Possible violation

LEWISTOWN – The Derry Township Tax Collector may be in some hot water over a recent note included with tax bills which were sent to Derry Township residents.

The note in question, which was also mailed to the Sentinel from Derry Township Tax Collector Bret Treaster, states the “Derry Township Tax Office will be closed May 21st due to the election. I hope that I can count on your vote !!!! :)”

Treaster said the note was put in the envelopes with the tax bills without his knowledge, by his wife.

“It wasn’t intentional … it was something done by mistake,” Treaster said.

The last sentence of the note, in which Treaster asks for people to vote for him, could be a violation of campaign finance laws because the note came via a bill for taxes which is tax-payer funded if a public official asks for reimbursement costs for postage.

Treaster said he has not asked for reimbursement of the postage costs.

The Mifflin County Board of Elections is expected to address the issue at a special meeting today at 9:30 a.m. in meeting room A on the second floor of the Mifflin County Courthouse.

The board consists of Mifflin County Commissioners Mark Sunderland, Otis Riden and Kevin Kodish.

Director of Elections Nancy Laub said the issue of the note recently came to the board’s attention and they will make recommendations on what, if anything, needs to be done.

According to the Campaign Finance Reporting Law, if the board decides the note constitutes an advertisement for Treaster’s campaign, several other issues would then come into play, including the lack of a disclaimer at the bottom of the note. Disclaimers typically state something to the effect of “paid for by the candidate.”

In addition to the reimbursement and disclaimer issues, there also may be an issue of conducting campaign-related activities while performing the duties of a public official.

If the note is found to be a campaign advertisement, Treaster would also have to include the cost to send out the note within a campaign finance report.

If the board decides there may have been a violation of the law, they could request the Mifflin County District Attorney’s office or the Attorney General’s office conduct an investigation.

Treaster faces a challenger in the Republican primary. Three Democratic candidates have also filed for that contest. The primary election is May 21.