Despite facing jail time for exposing himself to young girls, David P. Button Sr. began a new term Jan. 2 as West Abington Twp. supervisor.
Button, who did not file nominating papers to get on the primary election ballot last year, won the seat because no one else filed to get on the ballot and he had five write-in votes in the Nov. 7 general election.
Button, 51, pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to two counts of open lewdness, both third-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Lackawanna County Court officials have not set a sentencing date. Button remains free on $50,000 bail.
Repeated efforts to reach Button, his fellow supervisors, Richard Schirg and Kenneth Klinkel, and the township solicitor, Teal Gilbert, were unsuccessful.
Button was arrested in February 2016, and charged with aggravated indecent assault of a person less than 13 years old, indecent assault of a person less than 13 years old, indecent exposure and corruption of minors. In arrest papers, Lackawanna County detectives alleged he exposed himself to 11-, 12- and 13-year-old girls and sexually fondled the 12-year-old girl.
The day he pleaded guilty, Button admitted in court to smoking marijuana, and Judge Margaret Bisignani Moyle ordered him into the county’s random drug-testing program.
Despite his guilty plea, Button is not officially convicted until sentencing.
It is unclear if he may remain in office once he is sentenced.
The state constitution forbids elected officials convicted of an “infamous crime” from holding office. The state Supreme Court has ruled felonies are infamous crimes, but Button’s crimes are misdemeanors, less serious under state law. Button was charged with felony indecent assault counts before his lawyer negotiated a plea bargain with prosecutors.
It is unclear if open lewdness qualifies as an infamous crime. In May 2001, the state Commonwealth Court ruled a councilman in Birdsboro, Berks County, could serve, despite pleading guilty in 1979, to holding his girlfriend at gunpoint in a car for three hours in a King of Prussia parking lot. All the crimes he was charged with were misdemeanors.
District Attorney Mark Powell contended he lacks the standing to try to remove Button, meaning he does not have the right to go to court to remove him. Removing Button is up to the West Abington Twp. Board of Supervisors, Powell said.
“Frankly, I don’t think it’s specifically spelled out as an infamous crime,” he said.
(West Abington Twp. is within the Lackawanna Trail School District.)