In the wake of Marcus Hook Mayor Jay Schiliro filing a formal complaint with the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission regarding Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (D-159) and state funding directed to organizations controlled by Kirkland’s family and associates, the website of Starr and Associates -- a public affairs firm founded by Kirkland’s son-in-law, Ronald Starr, and employing many of Kirkland’s family and friends -- has removed its staff list from the company website.
The Schiliro campaign had anticipated that something might happen to the Starr Associates website and captured a screen shot of the website.
“It strikes me as odd that that Starr and Associates picked this week as a time to take down its listing of staff personnel,” said Jay Shiliro. “If it was a matter of being outdated, you would think they would have just updated the website rather than deleted every staff member. If you have nothing to hide, why hide it?”
Schiliro had raised concerns about $130,000 in state money directed by House Democrats – at the request of Rep. Kirkland – to the Chester Fine Arts Center East between 2008 and 2010. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Investment Tracker, the Center has received more than $298,000 in state funding. In addition to Kirkland’s daughter being paid to sing by the center, the center’s website lists Kirkland’s wife as a dance instructor.
In addition, Starr Associates, the public affairs company run by Kirkland’s son-in-law and employing many Kirkland family members, lists the Chester Fine Arts Center East as a current or former client of the firm.
In 2008, $65,000 in state funding to the Center was used to pay the salary of John Wooten as executive director. However, the website of Starr Associates lists Wooten as Senior Vice President. Schiliro questioned whether Wooten may have directed money from the non-profit to a for-profit company that employed Wooten’s friends and family and perhaps even himself.
The connections between Starr and Associates and the Chester Fine Arts Center East are numerous. Kirkland’s wife, Susie Kirkland has served as both acting president and board president of the arts center, as well as a dance instructor. Kirkland’s daughter, Tyra Starr – whose music manager is her husband, Ronald Starr – has also sung at the Center. Based on comments made by Rep. Kirkland to the Daily Times, it sounds as though Rep. Kirkland himself picked his daughter himself to perform and be paid. Performers were paid using taxpayer dollars.
In addition to its founder Ronald Starr and John Wooten, Starr and Associates also employs a number of other individuals believed to be family or close associates of Representative Kirkland, including Lashonda Kirkland, Charles Dixon (Rep. Kirkland’s nephew), Leola Williams, and Shareeta Joe.
A copy of Schiliro's ethics complaint is posted on his campaign website at www.jayschiliro.com.