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Ethics panel fines Clinton Township supervisor

| Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

After funneling township jobs to members of his immediate family, Clinton Township Supervisor Blane Martin has paid his debt to the State Ethics Commission: an $800 fine.

In July, Martin was slapped with the fine after an Ethics Commission investigation found he had used his position for personal gain. The investigation report cites inappropriately-conducted township purchases from businesses owned separately by his wife and son.

According to the report, Martin also helped get his son, Tyler Martin, a township job for the summer of 2006 as part-time road worker -- an $8-per-hour position that has not been filled since 2007 due to financial constraints. According to the Ethics Commission, Tyler Martin received $760 that summer.

Tyler Martin was interviewed and hired that spring by the supervisors over two other applicants. Blane Martin and fellow Supervisor Jim Halstead informally agreed on hiring Martin, but Supervisor Donald Christy didn't think he had enough experience.

A few days later, Tyler Martin was told he was hired, and started work on June 6, a week before the supervisors officially voted to hire him by a 2-0 vote. Blane Martin abstained without giving a reason, according to the Ethics Commission.

The commission said the Martins' relationship was common knowledge in a township where they live in the same home.

When Blane Martin was about to be appointed as a supervisor in April 2006, according to the report, he encouraged the supervisors to choose Tyler Martin's sign-making business, Martin's Signs and Graphics, for three township projects without a formal vote.

The township spent a little more than $1,000 on signs for road closures, Adopt-a-Road and Spring Valley Park, without soliciting bids.

In June 2006, the township began buying clothing from Martin's Funwear, a business owned and operated by Blane Martin's wife, Donna Martin -- without soliciting bids.

The supervisors bought each of the four road workers a T-shirt and jacket, for a total cost of $163.

In both cases, Martin voted to approve paying the bills at a public meeting without mentioning his connection to the businesses.

Martin's Signs and Graphics and Martin's Funwear operate out of Blane Martin's home. Neither is incorporated in Pennsylvania, the Ethics Commission said.

Last March 24, Blane Martin testified that he didn't know he was acting on a conflict of interest that would benefit his family, and had not done so on purpose.

The township is no longer using his family businesses, he said Monday.

Martin, who lives on Knoch Road, has been a township road worker since April 1999.

He was appointed to the board of supervisors to fill a vacancy in April 2006. Last November, he was elected for a two-year term that began in January.

Martin said he's not sure he's going to seek another term when the current one ends in 2009.

"I've about had enough of the whole thing," he said Monday, declining further comment.

Mary Zacherl, supervisors' chairwoman, said she and everyone else involved in the investigation were forbidden to discuss it by the Ethics Commission.

Mike Gallagher, the township solicitor, said that as far as he knows, the consequences end there.

"He would pay the $800 fine or judgment over to the Ethics Commission and everybody moves forward."

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