SHAMOKIN — Shamokin City Councilman-elect Joseph Leschinskie Jr. vowed on Wednesday that he will serve his full term despite any future efforts to remove him from office due to being a convicted felon.

Leschinskie, 36, pleaded guilty in 2009 to two felony cases of drug possession with intent to deliver cocaine, which bars him from serving as an elected official. He also has a pending criminal case with bail restrictions that ban him from attending public city council meetings and being within 100 feet of city Councilwoman Jennifer Seidel, who he allegedly threatened.

Leschinskie, a Republican, won one of two open city council seats with 517 votes on Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

“I don’t care what anyone says, I fully intend to serve my full four-year term,” said Leschinskie. “I will not let the voters down. Nobody is going to stop me. The people have spoken.”

Leschinskie said he intends to talk to his attorney and file for an emergency injunction in Northumberland County Court by the end of the week that would potentially lift the 100-foot conditions of his bail.

“I won a free and fair election,” he said. “The people put me there. We don’t have time to waste. I don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines. I want to be able to be a full participant. I talked a lot over five years, now I want to back it up.”

Leschinskie is facing five misdemeanor charges related to threatening Seidel and her husband Eric in September 2020 after a council meeting: two counts of terroristic threats and three counts of disorderly conduct; and three summary counts of disorderly conduct.

DA: The case law is clear

District Attorney Tony Matulewicz said on Wednesday he is aware of the situation, but he would not comment on a pending investigation. His office would be the investigatory agency that would take action if warranted.

While he wouldn’t comment specifically on Leschinskie’s case, he said the case law is clear: A convicted felon cannot hold public office in Pennsylvania. It is not a criminal act, but it does fall under the jurisdiction of the district attorney’s office first. If pursued, the case would be put in front of a judge and the penalty would be removal from office, he said.

“It’s called a quo warranto action that is brought to the courts to remove a public official because they’re unqualified to hold office,” said Matulewicz. “There are a variety of reasons for that: They moved out of the jurisdiction or they violated the Constitution that says you can’t hold public office if you are a convicted felon.”

If the district attorney and then the state Attorney General’s office refuses to take action, Matulewicz said a private citizen who lives within the municipality can take the action to court.

York mayor is convicted felon

Leschinskie and Matulewicz both referenced the case of Michael Helfrich, a convicted felon who was elected as Mayor of York and survived efforts to remove him from office. Helfrich, who pleaded guilty in 1991 to criminal conspiracy to commit possession with intent to distribute LSD and psilocybin mushrooms and possession of marijuana, was re-elected on Tuesday.

“Why are we trying to fight it when someone made a mistake in the past,” said Leschinskie. “For 13 years, I’ve given back to the community. I changed my ways. I believe in second chances. I wasn’t given this seat. I earned it. Why would you rob the people of this city of wanting to see change? I can understand if there was cheating or a discrepancy. I paid my debts 10 times over.”

Matulewicz said the York case was complicated. The original DA had a conflict, the AG did not pursue action and private citizens then filed the action. A new DA said he would let the citizen’s case run its course and then the citizens dropped the case.

The results are not official until all the counts and certification. No action could be taken until the election results are certified, which occurs in December, said Matulewicz.

Leschinskie said he is “honestly and totally humbled” by the voters.

Republican incumbent Barbara Moyer won the second seat on the city council with 593 votes.

Seidel, a Democrat, lost the mayoral election with 391 votes to Republican Richard Ulrich who had 732 votes.

Other case

That case is not the only one the DA’s office is prosecuting against Leschinskie. In an unrelated matter, Leschinskie is also facing three misdemeanor charges: one count of obstructing the administration of law or governmental function, one count of unlawful use of an audio or video device in court and one count of disorderly conduct. Leschinskie allegedly recorded a trooper’s testimony in Northumberland County Court in 2019.

He is scheduled for a pre-trial conference related to the threats case at 1:15 p.m. Jan. 6 in front of Senior Judge Harold Woelfel. He has no pending court dates on the recording case.

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