One week after the case challenging the validity of Jay Breneman's petition for state representative was thrown out of Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, the former Erie County Councilman could be in the hot seat again.
In a case filed April 12 in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas, a group of seven voters from the City of Erie are requesting an audit of Breneman's campaign finance reports from his 2017 mayoral race. They claim Breneman and his campaign never filed $29,000 in campaign contributions and expenses. Annual campaign finance reports from the previous year are required to be filed with the commonwealth by Jan. 31.
According to a copy of the civil lawsuit obtained by Erie News Now on Monday, the group claims the Breneman campaign purchased advertisements in several local print publications under the name "Friends of Jay Breneman." Those ads totaled more than $23,000, the petitioners claims. The campaign found another $6,005.56 in a remaining cash balance
Erie City Councilman Mel Witherspoon is among the petitioners. Others include Tina M. Thomas, Marcia A. Tome, Lucille A. Eberlein, Jason Gianoni, Jason Figurski and Daryn Bailey.
The Pa. Election Code allows any five electors of the appropriate political subdivision to petition the court for an audit of a campaign finance report.
The petitioners are represented by Ryan Mergl, Esq., a Sharon, Pa.-based attorney who is also the chairperson of the Mercer County Democratic Party. Mergl said he was not working on behalf of either of Breneman's Democratic opponents in the primary election for 2nd Legislative District State Representative, Erie City Councilman Bob Merski and former Erie Mayor Rick Filippi. Mergl is working only for the petitioners, who sought out his services, he said.
Breneman was unaware of the lawsuit when Erie News Now reached out to him Monday afternoon.
"It would seem I have become the target of retributive and dirty political games once again," Breneman said.
A date for the hearing has not been set, Mergl said.
Last week, a judge dismissed the objection to Breneman's nominating petition for a Pennsylvania State House seat in which the validity of more than 120 signatures were challenged. If proven invalid, Breneman would have been ineligible to appear for the May 15 primary election.
Breneman is one of three Democrats and two Republicans, Laban Marsh and Timothy Kuzma, seeking the 2nd Legislative District State Representative seat currently held by State Rep. Flo Fabrizio, who is retiring at the end of his term this year.