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LAWRENCE COUNTY Treasurer ordered to answer questions



Published: Tue, August 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The district attorney says Felasco has forfeited his right to office.

By VIRGINIA ROSS

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A Lawrence County judge has ordered county Treasurer Gary F. Felasco to submit to questioning for a lawsuit seeking to remove him from public office.

Last week, President Judge Dominick Motto ordered Felasco to appear for a deposition at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 6 in the county district attorney's office. The proceeding is not open to the public.

The civil lawsuit, filed by District Attorney Matthew T. Mangino, contends Felasco is no longer a resident of Lawrence County and that he has abandoned his job as county treasurer. Felasco is also a member of the county housing authority.

The district attorney's office filed the lawsuit against Felasco earlier this month in an effort to have him removed from the treasurer's post and the housing authority board.

Mangino contends Felasco has forfeited his right to maintain his elected title because he now resides in Ohio with his wife and children. Mangino said county code requires elected county officials to live in Lawrence County.

Countermotion

Meanwhile, Felasco's attorney, Edward Leymarie Jr., filed a countermotion asking the judge to stay all civil proceedings against Felasco until the criminal investigations are concluded.

Leymarie argued Felasco should not have to submit to the questioning while the criminal investigations are pending and informed the court his client would be invoking his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself.

The judge denied Leymarie's motion.

Felasco is in the second year of his third term as treasurer. He continues collecting an annual salary, including a benefits package, of nearly $60,000 from the county even though he has been absent from work for weeks at a time.

Criminal investigations

Criminal investigations being conducted by state police and the state attorney general are ongoing.

Felasco has been accused of misusing his office and he has repeatedly been criticized for not coming to work.

The county commissioners removed him from the county tax claim bureau director's post, an appointed position, last year after discovering he had not paid his own taxes in several years.

According to results of two separate audits, nearly $50,000 in county tax payments made in 2003 remains unaccounted for, having never been deposited into the county's general checking account.

Additionally, stays put on Felasco's properties and properties of others were reported as improper. County officials reported Felasco's county-assigned cell phones were used to make personal calls and as a contact to provide directions to adult-oriented parties planned through an Internet Web site.




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