Boyle petitions validated, questions remain

There was an ele­phant in Com­mon­wealth Court Seni­or Judge James Gard­ner Colins’ courtroom last Thursday, but Daylin Leach’s cam­paign man­ager in­sists it wasn’t him.

On the sur­face, the hear­ing was about the valid­ity of state Rep. Brendan Boyle’s nom­in­at­ing pe­ti­tions and a Park­wood wo­man’s bid to have the un­op­posed in­cum­bent’s name tossed from the primary bal­lot in the 170th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict. Yet, the wo­man chose not to at­tend the hear­ing while her at­tor­ney, Lawrence Ot­ter, used the plat­form to ask nu­mer­ous ques­tions about Boyle’s sim­ul­tan­eous cam­paign for the U.S. House.

Boyle, a Demo­crat from Somer­ton, is fa­cing state Sen. Leach, along with Mar­jor­ie Mar­gol­ies and Val Arkoosh, in the primary for Pennsylvania’s 13th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict. Elec­tion Day is Tues­day, May 20.

Con­sid­er­ing that Boyle is un­op­posed in his state House race and that the wo­man chal­len­ging his nom­in­at­ing pe­ti­tions, Michelle Szydlowski of the 12700 block of Med­ford Road, has no known his­tory of polit­ic­al act­iv­ism or ad­vocacy in the area, the Boyle camp feels that ul­teri­or motives were at work in the bal­lot chal­lenge.

“This law­suit had no basis in fac­tu­al law. It was frivol­ous,” Nick Himebaugh, Boyle’s le­gis­lat­ive as­sist­ant in the 170th, said after the hear­ing. “Rep­res­ent­at­ive Boyle holds his staff to the highest stand­ards and this is a waste of tax­pay­er money and time. … It felt like a fish­ing ex­ped­i­tion.”

Colins, a North­east Philly nat­ive who used to call long­time Re­pub­lic­an City Com­mit­tee Chair­man Wil­li­am Aus­tin “Billy” Mee­han a neigh­bor, agreed. The judge re­jec­ted the com­plaint.

Ot­ter claimed that 833 of the 1,052 sig­na­tures ap­pear­ing on Boyle’s nom­in­at­ing pe­ti­tions were in­val­id be­cause Himebaugh had not­ar­ized them. As a mem­ber of Boyle’s le­gis­lat­ive staff, Himebaugh had a pe­cu­ni­ary in­terest in the nom­in­at­ing pe­ti­tions and, there­fore, was pre­ven­ted by state law from not­ar­iz­ing them, Ot­ter ar­gued. Boyle needed at least 300 val­id sig­na­tures to qual­i­fy for the state House bal­lot.

Boyle’s at­tor­ney, Tim Bren­nan, countered that what Himebaugh did is a long-es­tab­lished and ac­cep­ted prac­tice with mul­tiple court pre­ced­ents to sup­port its leg­al­ity. Himebaugh test­i­fied that he did not not­ar­ize sig­na­tures that he had col­lec­ted per­son­ally and did not col­lect sig­na­tures or not­ar­ize pe­ti­tions while on the clock as a mem­ber of Boyle’s le­gis­lat­ive staff. He is not on Boyle’s cam­paign staff and is em­ployed by Pennsylvania’s House Demo­crat­ic Caucus.

“I find that Mis­ter Himebaugh had no pe­cu­ni­ary in­terest in this cam­paign,” Colins said. “The right to run for of­fice and to cir­cu­late pe­ti­tions are two of the most highly re­garded Con­sti­tu­tion­al rights. I think the Demo­crat­ic Caucus is highly for­tu­nate to have someone with Mis­ter Himebaugh’s cre­den­tials and in­teg­rity to work for them.”

Boyle’s camp feels it’s more than co­in­cid­ence that their can­did­ate is also run­ning for Con­gress. Sources with know­ledge of loc­al polit­ics have spec­u­lated that were Boyle re­moved from the 170th bal­lot, he may be forced in­to a costly and time-con­sum­ing write-in cam­paign that would di­vert re­sources from his con­gres­sion­al ef­fort.

“I be­lieve what was brought to court [on Thursday] had noth­ing to do with the 170th,” said Adam Er­ick­son, Boyle’s con­gres­sion­al cam­paign man­ager. “If it’s a con­gres­sion­al cam­paign be­hind this, they should just show up to the for­ums to cam­paign as op­posed to ab­us­ing the courts.”

Aren Platt, Leach’s cam­paign man­ager, said he at­ten­ded the hear­ing merely to ob­serve. He hap­pens to live near the Cen­ter City courtroom. 

“Un­equi­voc­ally, the Leach cam­paign was not in any way in­volved in bring­ing this case,” he said. “The cam­paign has nev­er met [Szydlowski] and nev­er em­ployed Larry Ot­ter.”

After the hear­ing, Ot­ter con­ceded that he had nev­er met Szydlowski, either. The wo­man was not re­quired by law to at­tend the hear­ing. But then, how did she get in­volved and who hired Ot­ter? The North­east Times tried to con­tact Szydlowski at her home and by tele­phone, but there was no re­sponse.

“She’s a con­cerned cit­izen,” the Bucks County-based at­tor­ney said, adding that he in­ten­ded to “send my bill out” to a “P.O. Box” in Phil­adelphia. ••

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