Schuylkill County government officials appear to be playing hard-to-get regarding our request for documents in the ongoing Snoopgate controversy.
A few weeks ago, the County Commissioners had before them – for a second time – a motion to fire 2 employees in the Courthouse’s Tax Claims office. They’re accused of conducting more than 300 “unauthorized searches” on LexisNexis software that somehow could have compromised the identities of more than 9,100 people. That motion failed again on a tie vote, 1-1, with Commissioner George Halcovage abstaining on worries of conflict of interest.
Canary RTK Requests on Snoopgate Investigation “Deemed Denied” After Getting Crickets from the Courthouse
At that meeting when the firing was considered, County officials referenced an “independent investigation” that ultimately determined those 2 employees – who happen to be among the 4 Jane Doe plaintiffs in a sexual harassment lawsuit against many of the people promoting their termination – should get sacked.
Everyone at that meeting was talking about some alleged investigation report but, to date, the County has produced 0 evidence that a report of it exists. Even Commissioner Gary Hess, who voted against firing the employees on fears it would appear to be “retaliation” against them, said he’s seen the report but hasn’t released a copy of it to the public or media.
The Right to Know Process Begins
According to its reporting, the Republican Herald newspaper in Pottsville filed a Right to Know request with the County Solicitor’s office and heard back from them within the required 5 days. However, the County requested a 30-day extension to produce the requested records.
Last Thursday evening, we filed separate and similar Right to Know requests with the County, seeking the following:
- A copy of the investigation report from the law firm of Eckert, Seamons, Cherin, and Mellott LLC,
- A copy of an investigation report the County sent to the law firm of Eckert, Seamons, Cherin, and Mellott LLC,
- All written communications between the law firm of Eckert, Seamons, Cherin, and Mellott LLC and several Schuylkill County officials since it was retained in late-2021.
As of Monday night, March 21, we have zero documents and zero response from the Courthouse on these requests.
“Let’s Take the Scenic Route”
Presuming the County didn’t receive our RTK requests until Friday, March 11, they had 5 business days to respond. The clock starts the day after the request is received. That time is clearly up. And the County hasn’t responded.
Sadly, they can do that, per Open Records laws in Pennsylvania. It means our request is classified as “deemed denied” but hope is not lost.
The County’s just making us take the scenic route, as it were, to get this alleged report.
While it’s an annoyance and wholly unnecessary, since it would be in the County’s best interest to release this alleged report to the public as soon as possible to prove their case in seeking these terminations, we’re perfectly happy to experience the state Open Records Office appeals process.
We don’t expect this to be a short process but we do think it’ll end in a win for the public. This report cost the public money. The Courthouse has made a public spectacle of the issue. And they continually reference its existence without providing any evidence it exists.
These requests shouldn’t be considered too invasive in any way and therefore, should be granted.
In the meantime, the Courthouse will just huddle with its report until the state says it’s time to give it up.
READ MORE ON SNOOPGATE:
- Jane Doe Attorney: County Presents “Distorted Information” On Snoopgate Investigation
- Canary Files Right To Know Requests Regarding Snoopgate Investigation
- Schuylkill County’s So-Called Independent Investigation – Who Really Did It And Where’s The Report?
- Boots Tells Halcovage To “Resign Immediately” After He Abstained On Jane Doe Firings
- Jane Doe Jobs At Schuylkill County Courthouse Saved For Now