Pittsburgh Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle was arraigned this morning on three charges of theft by deception, three charges of criminal conspiracy, three charges of violation of the state Ethics Act, five Election Code violations, and three charges of failing to file required financial disclosures.
The charges, presented in a seven-page criminal complaint filed with District Judge Charles A. McLaughlin’s office, detail what appears to be a four-person conspiracy to siphon city taxdollars through “consultants” to Ms. Carlisle. The complaint says she “diverted” $43,160 through consultants Darlene Durham, Lee Otto Johnson and Sheryl Pinson-Smith “for her own personal benefit.”
The next steps are a fingerprinting scheduled for 7:40 tonight, and a preliminary hearing to occur at the judge’s office on April 19, unless it is waived. Ms. Carlisle was released on her own recognizance after agreeing to attend that hearing.
Ms. Carlisle had no comment upon entering and leaving Judge McLaughlin’s office, other than to say she did not steal city money.
The councilwoman is “doing very well, and she’s still going forth with her campaign,” said Ms. Carlisle’s mother, Constance Parker. “The people will make the call on that.”
She then made comments suggesting that a bias against African-American women may be at work, citing radio personality Don Imus’ recent comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.
“And also, you know, if you look at our society, any time you have a person come out and say, ‘rough, tough, nappy-headed hos,’ this is what our society thinks of women, women as a whole,” Ms. Parker said. “So it’s really a dangerous type situation, how we can be handled when things happen. . . It’s difficult, but we’ll make it through, because we’ve got greater powers.”
The three financial disclosure charges relate to deposits made into Ms. Carlisle’s personal bank account totalling $38,310 that were either gifts or indirect sources of income, according to the complaint, and should have been reported to the state.
The perjury and Election Code charges can each bring terms of 5 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine, according to the complaint. The penalties associated with the other charges are not specified.
Ms. Carlisle, 48 and of East Hills, was a staffer to her predecessor, current county Recorder of Deeds Valerie McDonald-Roberts, before being chosen as councilwoman in a 2002 special election. She won a full term easily in 2003, but faces seven rivals in the May 15 Democratic primary.