Today's Herald-Standard story, "Political fax sent from school questioned," (April 30) details Fayette County Republican Committee Chairman Russ Rhodes' ire over a political fundraiser invitation allegedly sent from a fax machine at Hutchinson Elementary School in the Laurel Highlands School District.
The April 23 fax, according to Rhodes, was distributed on behalf of Douglas Sepic, one of five candidates for county judge in the upcoming primary election.
"What we have is a political person using taxpayer-funded resources for their own purposes," said Rhodes.
Sepic, who is an assistant district attorney in Fayette County, disavowed any personal involvement in the matter. "It is improper to send a (political campaign) fax from a government or school district fax and I did not authorize it," said Sepic.
We'll take both men at their word.
But that doesn't change the fact that Rhodes is 100 percent correct in pointing out that a fax machine being paid for with taxpayer dollars should not be used for political campaign purposes.
The practice could end up landing someone in jail. It has in neighboring Allegheny County, where district attorney Stephen Zappala prosecuted former state Senator Jane Orie for such office practices and won a conviction.
Rhodes says his next step is considering filing a complaint with the State Ethics Commission.
We wonder what would happen if Rhodes also dropped a dime to call Fayette County district attorney Jack Heneks and the Pennsylvania state police. They, after all, sprang into action (and are presumably still investigating) the nearly year-long "Saga of the Packet" presumably left at a restaurant by Fayette County Housing Authority board member Bev Beal during a lunch with Sonya Over and county commissioner Angela Zimmerlink.
Heneks and the PSP also rushed headfirst into the effort to track down the identities of anonymous posters on an Internet community bulletin board, once they started repeating potentially libelous rumors about a sitting county judge.
This case seems far more solid than either of those two. It's not like anyone can walk in off the street at any time and use the fax machine at Hutchinson Elementary School to send out an invitation to a political "meet and greet" for a judicial candidate. (Or can they?)
And what of the Laurel Highlands School District? Someone should call superintendent Jesse Wallace and the nine school board members, asking them what policy the school district has regarding the sending of such faxes, and how they plan to get to the bottom of who sent this one. (Are there security cameras that might have captured the culprit?)
Heck, the school district should be conducting its own investigation. Someone on staff just might have seen or heard something. How many of these faxes were sent? Who sent this one? Has anything like this ever happened before?
For all we know, it is standard operating procedure for someone -- maybe even anyone -- with ties to the Laurel Highlands School District to use public property (and thus taxpayer funds) to conduct political campaigning.
We hope someone does the right thing and at least calls for an investigation, maybe even by attorney general Kathleen Kane. Who knows what an investigator with no ties to local politics might uncover?