Sunday, March 27, 2011

Commissioner Stanko and the Ethics Act?

On Monday's agenda for the Ross Township committee and voting meeting is a curious item -- "Proposals for Printing Services for Municipal Building."  Does this remind anyone of the news that broke in December about Commissioner Grace Stanko's ethical quagmire concerning the business the Township has done with North Hills Printing, a business owned by Dennis Stanko, Commissioner Stanko's husband.  This has all been discussed before and was brought to light in a Tribune Review article in December 2010 by Adam Brandolph. You can read the article HERE.

Since 2008, Ross Township has paid nearly $10,000 to North Hills Printing for "paper products and printing services".  This activity begs the question of whether or not Commissioner Stanko has violated the Ethics Act.  The Ethics Act prohibits elected officials from engaging in a conflict of interest, which is defined as using the authority of her office for the private financial gain of herself or a member of her immediate family (including husband).  The Ethics Act also prohibits the spouse of a public official from entering into a contract over $500 unless the contract is awarded in an open and public process. 

Although it is not clear whether Commissioner Stanko used the influence of her office to direct printing business to North Hills Printing (although I think we can all agree that this reeks of self-dealing and backroom politics), it is abundantly clear that these contracts were not awarded in an open and public process.  At no point in these three years did the Township ever go out for bid for printing services.  Nor were any of the expenditures discussed at a public meeting, advertised in the newspaper, or otherwise disclosed to the public. 

Despite Solicitor Brimmeier's suggestion to the contrary, the issue of whether Commissioner Stanko violated the Ethics Act does not hinge upon whether the contracts were publically bid.   Multiple anonymous Township sources have informed this blog that Solicitor Brimmeier is trying to deflect blame and confuse the issue for the public because she advised Commissioner Stanko that her husband's business could handle all of the Township's printing business without consequence so long as Commissioner Stanko abstained at the public meeting when it came time to vote to pay any bills from North Hills Printing. 

Yet even when it came to an abstention, Commissioner Stanko violated the Ethics Act!  The Ethics Act requires that an elected official that is abstaining due to a conflict in interest must , at the time of the abstention, announce and disclose publicly the nature of the conflict of interest and must also submit the same in a memorandum to the Township.  Commissioner Stanko never did .  She would only state that she abstained.  More faulty legal advice?  Only Commissioner Stanko and her husband can answer that question!

Come to think of it, Commissioner Mazur also abstains at the public meetings when it comes time to vote on the payment of the Township's bills.  Hmmm.....A topic for another day?

Stanko claims her intent was not malicious and that she didn't even know about the law.  Other Commissioners cite the Township Manager for not knowing the law.  Doesn't it seem like a bunch of toddlers that were caught with their hand in the cookie jar?

If Commissioner Stanko is investigated by the State Ethics Commission, Commissioner Stanko's husband could be made to repay all of of his ill-gotten gains and she could face felony charges.  The Ethics Act is no joke and ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Let's set aside the apparent violations of the Ethics Act and the additional violations of Section 1811 of the First Class Township Code (prohibiting contract with spouse of elected officals if they exceed $300)  Let's focus instead on the morality of these contracts between North Hills Printing and Ross Township.  They reek of impropriety and creates a strong inference of back room politics where one hand greases the other.  A "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" type of politicking.  The kind of wheeling and dealing that makes us question all politicians and whether they really are being upfront with us and putting us first rather than there own personal agenda's. 

Despite all of this controversy, Commissioner Stanko has refused to resign her office.  In fact, she has thumbed her nose at all of us by seeking a third term as Commissioner of the 5th Ward in this years elections.  I think the fact that she has two challengers on the Republican side of the ballot, including the Treasurer of the Ross Township Republican Committee speaks volumes about the publics response to her seeming unethical conduct.

What do you think about Commissioner Stanko's conduct?  Let your voice be heard and comment on this story!


  1. My understanding is that the Commissioners receive informatoin in their weekly packets that detail the bills that are to be paid. If they knew that they were paying Commissioner Stanko's Husband and North Hills Printing's bills each month, doesn't that make them all co-conspirators?!?!

    They all owe us an explaination! Let's make our voices heard on election day!

  2. To the above poster, how about this:

    She is a politician and like ALL politicians she is blinded by greed and the joke that is her "power."

    Makes me laugh that anyone is surprised by this. THEY DIDN'T EVEN TRY TO HIDE IT! Haha!

    How about this: She doesn't care about anything but herself (financially first) , and how she looks so she can continue her time in her position.

    Next time just break into the bank Stanko... Why cut out the middleman?

  3. I don't think the Commissioners see the actual bills. Believe one of them just makes a motion to "pay bills" and the Commissioner in charge of bill paying (who has been Stanko in the past - not sure of who it is now) does so.

  4. To Anonymous 3-38-11 @ 10:59 a.m. --

    The Commissioners may not see the bills, but they see a summary that includes the name of the party being paid and the amounts to be paid. They all know that Stanko's husband operates North Hills Printing.

  5. Wouldn't it be a little irresponsible of the Commissioners to "pay bills" without knowing what they were paying?