About Those Senator Jeff Piccola Charges….
When you aren’t liked, well, then people like to see you fall, especially when you’ve set yourself so high above others.
And that seems to be the case now with lame duck Pennsylvania Senator Jeff Piccola. Known for a marked self-assurance and uncompromising approach, Piccola has been a Senator since 1994. To the surprise of many, the senior senator announced his retirement in November 2011.
There’s been much scuttlebutt about what his next move would be. Some people have declared he retired only so he can be hired by a charter school foundation, giving suspicion to his true motivations for pushing a state-wide school voucher program right up through the end of his reign. Other people have determined he wants to become a judge, while several still say he’ll merely focus on continuing practicing law with his firm of Boswell, Tintner, Piccola, & Alford.
However, the breadth of his options will now be contingent on an October 24, 2012 hearing in front of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania where he will stand in defense of a complaint filed against him by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel charging him with violating fourteen rules of professional conduct.
As first reported at Roxbury News, the charges span claims of conflict of interest, misleading clients, and deceit.
Answering the charges, Piccola denies every one, and on the matter of deceit, Piccola states he “strongly denies” that accusation.
If Piccola would have settled this issue, the public may have very well never found out about it. But that’s not really Piccola’s style.
The Senator characterized by his “takeover” legislation—most notably of the City of Harrisburg—has always projected an air comfortable with dominance and aggressive approach, and in these proceedings, he’s no different.
The charges stem from his relationship with Kemp & Associates, a Utah based “heir-hunting” firm. When someone dies (someone with money), Kemp & Associates unsolicitedly researches, locates, and contacts possible heirs informing them that they may have a stake in the estate. They don’t name the estate until the people contacted agree to sign the contract with the company, thereby agreeing to give the company jurisdiction to collect the supposed heirs’ shares along with a 33% fee for doing so. Once given the okay, Kemp will proceed to explore the legitimacy of the claims, and if the claims are valid, Kemp will make the deal happen as long as they get their cut. Jeff Piccola is the attorney Kemp uses to assure the transaction happens.
Yet that’s where it gets dicey. The complaints filed against Piccola accuse him of not only representing the heir-hunting firm, but also the potential heirs themselves. That is, Piccola personally contacted the heirs and told them he was their attorney, asking them to sign Limited Power of Attorney forms so he, Piccola, could collect and then distribute the shares of the assets, after taking out the fees, of course. So he was the attorney for the heirs as well as for the heir-hunting firm? Hence, the claim of conflict of interest.
The complaint cites three estate cases. Each case reads similar with Kemp & Associates coming in to find the heirs and Piccola following up with correspondence claiming to be the attorney on behalf of the heirs.
Piccola’s formal Answer details a series of denials of all charges against him. His answer gives admittances and claims ignorances. Basically, Piccola declares he was Kemp & Associates representative and any other representation was a misunderstanding. He claims all correspondence sent to heirs was as an authority of Kemp. He states his activities were “completely legal and ethical.”
In his filed defense, the reasons for Piccola’s actions definitely get confusing, and apparently, the Senator’s attorney in this case, Robert Davis, is telling media that this whole thing is an “embarrassment” and unfounded. Supporters of Piccola are saying this disciplinary issue should never have surfaced to the public with one well-known elected State official (who shall go unnamed) saying, “Oh that? It’s been going for awhile. It’s no big deal.”
No big deal.
If found guilty, Jeff Piccola could have his law license suspended, and in an extreme decision by the Disciplinary Board of the PA Supreme Court, he could have his license revoked. On the light side, Piccola could merely be reprimanded, but it’s difficult to believe that will be the case with fourteen charges against him and a public awareness to boot. Again, this story didn’t just get noticed. It was noted. And that’s what happens when people are waiting for you to fall.
- Complaint in Office of Disciplinary Counsel vs Jeffrey E Piccola, Esquire
- Answer in Office of Disciplinary Counsel vs Jeffrey E Piccola, Esquire