McKeesport councilman who lost seat is 'moving forward'
March 4, 2016 12:00 AM
McKeesport councilman Corry Sanders leaves the office of Judge Joseph James on Friday, February 5, 2016.
By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
He won’t be able to take his elected seat on McKeesport council due to a 23-year-old felony drug conviction, but Corry Sanders isn’t discouraged.
“Moving forward, I want to speak for those who need a voice,” Mr. Sanders said. “God has the last word in everything.”
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James ruled Feb. 24 that Mr. Sanders’ 1993 no-contest plea to felony drug charges make him ineligible to serve on council, despite his election in November.
“He is not eligible to hold that office by reason of his conviction,” Judge James said at a hearing requested by the district attorney’s office to challenge a person’s right to hold office.
State law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from serving in public office.
Now a church deacon, Mr. Sanders, 45, said he has turned his life around since his conviction, talking to kids about making the right choices and owning a barbershop business in the McKeesport business district since 1999. He is also active on the McKeesport Business Authority board of directors.
He took the ruling in stride. Often philosophical in his views, Mr.Sanders said he wouldn't appeal Judge James’ decision.
“This is a new beginning,” he said. “There are bigger doors out there that have been opened.”
Mr. Sanders applied for a pardon from Gov. Tom Wolf in the fall, but there is a three-year backlog in applications. Mr. Sanders said he will run again if he secures a pardon.
Several council members at the hearing said they felt Mr. Sanders and voters were let down by the process.
“I think he deserves to take office,” Councilman Tim Brown said. “He won fair and square. A guy made a mistake 20 years ago. I don’t think it's fair.”
Mr. Brown said council may appoint resident Dennis Robinson to fulfill Mr. Sanders’ term. Council has 45 days — or until April 9 — to make the appointment. Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday.