Former intern: Spent 25 percent of workday campaigning for Orie Melvin

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When Joshua Dott first started working as an intern for state Sen. Jane Orie in April 2009, he knew that political work was frowned upon.

Still, when he was asked by his supervisors to help Joan Orie Melvin run for the state Supreme Court, he did. "I didn't realize the extent of how wrong it was," he testified Thursday. "It was my first job. I was just trying to do the best I could."

By the time he realized the potential ramifications of doing political work during his legislative work day, Mr. Dott said, it was too late. "By that point, my heart was in it. I believed in what she was doing.

"I wanted the judge to win."

Justice Orie Melvin and her sister, Janine Orie, are on trial in Allegheny County, accused of using Jane Orie's Senate staff and the judge's judicial staff on the Superior Court to do campaign work. The trial began last Friday.

Jane Orie was convicted on similar charges -- as well as submitting fraudulent documents to the court -- last year and is serving a 21/2- to 10-year prison term.

Mr. Dott was the ninth witness called by the prosecution in the current case. He testified that the majority of his campaign work involved keeping track of donations to the Orie Melvin campaign in a database and writing thank-you letters. He also handled yard signs for the justice's campaign and drove her to a few events.

He estimated he spent 25 to 30 percent of his workday during that time doing campaign work.

Another former staffer for Jane Orie, Audrey Rasmussen-Mackie, estimated she spent about the same amount of time working on the Orie Melvin campaign.

She worked on the justice's phone banks a few times in early 2009 and also handled letters and mail merges. Ms. Rasmussen-Mackie said she stopped campaign work the spring of that year.

"I didn't want to be involved in it anymore."

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Paula Ward: pward@post-gazette.com First Published January 31, 2013 12:30 AM


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