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Prohibition Coy resists there for a good reason

September 24, 2004

Is Rep. Jeffrey Coy's "time" in office done because he's resigned his post as a Pennsylvania legislator? Or does it extend to the end of the term the Franklin County, Pa., Democrat would have served if he hadn't resigned?

That's the essence of an legal struggle now going on between Coy and Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert. Coy probably won't agree, but there are good reasons for the position Pappert is taking.

Coy, an 11-term representative, resigned his seat on Sept. 2, three months before his term was due to expire.

The next day, he was appointed to a post on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board by H. William DeWeese, the leader of the House Democrats.

The post pays $145,000 and would involve setting and up and regulating slot-machine gambling in as many as 14 locations within the state.

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Pappert filed suit, on the grounds that the state constitution prevents lawmakers from taking certain appointed offices.

Coy's attorney has countered with the argument that since the Franklin County lawmaker has resigned, his "time" in office is done.

In addition, since a police background check of Coy is not complete - a requirement before he can take the post - his attorney argues that any challenge is premature.

The decision by Senior Judge James J. Flaherty will hinge on the definition of "time" in office. Though we're not legal experts, we believe the judge will rule Coy can't take the new job until after Nov. 30, when his current term ends.

Why? Because it seems clear the prohibition was placed in the constitution to prevent the executive branch from influencing lawmakers with the promise of state jobs.

Taxpayers need assurance that lawmakers are voting on matters based on their beliefs and not in the hopes that they'll be rewarded for their support with a state job.

None of this is to imply that Coy has done anything wrong, but it would be better for all concerned if DeWeese withdrew the appointment and reinstated it on Dec. 1.

As Pappert said, the provision was placed in the constitution for a reason and if complying with it means waiting another few months, that's a small price to pay.

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