Delco borough councilman convicted of kickback scheme

SKICKBACK21
Edward M. Mitchell, 75, an Upland Borough councilman, was convicted by a jury Friday bribery and theft for a kickback scheme involving security and surveillance equipment the borough purchased.

An Upland Borough councilman was found guilty Friday of bribery and theft for taking kickbacks on nearly $1 million of security and surveillance equipment billed to the Delaware County borough.

Edward M. Mitchell, 75, was convicted after a four-day jury trial on 18 counts of bribery, 12 counts of criminal conspiracy, six counts of theft by deception, and six counts of restricted activities. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 14.

In 2016, Upland officials discovered that a hidden camera and microphone system had been installed in the municipal building. The equipment was disguised as motion sensors for the alarm system.

Recording equipment also was installed in the council chambers and an area where a secretary was stationed. The purpose of the equipment was to intercept conversations, authorities alleged. Even county investigators probing Mitchell, the former Borough Council president and also a former school board member for the Chester Upland district, were recorded as they conducted interviews in the municipal building.

The jury also found Mitchell not guilty of two counts of intercepting communications.

Invoices totaling $914,000 were paid by Upland at Mitchell’s direction to Thomas Willard of Logan Technology Solutions from October 2009 to December 2015, authorities said. Mitchell received kickbacks of 10 percent to 20 percent on each purchase.

Willard pleaded guilty this month to related charges.

John J. Flannery Jr., Mitchell’s lawyer, said his client was disappointed by the verdict but was exploring a possible appeal.

Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland called on Mitchell to immediately resign from his council seat.

“Should he choose not to resign and continue his flagrant disrespect of the public’s trust, I fully intend to file a motion for his removal from office effective immediately upon his sentencing as per the law,” she said in statement.

Christine Peterson, president of the Borough Council, said in a statement that she was pleased with the verdict.

“The fact that Mitchell has refused to step down from council following the charges filed against him — which include theft of taxpayer money — is appalling and an embarrassment for the borough,” Peterson said.

“Enough is enough,” Peterson said.  “The borough needs to move forward and put this sordid chapter of the Mitchell era behind us.  His resignation is the next step toward closure for our borough and it should not have to wait until his formal sentencing.”