The governor has about two months to appoint a new treasurer.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Robert Shaffer was Lawrence County's longest-serving treasurer when he lost in the 1996 Democratic Primary to newcomer Gary Felasco.
It's 10 years later and Shaffer says he wants to help clean up the mess left by Felasco, who recently was convicted of theft and embezzlement from the treasurer's office and sentenced to one to seven years in state prison.
Shaffer is just one of a host of candidates who has petitioned Gov. Ed Rendell to be appointed to fill the rest of Felasco's term which ends next year. The governor has about two months to appoint a new treasurer.
Shaffer believes he is the only candidate who has the experience to run the office.
"I just want to get in and clear the office up and get it in good standing," said Shaffer, 69, of North Beaver Township, treasurer from 1984-96.
Acting Treasurer Cathy Toscano, who served as first deputy treasurer under Felasco and worked for Shaffer when he was treasurer, also wants the job. She's asked to be appointed by the governor and says she will run for the office when the current term ends in 2007.
A host of others have also expressed interest, including Susan Bongivengo, Felasco's Democratic opponent in the last election, who uncovered information that led to the criminal investigation of Felasco; and Penn Power manager Richard Rapone, who started his campaign for the office in 2005.
But state Sen. Gerald LaValle of Rochester, D-47th, and state Sen. Bob Robbins of Greenville, R-50th, who both represent Lawrence County, say they want a caretaker to be appointed who won't run for office when this term ends.
"We don't want to give anybody the leg up. We want that job to be as open as it can be. If there's going to be a mistake [with a new treasurer], then let it be by the voters of Lawrence County," LaValle said.
So far, Shaffer is the only one to agree not to seek election if appointed, LaValle said.
Must pass state Senate
Any appointment by the governor would have to pass the state Senate, where LaValle and Robbins each serve as leadership caucus secretaries for their respective parties.
LaValle said its unlikely a candidate who wants to seek election will make it past the Senate for the appointment.
Toscano says she still wants the appointment and plans to run for office.
Shaffer believes he'd be the best caretaker.
"I'm the only one that really knows the operation. Anyone new would have to rely on the help that's in there," he said.
Aside from Toscano, there are three other employees in the office, including second Deputy Treasurer Gloria Conti.
Conti was the star witness at Felasco's trial, testifying that he instructed her to remove money from the office to cover his bank overdrafts, pay his cable bill and supply him with cash. She was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.
Felasco's mother, Helen, is also employed in the office, but she has been on sick leave since before Felasco's trial in May.