2 Jane Doe Plaintiffs at Schuylkill Courthouse Suspended from Work Without Pay
Two of the Jane Doe plaintiffs in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Schuylkill County government officials have been suspended from their jobs indefinitely and without pay.
Sources inside Schuylkill County Courthouse tell The Canary that a decision on one of the Jane Doe plaintiffs was handed down last Friday afternoon. It’s unclear when the other Jane Doe was suspended.
This came after Human Resources hearings earlier in the week last week at which they were accused of using their work computers to search for information allegedly related to their lawsuit against several Courthouse officials, including Commissioner George Halcovage.
From what we’ve been told, the women were allegedly using the LexisNexis platform to search for information on people involved in their lawsuit against the County. However, the women have been on Family Medical Leave Act for several months and not in the Courthouse.
On Wednesday, Clerk of Courts Maria Casey tried to bring up this subject at the weekly Commissioners meeting. But she was quickly shot down by Commissioner Boots Hetherington, who cited a public comment rule of his that bars discussion of personnel actions of County employees.
That may be one of the more absurd of Boots’ public comment rules. Not only is it our money paying for these employees, each Commissioners meeting literally has a portion dedicated to discussing personnel matters. Typically, those personnel actions discussed are hirings, firings, and pay raises. But these suspensions, which definitely did happen, did not make the agenda. So it’s all hush-hush.
Casey tried several times to discuss the suspensions but Boots shut her down each time. She said she wasn’t aware that personnel matters were off-limits for public comment.
Casey’s been the lead public voice in a movement against Halcovage ever since an internal Courthouse investigation revealed the Commissioner likely violated several workplace policies. Earlier this year, 4 Courthouse employees – identified only as Jane Doe 1-4 – sued Halcovage and several other Courthouse officials for sexual harassment and their complicity to it and retaliation for speaking up.
The allegations included in the lawsuit prompted just about every public official in Schuylkill County to call for Halcovage’s resignation. An impeachment process has begun in the State House of Representatives that could remove him from office if he doesn’t resign.
Halcovage has continuously denied the allegations against him.
The suspension of these 2 Jane Doe plaintiffs could be perceived as yet another possible retaliatory action taken against the women involved in the federal lawsuit against Halcovage, Administrator Gary Bender, and Solicitor Glenn Roth.
The County certainly has its own reasons for suspending these 2 employees but they also had their own reasons for shaking up the structure of where they worked in the Courthouse. Earlier this year, the County voted to restructure the Tax Claims and Tax Assessment offices, where they worked, according to the lawsuit. While the County says the way those offices were structured wasn’t working out, it clearly didn’t have a solid plan for changing them.
Instead, the County hired a pair of high-priced consultants to figure it out. And their first move was to hire a new Tax Assessor who wasn’t even qualified for the job until he passed a state certification course. The restructuring still isn’t complete and those 2 consultants have been retained through the end of 2021.
Photos: Coal Region Canary
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