Community

Citing conflict of interest, Centre County commissioners recuse themselves from elections board

nmark@centredaily.com

The Centre County commissioners announced Tuesday that they have indefinitely recused themselves from the county board of elections.

Due to ongoing litigation tied to District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s lawsuit filed against the county in 2015 over forgery accusations, county solicitor Elizabeth Dupuis recommended the commissioners be recused from the election board.

Under Section 301 of the Pennsylvania election code, the county board of commissioners also acts as the election board. Under Subsection C of the code, President Judge Thomas King Kistler is permitted to approve board members’ recusals due to conflicts of interest.

Parks Miller is expected to run for re-election this year. Her lawsuit against the county, currently in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit after being dismissed by federal Judge Matthew Brann, presents a conflict of interest for the commissioners, said Dupuis.

The original lawsuit named Commissioners Michael Pipe and Steve Dershem and then-commissioner Chris Exarchos, as well as former administrator Tim Boyde and former solicitor Louis Glantz, along with Judge Pamela Ruest, Parks Miller’s former paralegal Michelle Shutt and several defense attorneys, including her Democratic primary rival Bernard Cantorna.

Commissioner Mark Higgins was not a member of the board when the lawsuit was filed and is not named on the appeal, but he has also recused himself.

On Monday, Kistler confirmed the recusal of the commissioners and appointed three new election board members: Keith Bierly, former commissioner who left the board in 2004; Suzette Sims, attorney at McQuaide Blasko; and Joseph Davidson, Centre County recorder of deeds.

I’ve been a member of the election board for a number of terms now and this is the first time that this type of event, to my knowledge, has ever happened in Centre County.

Commissioner Steve Dershem

“This is truly regrettable from my perspective,” Dershem said. “I’ve been a member of the election board for a number of terms now and this is the first time that this type of event, to my knowledge, has ever happened in Centre County.”

“Mr. Dershem and I agree about one thing, this is probably the first time in any county’s history where members of a board of commissioners got caught falsely accusing a district attorney of a crime,” Parks Miller said. “They should have thought about their obligations to the county, its people and all of the other serious ramifications before they engaged in that type of behavior.”

The commissioners will remain recused until the federal appeal is resolved, which might be by the end of the year, according to Dupuis.

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi

  Comments