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Roddey report wasn't complete

Clerk of courts also didn't comply on donor employers

Thursday, February 22, 2001

By Jeffrey Cohan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Campaign finance reports filed by Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey and Clerk of Courts George Matta fell far short of complying with state law.

The law requires candidates to list the occupations and employers of campaign contributors who give more than $250. Roddey and Matta did not provide that information for more than half of those donors.

The disclosure requirement enables citizens to identify whether officials or employees of companies that do business with government are also making large contributions to the politicians who make decisions.

On his recently filed campaign finance report for the year 2000, Roddey listed 314 people who contributed $250 or more. But only 142 of those, or 45 percent, listed the donor's occupation and employer. Matta identified the occupation and employers in 32 of 74 cases, or 43 percent.

Roddey referred questions about his report to his 1999 campaign manager, Kent Gates, who submitted the report.

Gates said changes in Roddey's campaign organization and a fund-raiser held late in the year -- Nov. 30 -- led to problems in providing the required information.

"We're in the process of cleaning up the database," Gates said.

County Controller Dan Onorato, who identified the employers of each of the 16 people who gave his campaign more than $250 last year, said Gates offered a "lame excuse."

"I pay it painstaking detail because the law is very clear. If you're over $250, you have to give the employer," Onorato said. "I take that very seriously. [What Roddey did] is a violation and the election bureau should enforce that."

Matta could not explain the omissions in his report, which his father, George Matta Sr., prepared.

"I'll look at that," Matta said. "I'm very good at getting that information."

Violating the state's reporting requirements is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. But Roddey and Matta likely won't face any such penalties.

County Elections Manager Mark Wolosik said his office will eventually review all campaign finance reports for 2000. If omissions are found, the politician will be notified and asked to submit the missing information. If the politician complies, there will be no sanctions.

Gates said that Roddey will submit an amended report with complete information within weeks. Contributors are being contacted for the information.

Matta said he, too, will soon file a complete amended report.

The other elected official on the county's Retirement Board, county Treasurer John Weinstein, did a better job in supplying the required information. He did so in 32 of 35 cases, or 91 percent.

In comparison, Mayor Tom Murphy listed complete information for 167 of the 179 people who gave his campaign more than $250, a 93 percent rate.

Even if a report lacks the identities of just a few employers, the elections office will send a politician a notice demanding completeness, Wolosik said.

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