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Township supervisor ordered to pay more than $100,000 in penalties by state ethics commission

AP

The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission has ordered a municipal official to pay more than $100,000 in penalties, and recommended criminal charges against him.

The commission ordered a final adjudication on the case involving Bald Eagle Township Supervisor James H. Bechdel Sr. on Tuesday.

According to the order summary, Bechdel violated the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act by using “the authority of his public office ... to make purchases from the Federal Surplus Supply Property Program, which is of restricted access, and subsequently converted those items to his personal use and/or conveyed them to a member of his immediate family.”

He was also noted as having filed “untimely and deficient Statements of Financial Interests on which he failed to include the township as a source of income for ... 2013, 2014 and 2015.”

As a supervisor, Bechdel receives $1,875 per year.

The commission ordered Bechdel to repay the township $4,011.10 within 30 days.

He was also directed to make a “treble penalty” payment. According to the ethics commission’s website, “any person who obtains financial gain from violating any provision of the Ethics Act can be ordered to pay three times the financial gain into the state Treasury or the treasury of the political subdivision.”

Bechdel’s treble penalty is $103,109.76. It is also due within 30 days.

The commission also referred the case to the Clinton County district attorney, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice with a “recommendation that criminal prosecutions be instituted.”

Neither Bechdel nor the township were available for comment.

According to the Lock Haven Express, Bechdel was nominated for chairman of the Board of Supervisors in January by his brother and fellow supervisor Jack Bechdel, but the issue was tabled when the third supervisor, Ken McGhee, protested. The county’s website lists no chairman for Bald Eagle Township, but lists Jack Bechdel as vice chairman.

This is the 10th final adjudication the commission has issued this year.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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