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Treasurer leaves Armstrong County GOP panel

| Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

KITTANNING — Randy Cloak of East Franklin resigned from his position as treasurer of the Republican Committee of Armstrong County on Friday, citing recent actions of County Commissioners David Battaglia and Robert Bower as the reason for his resignation.

Cloak wrote to county GOP Chairman Michael Baker on Jan. 20 and said "the recent county hiring fiasco" was the reason why he wanted to disassociate himself from the committee.

In the letter, Cloak said: "After running on the platform of open and honest government, I find it simply deplorable that Commissioner Battaglia creates two new positions and fills them with political supporters.

"Newly hired public relations officer Tom Porter is a long time friend of Battaglia and was a volunteer on the recent campaign. Additionally, Allison Ball, the new marketing director, is the daughter of Tom Smith, the top donor to Battaglia's campaign — having donated more than $14,000 to the Friends of Dave Battaglia Committee during 2011."

Porter's job is part-time. Ball's father is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who lives in Plumcreek.

Bower said of Cloak's comments:

"Hiring walk throughs is nothing new at the county level, it has been a past practice. There was a window of opportunity for hiring. Talent isn't always there. I find the hiring not unreasonable."

Battaglia told the Leader Times on Monday that he would not comment on the recent hirings.

In his letter, Cloak also wrote about what he called "a peculiar discrepancy" in a campaign finance report of the Friends of Dave Battaglia and called for an audit of Battaglia's campaign expense report.

"The initial report filed on Oct. 28, 2011 identified a contribution in the amount of $7,800 from "Anonymous' and then the large contribution initially attributed to a single donor was moved to another part of the amended report filed Nov. 4, 2011," said Cloak, contending that "the change in the report indicates that 156 individual contributors must have contributed to the campaign rather than a single contributor, as the initial report claims."

Cloak had sent a letter, dated Jan. 20, to Armstrong County Elections Bureau Director Wendy Buzzard concerning Battaglia's campaign report.

In that letter, Cloak called the campaign contribution amount of $7,800 significant and said it was also significant that the amount was moved from one section to another.

"If the contribution was from an individual contributor, as initially reported, it must be made transparent as the candidate is now an elected official making economic decisions and entering into contracts on behalf of the county," said Cloak.

Cloak said that all but one of the campaign finance reports, which were signed by committee treasurer Andrew R. Evans, were notarized by notary public Karen C. Evans of Apollo.

"It is my understanding that a Notary Public is unable to notarize the signature of their spouse."

On Monday, Battaglia responded to Cloak's request for an audit.

"My campaign followed the law," said Battaglia. "We'll go with the process. The audit will prove it, that we followed the law."

GOP Committee head Baker said he hadn't reviewed the campaign finance reports in question and couldn't comment on them, but maintains that he and the Republican committee stand by Battaglia and Bower.

"The new commissioners have made some missteps, but did so while making decisions they felt would move the county forward," said Baker. "I believe that they now realize it and have learned a lesson."

He also said that more communication from the commissioners could only help.

"I think they should be more deliberate in their decisions and be transparent in how the taxpayers' dollars are used," said Baker. "I'd urge them to build consensus for their plans as they move forward. They still have potential to bring positive change to the county."

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