Pa. Senator's Ex-aide: I Was Told To Remove Docs
PITTSBURGH (AP) – A former aide to a western Pennsylvania state senator says she was told to remove documents pertaining to a political campaign from the senator's legislative office after authorities began investigating allegations of political activity on state time.
Former chief of staff Jamie Pavlot testified in a rare Saturday session in Allegheny County Court that she was on a conference call with Sen. Jane Orie and sister state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin in November 2009 after an intern had complained to authorities the month before about politicking in the office.
“They said, ‘If there’s stuff in those boxes related to the judge, get it out of those boxes,”’ Pavlot testified, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “It was maybe the day after (Melvin's) election.”
Defense attorney William Costopoulos questioned why Pavlot had never told anyone about the conversation before, and Pavlot said she suddenly recalled the conversation after court on Friday.
“So when you met with (Assistant District Attorney Lawrence) Claus in November 2009, with all of his agents and all of his men, nothing triggered it then?” Costopoulos asked.
“No,” Pavlot said.
“So a sitting justice of the Supreme Court and a senator asked you to remove documents from boxes, and nothing triggered it when you met with (Claus twice) in 2009?” he asked.
Pavlot said prosecutors asked a lot of questions, but she didn't remember the call then.
Jane Orie, 50, a Republican from McCandless, is being retried on 10 campaign corruption charges including theft of services and conflict of interest. Prosecutors have added 16 new counts, including perjury, forgery and evidence tampering, stemming from the earlier proceedings, which ended in a mistrial when the judge ruled that Pavlot’s signature had been transferred from a 2010 document to one dated in 2006.
Orie's lawyers had cited the earlier document as proof that Pavlot was told not to let staff do campaign work on state time. Pavlot said she was never told that.
Prosecutors say Orie ordered Pavlot and other staff to work on political fundraisers and re- election campaigns from 2001 to 2009 that benefited the senator and Melvin, who hasn’t been charged in the case. Janine Orie is charged separately with directing Melvin's former Superior Court staffers to campaign for the judge on state time in 2003 and in 2009. She's expected to stand trial on both sets of charges this year.
Costopoulos said Orie had told a staffer who had broached a political issue in a Senate office email that she handled political matters through her personal phone number. He also asked Pavlot how Senate staffers responded when constituents walked into one of Orie’s legislative offices and offered campaign help.
“We would thank them” but ask to get back to them, Pavlot said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.