SCRANTON – A state appellate court has upheld a Lackawanna County judge’s ruling that dismissed a lawsuit filed by a man who sought to recover rent money that retired state Sen. Robert Mellow paid to a business that was partly owned by his spouse.
Joseph Pilchesky of Scranton filed suit against Mellow, alleging that from 2001 to 2008 he violated the state Ethics Act by using his position for financial gain by renting his district office from Brad Inc., which at the time was co-owned by Mellow’s now ex-wife, Diane.
The suit sought to force Mellow, who retired in November, to repay $240,277 to the state Senate as well as $250,000 in punitive damages that would be paid to a charity of Pilchesky’s choice.
A Lackawanna County judge dismissed the suit in August after determining Pilchesky lacked legal standing to bring the suit. The court held the state Senate and the Ethics Commission were better situated to assert the claim.
The Superior Court agreed. The court noted the Ethics Commission was the more appropriate agency to file a claim against Mellow since it is vested with the legal authority to investigate ethical violations of public officials.
Mellow’s rental of his office from Brad Inc. first became public in 2009, when The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the deal. The newspaper said federal agents interviewed Diane Mellow as part of an inquiry into the rental arrangement
Mellow’s legislative office in Peckville and home in Archbald were raided by agents with the FBI and IRS in June 2010. At the time, Frank Burton Jr., a special agent with the FBI’s Philadelphia office, said the searches were part of an ongoing investigation into “alleged illegal activities” of Mellow. No charges have been filed against Mellow.