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In Delco, GOP tactics rile some in party

Web hacking, sign removal have candidates squabbling.

Judge Richard Cappelli
Judge Richard CappelliRead more

Usually it's the Democrats in Delaware County who complain about lawn signs disappearing and campaign dirty tricks. They always blame the powerful Republican organization.

But this week, just days from Tuesday's primary election, Republicans are complaining about other Republicans.

Or more specifically, two Republican candidates who are not endorsed by the mainstream GOP organization.

Rose Izzo, a County Council candidate who describes herself as an "independent Republican," logged on to her computer this week and found her Web site content had been copied onto similar Web addresses and changed to suggest she was a Democrat.

The person who acknowledges doing it is a former GOP committeeman who says he acted on his own.

And Magisterial District Judge Richard Cappelli, a candidate for Common Pleas Court judge, looked out his window Saturday and saw a crew of county probationers removing his campaign signs from the Concord Township shopping center grounds where his office is.

"They were community service people taking them," said Cappelli, who said the signs were on private property.

He called police.

County officials yesterday acknowledged the incident, but said it was all a mistake.

Izzo, of Ridley Township, discovered her campaign site was being copied and then altered without her permission over the weekend. She is a Web designer, and she found evidence of the tampering in her campaign site's computer coding.

The copied pages, put up on sites with names similar to her home page, removed the word Republican, suggested she was Democrat, and added a link to the Delaware County government Web site.

The alterations were done by Louis DePietro III, who said he felt Izzo's site was making "a lot of misleading statements" about her background that he wanted to correct. Izzo's site is also critical of the county GOP.

DePietro was a Republican committeeman and borough councilman in Prospect Park in the 1990s, and his father is listed as chairman of the Ridley Township Zoning Hearing Board. DePietro said he was acting on his own, and his father did not know about the Web sites.

Christopher Wolf, a specialist in Internet law with the Washington firm Proskauer Rose, said federal law prevents copying and registering a domain name for a site that is "confusingly similar" to another.

Wolf said Web sites were copyrighted even if there were no "little c and circle."

Kevin Izzo, Rose's husband, said they had consulted a lawyer.

Last night, it appeared the DePietro sites had been taken off the Internet.

Cappelli said he was missing "hundreds of signs around the county."

The county crew he confronted Saturday returned eight signs and left the ones he saw them preparing to remove.

Then he got a call saying the crew was removing other Cappelli signs farther west on Baltimore Pike.

Those signs were in front of the Boxcar Cafe in Glen Mills, owned by Scott Owens.

He knows Cappelli as a regular breakfast patron and had asked Cappelli for the signs and personally planted them.

A county worker walked into the restaurant and said he was going to remove the signs. The worker was part of a 12-man crew collecting and bagging trash along that stretch of Baltimore Pike.

Owens told the men, "Don't . . . touch any of my signs."

Delaware County Executive Director Marianne Grace said she had received three or four complaints from residents about the signs along roads, and after consulting with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation she gave instructions to remove all signs along "interstates."

"I didn't give them specific roads, I said interstates," Grace said.

Baltimore Pike isn't an interstate, of course. Grace said her instructions were misunderstood. "Sometimes things get . . . expanded on. This is what happens when you are dealing with people, and people make mistakes."

She has since called Cappelli and apologized for the "mistake."

Cappelli is not the only candidate complaining about signs.

Tom Gannon, a candidate for Common Pleas judge and former state representative from Ridley, said he was used to seeing signs vanish.

But he said he was particularly ticked off that one disappeared from the side of a Winnebago parked at a Ridley Township Republican Organization spaghetti dinner.

"They came along and cut it down and stole it," Gannon said of the $325 sign. He reported the crime to police. Gannon is also an unendorsed candidate for judge.

There are seven GOP primary candidates running for two open seats on the bench. Only two have been endorsed by the party, Mary Alice Brennan and Greg Mallon.

Delaware County Council Chairman Andy Reilly attributes many of the thefts to "overzealous campaign workers."

Reilly said the County Council was not aware Grace had ordered signs removed from roads until after the fact.

"Unfortunately, there are things that occur around election time," he said.