Solebury Township’s tax collector, a Democrat, has been censured by her own party for supporting a Republican candidate for county row office.
The Bucks County Democratic Committee told NewHopeFreePress.com that Solebury Township Tax Collector Dorothy Carr was censured after a vote Monday by the county party’s executive board.
Carr and Falls Township Tax Collector Kim Scarpiello were both censured, and the Bucks County Democratic Committee raised concern they used their “respective offices as tax collectors to support Republicans running for county office against duly nominated Democratic candidates and for opposing the Democratic candidates.”
In October, Scarpiello and Carr issued letters to constituents that were similar in content, using their formal titles and the locations of their government offices on the letterhead.
The letters came with a note stating they were funded by the Bucks County Republican Committee.
The envelopes bore the return address of the tax collector in question along with the address of their formal office.
Within these letters, both tax collectors advocated for the election of Sherry Labs, the Republican nominee for county treasurer. Additionally, Carr’s letter included a plea to constituents to support the remaining Republican candidates for various county positions, according to copies reviewed by this news organization.
Carr’s husband answered the phone and said his wife was not aware she was being censured. He forwarded a reporter’s message to his wife, who was not home.
Scarpiello was not available for comment as of publication.
“Under the Pennsylvania Ethics Act, elected officials are to avoid using public resources for political purposes,” said State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, chairperson of the Bucks County Democratic Committee. “That is what the Bonusgate scandal in Harrisburg was all about more than a decade ago. While these mailings may not have violated the letter of the law – which is why the Bucks County Democratic Party is not filing a formal ethics complaint – they certainly are contrary to the spirit of the act.”
Santarsiero added that county Democrats will be sending letters to the Bucks County Attorney General’s Office and Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office to investigate the letters. He also stated a request will be made that the county Republican party and two Republican tax collectors who sent similar letters that included their official addresses will be referred for investigation.
Bucks County Republican Committee Chairperson Pat Poprik said the county Democrats are going after the tax collectors “for expressing their personal political beliefs.”
“The fact is that no taxpayer resources were used in producing or mailing these letters, and the endorsements made by the Tax Collectors are no different than the endorsements made by Chairman/Senator Santarsiero or any other elected official,” Poprik said.
Poprik said the Democrats’ Bucks United campaign is late to file a finance report with the county Board of Elections.
“Perhaps Chairman/Senator Santarsiero should put more time and energy into complying with campaign finance laws as opposed to threatening local officials for exercising their First Amendment rights,” she said.
Kris Ballerini, the current Bucks County Treasurer, a Democrat who is running for reelection, stated she was disappointed by the letters.
“It’s disappointing and it violates the public trust,” she said. “Under the circumstances, I think calling for an investigation is reasonable. But as a campaign matter, I am not too concerned.”
Scarpiello soon will be releasing a letter to residents supporting GOP commissioner candidates Gene DiGirolamo and Pam Van Blunk and other row officers, according to a Republican spokesperson.