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MERCER, PA. Shipley to release records



Published: Wed, September 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The commissioner said he wanted to spare county taxpayers the cost of a 'frivolous' lawsuit.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

MERCER, Pa. -- Mercer County Commissioner Brian Shipley is giving up his effort to keep his credit card records private.

Shipley said Tuesday that he will release those records, eliminating the need for a court trial over whether the National City Bank credit card he used belonged only to him or if it was a county card.

Shipley maintained that it was his card alone. He got the bills for its use and he paid them, he said, noting the county never paid for any charges on the bill other than those incurred on county business.

County Controller Dennis Songer has a different opinion on whose card it is.

The card is issued in the names of both Shipley and the county, though the bills go directly to Shipley, Songer said. He said the bank contacted the county in July asking for payment when Shipley apparently missed a payment.

Records request: The Herald newspaper issued a formal request asking for the expenditure records on all credit cards used by the three county commissioners and Commissioners Gene Brenneman and Olivia Lazor released their information.

Shipley refused, saying it would be an invasion of his privacy and he threatened Songer with a lawsuit if the controller unilaterally released that information.

Songer refused to give the records to the newspaper and the paper filed suit in common pleas court, seeking to force Songer to release the information.

Shipley joined the case on Songer's side.

A visiting judge was called in to hear the case and a hearing was set for Thursday but Shipley said that won't be necessary.

He said he now will release those records voluntarily.

Privacy: Shipley said he still sees it as an invasion of his privacy but that he has an obligation to the county taxpayers and doesn't want them to be saddled with the cost of a "frivolous" lawsuit.

There is nothing embarrassing in the purchases he made, he said.

"I think many people may be tremendously disappointed in what they see there," he said.

Shipley said he paid off the card and hasn't used it recently.

He said he will release the records in face-to-face meetings with individual news reporters and won't be holding a press conference.




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