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Penn Hills

Penn Hills school board's Erin Vecchio announces primary challenge to longtime state Rep. Tony DeLuca

Michael DiVittorio
| Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, 5:39 p.m.
Penn Hills school board President Erin Vecchio lost to state Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, in the Democratic primary for the 32nd District seat.
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Penn Hills school board President Erin Vecchio lost to state Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, in the Democratic primary for the 32nd District seat.

Penn Hills school board President Erin Vecchio announced she is challenging longtime state Rep. Tony DeLuca for the Democratic nomination to the 32nd District seat.

The district covers Penn Hills, Verona, Blawnox and parts of O'Hara and Plum. DeLuca's been its representative since 1983.

“If you approve of the direction we have taken in our community for the past 35 years, then I am happy for you,” Vecchio said in her announcement letter. “If you believe that something good can happen; real change, progress, investments in not only business and industry but in our very future and collective future of our children; then I humbly ask for your support.”

She said she plans to form a commission dedicated to attracting businesses to Penn Hills if elected.

Vecchio, 58, previously served on the school board from 1998 to 2009; her current term began in 2016.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.'s office is investigating the district in response to a May 2016 release of an audit by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, which alleged that mismanagement of funds, bad decisions and lack of oversight put the district more than $170 million in debt.

The audit covered July 2012 through June 2015, when Vecchio was not on the board.

DeLuca, 80, last year called for the state Department of Education to put the school district in its financial recovery program and requested a fiscal overseer be named to run the district.

He was successful in having the state provide technical assistance, and helped secure a $2 million grant for the district with Vecchio and state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

Vecchio and DeLuca have a bit of an adversarial history.

She testified against the state representative in 2009 as part of a state grand jury investigation.

She said her testimony was “about corruption going on in Penn Hills” and declined further comment.

No charges were filed against DeLuca.

Vecchio, a former Penn Hills Democratic Party chair, said in a federal lawsuit in 2009 that DeLuca engineered her firing from a job as a tax accountant-collections manager for the state Department of Revenue because she testified against him.

She was fired Aug. 28, 2009. Her suit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab a year later.

Schwab said in the ruling that the evidence was clear that the state agency cut about 350 positions to trim its budget in 2009.

DeLuca denied any wrongdoing in both matters. When reached by phone Monday evening, DeLuca declined comment until Vecchio formally enters the race.

Vecchio has from Feb. 13 to March 6 to circulate nomination petitions and acquire a minimum of 300 signatures from registered voters in the district to be put on the May 15 primary ballot.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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