Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa is seeking to prevent Gary Mitchell from serving on New Castle City Council.
Lamancusa filed a complaint Wednesday, asking the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court to disqualify Mitchell from holding office because he has felony convictions on his record.
Mitchell, a Democrat, was one of three candidates elected to council in last month’s general election.
In his complaint, Lamancusa noted that a Lawrence County jury found Mitchell guilty of two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, both felonies, and additional misdemeanor counts.
Mitchell was sentenced to serve two to 10 years in a state correctional facility on the felony conviction and concurrent terms of probation for the convictions associated with the misdemeanor drug offenses.
Pennsylvania’s constitution prohibits people convicted of an “infamous crime” from holding public office. The state Supreme Court has defined a felony as an infamous crime.
Lamancusa said in the complaint, “By virtue of the convictions for these ‘infamous crimes,’ the defendant is disqualified from assuming the office of councilman for the city of New Castle and should be removed from office.”
He has asked the court to issue an order prohibiting Mitchell from taking the oath of office and/or participating in any duties related to the office.
A swearing-in ceremony for city council members is scheduled for Jan. 2.
In a written statement, Lamancusa said the law prohibiting convicted felons from holding office is not meant to punish an individual “but rather is to safeguard the integrity and dignity of the elected position.”
“Since becoming district attorney, I have had the opportunity to develop both a personal and professional relationship with Mr. Mitchell and have witnessed firsthand his selfless dedication to our community.”
However, he pointed out, as district attorney it is his duty to “uphold and enforce” Pennsylvania’s laws.
Lamancusa said Mitchell has 20 days to respond to the complaint, adding the court will schedule a hearing on the matter.
“I have to see this through all the way to the end,” Mitchell said, “because I have a responsibility to 2,000 voters who have put their trust in me. It would be wrong for me to disregard their votes.”
Prior to the election, Lamancusa said he could not prevent Mitchell from being on the ballot, but could file a complaint if he were elected to prevent him from holding office.