Luzerne County judge to hear Brady ballot case Supporters of Tom Knox sought a jurist from outside the area to rule on disputed petitions.

Posted: March 16, 2007

In what is expected to be Round One, mayoral candidate Bob Brady will try to fend off efforts to toss him from the May 15 primary ballot before a Luzerne County judge on Tuesday.

State Supreme Court Justice Ralph J. Cappy yesterday appointed Senior Judge Patrick J. Toole Jr. to hear the case, which will be argued in a courtroom on the sixth floor of Philadelphia City Hall.

The out-of-town judge's appointment pleased Brady rivals Tom Knox and Dwight Evans, who maintain that Brady, as chairman of the Democratic City Committee, holds influence with Philadelphia judges, whose tenure on the bench depends in part on the party's backing at election time.

Knox supporters filed the legal challenge to Brady's nomination petitions on Tuesday and requested that a hearing occur before a judge from outside the city. Knox, a self-financed mayoral candidate, is underwriting the challenge, and Evans, a state lawmaker, is publicly supporting it.

"Oh, good, that's so far away, he probably doesn't know them there," Knox said when a reporter told him the case would go to a judge in Luzerne County, about 100 miles north of Philadelphia.

Stephen Cozen, Brady's lawyer, said, "Sounds OK to me," and praised Toole's "good reputation."

Challenges to the nominating papers of about two dozen other city candidates vying for space on the ballot are set to begin today before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judges.

Any lower-court ruling on the challenge to Brady's candidacy is likely to get appealed, and ultimately decided by the state Supreme Court. Knox said he thought a final decision would come in two to three weeks. Cozen guessed about a month.

The challenge contends that Brady, a five-term congressman, improperly filled out the state financial-disclosure form that's required of all candidates by excluding his $8,500-a-year city pension, and that he should be barred from running.

On Wednesday, Cozen told reporters that the congressman had intentionally omitted that information, per the form's instructions - though the Brady campaign until then had called the omission an innocent oversight and had filed an amended form.

The challengers derided Brady's explanations yesterday.

"It's a bunch of crap," Knox said. "They are just backing up because they figured out the law."

Evans said: "Obviously there's a conflict. On one hand they attempted to amend it, and on the other hand . . . they left it out. Which one is it?"

Cozen attributed the amended form to campaign staffers' instinctive rush to fix a problem - but maintained that the omission was, in fact, never a problem. It was what the form instructed, he said. (The form instructs candidates, "DO NOT INCLUDE: gifts, governmentally-mandated payments . . .") He also noted he was not involved with the case when the amended form was filed.

In Cozen's view, the challenge hinges on whether "governmentally-mandated payments" include the city pension Brady received for his 11 years in various City Hall jobs in the 1970s and '80s. Cozen contends that the form's instructions forbade listing the pension.

The challengers' lawyer, Paul Rosen, disagrees, and he argues that Brady omitted two other required pieces of information.

On a federal form, Brady listed his work as an unpaid part-time administrative aide to the carpenters' union. But on the state form he filed, he said he had no employment in any business, though the form asked for that information "regardless of income."

Cozen downplayed this assertion, saying the union is a nonprofit, not a business as defined by the state Ethics Act. "It's a total red herring," he said.

Similarly, Rosen contends that Brady should have listed his post as Democratic City Committee chairman. Cozen says the committee, too, is a nonprofit.

Contact staff writer Marcia Gelbart at 215-854-2338 or mgelbart@phillynews.com.

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