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At a hearing in Harrisburg yesterday afternoon, a lawyer funded by Philadelphia mayoral candidate Tom Knox asked a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel to kick U.S. Rep. Bob Brady off next month’s mayoral ballot over Brady’s failure to list on his financial disclosure statement alleged links to the region’s carpenters’ union. Luzerne County Senior Judge Patrick J. Toole Jr., who presided over the common pleas hearing in the case, had ruled late last month that although Brady did appear to have a financial interest in the pension fund of the union of which he was an active member before he embarked on his political career, the longtime city Democratic Party chief had not committed a fatal error in leaving that information off his mayoral bid’s statement of financial interest, and should be allowed to amend his statement of financial interest without being removed from the ballot. (Toole was brought to Philadelphia to preside over the matter to avoid the appearance of impropriety.) But Knox attorney Paul Rosen of Spector Gadon & Rosen in Philadelphia reminded the panel of the numerous cases in which other Pennsylvania political hopefuls have been knocked off the ballot for statement of financial interest (SFI) omissions. Rosen likened Toole to a sentencing judge in a murder case who fails to send an otherwise eligible defendant to death row because he doesn’t personally believe in the death penalty. Brady’s attorney, Stephen Cozen of Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia, responded by arguing that Toole had been mistaken in finding that Brady’s union pension fund links amounted to a financial interest that should have been disclosed on his SFI, a state-mandated requirement of any candidate for public office in Pennsylvania. Cozen blasted Rosen for jumping to soundbite-worthy conclusions concerning Brady’s links to the union pension fund; Cozen said those conclusions were unsupported by the record. “This is what we call making up the case as you go along to prove your point,” Cozen told the judges. But at least two members of yesterday’s panel – Judges Renee Cohn Jubelirer and Dan R. Pellegrini – appeared troubled by the exact nature of Brady’s links to the union pension fund. Testimony at the mid-March trial court hearing in the matter indicated that the carpenters’ union has in recent years forwarded to its pension fund monthly payments bearing Brady’s name that amounts to roughly $13,000 annually. The revelations concerning those pension fund payments and the relatively few man-hours Brady has apparently spent doing official union business in recent years prompted Knox to tell Philadelphia media that the union had effectively given Brady a no-show job. Cozen told the panel yesterday that the arrangement linking Brady to the pension fund allowed the congressman to maintain a continuity of seniority within the carpenters’ union in the event he wished to return to it as a full-time member after leaving office. Cozen went on to say that because Brady has neither paid taxes on the pension payments nor received any part of them up until now, he was not required to disclose their existence on his mayoral bid’s SFI. But Cohn Jubelirer, a Republican from Allentown, and Pellegrini, a Republican from the Pittsburgh area, continued to seem uneasy about the possibility that such sizable amounts of potential financial interest fall into a gray area not covered by the state’s Ethics Act’s SFI provisions. Not pressing Cozen so strongly on that issue was the panel’s third member, Senior Judge James R. Kelley, a western Pennsylvania native who was elected to the state Senate as a Democrat in 1974, according to media reports. Toward the end of his argument, Cozen told Kelley that he had been impressed by a decision Kelley filed the day before in yet another SFI-related ballot challenge. On Monday, Kelley denied a legal challenge to the state Supreme Court bid of Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board Chief Judge Mike L. Krancer. Krancer’s challenger had asserted that the Main Line Republican, a member of the Annenberg family, had failed to include on his high court bid’s SFI any income beyond his state salary. At a hearing before Kelley last month in Harrisburg, Krancer testified that he had left off his SFI income generated by accounts he held jointly with his wife because he did not believe joint spousal income was required to be disclosed under the Ethics Act. In his nonprecedential opinion in the Krancer matter, Kelley found that Krancer had been reasonable in that conclusion and suggested his challenger’s lawsuit was nothing more than a fishing expedition. The Krancer and Brady matters have cast a spotlight on Pennsylvania appellate courts’ seemingly inconsistent treatments of various SFI-related ballot challenges. During yesterday’s hearing, both Cohn Jubelirer and Pellegrini noted that some of their own past decisions in such cases have been reversed on appeal. However the panel rules in the Brady case, an appeal to the state Supreme Court is almost guaranteed. Late Monday, the justices denied the Brady camp’s request for a direct appeal to the high court. Cozen told The Legal yesterday it appears the justices want to have the Commonwealth Court weigh in on the matter. “I’m only disappointed in the sense of expedition,” Cozen said. Rosen said the Knox side had opposed the Brady campaign’s King’s Bench petition because the state Supreme Court has never taken away from the Commonwealth Court the opportunity to rule on a pre-primary ballot challenge.

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