Luzerne County election officials will ask the county District Attorney’s Office to investigate discrepancies in Wilkes-Barre Democratic mayoral nominee Tony George’s campaign finance reports.
The county election board also decided Thursday that county council candidate Eugene Kelleher and 22 other primary election write-in nominees who filed required paperwork late won’t appear on the November general election ballot. These nominees and another 21 who failed to submit any paperwork will be notified of their right to challenge the board’s decision to the county Court of Common Pleas.
County assistant solicitor Mike Butera, who handles election matters, recommended both actions.
The county received an amended campaign finance report from George’s committee, but Butera said he believes the matter should be referred to the District Attorney’s office based on his review of the state election code and case law. Butera said the packet he submits to the district attorney will include a press release from George blaming the discrepancies on his decision to try to do the work himself.
The District Attorney’s Office will be asked to determine if the mistakes were an intentional attempt to deceive the public, which would be criminal, he said.
Several citizens had urged the board to take the action.
Matthew Ford said there were “extensive discrepancies” in George’s filing and said the candidate can’t plead ignorance about requirements because he has run for office before.
“This greatly troubles me,” Ford said.
Bob Caruso, who has been involved in elections for decades, told the board George’s campaign reports are “the most irregular election reports I’ve ever seen.”
Amended reports should be permitted in cases where something must be added — not to redo and replace a significant portion of the information, Caruso said.
The discrepancies, which came to the election office’s attention through an anonymous mailing, included a $2,500 contribution from what appeared to be “Bob Francella” of “Fraculla Enterprises.” City contractor Bob Frankelli of Franchelli Enterprises in Wilkes-Barre said he donated $100 to the Friends of Tony George but was certain he didn’t donate $2,500.
George claimed in the release that he confused Frankelli’s contribution with that of Bob Stella of Stell Enterprises.
The write-in nominees were rejected because the county had sent letters to write-in winners on June 2 — the day after primary election results were officially certified — informing them of their nomination and requirements to file paperwork. That paperwork included a financial interest statement that must be filed within 30 days of “official certification of having been nominated,” according to the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission.
A Dallas Township Republican who previously served on county council for two years, Kelleher said he never received the letter.
The county election office said Aug. 10 is the deadline for court challenges over placement on the general election ballot. Kelleher was not at the meeting but said Thursday night he will review his options.
A list of the impacted write-in nominees will be posted on the county website, www.luzernecounty.org, said county Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.