State Ethics Commission Report on Mayor’s Use of Borough Equipment

At Monday’s council meeting, council member David DeCaria read a letter from the State Ethics Commission regarding Mayor Anthony J. Court’s use of borough equipment for private property.

According to the report, last October council was informed that Mayor Court had used borough paving trucks for a gravel lot he owns. DeCaria said the complaint stemmed from at least one council member.

The State Ethics Commission sent their letter to court on Feb. 2 of this year. DeCaria said he read the letter “in the interest of transparency.”

In response, Court said the involved property is an apartment he owns on Fifth Street. There is an alley/parking lot there that had two potholes. Court said he had no idea the alley was part of the property, as the previous owner informed him that the alley had been used as a general road for at least 65 years.

In response to that response, DeCaria said four truckloads of chipping was used, so the potholes must have been very big. There were also emails between the borough manager and Court which confirm the mayor was informed that the property was his during the repairs.

Court said that he paid the cost of the paving, about $900, to the Borough, and the State Ethics Commission ended the matter.

The State Ethics Commission letter, signed by executive director Robert P. Caruso, is included below:

[Dear Mr. Court,
The State Ethics Commission has received a complaint that you violated Section 1103(a) of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act (Act 93 of 1998) when you, in your capacity as mayor of Ellwood City Borough, utilized the authority of your public position for a private pecuniary benefit when you directed the Public Works Department and/or its employees to deliver and spread asphalt millings belonging to the Borough upon your private property.

Following a preliminary inquiry into this matter, the Commission made a determination to close this matter after you made payments totaling $904.47 to the Borough. The Commission’s inquiry determined that you used the authority of your public position to secure the services of Borough employees for repairs/improvements to your property, however, your payments to the Borough created a de minimis economic impact. As such, the determination was made to close this matter. You should however, be aware that such actions by you in the future could result in findings of a violation including imposition of financial penalty and referral fro criminal prosecution.

In addition to reviewing the allegations stated above, a Statement of Financial Interests compliance review was conducted. This matter has been forwarded to the State Ethics Commission’s Assistant Counsel of the Investigative Division for review and appropriate action pursuant to the provisions of the State Ethics Act, Act 93 of 1998. This matter will not be processed as an investigation but rather a civil citation proceeding.]

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