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Burrell School Board member Barca found guilty of harassment by phone

| Wednesday, April 9, 2003

LOWER BURRELL: Burrell School Board member Bill Barca was found guilty last week of harassment.

District Justice Cheryl Peck Yakopec on Friday ordered Barca to pay a $100 fine and court costs for the summary charge, which stemmed from phone calls Barca made in March. Barca paid a total of $221, Peck Yakopec said.

Barca said Tuesday there was no merit to the allegations even though he was found guilty. He said that the situation was a political one.

According to a criminal complaint, Barca made the first call on March 15 to city residents Jim and Beckie Hess. The couple are supporters of school board candidates at odds with Barca.

After learning from their daughter that the couple would not be home until late the next day, Barca made between six and eight more calls, the complaint said.

When finally reaching Beckie Hess by phone late March 16, Barca made threatening statements, according to the complaint. He also made threatening statements over the phone on March 17, the complaint said.

Barca named Jim Hess in a complaint he filed March 18 in Westmoreland County Court challenging a nomination petition of school board President Andrew Kish. Barca argued that Hess signed an affidavit saying he would circulate the petition, but had someone else circulate it.

Judge Charles Loughran removed Kish -- a cross-filed Democrat — from the Republican ballot after Kish withdrew the petition that Barca challenged. After the hearing, Fran Cosentino, a behind-the-scenes political rival of Barca's, admitted to circulating the petition, saying he didn't know that state law mandated that Hess collect the signatures.

Loughran also threw first-time board candidate Jayme Skeba off the Republican ballot after she withdrew a petition Barca challenged for the same reasons.

Kish and Skeba, a registered Republican, remain on the May 21 primary ballot as Democrats.

Barca said Tuesday that he originally called Hess, "as a friend," to let him know he would file the complaint in Greensburg. He denied that he made repeated calls and threatening statements.

"My purpose in calling was just to tell them (what they were doing) was wrong," Barca said.

"We got into a situation where we felt we were being harassed," Hess said Tuesday. "It's sad that it came to this, but we felt that we were forced to take action."

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