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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