Orie knew of illegal political work, staffers say
Current and former staffers of state Sen. Jane Orie on Tuesday told a similar story to the jury in her corruption case: Political work was done on state time, and the senator knew about it.
"Of course, the senator knew everything that was going on," said Ginger Hope, Orie's former Harrisburg secretary who retired in 2008.
The testimony of Hope and three other staffers came on the sixth day of the retrial in Allegheny County court for Orie, 50, a McCandless Republican accused of using her state-paid staff to do campaign work.
Hope testified that another staffer kept copies of news stories for Orie of the 2005 corruption case against former Rep. Jeff Habay, a Shaler Republican who was convicted of using state workers for his political campaigns.
"We actually kept a binder with all the articles about his case," Hope testified. "(Staffer) Barbara Brown would print the articles and put them in the binder."
Orie is facing 26 charges from two cases. Prosecutors allege that both the campaigns of the senator and her sister, Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, benefited from the state-paid workers.
Hope estimated that she spent 25 percent of her work day doing political work. Other staffers, such as Kathy Campbell, who still works for Orie, testified that she did much less -- 30 hours over six years and working the polls on Election Day.
Orie's attorney, William Costopoulos, keyed on Campbell's minimal amount of work.
"So we're talking about five hours per year?" Costopoulos asked.
Orie scribbled notes to Costopoulos throughout the day and hugged Campbell after her testimony.
Campbell told of an incident in October 2009, the week before Melvin's election to the Supreme Court, when she was to deliver a letter and poll cards to North Hills convents urging nuns to support Melvin.
Campbell said she made two copies of Melvin's poll cards at Orie's North Hills office and then threw them in the trash because they didn't turn out well. Days later an intern complained to prosecutors about politicking in Orie's office and Campbell told Orie about the poll cards in the trash.
"She said, 'Kathy, where are they?' " Campbell said. "(Orie) took them out of the waste basket, put them in her purse and she left."
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