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Charging Joan Orie Melvin: More’s the pity

Contrary to the popular Lord Acton quotation, power does not corrupt people. “Fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power,” said George Bernard Shaw.

It is a sad and tragic point to ponder in the aftermath of a third member of Pittsburgh’s once powerful and politically savvy Orie family being accused of serious public corruption — and also in the aftermath of the pervasive public corruption scandals that have been rocking Republican and Democrat “leaders” in Harrisburg for several years now.

Republican State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, in an exhaustive 76-page Allegheny County grand jury presentment, is charged with using her publicly paid staffers to run for the high court seat she won in 2009. The charges, nine total, include theft, conspiracy, solicitation to tamper with or fabricate evidence, official oppression and misapplication of entrusted property.

Four of the charges are felonies. Some are related to the crimes for which Mrs. Melvin’s sister, Jane Orie, the state Senate’s once powerful GOP majority whip, already has been convicted. A third Orie sister, Janine, who worked for her sisters, awaits trial on related public corruption charges.

The sisters Orie appear to have foolishly fallen into the double trap reserved for politicians and adolescents — “Everybody’s doing it” and “I am invincible.”

More’s the pity for them. But more’s the pity more for Pennsylvania.


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