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Politics

Habay will pay $13K restitution

| Wednesday, July 14, 2004

HARRISBURG -- State Rep. Jeffrey Habay has agreed to pay nearly $13,000 in restitution in 18 monthly installments for violating Pennsylvania ethics laws, his attorneys have told the state Ethics Commission.

Habay, R-Shaler, was ordered to repay the state for political work done by his employees on state time, according to a June 17 ruling by the commission. The payments will range from $330 to $850 a month.

Habay has also been removed from his post as deputy whip of the state House. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

One of his attorneys, Kenneth R. Behrend, said he could not discuss the specifics of Habay's repayment proposal.

One of Habay's most vocal opponents said the punishment is not severe enough.

"It's a sham they're allowing him to pay it over time," said George Radich, husband of a former employee of Habay's and a one-time campaign volunteer who filed a petition to have a court audit Habay's campaign finance records.

"If I would go out and rob a bank, and I would steal $3,000, after two years of investigation, they would not say, 'Pay back the $3,000 and the whole thing goes away,'" said Radich, of Shaler.

Senior Commonwealth Court Judge Barry Feudale on Monday will hear arguments on Radich's petition for the audit.

John J. Contino, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said Habay's repayment proposal is acceptable. Contino said he heard from Habay's attorneys on Monday.

The first payment is due Friday, Contino said. "The ball's in their court," he said. If no payment is received by Friday, the Ethics Commission will file for court enforcement of the order.

Any money paid by Habay goes to the state's general fund.

Ray Anderson, chairman of the Hampton Township Republican Committee, said the state's GOP should take strong action to punish Habay.

"If the Republicans don't do something, you can bet your bottom dollar the Democrats will," he said.

"If all you had to do was give back the money you stole, how many people would be in jail?" said Anderson, who also signed the petition to have Habay's records audited. Habay defeated Anderson's son, Dan, in three consecutive Republican primaries during the 1990s.

Habay used legislative staffers to campaign for him on state time on tasks such as arranging money-raisers, making election signs, soliciting for campaign contributions and preparing political mailings, according to the Ethics Commission report. He used state office equipment for the political work, the report said.

In a public statement on June 30, Habay called the Ethics Commission report "unfair and wrong" but said he would repay the money to ease concerns of any constituents. He has claimed the charges were politically motivated.

Both state Attorney General Jerry Pappert and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. are reviewing the case for possible prosecution.

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