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York mayor says he would probably not seek pardon to expunge or seal criminal background

YORK, Pa. - Mayor Michael Helfrich says he supports the efforts of state leaders to help people seek pardons to expunge or seal their criminal backgrounds, as he did at a Pathways to Pardons information session Wednesday night in the city.

But he told FOX43 that process is probably not for him.

"I've explored it, but I would rather take a stand and try to use my example to show that just because you did something 27 years ago, doesn't mean that you should have fewer rights as a citizen," he said Wednesday.

By now, the story is known: Helfrich pled guilty to two drug charges in 1991, but was able to overcome his criminal background to serve on York City Council, and now as the city's mayor.

Two legal challenges seeking disqualification came up short, and Helfrich has said he wants to show that a criminal background does not have to define the rest of your life.

"I'll say it, I'm an example of doing something dumb when you're young and it's still being held against you," he said.

Instead, he's hoping laws are enacted to help more people seek pardons and expungements.

"These people are trying to make their lives better, they're trying to work for their family, trying to support their loved ones and the things that they did 10, 20, 30 years ago could be still held against them," Helfrich said.

And that's why he supported the event held by Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack and Rep. Carol Hill-Evans (D-York).

"There are thousands of people out there that you think they've achieved things in society they're a leader and yet it turns out that somebody may still have a criminal background," Stack, a Democrat, said. "It doesn't reflect who they are as a person."

It's about "how to move forward, how to erase the past and move forward, and some of it is not an easy process," Hill-Evans said. "It's a rather lengthy process, but it is doable, it's achievable."