The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

February 8, 2013

State ethics panel probing Paint Township

WINDBER — Paint Township is being investigated by the state Ethics Commission, The Tribune-Democrat has learned.

Township officials were able to offer little about the investigation and its scope Thursday, but all three Paint Township supervisors said state investigators have apparently made several stops at their Basin Drive office during the past few weeks.

One investigator was working behind closed doors at the township building Thursday, and Supervisors Dave Blough and Joe Huff said office staffers are complying with requests.

“We haven’t been told anything. And whatever they ask for, the girls in the office are providing it,” Huff said, noting five years’ worth of meeting minutes have been among the requests.

The Harrisburg-based state Ethics Commission enforces Pennsylvania’s Ethics Act, policing allegations of conflicts of interest and improper moves by elected officials to financially gain from their public posts.

The independent agency investigates alleged missteps by local and state leaders and can impose fines and other penalties.

Huff, Blough and Supervisor Andy Tvardzik said they did not know the investigation’s focus.

All three added they had not been approached by investigators.

“I have no idea what they are looking for,” Tvardzik said.

Blough, the township roadmaster, called the investigation “a first” in his more than 20 years with the township. But given recent events, “it doesn’t surprise me,” he said while working in the township’s garage Thursday.

“There’s been a lot of unrest here. And residents have said they were going to notify the ethics board, so I guess that’s why it happened,” Blough said. “But it is what it is. It’ll clear the air, I guess.”

Since mid-2012, township residents have repeatedly accused the board of improper spending. Tvardzik, the former treasurer, has taken the most heat, accused of collecting pay from the township for administrative work tied to the recent sewer line project.

Tvardzik received $14,791 for the work in 2011, township records show. In many cases, and by Tvardzik’s own admission, he signed off on his own checks along with one other supervisor, a matter that has also infuriated some residents.

Tvardzik has repeatedly defended his actions, saying he’s done nothing wrong.  

He told residents at a heated November meeting that he was able to exceed the annual income a second-class township supervisor is able to receive because the funds were being reimbursed by an outside source, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, known as PennVEST, which supplied the loan and grant package for the sewer work.

“The people complaining ... and saying these things are doing it because they don’t want to see things improve in this township,” Tvardzik said Thursday, adding that some residents are angry at the township for seeking sewer improvements and zoning.

“Do I think I’ve done anything (wrong)? No, I don’t,” he said.

Ethics Commission Acting Director Rob Caruso said his agency cannot comment on whether specific investigations are, or aren’t, under way, let alone provide details. He cited an Ethics Act confidentiality provision.

But he noted ethics probes do not necessarily mean improper acts occurred.

And, for any investigation, specific procedures must be followed, Caruso said.

The first step: Verifying whether an allegation is an Ethics Commission matter, or if it should be referred to another agency.

“Once we have sufficient information to proceed, there’s a preliminary inquiry that involves reviewing public records, such as bills or payments, to see if (the allegation) is something we should look into,” Caruso said, noting it’s a 60-day process. “At that point, a decision must be made to pursue a full investigation or recommend closing it.”

If further review is warranted, investigators must notify the subjects of the investigation by letter, advising them they are being investigated and, in general terms, why, Caruso added.

The Ethics Commission has 180 days to complete the investigation, but can receive two 90-day extensions if records are still being gathered, Caruso said.

“It can take months to subpoena records and arrange interviews,” he added.

Huff, a first-term board member, said he “welcomes” any investigation.

“If there’s a complaint, that’s why agencies like this exist, to make sure everything is in line,” he said. “I’m not worried because I know I haven’t done anything wrong.”

The township’s board, Huff said, has made mistakes, overspending on the township building and failing to raise taxes in 2011 when the township’s financial issues first became serious.

“But it’s never been about anything illegal or criminal,” he said.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • Green, Libertarian candidates abandon bids for governor

    Both third-party candidates who hoped to compete in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race have given up – leaving Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic nominee Tom Wolf to compete one-on-one.

    August 1, 2014

  • PennDOT contractor arraigned on $3.6M theft charge

    A Department of Transportation contractor stole $3.6 million in public funds by billing the state for work that was never done, state prosecutors said Thursday in what they described as an ongoing corruption probe of PennDOT’s southeastern Pennsylvania district.

    July 31, 2014

  • Police: Women stole thousands from elderly sisters, used money to show St. Bernards

    Two western Pennsylvania women have been charged with stealing thousands of dollars from two elderly sisters and using the money to attend dog shows.

    July 29, 2014

  • Intervening neighbor’s death now ruled homicide

    The Allegheny County medical examiner says a neighbor who died after he intervened in a fight between a couple next door is the victim of homicide.

    July 29, 2014

  • Housing police: Naked women slashes 3 in melee

    Allegheny County Housing Authority police were trying to identify a naked woman who allegedly slashed or stabbed three other women in an apparent lovers’ quarrel at a public housing complex.

    July 29, 2014

  • Police: Rescued boys never mentioned drowned teen

    Police say two teens who were rescued from a jetty in Presque Isle Bay in Erie last week, and two others who were with them, never mentioned a fifth boy who drowned and whose body wasn’t found until Saturday.

    July 29, 2014

  • 2 arraigned, denied bail in deadly Philly carjacking

    Two men accused of carjacking a woman in north Philadelphia and plowing into a family selling fruit on a street corner, killing three children, have been ordered held without bail.

    July 29, 2014

  • PennDOT pushes ‘Yellow Dot’ vehicle stickers

    It’s the car sticker that could save your life.
    PennDOT’s “Yellow Dot” program has been around for several years, said Daniel Zakraysek, coordinator of the Cambria Allegheny Regional Highway Safety Network.

    July 28, 2014

  • Remembering elephant’s rampage

    The circus elephant paced the landing outside the Jaffa Mosque in Altoona.
    Police formed an uneasy line around the perimeter of the venue’s lawn, rifles at the ready.
    It was a cloudy, cold day in April 1993, and Tyke the elephant had just run around the circus ring, slapped a baboon and burst through a building’s front door, tearing off part of the wall above the door.

    July 28, 2014

  • State briefs 7/29/2014

    July 28, 2014


Do you think pet obituaries should be included with death notices?

Yes, my pet is considered a member of the family.
No, pet obituaries are inappropriate.
Pet obituaries should be placed on a different page in the newspaper.
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads