Gergely accused of improperly directing money to aide's campaign
March 2, 2016 12:00 AM
State Rep. Marc Gergely
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In a case involving allegations of illegal gambling and nicknames like “Porky,” potential campaign-finance violations may not seem very juicy. But Barry Kauffman, for one, is troubled by charges that state Rep. Marc Gergely improperly directed money to a top aide’s campaign for school board.
“Basically, you have a political laundromat,” said Mr. Kauffman, who heads reform group Common Cause Pennsylvania. If the allegations are true, he said, “A person was using his powers of office to assist a friend in running an illegal activity, and then used the proceeds in his war chest to benefit others.”
According to a state grand jury presentment, in 2012 Mr. Gergely’s campaign committee acted as a go-between for Ronald Melocchi, who authorities say controlled a network of illegal gambling machines, and Gergely aide Thomas Maglicco, then a McKeesport Area School District board member.
When Mr. Maglicco told Mr. Gergely he was “not comfortable” with a donation from Melocchi, the presentment alleges, “Gergely agreed to get the money from Melocchi and have a check written to Maglicco’s campaign from his campaign. The Grand Jury received testimony that Melocchi gave two thousand dollars to Gergely in cash from the proceeds of his illegal vending business.”
State law prohibits donating more than $100 in cash to a political campaign. It also bars spending money from anonymous sources, or “mak[ing] any contribution with funds designated ... by any other person.”
Mr. Gergely’s 2012 campaign finance reports show a $400 contribution to Mr. Maglicco’s committee on Sept. 12, and another $1,200 contribution on Oct. 18. Those reports identify no direct financial support from Melocchi except $1,000 of “door prize gift cards.”
The presentment alleges that “the campaign contribution from Melocchi to Maglicco was in part, pay back, for Maglicco’s support” of hiring Melocchi’s nephew as a school janitor that fall.
Mr. Maglicco has not been charged. He referred questions to lawyer Douglas Sughrue, who declined comment.
One day before the Oct. 18 donation, investigators allegedly listened in on a phone conversation between Mr. Maglicco and Melocchi. The two discussed Mr. Gergley buying tickets for a Maglicco golf fundraiser on Melocchi’s behalf. “Marc is buying your foursomes,” said Mr. Maglicco, according to a partial transcript included in the presentment. “He’s going to give me a check from the committee to elect Marc Gergely for $2,000.”
Mr. Gergely structured the contribution “so as to conceal the fact that Melocchi was the source of the contribution,” the presentment alleges.
Local Republicans say close relationships between money and power make it even harder to challenge politicians in the Democrat-heavy Mon Valley.
“Kathleen Kane’s job is not done yet,” said Kenneth Peoples Jr., who lost a challenge to Mr. Gergely in 2014. “The political money goes much deeper.”
“This kind of good-old boys’ network is the sort of thing you hear about routinely,” said Fawn Walker-Montgomery, a Republican seeking to challenge Mr. Gergely in November. But “I didn’t realize it went that deep.”
Chris Potter: email@example.com or 412-263-2533.
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