Brady stays on ballot, judicial panel rules

A Commonwealth Court panel ruled yesterday that despite a couple of omissions in his financial disclosures, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady can keep his spot in the Democratic race for mayor.

The three appellate court judges upheld a lower-court decision in favor of Brady's candidacy, ruling against a challenge financed by mayoral rival Tom Knox.

Knox's attorney, Paul Rosen, said Brady's challengers - a group of six Philadelphia voters - would decide over the weekend whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

State law requires candidates for public office to file both a financial-disclosure statement and nomination petitions with a certain number of signatures from registered voters.

When Brady filed his papers in February, he failed to list two items - a $8,727-a-year city pension, which he is already receiving, and an arrangement with the city carpenters' union, which pays about $13,500 a year toward Brady's future union pension in exchange for Brady's advice as an unpaid consultant.

Luzerne County Judge Patrick J. Toole Jr., who was brought in from Wilkes-Barre last month to hear the case, agreed with Brady's attorney that the city pension could be considered a "government-mandated payment," exempted from disclosure on an instruction sheet drafted by the state Ethics Commission.

Toole ruled that Brady should have disclosed the pension arrangement with the carpenters' union, but decided that his failure to do so was not a "fatal defect" requiring his removal from the ballot.

The Commonwealth Court panel agreed with Toole on both points, but urged the Legislature and the state Ethics Commission to clarify the state's disclosure requirements.

Every year, the number of ballot challenges based on financial disclosures has been increasing, Commonwealth Court judge Dan Pellegrini wrote.

But there has been no clear guidance, he said, on what mistakes were so serious that a candidate should be thrown off the ballot. *