A former Donora Borough councilman was ordered to pay a fine after the State Ethics Commission found he committed violations by collecting monetary benefits for his small business through his position on council.
Jimmie B. Coulter, 64, reportedly collected small business loans from a subordinate borough employee, directed borough staff to complete insurance paperwork for his business and failed to file required financial documents.
Coulter was elected to serve on borough council in 2014, and named vice president in 2016. He lost re-election in 2017.
The commission ordered Coulter pay a $500 fine to the commonwealth. No further action will be taken by the commission if he completes his part of the consent order, according to court documents.
The violations began after Coulter’s local business, Ondray’s Deli, was significantly damaged when a pipe burst May 22, 2016.
On June 3, he reportedly directed borough employees to complete paperwork for his insurance claim. An intern was directed by another employee to prioritize the insurance documents over borough business. The task took more than one business day. Coulter later directed staff to
complete an inventory of Pennsylvania Lottery tickets. The borough billed Coulter $334.07 for scanning, copying and labor costs, which Coulter paid.
When council members confronted Coulter about his actions after a meeting with solicitors, he acknowledged his actions were unacceptable. He told them his personal computer was damaged by flooding, and he could not file the claim himself, according to the commission’s ruling.
In October 2016, Coulter reportedly collected loans totaling $5,600 from a subordinate borough employee. At the time, the employee was looking for a new job after receiving reprimands from borough council and hearing rumors he would be fired.
Coulter first asked the employee for a $600 loan, saying he was having financial difficulties reopening his business. Coulter repaid the loan after receiving an insurance check for about $7,000. The employee told commission investigators he agreed to give Coulter the loan because he felt sorry for him, but felt some pressure because of Coulter’s position on council.
One week later, Coulter again told the employee he was having financial trouble and asked for a $20,000 loan. The employee said he could not loan Coulter that much, according the commission’s findings. Coulter then reportedly asked for a $5,000 loan, which the employee said he would pay after receiving a Christmas Club check. Coulter told the employee he would repay the loan with monthly $500 payments. They did not have an official loan agreement.
After receiving the savings check, the employee told investigators he was reluctant to loan Coulter the money. He said he hoped if he delayed the payment, Coulter would stop asking for the money. The employee said Coulter pressured him for the money, contacting him twice at the borough office and again while completing borough business, prompting him to give Coulter the loan. After giving Coulter the money, he said “You know I’ve got your back,” the employee told investigators.
The employee told investigators he was concerned he would lose Coulter’s support to keep him employed by the borough if he did not give him the loan. Coulter directed the employee to keep the loan a secret. He did not make repayments as promised in November or December 2016, according to the documents.
Coulter also failed to complete required Statement of Financial Interest forms in 2013 and 2014, and left required areas blank on the 2015 form. He is required to complete the paperwork as part of the order, in addition to paying the fine.
The ethics commission will close the case if the order is followed, according to the consent agreement.
In addition to the commission’s ruling, Coulter is also facing criminal charges related to his business. He was charged earlier this year for allegedly exchanging $2,676 in foodstamps at Ondray’s for things they could not be used for. Authorities charged him with access device fraud, improperly buying or exchanging foodstamps, fraudulently trafficking in food orders and theft.