OLD FORGE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Robert Semenza Jr., the President of the Old Forge Borough Council, is being federally charged with bribery, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Between January 2019 and February 2020, Attorney Bruce D. Brandler says Semenza Jr. accepted cash payments in exchange for promising official acts, specifically in connection to a civil litigation filed by Old Forge Borough against a local business owner in a dispute over zoning ordinances.
In exchange for payments, Semenza Jr. allegedly agreed to vote and advocate on the business owner’s behalf in front of the Old Forge Borough Council, court papers say.
In November 2019, court documents say an individual with the company, which has not been named, emailed Semenza Jr. a proposed resolution for the civil action filed by Old Forge, they instructed Semenza Jr. to provide the proposed resolution to the Old Forge Borough Solicitor telling him “make sure you forwarded my email”.
Court documents say Semenza Jr. accepted $5,000 from the business in exchange for support and votes from the council, saying “let me know what you need, I’ll do whatever you need”.
Semenza Jr. created the false appearance of legitimacy of these cash payments, referring to them as loans, the court papers stated.
“When public officials use their office to line their pockets rather than serve the public it
not only constitutes a serious crime but also breeds cynicism and undermines the electorate’s
faith in government,” said Brandler.
Semenza Jr. pleaded guilty to the charges against him.