March 20-26, 2003
First District City Council candidate Vernon Anastasio may not get on the Democratic primary ballot because a voter in the district is challenging his nominating petitions, claiming that he is in violation of the election law for falsifying income information on his financial interest statement.
A complaint filed in Common Pleas Court last Tuesday by Sarah DeRose, a registered Democratic voter in the First Councilmanic District, alleges that Anastasio made false statements about his income when he filed his financial interest statement for 2002. (The Pennsylvania Ethics Act requires a candidate for public office to file a statement of financial interests with his or her nomination petition. Failure to do so is considered a "fatal defect" to a petition.)
On his financial statement, Anastasio declared that he is an administrative assistant, yet reported no direct or indirect sources of income. He also indicated that he had not been employed by any business last year.
Anastasio was employed with the city's Department of Human Relations from 1994 until July 31, 2002, when he became chief of staff to State Rep. Babette Josephs.
He resigned that position last month to run for office.
DeRose is asking the court to set aside Anastasio's petition because of his false statements. Her attorney is Ralph Teti.
Anastasio said it was an honest mistake.
"I thought I was asked to disclose my income at the time," he said. "At the time of the filing I was not employed. But everyone knows I worked for the city and for Rep. Josephs. I am not trying to hide that. I will ask the court if I may amend the questionnaire."
Anastasio blamed his opponent, incumbent Councilman Frank DiCicco, for being behind the court filing.
"I made an honest mistake," said Anastasio. "But what is not honest is the dirty trick my opponent is playing. [DiCicco] is trying to disenfranchise the 6,000 voters who signed my nominating petitions. They believe I am the candidate for positive change." Later on Tuesday, after the DeRose filing, Anastasio filed an amended financial statement with the Department of Records, which Anastasio said was accepted.
"But City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione's office did not," said Anastasio. "So I filed a petition in the Common Pleas Court asking the Commissioner to accept my new statement."
DiCicco declined to comment on the basis that he had not seen the filing.
A court date on the matter is pending.
Anastasio is being supported by Local 98 business manager John Dougherty. Anastasio marched with Local 98 in Sunday's St. Patrick's Day parade. Dougherty said he was supporting Anastasio as a union head, a gray area since Dougherty is also the treasurer of Democratic City Committee. In January, Democratic ward leaders in the district endorsed DiCicco.
Free for All
Local candidates for state court judgeships are out celebrating this week because Democratic State Committee made no endorsements and voted for an open primary in last Saturday’s meeting at the Harrisburg/Hershey Holiday Inn in Grantville. Philadelphia state candidates are usually passed over in favor of those from the west.
"There were so many qualified candidates that we thought all had a good shot at the primary," said State Rep. T.J. Rooney, who was elected as the State Committee's new chair at the meeting, succeeding interim chair State Sen. Allen Kukovich.
"Gov. Rendell suggested an open primary at the meeting," added Rooney.
There had been rumors that Rendell was going to support Pittsburgh Common Pleas Court Judge Max Baer (not the actor or boxer) for Supreme Court, although his spokesperson said that Rendell was not supporting any candidate in particular.
State Committee delegates were treated to a variety of receptions by judicial candidates, the most lavish hosted by Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge James "Jimmy" DeLeon.
DeLeon is running for the one open seat on the Supreme Court and has been courting Democrats for some time. He hosted a big bash in the ballroom of the hotel and a late-night reception in a private suite.
Other candidates seeking the Supreme seat include Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judges James "Jimmy" Lynn and John Herron, and Pittsburgh Common Pleas Court Judges Cheryl Allen and Max Baer.
There are also three seats up for grabs on the Superior Court. Candidates are Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judges Mark Bernstein and William "Bill" Manfredi, Philadelphia Municipal Court Judges Seamus McCaffery and Robert Blasi, Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge John Driscoll and Easton Common Pleas Court Judge Jack Panella. McCaffery resigned his position as Municipal Court Administrative Judge to run. (Municipal Court President Judge Louis Presenza has assumed McCaffery"s responsibilities.)
All of the candidates have filed their nominating petitions to be on the ballot.