First Posted: 3/21/2013
The race for the Democratic nomination for Pittston City mayor may be over before it begins.
The nominating petition for downtown bar owner Gene M. Rooney Jr. was challenged by outgoing city councilman Joe Chernouskas on March 19. A hearing is scheduled before a Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas judge at 11 a.m. on March 27.
Chernouskas, through his attorney Joseph F. Castellino, claims Rooney failed to properly file his statement of financial interests. Chernouskas is also challenging the petition of council candidate Barb Zangre for the same reason.
According to Chernouskas’ petition, Rooney and Zangre filed nominating petitions for the Democratic nomination for mayor and council, respectively, on March 12. Both candidates did not file a statement of financial interest with the governing authority of the political subdivision, namely Pittston City.
State law requires that, according to Chernouskas’ petition.
As part of his city duties, Administrator Joe Moskovitz issued a letter to the Bureau of Elections stating the two candidates did not file the proper paperwork. That letter was included in Chernouskas’ petition as “Exhibit A.” The letter says Rooney and Zangre “failed to file the required ‘Statement of Financial Interest’ with the appropriate Pittston City authority by the close of business on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Current councilman Joe Maclean was previously kept off the ballot for the same reason.
If Rooney is removed from the ballot, first-term Mayor Jason Klush will run unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the May Primary and will face Republican Don Yatko in the November General Election.
If Zangre is removed from the ballot, incumbent Attorney Michael Lombardo and former councilman Ken Bangs will run unopposed in the May Primary for the Democratic nominations. No Republicans have filed to run, but can still get on the November ballot through write-in votes. Also, Independents can run in the general election.
Chernouskas, who is completing his first term on council, is not seeking a second term.
Rooney dropped off his required paperwork to City Hall on March 21, the day he was served with the challenge.
He said there was no mention of filing paperwork with the city in the information pack he received from the county.
“It wasn’t in the instructions I was provided,” he said.
He said will attend the hearing and present his case to be kept on the ballot.
Zangre said it was a simple mistake and also plans to attend the hearing.
“I ran twice before (for council) and did it, but it slipped my mind this time,” she said. “I didn’t know I forgot until I was served the papers.”
If her name is kept off the ballot, Zangre may not run again. She said because of the Home Rule measure that passed last year, council has lost a lot of its power.
“All the power seems to going to (City Administrator) Joe Moskovitz and (former) Mayor Mike (Lombardo),” she said. “They’re the ones calling the shots. Council has so little power anymore.”
Lombardo said Zangre is entitled to her opinion. “That’s her opinion and I respect that,” he said.
Democrat City Controller Chris Latona is running unopposed for re-election. This is the last election his seat will be on the ballot as the Home Rule measure passed last year eliminates the position.