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Lebanon files petition in Commonwealth Court, seeking a ruling ordering Wolf to release CARES Act funding

The county says Wolf committed a 'gross abuse of power' in denying it the $12.8 million in funds as a consequence of moving into the Green Phase with state approval
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LEBANON, Pa. — Lebanon County filed a suit in Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania petitioning for the court to order Governor Tom Wolf to release the $12.8 million in federal funding allocated to the county by the CARES Act.

The suit, filed by Lebanon County solicitor David R. Warner Jr., asks the court to issue a declaratory judgement and Writ of Mandamus upon the governor, saying he "has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed" and accusing him of committing a "gross abuse of power" by denying Lebanon County the federal funding it says it's due.

Wolf said on July 16 that he would withhold the federal CARES Act money allocated to Lebanon County, which defied state COVID-19 mandates by declaring it was moving into the Green Phase of reopening ahead of state approval several weeks earlier, the petition states.

"When they were saying, 'we're not going to abide by the restrictions; we're going to make our own rules and regulations,'...OK, then don't come say you want something from the state when you haven't followed the rules," the suit quotes Wolf. "There are consequences. These are the consequences, and I think I'm being consistent here."

Lebanon County had not received official word from the governor or his administration denying the county the CARES Act funds as of the date and time of the petition's filing, the court document says.

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The petition accuses Wolf of adding "additional eligibility language to those passed and signed into law by him in Act 24 of 2020" in denying Lebanon County is CARES Act funding. The petition calls this a "gross abuse of power" on Wolf's part.

"Governor Wolf's refusal to release Act 24's designated funds to the County of Lebanon effectively consolidates complete legislative power in the executive branch during a declared state of emergency with no check or limit by the legislature, which fundamentally flies in the face of Pennsylvania's system of government, creating a de-facto king with the ability to revoke, amend, or enact any provision of any legislation passed through the bicameral legislature and presented to and signed by himself at his own whim," the petition states.

The petition asks the court to declare Wolf in violation of Act 24 of 2020 and order him to immediately direct and order distribution of $12,805,164 to the County of Lebanon.