COVID in the Schuylkill County Courthouse
Courthouse insiders are buzzing, as the GOP race for State Representative in the 125th district between County Controller Christy Joy and Register of Wills Theresa Gaffney heats up.
They are 2 of 4 candidates up for the GOP nod in the 125th during the June 2 primary. Also on the Republican ballot are Herv Breault and Joe Kerwin Jr. The winner gets on the ballot in November.
Sources tell us that late last week, a key Joy ally, Clerk of Courts Maria Casey sparked controversy when she leaked a confidential email addressed to County Administrator Gary Bender to social media.
In the email, Casey insinuated that the Register of Wills office, and perhaps Gaffney herself, was infected with COVID-19.
The Canary received a copy of the Casey email last week. It reads as follows:
Allegedly, there is a confirmed COVID case in the Register of Wills Office. If this is just a rumor, kindly confirm that for me. My Staff is extremely concerned regarding this situation.
If there is a confirmed case, neither I nor my Staff was notified. Kindly confirm whether or not someone in the Courthouse has this. A confirmed case in the Federal Courthouse in Scranton resulted in the Courthouse being shut down immediately. If this has happened, was any tracing conducted to see who came in contact with this person? My Staff regularly goes into the Register of Wills Office.
We anxiously await your response.
Clerk of the Courts
Schuylkill County Courthouse
The email was posted to at least one local Facebook group page.
Some people in the Schuylkill County GOP see this as a political ploy.
“It is beyond appalling that Christy would try to get a leg up in this fashion,” a GOP committee person in the 125th told us. “Violating an employee’s HIPAA privacy rights in an attempt to score political points is beyond low.”
Bender released a statement to courthouse employees that same day confirming the existence of a COVID case within the courthouse. But Bender refused to disclose the identity of the individual or the department in which they worked, citing applicable privacy laws.
“Based upon the Department of Health, the employee that tested positive was interviewed, and all individuals having had contact with the employee were notified and quarantined for 14 days,” Bender said in the statement. “At this point, the 14-day quarantine period has expired and there have been no additional employees who have experienced symptoms of COVID-19.
Here’s a copy of that letter:2020 COUNTY EMPLOYEE COVID 19 LETTER
Gaffney also issued a statement on her Facebook page, denying any symptoms of COVID and addressing concerns about her office and the county’s response to the infection.
“I immediately took decisive action, following recommended protocols from the Department of Health and the CDC, to quell the spread of infection to the rest of the courthouse,” she said.
Here’s Gaffney’s full statement issued on Facebook:
Casey, however, remains under fire, as sources tell us the county may launch an internal investigation into whether the infected employee’s HIPAA rights were violated by Casey’s email and its subsequent release to the public.
In response, Casey’s solicitor, Fred Fanelli, fired off a letter to Bender this week attempting to shift the blame from Casey to county administration and Gaffney. Fanelli, however, did not deny Casey’s role in releasing her email on Facebook.
Casey is no stranger to unethical political tactics. In 2015, she abused her power as an assistant district attorney by acquiring and releasing to the public a confidential criminal citation against one of her political foes, three days before an election.
Under Pennsylvania’s CHRIA law (Criminal History Record Information Act), Casey was strictly forbidden from obtaining criminal information that isn’t public, and from using non-public, criminal information for personal or political purposes.
“I believe that if Christy Joy has any integrity, he will denounce Maria Casey and disavow her dirty tactics,” the GOP committee person said.