HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Former legislative aide Patrick Lavelle, testifying Friday in the corruption trial of former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon, said that he continued to doing political fundraising work after joining the staff of the then-Democratic Whip Keith McCall in 2007.
Later Friday, McCall, through his Press Secretary Bob Caton, said that if Lavelle did any fundraising, it was without his knowledge..
"The policy in this office is that political work on state time is forbidden. If Lavelle's testimony claims he did any fundraising on state time while on my staff he did so without my knowledge or approval and in direct violation of our policy," said McCall, who has not been charged with wrongdoing.
Lavelle, who previously pleaded guilty to charges in the case and is cooperating with the attorney general's office, said he spent 80 percent of his taxpayer-paid time doing political fundraising work while on Veon's staff. He testified that he sent e-mails, invitations and memos as part of the fundraising work he conducted while on Veon's staff until late 2006.
"It was a regular and routine practice for (political) activities to take place throughout the work day," Lavelle testified.
Veon occasionally ordered his staff to assemble invitations to a fundraising event or approved the text, Lavelle said. In one e-mail shown by prosecutors, Veon wrote that the invitation should have "nice inserts that we do on good stock with good design ... should be able to do all of that in house."
Veon and three former aides are on trial in an investigation that led to charges against 25 people with ties to the state House. The trial, in its 14th day Friday, was expected to continue for another two weeks.
All four defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, theft and conflict of interest stemming from what witnesses describe as various schemes to divert taxpayer-paid employees and resources into political campaigns.
Under cross-examination by a defense lawyer Friday, Lavelle acknowledged that Veon never ordered him to complete a fundraising task before 5 p.m. on a week day.
Lavelle also did not dispute the assertion that he continued fundraising after joining McCall's staff.
"You continued to do fundraising as part of your job with Speaker McCall?" defense lawyer Dan Raynak asked. "You continued to send out memos and e-mails during the work day with Speaker McCall?"
"That's correct," Lavelle replied.
In some instances, Lavelle said, he took leave to do the fundraising. He indicated that his work for McCall was largely legitimate. "The vast majority of time I worked for him the approach was different," he added.
McCall, D-Carbon, became House speaker last year.
In an interview with Associated Press reporter Marc Levy, McCall's chief of staff, Paul Parsells, said he was stunned that Lavelle would give such testimony. Parsells said Lavelle was told when he was hired that no political work was to be done on state time. McCall echoed the sentiment in a statement through his office.
The office was only aware that Lavelle did fundraising for McCall outside of state time, Parsells said. He called Lavelle a talented policy aide who, he thought, was careful to separate legislative and political work.
Lavelle was not asked by Raynak to give a specific date when he stopped fundraising work or a reason why he stopped. Raynak also did not ask Lavelle whether McCall's office knew what Lavelle was doing.
Lavelle lost his job with McCall when he was charged in July 2008. In all, 15 people connected to the House Democratic caucus and 10 tied to the Republican caucus were charged. Seven have pleaded guilty, one was acquitted in December and 13 await trial.
Veon's lawyers have tried to show that political work on state time was a widespread practice. In addition, they have questioned whether legislative aides who worked long hours could reasonably say when their legislative work ended and politics began.
Veon lost his November 2006 election. He was replaced as whip by McCall.