The attorney representing the 4 Jane Doe plaintiffs in a federal civil lawsuit against Schuylkill County government officials says those officials presented “distorted information” at Wednesday’s Commissioners meeting related to the Snoopgate investigation.
Catherine Smith, of Derek Smith Law, released a statement defending the reputation of Angela Toomey and Denise McGinley-Gerchak – 2 of the 4 Jane Does she’s representing – as the County attempts to paint them as ne’er-do-wells who conducted hundreds of “unauthorized searches” on LexisNexis.
The County has attempted to fire those employees on several occasions but has been unsuccessful to date.
SPECIAL SECTION: Snoopgate
Jane Does Attorney Defends Clients’ Reputation Amid Snoopgate Controversy
Smith’s statement rebuts the County’s chief argument in the Snoopgate investigation: the employees used LexisNexis against protocol and exposed thousands of peoples’ personal information, potentially leading to identity theft.
The statement reads:
“Ms. Toomey and Ms. Gerchak utilized all third party database software in a professional and responsible manner in order to discharge the duties of their offices. The offices that they supervised are responsible for tasks related to current and delinquent tax collection. The searches conducted were related to mailings returned undeliverable for 9000-10000 annual Courtesy letters; certified entries of claim; upset sale certified mailings, address searches related to the posting of properties prior to Upset Sale; 10 day letters mailed prior to Upset Sale; Sold letters sent after tax sales; property owners, lien holders, interested parties related to judicial sales; searches for distributees of tax sales; searches for heirs or interested parties of decedents; administrators or executors of estates, verifying information of bidders at tax sales; used when map viewer was not available; used to verify address information of current year bills; used to determine if owner held property outside of the County to assist out of County sheriff offices during judicial sale prep; used to assist sheriff department on occasion when they needed to provide personal service; used to assist municipal authorities when determining appropriate liens to include in Upset price and various other work related reasons.”
Smith also questions the so-called “independent investigation” that the County was supposed to hire an outside law firm to conduct but based on verbal evidence offered by Schuylkill County Commissioners Chairman Boots Hetherington, it sounds as if the County did the investigation and got the firm of Eckert, Seamons, Cherin, and Mellott LLC to sign off on it.
Her statement on behalf of the 2 accused employees continues:
“We believe the County’s decision to discipline these two women is not related to any specific issue(s) that arose because of their use of third party database tool. Furthermore, we question the County’s “investigation,” given than it did not so much as include interviewing the two women accused to learn about their job duties, responsibilities, and reasons and jusitifications for the searches conducted. As such, we believe that it is purely retaliatory and in an effort to eliminate their presence from the County due to their continued opposition to the County’s unlawful behavior.”
The statement also vows to continue the fight against County officials. It reads:
“Despite the unprecedented unpaid 6 month suspension that the County has subjected my clients to, they will continue to oppose the unlawful behavior of the County administration in an effort to rid Schuylkill County government of toxic workplace culture. The women of Schuylkill County deserve respect and deserve an environment in which they feel empowered rather than silenced. The County has neglected to follow County policies and procedures and have neglected to uniformly apply them. We look forward to continuing our fight for justice, not only for ourselves but for the residents of Schuylkill County who deserve law abiding leaders. My clients and I appreciate the incredible support & encouragement they have received throughout this process. My clients and I look forward to presenting their claims in court.”
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