Cheswick councilman fined for ethics violation

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The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission has found that a former Cheswick councilman who was a longtime vendor for the borough violated the Ethics Act by engaging in a conflict of interest and ordered him to pay $1,000 to the commonwealth as part of a consent agreement.

Brian Harvanek, 53, of Cheswick said he has already paid the money.

In a 17-page report released Friday, the commission said Mr. Harvanek, 53, failed to file required Statements of Financial Interests in 2009 and 2010; filed incomplete statements in 2011 and 2012; and voted 25 times to approve payments from Cheswick to his company, All Time Truck and Car Service, for work done on borough vehicles.

All the ethics violations stem from Mr. Harvanek owning a corporation that did business with Cheswick while he was an elected official there from January 2010 until this past December.

While Mr. Harvanek said he was not solely responsible for the ethical lapses -- he placed some blame on the borough solicitor for giving bad advice -- he acknowledged shortcomings in how he handled his affairs where business intersected with politics.

Contrary to the ethics commission's findings, Mr. Harvanek said he never voted on a payment to All Time while he was a councilman. The report indicates that he told the commission in November that he abstained from such votes but did not always have a chance to voice his abstention.

State law bars public officials and their businesses from signing a contract worth more than $500 with the government body they serve without "an open and public process." But from November 2009 through June 2013, 26 All Time invoices were for more than $500, the report said.

Mr. Harvanek acknowledged that he was ignorant of the ethics laws when he took office but said he got bad advice from borough solicitor, Anthony Colangelo, who he claimed told him to submit multiple invoices for less than $500 to avoid ethical concerns.

"That's something that's between my client and myself," Mr. Colangelo said. "I'm not prepared to comment on it."

The commission declined to find that Mr. Harvanek violated the $500 limit provision because he "did not utilize the authority of his public office to facilitate such contracts."

Jonathan D. Silver:, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg.

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