The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

December 6, 2012

Another stain on our Legislature

Former senator begins prison term

— For years, we’ve supported state officials as they’ve pushed for major changes in the commonwealth’s prison and criminal-sentencing programs.

Little did we know that some of those most vocal about the efforts would themselves end up behind bars.

The recent shame brought by several of our state legislators – most of them holding leadership positions – expanded last week when a very familiar name, Robert Mellow, was sentenced to 16 months in prison on public corruption charges.

The Scranton Democrat, who served in the Senate from 1971 until 2010, was charged with tapping Senate staff for political fundraising and campaign work in violation of state law. He continued misusing staff even as fellow lawmakers were prosecuted as part of the state attorney general’s “Bonusgate” investigation, in which lawmakers were accused of handing out taxpayer-funded bonuses for campaign work.

“I’m embarrassed and I’m ashamed. ... I’m very, very sorry,” Mellow said.

Probably not as sorry as taxpayers whose hard-earned money was so blatantly misused by these scoundrels.

In May, Mellow pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and was ordered to pay nearly $80,000 in restitution to the state Senate, along with a $40,000 fine to the federal government.

You might recognize the names of some of the others convicted: Former House Speakers Bill DeWeese and John Perzel, former Reps. Brett Feese and Mike Veon.

There were others.

Also in the Senate, Jane Orie was convicted in state court and Vince Fumo in federal court.

Mellow had served as the minority floor leader and president pro tempore in the 1990s.

As a former leader of Senate Democrats, his portrait hangs in the state Capitol.

We believe it would be very appropriate to remove the portrait today.

Don’t you agree?

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