44-year House veteran Caltagirone to retire at end of term

    State Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks, announced his retirement Friday after spending 44 years representing Reading in the Pa. House. (Photo from House Facebook)

    The longest serving lawmaker in Harrisburg, who was accused late in his career of sexual harassment, says he isn’t running for re-election in November. 

    State Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks, a 44-year House veteran, announced his plans Friday in a letter sent out on his official letterhead that was seen by the Capital-Star. 

    Caltagirone told the Reading Eagle last fall that he would run for his 23rd term. But in his letter, the lawmaker described a change of heart.

    “The reality is I will be 78 years old by the time my term ends, and with time to reflect recently while battling some health issues, l’ve decided it’s the right time for the next generation of leaders to step up and lead Reading into the future,” Caltagirone said in the letter.

    Caltagirone was first elected in 1976 to represent Reading and has served the city since, including stints as chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee when Democrats were in the majority.

     

    In 2015, House Democrats paid $248,000 in taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment complaint against Caltagirone by a former staffer.

    The payment was revealed in 2017 by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Caltagirone denied the allegations and resisted a call to resign from Gov. Tom Wolf.

    Earlier in his tenure, in the 1990’s, Caltagirone faced a separate allegation of harassment from an aide.

    As Judiciary chairman, Caltagirone opposed action to open up the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse. In 2008, he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that victims of abuse were after money, not justice.

    However, eight years later, Caltagirone changed his mind. On the heels of the first state grand jury report on sexual abuse within the Catholic church, Caltagirone said he would support legal changes to aid lawsuits.

    The about face also came after prodding from fellow Berks Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi, who as a child was sexually assaulted by a priest,

    In his letter, Caltagirone said he passed hundreds of bills in his tenure, including mandatory deescalation training for police when dealing with intellectually disabled or autistic citizens and state funding for childhood cancer research.

    Caltagirone also acknowledged sometimes making “politically unpopular decisions that made me a target of my own party.” In 2006, he told his fellow Democrats he wouldn’t vote for top Democratic Rep. Bill DeWeese, of Greene County, for speaker after the party won a majority by a single seat, 102 to 101.

    His announcement triggered a political race to crown a new speaker. The gavel ended up in the hands of Philadelphia Republican Rep. Denny O’Brien.

    “I hope when people remember me and my career in the legislature, they remember I was always willing to compromise for the best interest of the Commonwealth and that I put pragmatism above politics,” Caltagirone said.

    He is the eleventh lawmaker to announce their retirement come 2020, and the fourth Democrat.

    Two Democrats had already primary challenges to Caltagirone — Berks County Assistant District Attorney Raymond Baker, and former Reading School Board member Abraham Cepeda.

    This story was updated at 3:54 p.m. with additional information.