Thursday, July 16, 2009

COMPLAINTS DEPARTMENT

Gadfly Gene Stilp has wasted no time leaping into the spotlight now glaring on Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow, who is accused of enriching himself at taxpayer expense.

Stilp, a failed lawyer and legislative aide, has made something of a career of picking at the wounds of scandalized lawmakers. In fact, thanks to Stilp's enthusiasm not only for filing ethics complaints, but for making a public spectacle of doing so, Pennsylvanians may now be treated to an endless parade of political candidates filing baseless ethics complaints against their opponents, then rolling out negative ads based on those complaints.

It probably never occurred to him there actually was a sound reason for the ban on publicizing complaints.

But we digress. If Stilp really is offended by ethical lapses by public officials, and not just addicted to the publicity that goes with complaining about them, he should be interested in an apparently serious ethical violation on the part of lawyers for the Office of Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett.

Rule 1.5 of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct is: "A lawyer shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal or clearly excessive fee."

Corbett insists that the law firm of former Mike Veon Chief of Staff Jeff Foreman (who most recently served as counsel to then-Majority Whip Keith McCall) "was placed on retainer by [Beaver Initiative for Growth] for $4,000 a month at Veon's suggestion, but that the firm didn't do legal work justifying those payments."

It's hard to imagine that accepting such payments would not be a violation of Rule 1.5.

The bigger problem is that Corbett's team clearly believes Foreman committed this violation (since they based a huge part of their case against Veon upon it). Rule 8.3: "A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority."

Part of the reason charges against Veon related to BIG were thrown out of court is that Foreman would not admit in court that he violated Rule 1.5. Regardless, if Corbett's team is convinced that he did, they are obligated by Rule 8.3 to report him.

Sounds like a situation that is just ripe for Stilp to exploit. The only problem is, the law requires that such complaints remain confidential. Without any publicity to milk, what's in it for Stilp?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but Foreman is a good lawyer put into a bad situation not all of it from his making.

Manzo, Foreman, and Lavelle have had to cut deals in a state of confusion and using values that at one time looked like they violated many laws, ethics, and regulations, I cannot speak for them, but I understand their dilemmas today.

At the same time, Veon And Ramley along with the other Defendants have been caught up in an outdated investigation of where mixing campaign laws with constituent service is a fog of thoughts that cannot be kept watch over or act in accordance with in totality at all times.

This has led to finger pointing of good people at other good people, and even causing a split in the HDC to fight among them, while Republicans watch in delight and other Republicans couch in fear if it happens to them too.

I am glad this website has been put up to discuss and shine light on what can be done to stop unfairness from destroying good people.

At the same time, Gene Stilp has a right to be a critic of government, but the critics thinks they have all the answers and are above what politicians and their staffs do, which is to help out the common citizen to cope everyday just like us all of us.

The critic never put themselves on the line of public ridicule, public failures, and when looked at carefully have their own sins of omission they hope the public never sees either.

I salute those dedicated to Public Service, run for Public office, and will defend them and recommend real solutions for real reforms without fanfare. I leave those that like to put a star on foreheads akin to Gene Stilp and similar to Limbaugh, Hannity, and others when being on the radio. Chatterer not Go-Getter Doers!

Running government is not easy, but so easy to criticize by those not in the arena with something to lose, and too lazy to take the time to talk to real people in real need.

God Bless the people that put this website up, and I do not agree with them by no means at times, but I do support them to give their views and let others too.

Together we can provide understanding and eliminate unfairness in knowing governess is not always fair and quite ugly sometimes, but the most beautiful when working together for the common good.

Anonymous said...

If you are, a Member of the Pennsylvania Bar all should avoid
impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.
This applies to Prosecutors, Lawyers, and Judges of their own Rules of Conduct.

Today, Former President William Jefferson Clinton Law License has been suspended in Arkansas and before the Supreme Court, the same for Scooter Libby in Pennsylvania. The Appearance of Impropriety does apply to Federal and Commonwealth Lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Mike Veon is going after Todd Eachus and Keith McCall and others too now. Yet, just a few days ago, the only target was DeWeese here.

This may bring Democrats together now, as Republicans take them out one by one.

In any event, Veon's Lawyers make a good point even if it implicates Eachus and McCall publicly but the Lawyers are careful to say, they are not doing it, yet, the article admits many did it.

ARTICLE:

Mike Veon points finger at other legislative leaders:
by CHARLES THOMPSON, Of The Patriot-News
Thursday July 16, 2009, 11:55 PM

Lawyers for former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon added more names Thursday to their claims of selective prosecution of their client.

House Speaker Keith McCall and Majority Leader Todd Eachus were among those whose names Veon's lawyers included in a court filing in which the lawyers seek to question nearly 40 House members and staffers in their bid to get charges against Veon dismissed.

The lawyers argue that McCall, Eachus and other lawmakers have done the same things that have Veon fighting dozens of criminal charges.

Veon, a former Beaver County lawmaker who now lives in Harrisburg, faces 59 counts of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest for what prosecutors have called systematic use of state staff and resources for his political or personal benefit.

Among the allegations is that Veon and top Democratic aides funneled public money to a once-secret bonus program to reward legislative staffers who volunteered for House campaign duty from 2004 through 2006.

Co-counsel Dan Raynak of Phoenix stressed that he is not implying criminal conduct by the legislators he seeks to question.

"The way that the system is designed, if you have to campaign and you have to do the job you are elected to ... there are going to be overlaps because neither one is confined to an 8-to-5 workday," Raynak said. "But if they're saying it's a crime, then the enforcement has to be applied equally."

In a response filing, Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina repeated arguments that the selective prosecution claim cannot stand, in part because Attorney General Tom Corbett's investigation of legislative operations is still in progress.

Because of secrecy rules surrounding grand jury investigations, Fina argued, he "is not free to disclose this evidence of ongoing investigations."

But if Dauphin County President Judge Richard Lewis feels a hearing is warranted, it should be transferred to the judge supervising the grand jury, Fina said.

SOURCE:
The Patriot-News

Signor Ferrari said...

What do you mean "going after?"

Anonymous said...

Remember a former Rep. from the Hazelton area? Rumor has it that one or more employees worked a campaign ( albeit it a long time ago) for weeks at a time and still got paid. One of them would not have been Stilp for Mr. Stilp was an honorable man when he was a staffer. At least when he showed up for work. Ask around.

Anonymous said...

Well, it used to be Veon's Lawyers only mentioned DeWeese, but now they have mentioned McCall and Eachus, thus why the sudden change?

The fact is Veon's Lawyers are saying everybody did what he did, thus it is not illegal. Only Eachus worked with and under Veon on the campaigns, one reason why he paid off Veon debt without telling anyone in the HDCC, knowing Veon raised that money with him, according to the Newspapers.

The AG Office has responded saying, we are still investigating, and thus, if what Veon did is illegal, then Veon's Lawyers just expanded the investigation to include many not just a few.

I do not blame Veon’s Lawyers, they have to look out for their client, but in doing so, when it comes down to Veon versus other Lawmakers, the Lawyers have no choice but to call what is needed to defend Veon.

Meaning there can be no selective prosecutions, if that means every Lawmaker is now for himself based on Veon’s Defense allegations, then so be it. The problem is as some Lawmakers try to defend and then turn on one another, they end up catching themselves too.

Veon is an all or nothing defense, they are either all guilty, and that just cannot just include a few, it will have to include all of the Lawmakers working with or under Veon.

Logic based on the evidence and what others will testify to will decide these issues, and that cannot be by selective prosecutions anymore. One reason why the HDC had better stick together.

Surely, the Fumo Conviction and his loyal staffers convictions and pleas prove, it is Veon against the entire Caucus, yet some in the HDC decided to point fingers at others never realizing it has to come back on them, no matter what Veon’s say now.

Going after means just that, Veon is not taking the all of the blame on this, and keeps his options open later when it comes to keeping his pension and doing a deal. Mike really has no choice now.
.

bobguzzardi said...

A federal judge agreed that the State Ethics Commission rule was an unconstitutional violation of Penna. and US Constitutions. There may be reasons, even good reasons, for silencing free speech and freedom on the press and, even freedom of the blogoshere. All those reasons fall to Individual Freedom of Speech. There are some very, very narrow exceptions when life is endangered, however they do not apply to State Ethics Commission.

The fact that elected and government office seekers may abuse this and file frivolous complaints is hardly surprising and, actually, to be expected. There are sanctions for filing frivolous complaints and, perhaps, even using government mechanisms to defame others.

The State Ethics Commission is a creation of government, staffed by government employees, paid by government money and, I would think, hardly independent of government. Holding State Ethics Commission accountable is the responsibility of citizens and thanks is owed to Gene Stilp, not petty swipes.

Gene Stilp's lawyer is Aaron Martin, Esq, who read about the $500 fine and, as a free speech advocate, contacted me to offer his services, pro bono, to Gene. I was honored to make the connection and support Gene Stilp's and Aaron Martin's efforts to open up the process. It is, to say the least, cumbersome and, even prejudicial, that one cannot talk about and recruit support for what thinks is an ethical violation and allow the Ethics Commission to bury the complaint.

Gene Stilp engages in publicity stunts to communicate to public information that he thinks, and, so far, that I think, are important for the public to know.

May I add that Gene Stilp does not hide his identity and is individually accountable for what he says and does. One can say it is grandstanding or not, and all our motives are mixture of personal self-expression and public altruism, including me, and I would thnk the posters on this blog. More to the point, Gene Stilp has performed, in my opinion, a public service.

I may also point out that Gene Stilp does not hide behind anonymity. There is reason for anonymity but there is also a lack of individual accountability. Gene Stilp, publicly, takes personal responsibility for what he says and does and I admire that.

There is "courageous anonymity" and abuses of that anonymity and it makes it difficult for the reader to evaluate accuracy of statements made.

Despite this criticism of your criticism of Gene Stilp,this is a very informative web site. In fact, the criticism, one that can be made only very infrequently of this site, demonstrates its value.

Thanks again for keeping us informed. This is an awful mess, a tragedy, really, and, let us see, but most despicable is what appears to be selective enforcement based on partisan and campaign considerations.

I can hardly see how AG Corbett thinks not indicting a single Republican will help his standing with rank and file voters. The red county, "conservative" voter cares about good government, I hope, anyway. I may be misinformed but we shall see.

bobguzzardi said...

Violations of the Pennsylvania Code of Professional Responsibility are not violations of the law. They are in jurisdiction of Supreme Court's administration. The procedure is to file a complaint against a lawyer. As I understand it, the filing of a complaint cannot be made public, like a State Ethics complaint, and so we don't know.

I don't know if AG, as an attorney,or the professional staff, having discovered this in course of an investigation, have an obligation to file a complaint. Interesting question. They have more facts than any of us and even Mr. Foreman's statements. The investigation by Supreme Court is, as I recall, secret, too. Good question, though.

Signor Ferrari said...

It's entirely possible they may have by now, after Veon's lawyers pointed out their professional responsibility at the BIG hearing. Those who were present - including some reporters - say the panic in the room was palpable as Mr. Sansone raised the possibility that they were in violation. It will be interesting to see how this situation is handled at the "do-over" hearing that Corbett demanded.

Anonymous said...

The Appearance of Impropriety is not illegal has pointed out by another blogger. Still, this is the kind of actions that have been and can be used against Officers of the Court such as Lawyers, Judges, Staffers, and Prosecutors, and Elected Officials that Are Lawyers.

Right now Former Attorney General Gonzales remains unemployed. The Big Law Firms are afraid to touch him, based upon his actions as Attorney General. There is a distinct possibility his actions will be reviewed and even if not found guilty of any crime. Such an Appearance of Impropriety could cause his Law License to be suspended or removed.

This happen in Watergate and even Former President Clinton has had his Law License suspended after settling his claims with Paula Jones Depositions when found to give honest answers under oath. Prosecutors that violated Senator Steven’s of Alaska rights are not out the woods either before their State Bars.

Many times, Prosecutors got away from such scrutiny, but in today’s blogs, instant internet insights, and events that are picked up by Newspapers, everyone must have a new attitude on how they act, especially Prosecutors.

This is what should worry any Prosecutors or Lawyers should they go beyond the lines of justice, and is often fallout after publicly tried cases that do not always gather results expected and unintended. This is why Mike Veon and all the Defendants must be treated with fairness at all times.

Anonymous said...

The Founding Fathers such as Ben Franklin and John Jay used Aliases as a Public Service to promote the revolution as well as to Identify Tories secretly pretending to be on the side of Revolutionaries. Anonymous, Nameless, and Aliases Writers are truly an American Tradition.

Even the late great Walter Cronkite of (Dutch Decent) used an alias name of “Walter Wilcox”, on the Radio.

Did you ever notice, Newspapers would limit anyone’s letters to the editors to 300 words, and require your name or address? Conversely, everyday they print Anonymous Editorials at lengths too big to respond, without their names or address. Almost every election these icons of the Public Trusts endorse certain candidates trying to influence elections, but never point the finger at their Influence Pedaling.

Moreover, these same Newspapers or Media have their own private financial interests such as General Electric’s ownership of NBC. Alternatively, the Beaver County Times was furious at Mike Veon standing up for the Union Workers before the Times moved their printing operations out of his county.

The same Newspaper’s Owners have their own candidates they hope to put in higher office such as when the LA Times supported Richard Nixon’s Presidential endeavors, for their own benefit.

Public Officials often pay that price for making stands of character over issues they believe in, just look what happen to Civil Rights Advocates, Equal Rights and now Gay Marriage stances in our past, current, and future society.

Today, anonymous posts and aliases are now a right to passage just like in the 1776 days. Such practices are growing due to the Internet. It is one reason why any establishment is no longer safe as Newspapers, Media, and other official sources can no longer overlook details of popular movements. Yet, one post on a blog can cause mainstream media to check out the facts and then report them.

As Ben Franklin once said, “Printers Are Educated In The Belief, That When Men Differ In Opinion, Both Sides Ought Equally To Have The Advantage Of Being Heard By The Public; And That When Truth And Error Have Fair Play, The Former Is Always An Overmatch For The Latter:

Hence Printers Cheerfully Serve All Contending Writers That Pay Them Well, Without Regarding On Which Side They Are Of The Question In Dispute”

Thus, there is a place for Anonymous and Signature Free Speech so long as it remains free and fosters the debates needed for the people to decide.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the point made about the Media and how they profit from Public Officials under the disguise of Public Trust.

Let us see, did you ever notice how all the Radio, TV, and other Media are happy to interview the People’s Public Servants for their shows but make money from commercials that run during those shows.

Do they ever reimburse the Commonwealth Treasury for using our Public Servants state time for their private profits?

After all, these are Public Servants paid by the Taxpayers talking on Commonwealth Time, for Profit Media Corporations, Individuals Owners.

Reporters are paid taking up State Time for their stories, paychecks, and pocket books without reimbursement to the Citizens. Where is the outrage when that happens?

In spite of that, let us hang Brett Cott for doing what he thought was his job. Let us put Veon and Ramley in Prison for gotcha laws meant only for a select few at a time.

Still, when public officials such Bill DeWeese decide to hire Former Inspector Generals to find out what happen, he is wasting Taxpayers Money, but Newspapers are not when they take up State Employees times without compensation.

When Todd Eachus works with Veon to secure a Democratic Majority he is allegedly violating the laws of mixing campaigning with state time too. But not a Newspaper when using state time or influence pedaling to endorse a candidate?

This website is a noble paradigm where discussions can take place to talk about what is not placed in the tabloids, newspapers, and other media such as Radio and TV, that is not repeated if it come back on them.

“It Is The First Responsibility Of Every Citizen To Question Authority….as Ben Franklin once said, and he owned Newspapers too.

Old Ben did not mind being questioned when he profited from them either.

Big Media should reimburse the Taxpayers when taking up Public Officials time, it is a form of theft just like the accused are being held accountable for and have no way to respond except by websites such as here.

Anonymous said...

"let us hang Brett Cott for doing what he thought was his job. Let us put Veon and Ramley in Prison"

Couldn't have put it better myself. These crooks thought using our taxes to get themselves elected was their job. Let's show them how wrong they were.

Anonymous said...

It might be tough love, and most of the time, I would agree with you, but there is unfairness involved with some.

It might be some of these witnesses have an ax to grind.

Therefore, the truth will be hard to find at the bottom of a bottomless pit in the end.

However, they are NOT harden criminals and do not deserve tough sentences for their misdeeds, misjudgments, or cooperation.

However, Brett Cott, Mosely, Peretta-Rosepink etc all are good people that were just doing their jobs as they learned many years ago.

Did they make mistakes sure and we all have had odd errors in our lives. They will admit it, but they did not intend to take from the state at the time they came to expect this being normal politics.

It is almost like McCarthyism and President Nixon's Enemies listings staff cover-ups, and Clinton failure to tell the whole truth in a Sexual Harassment Deposition under oath, in my opinion.

Good people that were told to work for helping the Russians Communists in World War II during the early 1940's, were later tried, accused, and exposed as Traitors, Collaborators, and Spies in the 1950's. This even included General George C. Marshall for god sakes.

Many of their lives were ruined for just doing their jobs in carrying out Political Orders to help the Allies defeat Nazism.

President Nixon was brought to task when he tried to protect his staff and went along with a cover up of something he did not know about his campaign. Yet, he did use government power to go after people he considered he enemies and that caught him, in the end.

The nation was not about to overturn an legitimate election just because President Clinton lied about his personal relationships under oath to protect his family from his own personal failings of discipline to his vow of marriage.

The same here, but with a different perspective, sure they maybe made mistakes, got comfortable in electing and re-electing candidates, but so do many staffers on the local, state, and federal levels that are not prosecuted at all times for such errors.

Once caught, reforms were reinforced, and they have paid the price for lapsed ethics in many ways too, and can agree to more sanctions as each see fit with the AG Office or go to Trial.

In the end, none of these people are a danger to our society, are prior criminals, or intent on doing this ever again. Some did not even know they got bonuses for anything and did not ask for them.

We can be reasonable and find a way for proper resolution for all involved in any kind of campaigning that has already been cleaned up, without Prison Terms.

It comes down to many just did not intend to steal anything from the State, and just got caught up with too much political zeal in doing their jobs to please everyone.

A smart AG Office along with Senate and House Leadership cooperation can find a way to resolve these cases in the proper manner they deserve not on hindsight alone, but knowing the situations at the time of alleged wrongdoing.

Just my opinion, and Fumo's Sentence is proof we may waste more money on them going to Trials than anything they are accused of taking. Moreover, none of them rises to the level of what Fumo did and was convicted for it.

Anonymous said...

Fumo created all this mess others saw what hew as doing, so they copied his actions.

The state needs to go after Dilworth Paxson have them repay the state for all the abuse that happen under Fumo when he was a Dilworth Paxson Partner.

I am calling for an investigation of Dilworth Paxson-Fumo Axis connection and all state monies from their kabal.

Eachus hired Dilworth Paxson to cover up when we need them to cough up some mullahs in dollars not cents.

Time to give the Jewels to the Poor.

Allah is watching you!

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