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York mayor case: Residents vow to again challenge Michael Helfrich's eligibility to serve

Written by Dylan Segelbaum/The York Daily Record | Feb 2, 2018 5:15 PM
michael_helfrich12.jpg

York city mayor-elect Michael Helfrich. (Photo by Jason Plotkin/York Daily Record

(York) -- Six people who had filed a lawsuit to remove York Mayor Michael Helfrich from office because of his felony convictions said on Friday that their former attorney withdrew the complaint without permission -- and that they plan to refile the case.

In a statement, Rick Loper, Margaret Eckles-Ray, Toni Smith, Carla Evette Freeland, Anthony Orr and Kim Murray said the attorney, Karen Comery, did not have and did not seek their authorization to discontinue the lawsuit on Jan. 8.

"She did not even speak to any of us in advance about her action," Loper said in the statement. "We only found out about her withdrawing the case after she had done so."

When reached by phone, Comery said, "I am no longer involved with the case. They may say whatever they wish."

At the time, Comery said in a statement that the decision to withdraw the complaint was "based on several factors and in no way addresses the merits and/or underlying facts concerning the action." She noted that it could be reinitiated in the future.

In 1991, Helfrich, who was then 21, pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy to commit possession with intent to distribute LSD and psilocybin mushrooms and possession of marijuana.

Common Pleas Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh held in 2012 that Helfrich had never been convicted of an "infamous crime" and could continue to serve on York City Council. Mayor Kim Bracey had filed that complaint.

Watch, understanding the case against Helfrich (story continues below):

In an interview, Helfrich said he was "not surprised" about the renewed challenge.

"As far as we're concerned, we're focused on the city," Helfrich said. "They can continue to make these efforts to distract us, but the people that are actually watching what we're doing want us to keep doing it."

Loper, Eckles-Ray, Smith, Freeland, Orr and Murray also sent out a letter from District Attorney Dave Sunday in which he wrote that he would not bring a challenge.

Former District Attorney Tom Kearney -- who had recused himself because he previously represented Helfrich -- and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro refused to take action. Because the lawsuit was filed after that happened, Sunday said, the plaintiffs had standing to sue.

Sunday said his decision should not be viewed as a comment in favor or against the complaint. Neither should it be looked at "as how this office will proceed in the future regarding individuals with felony convictions seeking and obtaining a public office," he said.

Loper, who's listed as a spokesman for the plaintiffs, could not be reached.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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