"When I became York's mayor, I took an oath of office to defend the Constitution of this great nation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the City Charter.
In the wake of Mr. Helfrich's election to City Council late last year, I made a thorough, soul-searching analysis, based on legal precedent then available, the words of my oath of office, and the advice of legal counsel.
As a mayor duty-bound to her oath of office, in January, I filed an In Quo Warranto Complaint to the York County Court of Common Pleas challenging the seating of Mr. Helfrich based on the undisputed fact that he is a twice convicted felon, the settled law at that time, and my conscience.
Contrary to the misleading speculations of a few cynics, I did not make this decision lightly, and it was not based on personal preference or prejudice. I made the decision after much analysis, counsel and soul searching, and it was not easy.
Pennsylvania case law was clear on the matter. Since 1842 and including three cases in the last 12 years, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has said consistently and clearly that all crimes are felonies under Pennsylvania law are infamous crimes. Therefore, under the clear wording of Article II, Section 7 of our state Constitution, which bars those guilty of an "infamous crime" from holding elected office, no citizen with a felony record could serve as an elected official of any body in our Commonwealth, including city councils.
My administration is surprised, therefore, by the county court's very fact-specific and narrow ruling that heavily relies on the State Supreme Court's 2011 Rambler decision, which still held that the elected official in question had been convicted of an infamous crime.
As a result, as long as those with felony records are elected to office - and Pennsylvania municipalities have witnessed several over the past two decades - the issue of who can serve and who cannot will be debated and litigated, at a substantial cost to the public trust and our communities' visions.
In such cases, at the local level, we still are expected to wade through the thick judicial mist of a subjective seven-part test to try to discover the right answer. Our General Assembly could remove this burden and resolve this issue once and for all by clearly defining what crimes are infamous for purposes of who should be seated to elected office. Consider the resources consumed across this Commonwealth by local, county and the state government challenging elections because our Pennsylvania government has not fixed this, and those, all of our elected officials are duty bound by an oath of office to uphold the Constitution, thus time and again forcing precarious burdens placed on those in office.
Recall, I have previously stated that it is tempting to ignore inconvenient laws when doing so will, we think, further a good purpose. It is easy to rationalize such inaction. But as the Mayor of the City of York, I am charged by the Law and my Oath of Office to enforce the Charter and Ordinances of the City as well as the Pennsylvania Constitution, even when it may be unpopular.
Nevertheless, we fully acknowledge that the county court has spoken, and we accept and will abide by its ruling. I will not appeal the ruling. I also want to express my respect for President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh and the Court of Common Pleas. Reasonable people can agree to disagree in a democratic society while still being civil and being able to respect and work with each other. Such is the case here. We will focus on our future and what unites and catalyze us as Yorkers.
Today, we need a united community that focuses on the future. York has been through a lot in the last few years and even months. From the Lillie Belle Allen murder trials, to the recent Bonusgate trials, to gang and senseless violence, to a drug trade that destroys families and lives, York has endured much. I also wish to reinforce my respect for Mr. Helfrich. The community should know that Mr. Helfrich and I have worked together before I was Mayor and before he was a Councilperson. We will continue to work together with mutual respect toward a great future for our City.
Despite our challenges and setbacks, we have achieved positive momentum because of people, projects, and policies that make our York a vibrant, creative, and resilient community. Distractions, diversions, and crime constantly conspire to threaten, however, our fragile momentum and unity.
In our Strategic Comprehensive Plan, our administration's 18 major campaigns and initiatives, we have a dynamic, pro-active vision and strategic steps to make our York a great city. And we need all available minds and hands on deck.
From intensifying community policing in all neighborhoods; to implementing measures and regionalizing resources to stabilize property taxes; to transforming blight into assets; to growing our tax base and jobs city-wide; to ramping up code and zoning enforcement to improve curb appeal and our quality of life; to cultivating a critical mass of fresh foods venues and downtown destinations; to building a clean, green and serene York; to adding market-rate residences and single-family homes that anchor neighborhoods; to moving dusty plans into action; to adding creative venues to realize our destiny as Pennsylvania's Arts and Design Capital, we have new dawns to discover together.
We are working hard to achieve that dynamic, holistic vision every day while pleading for real reform in Harrisburg that gives core communities like York more fiscal freedom and stability. Appealing the court's decision would distract and divert us, as a community, from that vision and from addressing the challenges that, as a unified community, we can overcome. A legal albatross that will be around our collective neck for months, if not years to come, would be a distraction to what York is all about and what it can yet become.
I have fulfilled my oath of office and duty by following the legal precedent and my conscience earlier this year. Now that the court has spoken, it is time to focus on the future. With animosity and acrimony for none, with goodwill and good faith for all, with forbearance and faith in our hearts, and with a disciplined dream to forge our future, we will work together for our York. I earnestly invite you all to join me in the great quest before us."
Mayor Kim Bracey