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Sikorski taken off ballot in Liberty

| Saturday, April 27, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

It's four candidates for four council seats in Liberty's Democratic primary.

Commonwealth Court on Friday ordered the removal of incumbent S. Larry Sikorski from the May 21 ballot.

“(The) order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County is hereby reversed and this matter is remanded to the trial court to direct the Allegheny County Elections (Division) to strike S. Larry Sikorski's name from the (May 2013) ballot,” said a statement on the court website.

The order came three weeks after another council candidate, South Allegheny High School teacher Mark A. Suckfiel, appealed Allegheny County Judge Joseph M. James' March 27 order upholding Sikorski's candidacy.

“We are very pleased with the decision; we felt that it represented an accurate reflection of the current state of the law in Pennsylvania,” Suckfiel lawyer J. Jason Elash said.

“I would guess at this point Mr. Suckfiel, who challenged my petition, does not want any competition,” Sikorski said. “Because the last time we ran (in 2009) he lost. Since then he has not attended any council meetings. I know because I have a perfect attendance.”

Suckfiel challenged Sikorski over an alleged lack of a statement of financial interest, or ethics statement, in the borough office.

Sikorski said he submitted it on time, but it became lost behind file cabinets, a claim disputed by 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.

Attorney Matthew D. Racunas and his associate Kristin Mackulin represented Sikorski.

Sikorski declined comment about his options, saying he had not received the paperwork from Commonwealth Court.

Racunas could appeal to state Supreme Court, but Elash wondered if there is enough time for an appeal.

Elash said county election officials had been in touch with him while waiting for the appeals court decision. He said they were anxious to get absentee ballots printed for a primary now 24 days away.

In addition to Suckfiel, Patrick J. Fisher, Jennifer A. Riley and Christopher D. Gretz are on the Liberty Democratic ballot.

Among incumbents who would have been up for re-election, M. Jane Weigand chose to run for mayor, Lavina F. Kerklo chose to run for South Allegheny school board and Ron Pope is retiring.

Another area case appealed to Commonwealth Court still is pending before state Supreme Court. There was no word on Friday on a decision in attorney Glenn Smith's appeal on behalf of Clairton Mayor Richard Lattanzi, who sought to remove Councilman Richard Ford III from the Democratic mayoral ballot there.

James accepted Ford's amended statement of financial interest and turned back the Lattanzi/Smith challenge in an April 3 ruling affirmed by Commonwealth Court.

On March 27 James turned back legal secretary Lee Lasich's challenge of Councilman Terry Lee Julian's bid for mayor as well as for re-nomination to council in Ward 3, where Lasich also is running.

The judge said Lasich did not file her challenge in a timely matter. Lasich did not appeal that decision to Commonwealth Court.

Julian questioned how Lasich obtained the documents used in that challenge, but she said they were “from open records that are part of litigation” in Common Pleas Court.

“The case is active and filed against delinquent taxpayers in an attempt to collect unpaid real estate taxes,” Lasich said. “As a taxpayer current on my taxes, I feel that I have the obligation and duty to protect the welfare and interests of the taxpayers of Clairton.”

Julian also could not be reached by presstime.

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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