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You see, it's really very easy to explain

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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

In politics, coincidence is commonplace.

So don't conclude any nefarious connection exists between certain Baldwin-Whitehall School District personnel moves and a recent Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement.

It's all perfectly innocent, all easily explainable.

On Feb. 6, Pete Wagner filed a lawsuit against the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. Wagner, Pittsburgh's powerful 19th Ward Democratic chairman and the brother of state Auditor General Jack Wagner, wanted to compel the committee to endorse a candidate for the 22nd Legislative District.

That's the South Hills House seat his daughter, Chelsa Wagner, held until she became county controller in January. Because the seat was about to be moved to the Lehigh Valley before the state Supreme Court recently threw out the legislative redistricting plan, the committee had no reason to back anyone.

A day after the lawsuit was filed, committee officials agreed to endorse a candidate. On Feb. 12, committee members just happened to select Marty Schmotzer -- a curious choice, given what happened at his last full-time public job.

In the 1990s, Schmotzer took $50,000 from the Clerk of Courts office, where he was a deputy, before returning the money about six months later, with interest.

His 2004 theft conviction was overturned on appeal because prosecutors waited too long to try the case, and the charges later were expunged.

Schmotzer just happens to be a former Baldwin-Whitehall school director. His brother, John Schmotzer, is a Baldwin-Whitehall director as well, and is the current board president.

Marty Schmotzer just happened to be the board president in June 2009, when it appointed a 26-year-old substitute teacher to the $55,000-per-year job as high school dean of students.

That upwardly mobile and extremely fortunate substitute teacher just happened to be Wagner's son, Peter J. Wagner Jr.

The Schmotzers just happened to be among the board members who voted to approve a salary increase for him in June 2010. His current salary is $66,950.

Pete Wagner Sr. could not be reached. But Marty Schmotzer insisted no connection exists between Wagner Jr.'s financially ascending district career, and the effort the elder Wagner is extending to get Schmotzer elected.

"The kid has a master's degree, went through the hiring process like everyone else and was recommended by the administration," Schmotzer said. "I swear on a stack of Bibles, Pete Wagner (Sr.) never once interfered or asked for help during the hiring process."

See• Perfectly innocent, easily explainable.

Schmotzer is a man unable to keep his overcoat in his closet because of the large skeleton that has dwelled there for years. But he swears his surprising endorsement has nothing to do with him courting the favor of someone with a well-honed reputation for trafficking in political influence.

How did it happen then• Chalk it up to the vagaries of circumstance.

Chalk it up to coincidence.

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