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Pa. high court nixes Clairton ballot appeal

Thursday, May 16, 2013, 4:51 a.m.

With a one-line statement, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ended the last legal challenge shadowing Clairton's Democratic mayoral primary.

“The petition for allowance of appeal is denied,” the court wrote Monday and posted Tuesday in the case Mayor Richard Lattanzi pressed against Councilman Richard Ford III over tax issues.

“I'm glad that it came in,” Ford said. “I thought it was a little extreme (after the lower court rulings in Ford's favor).”

Both candidates sought to move on.

“It's over,” Ford said. “Let's go forward and see what the people have to say.”

“I wish all the candidates good luck,” Lattanzi said. “I hope everyone comes out and votes.”

Councilman Terry Lee Julian and former city recreation director Kenneth Barna also are on the Democratic mayoral ballot.

Lattanzi sought to remove Ford over debts Ford allegedly owed city entities and the Internal Revenue Service.

“I pay my taxes and do everything that is right,” Lattanzi said last week.

Lattanzi maintained that Ford misled the taxpayers and never disclosed what he actually owed the city, Clairton City School District, IRS and Clairton Reinvestment Corp.

“I think there should be legislation that, if you owe taxes to a municipality you shouldn't be allowed to represent that municipality,” the incumbent mayor said.

Ford said he was challenging an IRS lien as well as the Clairton Reinvestment Corp. claim. He said last week that he had paid his taxes on all but one property he owns in Clairton.

On that property Ford said he has an agreement with the city, school district and Allegheny County to “pay the taxes that I have in arrears.”

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James rejected challenges to Ford and to both the mayoral and council candidacies Julian filed.

James said Lee Lasich, a legal secretary running against Julian for council in Ward 3, did not file her challenge in time.

Lasich did not appeal the county ruling but Lattanzi's attorney Glenn Smith took the matter first to Commonwealth Court, which affirmed the James ruling, and then state Supreme Court.

The court fight went past the deadline for printing absentee ballots for the primary. The Allegheny County Elections Division was working on the Commonwealth Court ruling that affirmed what James ruled.

There was no challenge to Ford's bid for renomination to city council in Ward 2.

No Republicans filed for mayor or city council in Clairton.

GOP voters have choices among those who cross-filed for school board seats.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967.

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