Former Ford City Councilman Sentenced to Jail, House Arrest

Thomas Shaffer, shown in this 2009 photo, was sentenced yesterday to two months in incarceration and eight months of house arrest in addition to 100 hours of community service and paying a final payment of $10,000 back to Rep. Jeff Pyle’s campaign.

by Jonathan Weaver

A county judge has sentenced a Ford City man who stole from State Rep. Jeff Pyle’s campaign fund to terms of house arrest and incarceration.

Thomas Dean Shaffer, 52, of 309 O`Connor Street was sentenced to two months in the Armstrong County Jail and eight months of house arrest under electronic monitoring, in addition to restitution charges, Tuesday morning by Judge Kenneth Valasek.

Court records show $30,614.77 was stolen during Pyle’s 2010 campaign throughout 16 check payments. Shaffer has paid $27,000 of that total owed in restitution payments. Shaffer must also pay an additional $6,500 for court fees under the plea agreement.

“It comes obvious to me that there wasn’t just one moment – this was a course of conduct that happened over a period of time and didn’t happen in what could be argued as a weak moment,” Valasek said. “This was thought out.”

Still, Valasek took the amount already repaid toward Pyle into account before delivering the sentence, finding probation too weak because of the severity of the crime and total incarceration too strong because of the paid amount.

“Making victims whole is part of the duties of this court and I want to promote the practice of people paying back money before sentencing,” Valasek said.

Shaffer also can not have any contact with Pyle, either at his home or offices and must perform 100 hours of community service.

Following the sentencing, Pyle said he respected Judge Valasek’s decision.

“I’ll accept it, but it’s disappointing,” Pyle said. “I was more worried about clearing my name in the eyes of the State – which I did. I was a little taken aback by the lightness of the judge’s sentence, but I’ll respect it.”

Shaffer did not have any comments before his sentence. His attorney, Scott A. Bitar of Bitar & Bitar, LLC in New Kensington, did not return phone calls to his office to comment.

District Attorney Scott Andreassi said he thought the sentence was appropriate.

“It is an appropriate sentence and as of today, Tom Shaffer is a convicted felon,” Andreassi said.

Shaffer has applied for work release, but the status of which is unknown since it did not reach Valasek before his sentencing began at approximately 9:40AM Tuesday.

Before the sentence, Pyle said many personal and political hardships that resulted from Shaffer’s actions were untold.

“No where in here is mention of me having to tell my 14-and 12-year-old daughters that all they could say was ‘no comment’ for months,” Pyle said.

Pyle said he was required to get a $25,000 donation from a campaign supporter three days before his election.

“I just wish this thing was done and behind me,” Pyle testified.

Investigation into the payments began with a check bank officials denied because of insufficient funds.

Valasek said that Shaffer embarrassed many during his behavior, including Pyle, Ford City residents – because of being a former councilman and past-Ford City Borough Municipal Sewage Disposal Authority – and himself.

“You just plain-out embarrassed them down there,” Valasek said.

Shaffer was arrested in November and served two days in the Armstrong County Jail before a $50,000 bail was paid.

  • By birdseyeview, August 24, 2011 @ 6:20 AM

    2 months in jail… THAT’s IT!! For a man who was trusted by fellow residents and campaign workers. This guy stole 30,000. I bet the guy who robbed the banks in Armstrong county a few months back will get 10 yrs in prison for his crimes. Where is the justice??? More back door politics in shady armstrong county judical sysytem. Way to screw up another case.

  • By RYOUKIDDIN, August 24, 2011 @ 7:18 AM

    Wow is that all the jail time he received,R you kiddin. As far as work release, I guess we will be seeing him strutting around Ford Street as usual while his victims have to walk the same street to get to work. Some thing just are not right.

  • By walrus, August 24, 2011 @ 7:26 AM

    What a joke!!!!

  • By player24, August 24, 2011 @ 7:26 AM

    hahahahahahahahahahahaha

  • By JohnK, August 24, 2011 @ 8:31 AM

    I don’t care if he paid the money back or paid double the amount. The only reason he did that was because he was caught. He stole a large amount of money and should be punished for that.
    Letting him out to play house with his wife is a joke too. People wonder why this county has gone downhill. The sentancing makes it worthwhile to be a criminal.

  • By Lancret, August 24, 2011 @ 5:22 PM

    It is shame to see how far this area has fallen when something like this occurs. It is scary that somebody like this could come sweeping into a small town and gain a tribe of followers with some wiseguy talk and false promises. The scary part is how gullible the people were and some still are in their expression of loyalty.

    There will be a time to question the financial oversight of Mr. Pyle’s books, but that is not the question or the issue at this time. The issue is, “Have we learned anything from this?”

    It is a shame to say, but the one thing we have learned quite clearly is that the judicial process needs reviewed and reformed.

    It truly is a sad day for this area.

  • By mutchka, August 24, 2011 @ 5:39 PM

    30000 for 60 days thats 500 bucks he got for each day in jail so he could have stole a million and only got 6 years.Watch they will give the other dummy 50 years for what he stole from the fire company.

  • By DIG, August 24, 2011 @ 6:51 PM

    Good luck people of Ford City he is going to be back on your streets

  • By fordcitygirl, August 24, 2011 @ 7:36 PM

    Stop helping him. By supporting his business. I will never till the day I die eat there. He stole money from a good man. And got caught. And that the story. So when you go in there and hes smiling thank yourself for helping him. he makes me sick.

  • By scott_starr, August 24, 2011 @ 8:32 PM

    To me the question is if he “borrowed” $30K, and then started paying it back, where did the cash come from?

    Part of the duties of the court is to “make victims whole?”….. I thought it was justice, but OK… Then is it not also the courts duty to make sure the perpatrator has not benefitted from his crime? Merely paying back the money is not enough.

  • By Jan, August 24, 2011 @ 8:46 PM

    Just proof-positive that committing a crime is not a deterrent for more bad behavior. 2 months is a mere slap on the wrist and sets an example that it’s “ok” to steal…. and don’t you wonder where he got the money to repay Pyle?…..just sayin…

  • By Sade Lee, August 24, 2011 @ 8:54 PM

    Not to eworry- as all other habitual criminals, he won’t be able to handle being honest. Eventually he will screw up– then it’s bye bye
    Tommy boy. You can take that to the bank.

  • By ocean1, August 24, 2011 @ 9:46 PM

    Looks like people are wising up about the crooks in Ford City, what is really happening. Shaffer put his people in place and one by one they are going to get caught. Courts might let you off the hook, but judgement day won’t.

  • By John, August 25, 2011 @ 3:36 AM

    Remember when Mayor Mantini was defending Tom Shaffer when people put out the his criminal record on poles. Just show how how easy he can be duped. What else were they duped about? Not much confidence in the public officials, plus the fact they want to shut people up that try to speak the true about issues.

  • By player24, August 25, 2011 @ 7:11 AM

    Shaffer and Zionkowski need to share a jail cell!!!!Then Shaffer can mentor him even more than he already has….Crooks!!

  • By ocean1, August 25, 2011 @ 8:07 PM

    Lancret said it all, come on people wake up and take the town back. November will be here very soon.
    Run the crooks out, stand up for yourself and don’t back down

  • By Lancret, August 25, 2011 @ 11:37 PM

    It is not just the elections; it is the acceptance of these criminals and corruption artists who rub elbows with those with authority. Taking the town back includes applying caution when these types of people are involved in local projects, local committees, local government, etc. Who do these people spend time with? Who are their associates? This is not paranoia. This is applying reasonable caution to protect yourself and your interests.

    The facts do not lie. The court cases and their decisions do not lie. The guilty pleas do not lie. There is something here. I still hear people try to defend the actions of the people who commit these crimes, while trying to downplay the crimes. Where are we going as a society? Are we really that gullible to throw our beliefs into some smooth-talking words just because we like the sounds of the words? What about character? Does character mean anything anymore? Which holds more weight….a person’s words spoken to a selective audience or a person’s character which deals with such things as a person’s intent and behavior? It is quite easy to change, retract or deny words, but character is worn on a person’s sleeve. It speaks volumes by itself. It is the perception of the people in the community. What are some of us missing when we apply our perception? Should we have pity? Are we unforgiving?

    Is this issue really that scary or is it the people who continue to embrace these people even after the facts have been laid out on the table of public opinion allowing for that door to be opened to judge the character of these people.

    Even though we may not agree on the decision of the courts and the judges, isn’t it really about how we move forward? Has this opened our eyes as a community and as a people? What can do we do to prevent this from occurring, again? Should we not ask MORE questions when controversial figures appear from nowhere with all of the alleged right answers? Which people came forth and supported and defended this behavior? Does this say anything about their character? Has anybody heard ANY apologies from them? Do they even feel the need to apologize or are they so aloof and narrow-minded that they feel that they have been the ones who have been persecuted? Somehow these people have become the victims? With all sincerity, how and when did this occur that the roles were reversed? They made an error or mistake and entrusted their loyalty to a person of questionable character. Was it a mistake or an error in judgement, if so, where is the apology to the people?

    Ford City needs to bring integrity back into the community. Time will heal the wounds, but let’s hope that a seed has been planted in the minds of the people to not allow this to happen, again. It seemed so easy for everybody to jump on the bandwagon which was put together with buzzwords and false promises. It is easy to talk the talk….many can do this, but you also need to walk the walk. The people who did step up and ask questions were ridiculed, insulted and beaten down verbally with propoganda to keep the focus off of the people making the decisions.

    Ford City needs to live and learn. This is one education we should not forget.

  • By JornJensen, August 26, 2011 @ 7:29 AM

    Lancret – well-stated. So, how about the Boo Cruise, Saturday, October 29th in downtown Ford City. The event is presented by the Ford City Renaissance Community Partnership. That should be a good event and should bring money to town and to their renaissance efforts. I trust that the Partnership has good character – I believe that those people do have good character.

  • By Jen16226, August 26, 2011 @ 7:54 AM

    VERY well said Lancret.

  • By watchdawgs, August 26, 2011 @ 9:37 AM

    What a shame for FC. Makes ya wonder how little time his side kick Czionkowski will get. This shows what a joke our judicial system has become. Same people same crimes and nothing is done. A DUI can get you more time than a 30 grand theft ???

  • By Sade Lee, August 26, 2011 @ 2:27 PM

    do all the people realize that while they were eating their breackfast or lunch they were eating food bought with stolen money from jeff pyle, this honerable man was making 100% profit and did not have any remorse. i am suresome people still defend him and his partner who is i believe just as involved because she can not be that naieve as to his m.o.a. the residense of ford city need to take back their town from those who would use the inocense of good people to further their own greed. there are two down and be sure some of the others were given up for the lighter sentence. these perps should look over their shoulders for the law. they will pay for aligning themselves with him.

  • By Lancret, August 26, 2011 @ 4:46 PM

    Jorn, I have no idea who is involved with the Ford City Renaissance Community Partnership. I have not heard of them before, but now you have stirred my curiosity.

    I do not think the issue is entirely about Mr. Shaffer and Mr. Czionowski. Instead, I keep reflecting back to the people who put these people in the position of authority and overseeing money. These guys did not gain these positions by completing a job application. No reference requests were made or background investigations completed. It seems as though some person or group mapped out the plan for these gentlemen. For example, the only common link that I know of between them is the Sewage Authority. I believe, but I am not sure, but they both held the position of President of the Authority. If I am wrong, please feel free to correct me. The question then become who wanted them in this position? This is what we need to question ourselves about. Was it just a coincidence? Who made the appointments? Who made the nominations? Who cast the votes? Was anybody acting in the capacity as an advisor? It all seems too coincidental for me. Nobody has ever went back and questioned these things. Have we been too focused on the actual incidents and have not been doing our due diligence as the people to find out the basis for these decisions.

    To end, I ask one more question excluding any sarcasm or humor, what makes a man honorable? I have seen this term used several times over the past year by different people in describing other individuals. What makes a person honorable in your opinion? I would like to hear any feedback on this.

  • By FreedomFighter, August 27, 2011 @ 4:29 PM

    Let’s light a Joint to celebrate him getting sentenced, wait that gets you more time in Armstrong Co than stealing 30k…Makes NO sense…

  • By sickofpayingforit, August 27, 2011 @ 7:23 PM

    Honestly, how long do you want a guy to be on our tax dime for? It is lose/lose for us. He paid the lion’s share back already, let him out there to pay the rest back and stay out of our wallets. It isn’t like this was a violent crime and he is a clear and present danger to the physical welfare of society. I don’t like paying for inmates any more than I like paying for the free loaders so I think the judge used sound judgement.

  • By mlerner, August 29, 2011 @ 8:49 AM

    The fact that it wasn’t a “violent” crime doesn’t mean anything. It was still a felony, and he should have went to prison for it. Back in the 90′s, the mantra was all about being “tough on crime”-wonder where that went! How many are sitting in prison right now for stealing a lot less than what this guy stole? Nobody is worrying about paying for them to be locked up. Funny how those who support Tom Shaffer think. As for the “fact” that “he paid the lion’s share back”-I doubt that as well. I think the money was paid back by his supporters. He certainly didn’t have it, which is why he stole it to begin with. The restaurant he owns should be investigated, and a full audit should be made of the borough and the sewage authority. Everything he was involved in should be scrupulously examined. It’s time to clean house…

  • By fordcitygirl, August 29, 2011 @ 9:56 AM

    Just to set the record straight.When you are in jail. You pay for your personal stuff.You pay for tv if you want it also.What he did is wrong serve your time . Then pay back Jeff. Every other person does this . Why is he so special? Do you think everyone in jail is violent or a threat? Well do u sick of paying for it?

  • By coriclayton, August 29, 2011 @ 11:51 AM

    Mayor Mark Mantini and Frank Wolfe continue to support this convicted felon. WHY? Are they as corrupt as Shaffer? They should both resign immediately from public service as they only serve what is best for themselves and not the public.

  • By Ron Townsend Jr., August 29, 2011 @ 1:55 PM

    My guess is the only reason he paid anything back was because he got caught. That’s the same as robbing a bank, getting caught as you come out the door and handing the money back to the police and telling them you were planning on paying it back.

  • By worthingtonman, August 29, 2011 @ 7:20 PM

    This is our new soft on crime society. prosecutors claim these pleas saves taxpayer money. well yes it does, but where is the deterrent? and it is not just the prosecutors working out these plea deals, recently I have the State Police do the same type of thing. a neighbor of mine had an item stolen. a few months later the thief was located. For over a month the State Police officer worked out a deal between my neighbor and the thief. The neighbor got reimbursed, and the thief got their wrist slapped. When did they stop arresting thieves immidiately? They are removing the deterrent. Just as they are doing with this convicted felon.

  • By ocean1, August 29, 2011 @ 8:58 PM

    I think everyone knows what happened with Shaffer, now lets move on and not let this happen again. Check out the people who run for office, and the ones who have been there before. They have one thing all in common, they are for themselves and not for the people of Ford City. Promises just don’t cut it, follow up and see what they are really doing.
    The Sewer Project is what it is, Not the fault of Ford City Council, as what some people think. Should have run the contractor out of town, but you have a solicitor who let Shaffer tell him what to do, and you know he did because he said how good of a man Shaffer was, not a smart move Mr. Wolfe. We have your number! Take up for a crook and you show your colors also. Ford City has lost more than enough over the years, when it was good with P.P.&G no one cared because it was helping the town, now it is gone. Keep tabs on things, go and spend time at the council meetings, speak what is on your mind. Be vocal about things and enforce what was in place by past and present council. People rule and numbers count. Keep the crooks out.

  • By Lancret, August 30, 2011 @ 4:54 PM

    Well said, ocean1….the focus needs to be placed on these underlying things such as side deals, appointment to positions, etc. I do not think you will find any money missing from the borough funds, but I would not bet a dollar that there have not been some sweetheart kickback deals that were signed into place.

    I am still not understanding why some of these people were ever even considered for some of these positions. If somebody could please explain their merits or qualifications that made them so appealing? When did Mr. Shaffer or Mr. Zionkowski ever work with contracts before? What “successful” businesses did they oversee? Did they have superior knowledge over sewer systems?

    So, I ask, why did somebody want them in these positions? I can to tell you the truth that I would not want the position of overseeing a municipal sewage authority and not receive hardly any compensation. Why would somebody even want that unless they were retired or were looking into building their resumes. You can cancel those two things out for these individuals. They wanted to do it as their civic duty to the borough? Come on, does anybody buy into that?

    What was the reason? Where there is smoke there is sometimes fire. No money is missing from the Sewage Authority per the audits, so what else could it be? I find this rather peculiar, especially the people who sought out these two individuals to put them in that position.

    Keep the focus on the issues.

  • By Lancret, August 30, 2011 @ 10:12 PM

    Was a Need To Know request ever made for this case in which there was much more information dealing with a PA state representative and a high amount of money to to review than the Zacour case? I am still trying to figure out the need to downplay one case which involved a felonious crime while the other involved a much more common crime?

  • By fordcitygirl, August 31, 2011 @ 6:57 AM

    There are 3 sides to every story. Her side- His side and the true side.

  • By Lissa, August 31, 2011 @ 7:47 AM

    I couldn’t agree more with fordcitygirl. Boycott his business. Hit him where it hurts.

  • By Bottomline, August 31, 2011 @ 10:12 PM

    There goes the bar business at the local clubs. No more rounds bought and paid for by Rep. Pyle.

  • By Savanah, September 1, 2011 @ 6:09 AM

    again why are we mentioning Zacour while talking about Shaffer???? As for the business – this is Lindy’s business it started as an Ice Cream and candy store on Ford Street, then changed into a coffee shop. Just cause your partner makes mistakes you do not punish others. WOW so many vindictive people in that little town!! Although my kids go to Ford City I am so glad I do not live in the Borough. I think everyone is holding a dagger in someone else’s back in the borough.

  • By Bottomline, September 1, 2011 @ 11:13 PM

    Let’s maybe put the pause button on and review this last post by Savanah.

    Let’s talk about the business. It is not like these two are distant partners in this business. Some of the checks related to the crime were connected to the business. A quote from another media source during the time of the arrest mentioned that “a number” checks were written to the business. Nobody is making this up….it was reported at the time of the arrest.

    Okay, let’s move onto this statement, “Just cause your partner makes mistakes you do not punish others.”

    Mistakes? You call this issue just a bunch of mistakes? Was it not a calculated crime?

    The fundamental question is, does the perpetrator reap any financial benefit from the business or does it all go straight to Lindy? Are we to believe that he is merely a paid employee? Fe did not speak that way when he was on council. He proudly trumpeted his laurels as a successful businessman.

    You cannot have it both ways.

    Now, we move on to the real zinger in your post about so many vindictive people in that little town. I am serious in asking this, have you ever met Mr. Shaffer or even witnessed his behavior in dealing with others? Once again, I need to ask what I am missing here? It seems some feel he is not vindictive while others have deemed him honorable. I am very interested in hearing how he has been viewed as someone as being honorable and not vindictive. I am not trying to insult anybody, and I am opening this question up to anybody, because I am finding this somewhat intriguing. Are there examples of he earned this honorable recognition?

    In regards to your stereotyping the borough as backstabbers, I am sure there are probably many who are glad that you do not live in the borough with this kind of view of the events and your attempt to minimize a serious crime.

  • By Savanah, September 3, 2011 @ 10:42 PM

    @bottomline – first with people like you in the Borough I am very glad i am not there. You are a condensending and rude person (i use the term person losly for you. Also since I made a statement that did not insult anyone – and move importantly disagreed with your opintion – YOU HAD TO INSULT ME. YOU ARE THE TYPICAL BACKSTABBER THAT I MENTIONED IN PREVIOUS POSTS, FOR WHOM i ENJOY NOT LIVING BESIDE!!!!!!! .. As for your partner making mistakes and others being punished…I stand on this comment, LET ME MAKE THIS ELEMENTARY FOR YOU… SINCE IT IS OBVIOUS THAT IS WHAT YOU NEED….. IF YOUR PARTNER INTENTIONALLY OR ACCIDENTALLY KILLED A PERSON WITH THEIR CAR – THEN WE SHOULD LOVE TO LOCK YOU UP FOR MAN-SLAUGHTER…. Understand?!? Umm as rude and close minded as you are I am sure you cannot comprehend that example.

  • By ocean1, September 4, 2011 @ 6:00 PM

    Move on people and make a better community for yourselves. We know all about the real crooks and the back stabbers. Just don’t let them pull you into the zone, that makes you a bad person.
    Help your neighbor and report what problems we face in Ford City, DRUGS and the DEALERS. Run these people out of town. If we stand together, we can beat anything they throw at us. Be involved, speak your mind and make this town whole again.
    Talk is cheap, rumors to hurt someone are childs play, grow up.

  • By Bottomline, September 5, 2011 @ 11:31 AM

    Talk is around that there may be some resignations coming down the pike with fallout from this issue and others from the parties involved. I forgot….I should say all the “mistakes” that were made, huh, Savanah?

    Honorable men, yeah right.

  • By Bottomline, September 5, 2011 @ 5:27 PM

    No, Savanah, you’re right. I do not understand, and truthfully, I do not think antybody else reading that understands your ranting and rhetoric. That example you “attempted” to communicate has nothing to do with the issue of theft, absolutely nothing. You are trying to equate an auto accident with theft?

    You made a statement that did not insult anyone, but you allege Ford City is full of backstabbers and you are glad that you do not live there.

    Leave it rest. You are digging your hole deeper.

  • By player24, September 6, 2011 @ 6:58 AM

    @Savanah, Are you living in a fog?

  • By knightwatch, September 6, 2011 @ 7:36 PM

    Until Ford City residents ride themselves of convicted felons and those who would stand by them and keep the corruption in our town going on this city will never recover.

  • By Bottomline, September 6, 2011 @ 9:46 PM

    knightwatch…you said it all right there.

    It is not the convicted ones we should worry about. They are mostly nothing more than the mouthpieces and the puppets for the others behind the scenes. The ones who are pulling the strings and influencing the decisions of the elected officals are the ones who need to be identified and exposed.

  • By coriclayton, September 9, 2011 @ 6:39 PM

    Let’s not forget that Shaffer was going to be Jack Dunmire’s running partner for county commissioner.
    Birds of a feather?

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