Fayette County prothonotary hopeful denies falsifying paperwork

| Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A North Union woman who is running for Fayette County prothonotary told a judge that she made honest mistakes on her statement of financial interests but that she corrected the errors before another candidate pointed them out in a challenge.

“I never falsified anything,” said Pamela Hudson at the close of an hourlong hearing on Monday before President Judge John F. Wagner Jr.

“I honestly did make a mistake on the financial interests paper, and I did amend it,” Hudson said. “We are honest, good people. That was an accident.”

Hudson, who is a jury commissioner, is seeking the Democratic nomination for prothonotary. The position is vacant because Lance Winterhalter quit in the middle of his term.

Another candidate who is seeking the nomination, Robert “Ted” Pritchard of Fairchance, challenged Hudson's nominating petitions and those of two other competitors, Nina Capuzzi Frankhouser and Paul Shipley.

Pritchard wants the courts to invalidate the nominating petitions and order the candidates' names removed from the ballot, which would leave him as the only candidate. He listed various reasons to throw out the petitions, including illegible signatures, abbreviated addresses or incomplete statements of financial interests.

Hudson's case went before Wagner for a hearing, but Wagner did not immediately issue a ruling. Senior Judge Gerald Solomon has not issued any findings in Shipley's case.

Judge Steve Leskinen denied the request to invalidate Frankhouser's petitions, but Pritchard has appealed the denial to Commonwealth Court.

In a nine-page opinion and order issued Monday, Leskinen upheld all but one of Frankhouser's petitions because missing information could be added through amendments.

Leskinen did toss one petition that contained just 40 of the 627 signatures that Frankhouser gathered. Leskinen did not hold a hearing on 85 other signatures that Pritchard challenged because even if they were invalidated, Frankhouser would have more than the 250 needed to run, according to the judge's order.

Pritchard wanted the election bureau to review all 627 signatures to ensure they were valid, but Leskinen said he would not consider such a broad challenge.

“Case law requires the objector to do his own ‘homework,' and to provide specific written objections as to each individual signature,” Leskinen wrote. “In the absence of such a specific objection, the court is not to consider the challenge at all.”

The challenges against Frankhouser and Shipley nearly were not considered because Pritchard did not pay $172 in filing fees on them, but he paid those fees on Monday.

Following the hearing before Wagner, Pritchard said the challenges are not personal in nature.

“I'm just a candidate challenging the petition process on irregularities according to the law,” Pritchard said. “I just want what's right and best for the electorate.”

Hudson's campaign manager, Bill Jordan of Uniontown, was not convinced.

“What he said about Pam being deceitful is ridiculous,” Jordan said. “She has integrity. She's honest. What he's doing to her name is ridiculous.”

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com

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