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Supervisor won't be allowed to run again

August 11, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Washington Township (Pa.) supervisor will complete his term, but he is not allowed to run for his seat again under a decision by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

The office sent Chris Firme a letter saying it decided he didn't knowingly violate the Hatch Act, but said he should not seek re-election. The act prohibits municipal, state and federal employees from being candidates for public office.

Firme on Thursday contended that he never had received training about the law, and had approached his supervisor in the Maryland Department of Agriculture about his candidacy in 2003.

"I went to my boss and asked if there was going to be any problem. ... They didn't see anything wrong with it," Firme said.

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Firme, who has been an agricultural inspector for 20 years, said the forest pest program receives federal funding.

Firme said he received a call from the OSC in July, and told the caller he never had heard of the Hatch Act. That call was followed by a fact-finding investigation and decision letter.

"Nowhere in the letter does it say I have to resign. ... I'll finish out my term," he said. "In 2009, I just won't run."

Firme decided to seek the elected position after watching the supervisors make decisions about a planned residential development near Harbaugh Church Cemetery that landed them in court. Now, one of his primary goals is "trying to get developers to do things correctly."

All of the supervisors want to ensure the coming housing developments are the best they can be, Firme said.

"We care about our township," he said. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have run."

The five-person board received two new members, John Gorman and Carroll Sturm, in January.

"We seem to be working together pretty well. I think we get a good perspective on things," Sturm said. That comes from having a board with a mix of opinions and viewpoints, he said.

"(Firme) is pretty strong on environmental issues and things to do with his forestry background," Sturm said.

Firme said he works for the township citizens, and will continue to do so until his six-year term expires.

"I think this could've been handled differently. The person (who filed a complaint), whoever it may be, could've gone to the (county) election board," Firme said. That board didn't mention the Hatch Act in its candidate materials, he said.

"I do feel like my constitutional rights have been violated, but because it is the law, I will abide by it," Firme said.

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