Aide: Orie ordered campaign work

Senator's former chief of staff details political tasks during state hours

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State Sen. Jane Orie's former chief of staff spent the entire day on the witness stand Thursday, testifying that the McCandless Republican not only knew that campaign work was being done on legislative time, but that she ordered it.

"She was the one who directed us to leave the office to do these tasks that were political in nature," said Jamie Pavlot, who continues to work for the senator in a different capacity.

Ms. Orie is charged in two separate cases with a total of 26 counts, including theft of services, ethics violations, perjury and forgery. Her trial, before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, began Wednesday.

Ms. Pavlot, who has immunity from prosecution, said she, too, directed staffers to do campaign work, such as making fundraising calls, stuffing envelopes and collecting signatures. "I would ask them if they would be willing to come out and make phone calls," she said. "It was kind of implied that it was important."

She agreed with the prosecution that not all staff members in the senator's office knew that campaign work was being conducted. It was because the senator entrusted that work only to people she considered to be "loyal," Ms. Pavlot testified.

At least two women in the senator's office were fired when they complained about participating in political activity, she continued.

But it was an email exchange between Ms. Pavlot and the senator that could prove to be one of the strongest pieces of evidence in the case accusing Ms. Orie of theft of services.

In the hours after an intern resigned her position with Mr. Orie, Ms. Pavlot, under direction from her boss, quickly scurried to create a separate campaign office.

The first email on the subject was sent by Ms. Orie at 1:43 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2009, just five hours after an intern quit because she was uncomfortable with campaign activity that was occurring in the legislative office.

In Ms. Orie's email, titled "Campaign Headquarters," sent from her personal account, she wrote, "We need to begin finding one ... set up desk etc. ... Josh needs to carry the laptop everyday once we get headquarters and set laptop up in campaign. ... have papers etc. there."

Ms. Pavlot responded 10 minutes later "Is upstairs ok?" referring to the office above the legislative space on McKnight Road.

"Yes ... put it on letterhead so we cover ourselves ... tell Josh do letterhead on laptop at home. put sign on door Sen. Jane Orie campaign office."

Over the ensuing weekend, Ms. Pavlot also removed boxes of campaign materials from the office. As she was walking to her car that Sunday, she saw flash bulbs going off. It was investigators, who had been tipped off by the intern.

When asked by the prosecution why she did that, Ms. Pavlot explained.

"I took them out because I was protecting my boss, and I knew that information was in the office ... so there'd be no trace of political work in the legislative office."


Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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