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Cop says questions remain about his Eliz. Forward school board candidacy

| Thursday, May 23, 2013, 4:51 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Placing flags at McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery are Army veteran Jim Englert of McKeesport, who served during World War II, and Maggie Johnson of McKeesport, whose family served in the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Vietnam.

An Elizabeth Township police officer who won Republican nomination for a seat on the Elizabeth Forward school board said unanswered questions remain about the upcoming general election.

Jamie Evans said he doesn't want to comment on his success in Tuesday's primary nor about decisions he might have to make come November regarding his candidacy.

“If I have to make a decision then, I'll make a decision at that time,” Evans, who was cross-filed but did not win a Democratic nomination, said.

He and police officer Daniel Novacek, who cross-filed for his unsuccessful run at a school board seat, had to fend off challenges to their candidacies filed by school board president Phil Martell, who claimed that police officers are ineligible to hold office under the state's First Class Township Code.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph M. James ruled in March that they could run but could not serve as school directors if they remain employed as police officers.

On Monday, Elizabeth Township commissioners put police Chief Robert McNeilly on paid administrative leave. The chief said the move was related to his handling of the policy regarding police officers running for public office.

The policy prevents officers from holding office but it is being changed based on several factors: the court's ruling; recent changes to the federal Hatch Act, which regulates campaign activities by federal employees; and counsel from township Solicitor Pat McGrail, who accordin to McNeilly said the officers could run for school board .

McNeilly said on Wednesday he has secured counsel from the Western Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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