It is not ducky for Conti to serve on public board
Donald "Ducky" Conti, whose recent actions as a board member of the Lawrence County Housing Authority and Affordable Housing of Lawrence County have raised eyebrows, is once again at the center of controversy that reflects poorly on the county. He has overstayed his welcome on the housing authority board.
Conti recently pleaded guilty to a gambling charge, but when the Lawrence County commissioners filed a motion last week in common pleas court to have him removed from the housing board, he responded with this:
"I pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. I didn't do nothing wrong. I pleaded guilty [to paying out] on poker machines and that has nothing to do with the housing authority."
The absence of any contriteness on his part and his failure to recognize that serving on a high-profile board of directors carries with it great responsibility leave commissioners Daniel Vogler, chairman, Ed Fosnaught and Steve Craig no choice but to pursue his ouster.
Vogler, Fosnaught and Craig must not give in to Conti's threat to fight.
It's bad enough that he sees nothing wrong with what he did, but then he tosses out the "This was all politics" canard. He admits to being friends with Gary Felasco, the county's elected treasurer, who has been charged with taking more than $400,000 from the treasurer's office for personal use, as well as Ethics Act violations.
If you're judged by the friends you keep, then Conti must be judged harshly.
Consider his involvement with Affordable Housing, which was spun off as an independent, non-profit entity from the county housing authority with $200,000 in public funds from the authority. Affordable Housing had a seven-member board, including Conti, who also is a member of the county housing authority board. Today, only William Bonner remains of the original seven. Conti resigned last week; four others resigned earlier and one died some time ago. Deno DeLorenzo joined the board this month.
The four resignations were prompted by the public revelation of a decision by Affordable Housing to buy seven homes in New Castle for $88,000 more than the total assessed value of the properties. Of the $327,000 total purchase price, $250,000 came from a loan the agency secured from First Commonwealth Bank. The rest came out of the $200,000 county housing authority grant. Bonner is an official with First Commonwealth Bank.
In explaining the discrepancy in what Affordable Housing paid for the homes and the county assessments, Conti, who was the board's secretary, said the bank handled the appraisals of the homes. He couldn't explain why most of the homes were bought from cousins Nick and Harry DeRosa.
After the press began digging into the transactions and questions were raised about the role that various board members played, the commissioners decided to have a public meeting with the directors of Affordable Housing to get to the bottom of the matter. But their invitations to Conti and Bonner to attend were ignored until they threatened to withdraw millions of dollars from First Commonwealth Bank.
Against that backdrop, Conti's guilty plea on the gambling charge and his inability to recognize the damage such behavior does to the credibility of the Lawrence County Housing Authority make it clear he must go.
The commissioners should hang tough -- just as they did with the hearing on Affordable Housing.