The man who once sued York County for losing his hat while he was in prison has won a tiebreaker to win a six-year term as a township auditor.
Marlin Cutshall, a 73-year-old Conewago Township gadfly known for his "Fight Mafia Lawyer Scum" campaign, said the victory will help him further his self-proclaimed "revolutionary battle."
Despite being a household name to much of York County and in spite of having run for everything from state representative to township supervisor over the past 30 years, this marks his first win in more attempts than even he has counted.
Cutshall and fellow candidate Pat McCoy were tied after each having received three write-in votes during the Nov. 5 election, but county elections officials selected a winner by the customary pulling of numbers from an old Utz Potato Chips tin. Cutshall won because the number pulled for him (443) was lower than the number pulled for McCoy (478), said Nikki Suchanic, the county's director of Elections and Voter Registration.
Colorful history: Cutshall, sitting at his kitchen table Thursday beside a stack of papers that he calls one of his "battle stations," proudly displayed his Certificate of Election from the York County Board of Elections. He said his plans for the office, for which he said he won't be paid, include doing whatever he wants because he'll be "an elected politician."
It remains to be seen whether Cutshall, who has been jailed at least 14 times by his own count, will actually get to fulfill that goal.
The Pennsylvania Constitution bars people from serving in elected positions if they were convicted of "an infamous crime," with felonies typically being classified as such, said Department of State Press Secretary Ron Ruman.
Cutshall's most recent incarceration in York County Prison came after a jury in 1992 found him guilty of making terroristic threats because he said he would walk into the York County Bar Association and "blow everybody away." Cutshall on Thursday maintained that he only said "someone should" blow the lawyers away, a position he has held for years, and he said he doesn't care if someone legally challenges his right to take his seat.
While he's pleased to be auditor-elect, he said the "greatest win would be if they now throw me out because I'm a felon."
"I'm a gadfly," he said. "I'm a fly on a horse that gets slapped away and keeps coming back. ... I want to arouse enough people -- because the American people are sheep-le -- to do something, to take some action."
A former teacher with a master's degree plus 30 credits in education, Cutshall said he hasn't held a job since he was 40 and lost his position teaching Spanish in an area school district because he wasn't paying income taxes from the family fruit stand he operated.
The stand was torn down and burned after the land it sat on was sold and Cutshall lost his lease to the property.
That's about the time he became "eccentric," he said, and he decided a "revolutionary" should not work another day.
A challenge: For Cutshall to be found ineligible to hold the seat, an interested party such as a Conewago Township taxpayer or York County District Attorney Tom Kearney would have to file a legal challenge in the Court of Common Pleas and allow the courts to decide whether his crime was "infamous," Ruman said.
The District Attorney's Office doesn't move forward with a case until a resident files a complaint, said Kyle King, chief administrator. He said he's holding his opinion on Cutshall's victory, noting that nobody had filed a complaint as of Thursday afternoon.
The District Attorney's Office has pursued other politicians with criminal histories, he said, including two high-profile cases in recent years.
In 2011, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that ousted Wrightsville Mayor Steve Rambler committed an "infamous crime" that would preclude him from holding public office. In 1996, Rambler was ordered to serve two years of probation and pay a fine after he pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge for soliciting sexually explicit correspondence, including nude photos, from people he contacted through swingers' magazines.
He then sent letters threatening to reveal the correspondence unless they paid him $50, records state.
And in August 2012, York County Common Pleas President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh ruled that York City councilman Michael Helfrich was eligible for public office despite a felony drug conviction more than 20 years ago.
Auditing job: Elected township auditors meet annually the day after the board of supervisors' reorganization meeting, according to the state's Second Class Township Code.
While they typically audit and adjust township accounts, Conewago Township Manager Lou Anne Bostic said the township already hires an accounting firm for that work.
Auditor tasks also include setting the compensation rate for supervisors who work for the township, but Bostic said Conewago Township doesn't have any.
Cutshall said he plans to identify areas of spending with which he disagrees and try to effect change. He cited as an example the purchase of two "unneeded" benches installed at a nearby township-owned basketball court.
"The young people there can sit on the ground," he said. "It's not like they'd have an audience."
He said he's especially looking forward to the access he will have to documents he has been denied as a private citizen.
Cutshall has been a household name to much of York County. He made headlines in the 90s for making unexpected and (to the judgement of some officials) profane comments at public meetings, experiencing various legal issues and insisting on representing himself. He blames lawyers for many of society's injustices, listing his own occupation as "political gadfly."
He sued the county in 1997, about a year after being released from prison on the threat conviction, because he believed the prison "intentionally lost" his trademark fedora.
He wanted the county to either produce the hat or pay him $50, but he declined the $20 the county offered him and eventually lost the case after pursuing it in district court.
Bostic said she has worked for the township for 25 years and has known Cutshall most of that time, but she has been so busy that she "hasn't had time to process" what she thinks of Cutshall's win.
"I just hope everything goes OK," she said.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.