DA: Tax collector cleared

LEWISTOWN – Derry Township Tax Collector Bret Treaster will not face criminal charges regarding an alleged Campaign Finance Law Violation.

Treaster raised the ire of the Mifflin County Board of Elections when Derry Township residents were sent a note along with their tax bills which stated, “Derry Township Tax Office will be closed May 21st due to the election. I hope that I can count on your vote !!!! :)”

The board, comprised of Mifflin County Commissioners Mark Sunderland, Otis Riden and Kevin Kodish, voted unanimously in March to forward the issue to Mifflin County District Attorney Dave Molek.

Molek reviewed the material sent to him as well as the statutes and case law, in addition to conducting an interview with Treaster.

Molek concluded this incident did not rise to the level of a criminal misdemeanor offense.

“I found no evidence of willfulness,” Molek stated in a letter received by The Sentinel.

There were two issues investigated through the district attorney’s office. The first was who paid for the envelopes and postage for the mailing. The second was if the inserted note constituted a request for vote by a candidate without proper authorizing language, such as “paid for by the candidate.”

Normally, a tax collector pays for the envelopes and postage and is reimbursed by the county and township as tax collector expenses.

“In this case, Mr Treaster has indicated that he will not seek reimbursement for those costs. So long as he pays those costs out of his own pocket, he commits no criminal offense,” Molek stated in the letter.

Regarding the note itself, there was the possibility that its insertion into the envelope along with the tax bills constituted a criminal offense, however, after interviewing Treaster, who asserts he was unaware his wife had inserted the notes, Molek concluded the incident did not rise to the level of a criminal misdemeanor offense.

Molek said he did advise Treaster of his obligation to file a 2013 campaign finance report and include the cost associated with the mailings. These costs would need to be included as an election/campaign expense.

Treaster said he feels the matter has been settled and does not wish to comment any further.

The Derry Township Tax Collector’s salary is paid by Mifflin County, Derry Township and the Mifflin County School District. For calendar year 2012, the Derry Township Tax Collector’s Commission from the township was $55,170.89. A five percent commission was earned for collection of the following: Township Real Estate Tax, Township Fire Tax, Township Light Tax and Township Per Capita Tax. In addition, Treaster was paid $8,068.75 for the collection of the 2013 school district Real Estate and Per Capita taxes. Lastly, Treaster was paid $6,169.68 by the county.

Treaster faces Republican challenger Debra L. Warntz in the primary election. Three Democratic candidates – Douglas Berich, Pamela S. Eberman and Jim Treaster – are also seeking the position.