Saturday, April 10, 2010

Senator Jane Orie Charged By Allegheny County D.A. Zappala

On Wednesday, Jane Orie, 48, and her sister Janine Orie, 55, were arrested and charged with theft of services and criminal conspiracy according to this article by Paula Reed Ward of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In a 66-page grand jury presentment District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office outlined the charges against the pair.

Ms. Orie temporarily stepped down as Majority Whip in the Pennsylvania Senate in accordance with the rules.

But Jane Orie vowed to continue to fight the charges following her arraignment at the McCandless office of Magisterial District Judge William Wagner. She called them "personal," and said that Mr. Zappala is only going after her because her position on gambling threatens his father, a former state Supreme Court justice who works for an agency that promotes casinos. The District Attorney's father is former State Supreme Court Justice Stephen A. Zappala, now leader of the Pennsylvania Casino Association.

Back in January it was reported by KDKA out of Pittsburgh that Senator Orie was taking aim at the Zappalas during a Senate hearing for hiding their compensation in the Pennsylvania Casino Association.

"A member of the judiciary is receiving compensation and lobbying on behalf of the Casino Association, this is astounding," she said.

And Orie had strong words for former Chief Justice Zappala, the DA's father.

"Why the blatant disregard of the federal IRS filing stipulations? Why the cloak of secrecy?" she said on the Senate floor. "It shocks the conscience that the PA Casino Association would not list former PA Chief Justice Zappala. Quite frankly, it's unconscionable."

On they write Jane Orie spoke briefly. "I know the threat I am to the Zappala family. This is about gambling. This is so personal by Steve Zappala he can't control himself."

Janine Orie is employed as a chief administrative judicial assistant for Justice Melvin and currently earns just under $67,000 annually. She began working for her sister in 1998 as a judicial secretary when Justice Melvin was on the state Superior Court.

Justice Melvin is not charged in the case, though it is her 2009 campaign for Supreme Court that prompted the investigation into illegal campaign work at Jane Orie's legislative offices. Justice Melvin's attorney, J. Alan Johnson, had no comment.

District Attorney Zappala is brother to Gregory Zappala, present owner and former partner with Robert Powell in PA Child Care, East and West.

There are some interesting facts in this article. The charges stem from allegations placing the time frame of 2001 to 2009. The total amount of services alleged to have been paid by the state range from $37,000 to $74,000. To put that into perspective the costs would have been $4625 to $9250 per year.

According to IssuesPA the cost of the Senate in 2005 was $106,334,000 dollars, a little over $2.1 million per Senator. Zappala is trying to make the case he was able to ascertain that .21 percent of that money was spent on campaign work being performed in Jane Orie Melvin's office. Another way to look at it is that out of $17,013,440 spent on the office of Senator Jane Orie Melvin(the result of the $160,334,000 since it was midpoint times 10 divided by 50 Senators) he was able to find $37,000.00 to $74,000.00 of misused money. After all the catcalls by the Democrats at Republican AG Tom Corbett's expense on Bonusgate charges how is Zappala going to justify to the voters of Allegheny County that the costs of his prosecution has merit?

Justice Ron Castille weighs in on the fight.

The looks came at national judicial conferences, when Castille, now the court's chief justice, was recognized as hailing from Pennsylvania.

Judges from other states would ask, " 'Isn't that the state where one justice tried to run over another justice?' " Castille recalled Friday, referring to the controversy that so damaged the court's image in the 1990s. "It took a long time to shake out the taint."

Now, a burgeoning scandal involving two Western Pennsylvania political families threatens to again bring notoriety to the state's highest court.

So, on Friday, Castille took a rare step for a chief justice of that court: He spoke out about the situation.

"It's not good, I can tell you that," he said in an interview.

In the early 1990s, then-Justice Larsen accused the elder Zappala of commandeering a car and trying to run him down outside the Four Seasons hotel in Philadelphia.

The Ories and the Zappalas are having a Hatfield/McCoy squabble. It will be the taxpayers who pay the price.

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