Court Discards Suit Disputing State Bonuses
Bumsted, Brad, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
HARRISBURG -- Commonwealth Court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp that claimed $3.65 million in staff bonuses given by state legislative leaders during the 2005- 06 session were illegal.
Stilp said he "definitely" plans to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
The state Attorney General's Office is investigating the bonuses to determine whether any crime was committed.
The 2-1 ruling held the court has no jurisdiction to involve itself in the Legislature's budget and employment decisions. The opinion by Judge Dan Pellegrini said the court "may not inquire into another (government) branch's internal operations under the Separation of Powers principle."
Legislators' immunity is grounded in the state constitution, which protects lawmakers from judicial interference in most instances, the ruling said.
In a dissenting opinion, Senior Judge Jim Kelley -- a former state senator from Westmoreland County -- argued the bonuses were unconstitutional.
In addition to appealing to the state's highest court, Stilp said he would try to "put pressure on Attorney General Tom Corbett to start doing criminal prosecutions on the bonuses. …