By Borys Krawczeniuk
SCRANTON, Pa. — Two Scranton Republicans want state Rep. Marty Flynn thrown off the May 18 special election ballot for the vacant 22nd state Senate District seat.
Charlie Spano and Arthur J. Albert, better known as Joe Albert, contend Flynn never personally filed a valid financial interest statement on time.
Instead, a man named Luke Borwegen electronically filed Flynn’s financial interest statement March 18 and an unknown person filed an unsigned, written copy with the Pennsylvania Department of State a day later, their challenge says.
Borwegen is Flynn’s campaign manager, but Albert and Spano say Borwegen is neither a candidate nor a public official. That and the unsigned copy mean Flynn personally never filed a financial interest statement in time as required by the state Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, according to the challenge they filed Thursday asking the state Commonwealth Court to remove Flynn as a candidate.
The deadline for filing nominating papers, which must include a financial interest statement, was March 29, according to the Department of State calendar for the special election.
The law specifically says failing to file a financial interest statement means someone can be removed from the ballot.
Flynn, D-113, Scranton, faces Lackawanna County Commissioner Chris Chermak, a Republican, in a special election intended to fill the last 18 months of former state Sen. John Blake’s term. Blake resigned March 8 to take a job as U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright’s new district director. Democrats chose Flynn as their nominee March 13. Republicans chose Chermak as their nominee March 25.
“We want to make sure it’s as clean as can be,” Spano said. “Follow the rules. He’s done it before. … What’s the big deal?”
Flynn said he filed an amended financial interest statement Thursday. He identified Borwegen as his campaign manager.
Attorney Adam C. Bonin, Flynn’s lawyer, said the amended statement was filed electronically by Flynn personally Thursday evening after he learned of the challenge, with a physical copy provided to the Department of State on Friday.
“It was an understandable human error and this should resolve this,” Bonin said.
Courts have consistently ruled for 30 years against removing people from the ballot for “ticky-tack” matters, he said.
Attorney Thomas W. King III, the lawyer for Spano and Albert, said March 29 was the filing deadline.
“That’s too late,” King said of Flynn’s filing Thursday. “That’s acknowledging we’re right.”
The court had not set a date for a hearing as of Monday afternoon.
The case could hinge on whether someone other than a candidate may electronically file a financial interest statement on the candidate’s behalf.
King said he knew of no previous cases decided on noncandidate electronic filing.
Bonin provided a 2011 Commonwealth Court ruling in an Armstrong County school board race that centered on the lack of a signature on a financial interest statement. In that case, a candidate filed an unsigned financial interest statement, but the court said that wasn’t a good enough reason to throw her off the ballot.
Borys Krawczeniuk is a reporter for the Scranton Times-Tribune, where this story first appeared.