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Current, former Leetsdale councilmen guilty of ethics violations

Background

The report caps a tumultuous three years for Leetsdale officials following a Sewickley Herald investigation published in 2010.

The Ethics Commission began investigating actions by borough leaders following the newspaper report.

In 2012, former Leetsdale Manager Paul Scimio was ordered to repay more than $1,000 to the borough and can't hold office for five years for violating the Ethics Act by using a borough-issued credit card for personal expenses.

The Sewickley Herald investigation of records from January 2008 through July 2010 obtained through the Right to Know Act showed Leetsdale taxpayers paid for about $14,000 in food, drinks and a borough Christmas party that employees and elected officials charged on credit cards.

Five council members and several employees used borough cards to buy supplies and other items, including a mullet wig and dinners at Ichiban Hibachi Steakhouse in Robinson. Other than Scimio, the Commission did not find that others violated the Ethics Act with the expenses charged to borough credit cards. However, following public criticism borough officials later revised policies so that there are no longer credit cards issued to individuals.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

A former Leetsdale councilman and a current councilman must pay fines after violating the Ethics Act, a state Ethics Commission report said.

Councilman Roger Nanni and former councilman Michael Bajsec used their elected positions in Leetsdale to get work for family members, the report said. Both men also were ordered to pay fines. Bajsec declined to comment.

In an e-mail to the Herald, Nanni said “we're not quite finished yet. I was waiting for the final disposition of the case before going public with the whole truth.”

Nanni said that some people “made blatantly false and misleading statements to the Ethics Commission” about him. He did not offer more details.

Council President Joe McGurk said he was pleased with the detail contained in the investigation but had hoped for harsher penalties.

“I was disappointed with the result,” he said. “It could have been stronger.”

McGurk and three other council members ran for positions while questioning those in office in 2011. He said there are checks and balances “in place that should keep this from ever happening.”

“There's also a different feel for behavior among the current council than the former group,” he said.

Ethics Commission investigators said Bajsec helped to get his wife, Sandra, a job as junior clerk in the borough office.

Bajsec served on council from March 11, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2011.

Bajsec asked then-council president Nanni to consider his wife for an open office position in July 2010, the report said.

“Beyond that, I don't know what steps they went through,” Bajsec said to Ethics Commission investigators. “I wasn't part of it. … I kept out of it because that's what I needed to do was stay out of it.”

Her position later was increased to full time.

Bajsec also participated in votes approving benefit payments that included health insurance for he and his wife, according to the report. He also was involved in creating new agreements that included a 3-percent wage increase and bonuses for employees, including his wife, the report said.

His wife collected $39,800 between August 2010 and January 2012, according to the report. Health benefits for Bajsec's wife valued more than $15,900 between November 2010 and January 2012, according to the report.

In addition, Bajsec violated the Ethics Act by not submitting a statement of financial interests in a timely manner, the report said. All elected officials must file such documents.

Bajsec was ordered to pay the borough $2,000 and pay the Ethics Commission $1,000, according to the report. He also is barred from holding public office through November 2013.

In a separate report, Nanni was ordered to pay the borough $2,050 and pay the Ethics Commission $1,000. Nanni violated the Ethics Act when his son, Scott Nanni, performed work related to the borough's website and servers.

According to the report, Nanni's son began working on borough-related technology in July 2007.

Investigators also said there was not enough evidence to determine if Nanni's purchases on borough-issued credit cards were not related to borough expenses, according to the report.

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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