HARRISBURG, Pa. – A veteran state House Democratic leader and a former state House Democrat were charged Tuesday in a legislative corruption investigation and accused of illegally using taxpayer-paid employees to perform political and campaign work.
Attorney General Tom Corbett said state Rep. Bill DeWeese, former state Rep. Stephen Stetler — who resigned as Pennsylvania's secretary of revenue Tuesday morning — and a district office aide to DeWeese, Sharon Rodavich, have each been charged with four counts of theft and one count each of conspiracy and conflict of interest.
Stetler, a former campaign strategist for the House Democrats who left the Legislature in 2006, resigned his post as Gov. Ed Rendell's secretary of revenue only hours before Corbett held his news conference.
The charges are the third round stemming from Corbett's three-year-long probe into allegations of illegal use of state legislative employees and taxpayer dollars and resources for improper purposes.
Lawyers for Stetler and DeWeese did not return telephone messages Tuesday. It was not immediately clear whether Rodavich had a lawyer.
According to Corbett, DeWeese allegedly employed a legislative staff member in the Capitol from 2001 to 2007 primarily to raise campaign money.
The employee, Kevin Sidella, testified before the grand jury that he raised millions of dollars for DeWeese's political campaigns while being paid by taxpayers, Corbett said.
DeWeese, of Greene County in southwestern Pennsylvania, has served in the House since 1976, including a lengthy term as Democratic floor leader and a stint as speaker in the 1990s. He currently serves as House Democratic whip after losing his position as floor leader last year.
Rodavich, who began working for DeWeese in 1994, was employed strictly for political purposes, Corbett said. She was a primary supervisor of DeWeese's day-to-day campaign activities out of his district office and rarely reported to work, Corbett said.
Stetler, who represented a York district in the House for 16 years, had been a top political strategist for the House Democrats from 2003 to 2006. He allegedly used taxpayer-paid employees to carry out campaign work, including research designed to expose opposing candidates' weaknesses, Corbett said.
Corbett had previously charged 12 people associated with the House Democratic caucus and 10 people with ties to the House Republicans, including Philadelphia Rep. John M. Perzel, a former House speaker.
In the only case to go to trial so far, former state Democratic Rep. Sean Ramaley of Beaver County was acquitted of all charges last week.
The trial for some of the remaining House Democratic defendants is scheduled to begin Jan. 19, though at least five of them have signed plea agreements with prosecutors. A preliminary hearing for the Republican-linked defendants is not expected until March.