Pittston City mayor’s race is back on.
The petitions of Eugene M. Rooney Jr. for mayor and Barb Zangre for council were challenged by outgoing councilman Joe Chernouskas. He claimed Rooney and Zangre did not file their statement of financial interest with the City of Pittston before the March 12 deadline for the May Primary.
After a hearing on Wednesday morning, Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Thomas Burke ruled in favor of Rooney and Zangre.
Rooney will now face incumbent Mayor Jason Klush in the Democratic primary in May. The winner is expected to face Republican Don Yatko in the November General Election. For the two council seats on the ballot, Zangre will run against incumbent Attorney Michael Lombardo and former councilman Ken Bangs, who are running as a team with Klush.
Chernouskas, who is completing his first term on council, is not seeking a second term.
“The judge made his ruling and his decision is final,” Chernouskas said.
An appeal is not expected.
Rooney dropped off his required paperwork to City Hall on March 21, the day he was served with the challenge. Zangre also dropped off her paperwork after the deadline.
Rooney testified the election packet he received from the Bureau of Elections was ambiguous and there was no mention of filing paperwork with the City of Pittston. Once he realized the error, he filed it.
“In good faith, I thought my task was complete,” Rooney testified.
Zangre acknowledged she made the error but believed all her paperwork was filed properly.
Rooney, owner of Rooney’s Irish Pub on Main Street in Pittston, said he’s pleased with the ruling and now the campaign will begin in earnest.
“As I’ve said, the filing instructions were ambiguous and I’m glad the judge saw that,” he said. “Now, I’m going to get out in the community and get the true concerns of the citizens.”
Zangre, who works as a server at several restaurants, said Burke’s ruling is “fabulous.”
“We now have an election in Pittston,” Zangre said. “There is democracy in Pittston.”
Burke used a Latin phrase, “nunc pro tunc,” which means “now as of then,” in his ruling. It applies to acts that are allowed to be done after the time expired. Burke said both candidates proved they filed their statements of financial interest on time with Luzerne County Election Bureau and they were publicly available.
He was convinced instructions appeared to be “ambiguous at best.” And when both candidates learned of the error, they promptly complied.
The candidates’ efforts to establish compliance with the state Ethics Act and Election Code have been met, Burke ruled.