Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lawmaker Collecting Funds for Imprisoned Predecessor

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lawmaker Collecting Funds for Imprisoned Predecessor

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- When Republican state Rep. Garth Everett was elected in 2006, he was succeeding a longtime friend and colleague.

Now, that friend -- Brett Feese of Lycoming County -- is among the former state lawmakers serving time for convictions on public corruption charges, and Mr. Everett is asking legislative colleagues to help him financially as the holidays approach.

Mr. Everett, also of Lycoming, emailed fellow House Republicans on Monday that he is collecting funds from anyone interested in contributing to Feese's inmate account, which he can use to buy stamps and stationary, make phone calls and pay for cable TV or other extras.

"They come up and ask me all the time if there's anything we can do," Mr. Everett said of House colleagues who worked with his predecessor. "At this time of year, there is something we can do."

His gesture represents the dilemma that some lawmakers now face: How do you support a friend and colleague who brought disrepute to the Legislature?

Feese, 58, began a four- to 12-year prison sentence in February following his conviction stemming from the state attorney general's legislative probe.

The six-term state lawmaker and former head of the House Republican Campaign Committee unsuccessfully fought 40 criminal counts for his role in a scheme to use more than $10 million in taxpayer funds on computer software used in campaigning.

While prosecutors pointed to former House Speaker John Perzel, R- Philadelphia, as the mastermind behind creating databases that would be used both for legitimate state work and political campaigning, they said Feese fabricated notes that supposedly had come from an internal caucus investigation and failed to disclose other evidence.

Of the nine House Republican lawmakers and staffers charged in that portion of the probe, all except Feese and his former aide pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Mr. Everett wrote to his colleagues that the legal fees; fines; restitution; and loss of his income, pension and family's health care benefits have "wreaked havoc" upon Feese's finances.

"It is what it is," he said in an interview. "We have some former members in jail. That doesn't mean they're not people. …

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