Senator Robert Mellow is but weeks away from riding off in to the glorious sunset of retirement. Glorious as it is, at least on paper, as Pennsylvania’s longest serving Senator; he stands to receive a pension worth over $300,000 a year.
However, there are troubling questions that go unanswered, a federal investigation, and now a renewed demand for the Senate Ethics Committee to take up Mellow’s questionable behavior.
Eric Epstein, a political activist and founder of this website,www.rockthecapital.com, has initiated for the third time in two years a request to the Senate Ethics Committee, to admonish Mellow for unethical behavior.
“The Committee’s delaying tactics are reprehensible and represent why so many voters have lost faith in a broken system,” said Epstein.
Epstein’s first complaint, filed in 2008, was dismissed on a technicality. In September, the Committee
unanimously agreed to take no action against Mellow, in response to Epstein’s second filing. As of today, Epstein forwarded yet another request - – his third attempt to have Mellow censured.
“We must admit that self-policing policies regarding public service and political promotion have failed. Sadly, we now need to examine and debate the value of the Senate Ethic’s Committee.
Senator Charles McIlhinney Jr., the chairman of the ethics committee, does not return calls to Rock The Capital.
Mellow, in published reports, seems to make no bones about what Blue Cross of Northeastern, Pa. pays him to sit on its board, he has never come clean with the amount, but as of 2007, the average member received over $48,000 a year. Penseco Financial Services rewards the Democratic senator with another $22,000 a year. That is on top of the $110,350 he gets paid to serve as Senate minority leader.
Epstein says clearly Mellow has violated Pennsylvania’s Legislative Code of Ethics, which in part reads, “No member shall knowingly solicit, accept, or receive any gift, or compensation other than that which he is duly entitled from the Commonwealth which is intended to influence the performance of his official duties….”.
Senator Mellow, like McIlhinney, does not return calls to Rock The Capital.
As Epstein points out in a seven- page complaint, Mellow has been in ethical hot water before. In 1994, the Senator was admonished for the misappropriation of Democratic caucus money to the tune of $417,692.
As troubling as this is, there is also a federal investigation hanging over Mellow’s head. In October, federal agents served the Senator and some members of his staff with subpoenas. That development came months after federal agents with the FBI and IRS seized documents from Mellow’s district office in Peckville and his home.
Up until recently, Mellow and or his former wife owned an office building. Mellow’s district office is in that same building and he was paying rent — which violates another ethics law – - which prohibits lawmakers from renting office space from themselves.
As Epstein sees it, the Ethics “Committee is hiding behind a veil of privilege.”
Much of that privilege, at least for a few more weeks, now belongs to retiring Senator, Ray Musto. Musto remains on the Ethics Committee even though he faces his own legal problems. FBI agents raided Musto’s home last spring. Musto has not been charged with a crime. Federal investigators remain mum about that investigation.
“The Committee’s response is prejudiced by the participation of Senator Musto who is under federal investigation for similar alleged transgressions as Senator Mellow.”
Musto like Mellow has not been charged with a crime, and like Mellow, Musto will retire by the end of the year.
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