PLYMOUTH ‚?? An attorney hired to investigate the criminal background of a councilman confirmed on Friday a federal drug conviction and criticized the Luzerne County District Attorney for failing to take action against the official months ago.
Despite vigorous protest from many of Councilman Bill Dixon‚??s supporters, borough council on Tuesday voted 4-2 to hire attorney Charles Coslett to investigate whether Dixon‚??s past legal troubles forbid him from holding office.
Dixon has said that after returning from Vietnam in 1970 he got himself into trouble and was arrested on drug charges in 1971 and a federal drug charge in 1976. He also was arrested for burglary in 1975. This happened at time when, Dixon said, he was ‚??a mess. ‚?Ľ I‚??d just come back from Vietnam and I was bitter, stupid and didn‚??t care. ‚?Ľ People change.‚?Ě
Dixon‚??s attorney, James Haggerty, has said the Pennsylvania State Board of Pardons voted 5-0 to recommend Dixon‚??s pardon to Gov. Tom Corbett, a move Haggerty said allows Dixon to hold office.
Coslett on Friday said he doesn‚??t dispute that a pardon would allow Dixon to hold office. However, a pardon from Corbett would only apply to state charges, not the federal felony charge of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, for which Dixon was sentenced to two years in prison in 1976.
Coslett said the state Constitution prohibits anyone convicted of an infamous crime from holding office.
Coslett also said borough solicitor Mike Kostelansky wrote letters to District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Feb. 7 and May 3 inquiring about her moving to have Dixon removed from office; he said council Vice Chairman Ron Kobusky also sent Salavantis a letter and she did not send replies to any of the inquiries.
‚??I spoke with Kostelansky on Wednesday. (Salavantis‚?? prior) statement about ongoing consultation with Kostelansky is not accurate,‚?Ě Coslett said. ‚??A highly paid public individual holding public office should step forward and answer these official inquiries.‚?Ě
Coslett said he learned that Salavantis in July sent a letter to Dixon suggesting that he resign. He believes it was then that Haggerty advised Salavantis that Dixon was seeking a gubernatorial pardon, which Coslett believes was only granted this month.
Coslett said he learned of Dixon‚??s federal crime through official sources on Wednesday, after reviewing Dixon‚??s application to the Board of Pardons. He confirmed the charge through U.S. District Court in Scranton on Friday. But, he said, Salavantis should have resolved the matter months ago.
‚??It seems to me ‚?? and I was an assistant district attorney for 12 years ‚?? the first thing she should have done was have one of her detectives run a criminal history check (on Dixon) ‚?? federal and state. Obviously, she felt she had enough information to send a letter to Dixon about resigning. Lord knows why she waited to July,‚?Ě Coslett said.
Salavantis said she doesn‚??t report to Coslett, and the law grants her discretion on when and if to prosecute a case. She also said she‚??s ‚??been working with these attorneys for many months‚?Ě on the matter.
‚??I will not be pressured into making a hasty decision on something very important to the community and very important to the public,‚?Ě Salavantis said.
Salavantis said she was informed that Dixon was to receive a pardon, but she has not received confirmation that a pardon was granted. ‚??I want all the information in hand and I want to make sure the investigation is complete,‚?Ě she said.
Salavantis said she ‚??was only informed a while ago that (Dixon) had a state conviction. It only came to light recently that he had a federal conviction, and I don‚??t have that information,‚?Ě she said.
‚??Once again, the pace that I move at should not be in question by attorney Coslett,‚?Ě Salavantis said, describing the issue in Plymouth as more of ‚??a political matter.‚?Ě