A second letter regarding Washington Councilman Matthew Staniszewski is being sent to Gov. Tom Wolf – this one from the councilman’s lawyer threatening an injunction should the governor attempt to remove Staniszewski from office.
In the letter he sent Thursday, Sean Logue informed the governor that he “will vigorously defend the councilman.” He said in the letter than any attempt to remove Staniszewski from his position on council is “unconstitutional.”
His letter was sent two days after Mayor Scott Putnam and Councilmen Ken Westcott and Joe Manning sent a letter requesting the governor remove Staniszewski from office following his arrest last week for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Logue states in his letter that he has been retained by Staniszewski to represent him for a “pending traffic matter.”
On Tuesday, city police charged Staniszewski, 42, of 23 Buttonwood Ave., with DUI, a misdemeanor, and restrictions on alcoholic beverages, a summary traffic offense, following his arrest Aug. 26. According to the criminal complaint, Staniszewski was unconscious in his car on East Wheeling Street, near Shaffer Avenue, about 1:13 p.m. His car was blocking traffic, and there were four empty airplane-sized bottles of liquor on the floor, police said.
When police asked Staniszewski for his driver’s license, he gave them his American Express card and his council member badge before handing them his entire wallet, police said. They said Staniszewski refused multiple times to submit to a blood test and eventually was released into the custody of his father.
The same day the charges were filed, Manning, Westcott and Putnam signed and sent their letter to the governor, state Sen. Camera Bartolotta and state Rep. Tim O’Neal.
“Councilman Staniszewski has shown absolutely no remorse for his wreck-less (sic) and embarrassing behavior, and to allow him to continue to serve in office will further erode public confidence given the multiple violations of the law,” they wrote in the letter.
Logue said that should the governor take action to remove Staniszewski, he would file for an injunction.
“This is all political distraction,” Logue said. “Matt’s just doing the best job he can do. He’s been blindsided by this attempt to remove him. He’s a longtime public servant, and he deserves better than this from his colleagues.”
In the letter that he also sent to Bartolotta and O’Neal, Logue claims the city’s initial letter was a political ploy by Putnam, who is running for re-election this year.
“The bond rating for the City of Washington was recently downgraded, and despite promises to the contrary, he has raised taxes three times in the last three years,” Logue wrote in the letter.
Logue, who is a property owner in the city, claims the council members’ letter was orchestrated by Putnam as a “political distraction” for voters.
“The mayor is an absolute disaster and is using this simple DUI as a political distraction in an election year,” Logue said. “I believe he would like nothing more than to get Matt to resign and appoint one of his cronies. This is a complicated scheme.”
Putnam said their letter wasn’t politically motivated, but rather motivated by “the embarrassment caused by Councilman Staniszewski’s recent actions.”
Similarly, Westcott said Wednesday that the letter wasn’t “personal” and that he’s a friend of Staniszewski. Manning also said Wednesday that he doesn’t consider Staniszewski a “political opponent” and that he signed the letter because of the DUI.
“He could have very easily killed someone that afternoon,” Manning said Wednesday. “He couldn’t tell the difference between an American Express card and a driver’s license. At this point, I don’t have a lot of faith in his judgment to deal with public policy and make decisions that affect the public. You’re governing a city and making decisions that affect people’s lives.”
Manning said residents and taxpayers are calling for Staniszewski to resign and want the rest of council to remove him, since he’s still getting pay and benefits. Manning said they can’t force him to resign and that the only action they could take was to petition the governor.
This was Staniszewski’s fourth DUI arrest since 2004. Two of those arrests happened during his first term on council, including an incident in 2007 when he crashed a vehicle in North Strabane Township with a blood-alcohol content of 0.29 percent.
In February 2018, North Strabane Township police cited Staniszewski for summary public drunkenness after he reportedly became aggressive with employees at a local pizza restaurant while appearing to be intoxicated. Manning said Wednesday that Staniszewski’s appearing intoxicated became an issue “during at least one council meeting and at least one agenda meeting.”
Staniszewski has another two years to serve in his third nonconsecutive term on council.