Photo circulates of KKK flag displayed in Sewickley Township public works building |

Photo circulates of KKK flag displayed in Sewickley Township public works building

Joe Napsha
This photograph of a Ku Klux Klan flag hanging in Sewickley Township public works garage recently surfaced before the May 18, 2019, primary election. Supervisor and public works director Joe Kerber said he ordered the flag be removed when he saw it displayed in 2016 or 2017.

A Sewickley Township supervisor is blaming a political enemy for helping share an old photograph of a Ku Klux Klan flag hanging inside the public works garage, though he downplayed the impact of the attack in his sound primary election defeat.

“It was a ploy to get (something) started,” said Supervisor Joe Kerber, who also serves as the municipality’s public works director.

The photograph was taken three years ago, Kerber said. It began circulating via email and text prior to the May 21 primary election.

Kerber said he ordered the flag removed from the building as soon as he saw it. A driver hung the flag, and it was on display for only a few minutes before it was taken out of the building, Kerber said.

No disciplinary actions were taken against the driver, Kerber said. The incident occurred before the township had created an employee policy regarding such actions, he said.

Alan Fossi, a former township supervisor, disputed Kerber’s time frame for when the flag was displayed. He said the incident occurred in mid-2017, while he was in office — though he said he was not aware of it at the time. Fossi lost his bid for re-election in November 2017.

“It was disgusting,” Fossi said.

Fossi, who clashed with Kerber when he served on the board, asked Kerber at a public meeting before the election if he had known about the KKK flag.

Kerber blames Fossi for disseminated the photo. Fossi denied the claim.

Far more people have seen the flag through the circulated photo than the seven people who were in the building at the time it was displayed, Kerber said.

Supervisor Brian Merdian, who was elected in 2017, said he was not aware a KKK flag had been displayed in the public works building.

“I’m totally dumbfounded. I have never seen anything like that” on township property, Merdian said.

Kerber, a Democrat, lost his bid in his party’s primary for another six-year term. Linda Harvey, the township’s tax collector, received 61.2% of votes, compared to Kerber’s 37.8%, according to unofficial results.

The KKK flag photo had no connection to his primary defeat, Kerber said.

Township Auditor Sondra Dull, one of Kerber’s critics, said she was aware of the KKK flag photo about 18 months ago. Dull, who won the Republican nomination to the Yough School Board in the primary, said she did not believe it played a role in Kerber’s defeat.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission could initiate an investigation into racial discrimination on its own or if a complaint is filed, said Renee Martin, an agency spokeswoman.

“If we see a problem, we will file (a complaint),” Martin said. “We have several different ways to proceed.”

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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