Judge says Yeadon councilman must go

Terry McGirth: In 2003, he admitted stealing $100,000 from a Chester County firm.
Terry McGirth: In 2003, he admitted stealing $100,000 from a Chester County firm.
Posted: July 16, 2009

A Delaware County judge yesterday lowered the curtain on Yeadon Borough's political sideshow, forcing Councilman Terry McGirth out of office due to his criminal record.

McGirth, 53, a felon-turned-evangelist who is facing sexual-harassment charges, was elected to Council in 2007, despite having pleaded guilty in 2003 to stealing more than $100,000 from a Chester County kidney-dialysis company for which he had worked.

But under the state constitution, persons convicted of an "infamous crime" cannot hold public office.

In November, Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green, who had been notified of McGirth's conviction by an anonymous tipster, filed a complaint to unseat the first-term Democrat.

Yesterday, Judge George Pagano sided with Green, finding that McGirth's conviction on four counts of theft disqualifies him from "holding an office of trust or profit" in Pennsylvania.

McGirth's attorney, John F. Licari, had argued in court last week that Yeadon voters were aware of McGirth's past - and his subsequent reformation - when they elected him in 2007.

"The voters have the right to make a determination as to whether an individual is qualified," Licari said yesterday. "Councilman McGirth has never run from his past. He has always been open about his background."

McGirth has not decided whether to appeal Pagano's ruling, Licari said. Yeadon Mayor Jacqueline Mosley said that she agreed with the judge's decision because the law is "quite clear," and that McGirth's attempt to hang onto his seat had created an uproar in the borough, which borders Southwest Philadelphia. She said that the case also highlights the need for voters to be more vigilant. "It should never have happened," Mosley said of his election, "but it did."

McGirth, is awaiting trial on charges that he sexually harassed the borough's former finance director. He is believed to be only the second elected municipal official in Delaware County whom a district attorney has sought to remove from office. The other instance involved a Darby Borough councilman in 2002.

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