Judge considering study commission petition

Lawrence County President Judge Dominick Motto, above, may rule as early as next week on a challenge to the government study commission nomination form of Shannon Crisci-Brock.

A Lawrence County judge ruled Monday afternoon that Shannon Crisci-Brock will remain a candidate on the ballot for the  government study commission for the city of New Castle.

Common Pleas President Judge Dominick Motto in his order allowed the fact that Crisci-Brock had filed an amendment to the initial financial statement she had filed in the county elections office. She had been challenged by seven other candidates who collectively petitioned the court to have her name kept off of the ballot because her financial statement paperwork was incomplete.

Those seven candidates are Michael Dely, Mary Burris, Susan Linville, Paul Neubecker, Eric Ritter, Michael Tempesta and Marenda Zeronas. All are Democrats except Neubecker, who is Republican.

The judge’s decision followed a court hearing Thursday, when Crisci-Brock, a Democrat, submitted a copy of her amendment to Motto.

Motto in his decision reasoned that the Supreme Court had ruled in a 2007 case that the law does not bar any candidate from the ballot if he or she files a financial interest statement in a timely manner, even if there are defects on the face of the form, so long as the candidate subsequently amends the form to correct the defect and complies with the act in a timely manner.

Citing a separate case law, Motto noted in his opinion that the petitioners against Crisci-Brock did not allege bad faith, but they merely pointed to her failure to disclose her employer’s name and address in a box on the statement of financial interest. And while the petitions asserted that failure was a fatal defect, the judge reasoned “that was not a fatal defect, per se.”

“Amendments to correct that omission are permitted, so long as the original statement was not completed in bad faith, it was timely filed and the amendment to the statement correcting the omission is made in a timely manner,” he wrote.

“The petitioners failed to present any evidence of (Crisci-Brock’s) bad faith other than baldly asserting that she has completed similar documents in the past, which makes the omission inexcusable,” his order reads.

However, the petitioners failed to present any evidence to substantiate that claim, and Crisci-Brock testified that she had never completed a statement of financial interest before the current statement and its amendment, Motto pointed out. He noted that she also testified she had not received the proper instructions with her statement to adequately explain the proper manner to answer the question on the form.

There is no indication that (she) acted in bad faith by failing to include her current employer in the specific box of the statement, as she disclosed her position as vice president of sales and operations, Motto ruled.

Crisci-Brock filed her financial interest statement on Aug. 27, and her amended statement shortly thereafter on Sept. 5, he pointed out.  He concluded, therefore, that her statement of financial interest was properly filed and contain sthe proper information that was omitted from her original filing. 

“The respondent’s name shall remain on the ballot for the position of government study commissioner,” Motto concluded.

Altogether, 11 city residents have filed nominating papers to serve on the government study commission, should the question to create it be approved by the voters in the Nov. 5 general election. In addition to Crisi-Brock and the seven challengers, the other contenders are Democrats Richard E. Conti Jr., and Anthony G. Mastrangelo, and Republican Marco A. Bulisco. 

New Castle has been under Act 47  – the Financially Distressed Municipalities Act — designation since Jan. 5, 2007, and is one of 29 cities in Pennsylvania to have that designation. 

The designation provides for the restructuring of debt of financially distressed municipalities, limits the ability of financially distressed communities to obtain government funding, authorizes municipalities to participate in federal debt adjustment actions and bankruptcy actions under certain circumstances to relieve financial distress. In short, the act assists municipalities with financial recovery.

New Castle is in the process of an exit plan from the designation, with a recommendation from the state to reorganize under the state’s Home Rule charter, which will allow the city to continue to collect the earned income tax that it has relied upon since becoming an Act 47 community. Under a home rule charter, approval of a commission to study the form of government for possible change is one of the first steps, and is done by a ballot referendum and the election of a study commission at the same time. The members chosen will serve if the question passes.


Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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