Bald Eagle Township Supervisor Fined by State Ethics Commission; Criminal Charges Recommended

Pennsylvania_State_Ethics_Commission

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Ethics Commission Tuesday ordered longtime Bald Eagle Township Supervisor Jim Bechdel Sr. to pay more than $100,000 in penalties for violations of state ethics law.

The state agency issued a “final adjudication” against Bechdel, charging him with using the authority of his office to make purchases from the Federal Surplus Supply Property Program and “subsequently converted those items to his personal use and/or conveyed them to a member of his immediate family.”

Bechdel was ordered to make a penalty payment of $103,109.76 to the state, the money due in 30 days. His pay as a supervisor is $1,875 a year. Bechdel has been a township supervisor since 1983 and became chairman in August of 2014 after the death of then supervisor chairman Chris Dwyer. He is not on the ballot in the primary election.

The other township supervisors are Kenneth McGhee who is on the ballot this spring and Jack Bechdel who is not on the ballot. Jim Bechdel was nominated to continue as chairman by Jack Bechdel in January of this year but the matter was tabled when McGhee protested. The county website lists Jack Bechdel as vice-chairman but carries no one as chairman.

The complete Ethics Commission release is printed below:

ORDER SUMMARY:
1. As a Supervisor for Bald Eagle Township (“Township”), Clinton County, Pennsylvania, James H. Bechdel, Sr. violated Section 1103(a) of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act (“Ethics Act”), 65 Pa.C.S. § 1103(a), when he used the authority of his public office as a Township Supervisor to make purchases from the Federal Surplus Supply Property Program, which is of restricted access, and subsequently converted those items to his personal use and/or conveyed them to a member of his immediate family.
2. James H. Bechdel, Sr. violated Section 1104(a)/1105(b)(2), (5) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 1104(a)/1105(b)(2), (5), when he filed untimely and deficient Statements of Financial Interests on which he failed to include the Township as a source of income for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 calendar years and failed to identify an occupation or profession for the 2014 and 2015 calendar years.
3. In contravention of Section 1104(d) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1104(d), James H. Bechdel, Sr. received $1,875.00 per year of Supervisor compensation from the Township when he did not have accurate and complete Statements of Financial Interests on file with the Township.
4. James H. Bechdel, Sr. is ordered to make payment of restitution in the amount of $4,011.10 payable to Bald Eagle Township and forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission by no later than the thirtieth (30th) day after the mailing date of this Order.

5. James H. Bechdel, Sr. is ordered to make payment of a treble penalty in the amount of $103,109.76 payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission by no later than the thirtieth (30th) day after the mailing date of this Order.
6. James H. Bechdel, Sr. is further directed to not accept any reimbursement, compensation or other payment from the Township representing a full or partial reimbursement of the aforesaid restitution or treble penalty.
7. To the extent he has not already done so, James H. Bechdel, Sr. is directed to file with the Township amended Statements of Financial Interests for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 calendar years, providing full financial disclosure as required by the Ethics Act and the Regulations of this Commission, by no later than the thirtieth (30th) day after the mailing date of this Order, and to forward copies of such filings to this Commission for compliance verification purposes.
8. Non-compliance with paragraph 4, 5, 6, or 7 of this Order will result in the institution of an order enforcement action.
9. This matter will be referred to the Office of the Clinton County District Attorney, the Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Pennsylvania with our recommendation that criminal prosecutions be instituted against Respondent.