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Clairton ballot appeal under review

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 4:01 a.m.
 

One court dispute continues to shadow the Clairton contest for mayor, while another has resulted in a write-in candidacy in Liberty.

Staffers at the state Supreme Court Western District office in Pittsburgh confirmed Monday that the high court's justices are reviewing an appeal in Clairton Mayor Richard Lattanzi's dispute with Councilman Richard Ford III over Ford's spot on the mayoral ballot for the May 21 Democratic primary.

“(Ford) has failed to fully disclose, or admit, his financial situation, even after he was allowed to amend (his statement of financial interest),” Lattanzi's lawyer Glenn Smith said, in his appeal.

Allegheny County's elections director said ballots will show four names for mayor in the Democratic primary two weeks from now, unless the high court were to rule otherwise.

“We are operating under that court order,” Mark Wolosik said, referring to the Commonwealth Court ruling affirming a county judge's denial of Lattanzi's challenge.

Lattanzi, Ford, Councilman Terry Lee Julian and high school baseball coach Kenneth Barna appear on absentee ballots that are printed and in many cases have been sent in advance of election day.

May 14 is the deadline for applying to county election offices for absentee ballots. Ballots must be returned by May 17.

Some ballots were printed nearly two months in advance of the primary to serve military personnel, but Wolosik said there were fewer than 20 requests to his office for those.

Some supporters of Lattanzi are insisting that Ford's reputed debts have been understated in news accounts of the dispute.

Glenn mentions that Ford allegedly “failed to disclose income he received from the city of Clairton and omitted four creditors he owed in excess of $6,500 including but not limited to the Internal Revenue Service.”

Glenn said Ford faced an IRS tax lien “in the amount of $7,423.50.” Testimony before James also listed the Clairton Reinvestment Corp. and Clairton City School District as creditors.

Ford insisted he was protesting the federal and Clairton Reinvestment liens, a statement disputed by Glenn.

Meanwhile, a Liberty councilman confirmed Monday that he will conduct a write-in campaign for his seat, after Commonwealth Court reversed a ruling in his favor from Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James.

“I won one in court, they won one in court,” S. Larry Sikorski said. “I'm out of time for another appeal so I have to run as a write-in if I want to continue to serve the will of the Liberty borough residents.”

James ruled in Sikorski's favor after the councilman insisted his statement of financial interest was dropped off at the borough office, but became lost behind a filing cabinet there.

Commonwealth Court accepted the appeal of candidate Mark A. Suckfiel's attorney J. Jason Elash, who disputed Sikorski's story as did borough secretary Debbie Helderlein, who time-stamped all other statements left with her office.

Sikorski said he will seek support from voters in both parties. He likely will not be alone.

No Republican is running for any municipal office in Liberty or Clairton, though GOP voters in both communities will have choices for school board from cross-filed candidates in South Allegheny (Liberty) and Clairton City districts.

In addition to Suckfiel on the Liberty Democratic council ballot are Patrick J. Fisher, Jennifer A. Riley and Christopher D. Gretz. While Suckfiel also ran four years ago the other candidates are relative newcomers.

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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