The McKeesport City Council tonight elected LuEthel Nesbit, vice president of the local chapter of the NAACP, to the seat that disqualified candidate Corry Sanders had won in the November election.
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. 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.
Mr. Sanders applied for a pardon from Governor 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.
McKeesport Mayor Michael Chereko said the prohibition of Mr. Sanders’ serving had become a sensitive issue and “tt was extremely important for us to replace Mr. Sanders with a minority and the members of the council felt the same way. [Ms. Nesbit] became a candidate we thought would be a tremendous asset to the city. She’s someone I have the utmost respect for.”
Ms. Nesbit, 66, a longtime fixture in the community and a member of school committees and the Municipal Authority’s Board of Directors, was elected by the council in the first item of business and joined the members for the rest of the meeting. She will serve the remainder of the vacant term.
“I’ve worked in McKeesport all my life,” she said. ”While I never sought the office, when I was asked to do this, I accepted, and I will do my very best.”
She added that she has a great deal of respect for Mr. Sanders — she said she knew his grandparents — and she hopes he is one day able to serve on the council.