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Deputy treasurer remains concern



Published: Wed, September 6, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The county solicitor says the job can't be eliminated.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County Commissioner Ed Fosnaught said just about everywhere he went over Labor Day people questioned why second Deputy Treasurer Gloria Conti is still working.

Conti was the star witness in the Pennsylvania attorney general's theft case against former Treasurer Gary Felasco, 39, who was convicted in May and sentenced last month to one to seven years in state prison.

Conti testified she would take money from the treasurer's office cash drawer or safe at Felasco's direction and give him cash or use it to pay his bank overdrafts, cable bills and other expenses. The state gave her immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.

"I've brought it up to the salary board. I've written a letter to the [acting] treasurer. I don't believe she should be here. I don't know what to do. It's frustrating," Fosnaught said.

Fellow commissioners Dan Vogler and Steve Craig agree that it is frustrating but say there is nothing they can do.

"As much as we'd like to take action, it would end up costing the taxpayers money. We'd go to court and lose," Craig said.

"The three of us have no authority to hire and fire a row officer's employees," Vogler added.

Can't eliminate position

And while Vogler agrees that the county salary board -- the three commissioners, county controller and the row officer whose office is affected -- created the second deputy position, he doesn't think the board can eliminate it.

Vogler said the county solicitor determined that the county code calls for a second deputy in the county treasurer's office.

"We'd essentially be going against what's in the law. My position is the decision to relieve this individual of her duties is with the treasurer," Vogler added. That would mean firing Conti, but keeping the position of second deputy treasurer.

Acting Treasurer Cathy Toscano could not be reached Tuesday, but she has said in the past she does not want to make any personnel changes until a permanent treasurer is appointed. Toscano, the first deputy treasurer, automatically became treasurer upon Felasco's conviction.

Toscano, along with several other people, is seeking to be permanently appointed county treasurer by the governor for the remainder of Felasco's term, which ends Dec. 31, 2007.

Fosnaught disagrees with Vogler's position, saying the salary board created the second deputy treasurer's position when Felasco was in charge of the county tax-claim bureau and the treasurer's office. The position was created solely to help oversee the two offices.

Commissioners removed Felasco from the tax bureau two years ago when they discovered he had not paid property taxes on his home in four years and illegal court stays were put on his property keeping it from tax sale.

Fosnaught said he worries that if something happens to Toscano, Conti would then become acting treasurer.

cioffi@vindy.com




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