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Schuylkill County News

Ironic Flex: Schuylkill County Officials Brag About Being Proactive Hiring DOJ-Mandated Investigator

The meter’s running for paying off this DOJ settlement.

Last week, Schuylkill County Commissioners approved a contract with yet another outside law firm. This one is being hired with the task of “conducting investigations” of workplace complaints.

The firm’s name is McNees, Wallace & Nurick, of Harrisburg, and according to a report from Times-News, it’ll be paid a whopping $380 per hour to handle this business for the County government.

At their Work Session meeting on Feb. 15, Administrator Gary Bender and Schuylkill County Commissioner Boots Hetherington bragged, rather ironically, about this decision being “proactive” on the County’s part.

Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage voted for hiring the outside investigators last week but previously voted against accepting the terms of the Consent Decree with the Dept. of Justice because he says it would basically force him to admit some wrongdoing. He’s maintained his innocence since the initial lawsuit was field.

That’s a rich take on approving this fee-for-service contract that was only necessary because it is part of a Consent Decree the County agreed to when settling its legal battle with the US Dept. of Justice.

The DOJ joined the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit originally filed by 4 Schuylkill County government employees back in 2021. DOJ mainly focused on the alleged civil rights violations committed by Commissioner George Halcovage, Bender, two previous Human Resources directors at the Courthouse, the Courthouse, and the County government, as a whole.

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Before the DOJ claims went to trial, earlier this year it and the County agreed on settlement terms. Those terms include, but aren’t limited to the County hiring an investigator to conduct inquiries into allegations like those filed by the 4 Jane Doe plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The stipulation in that agreement which forced the County’s hand into hiring another investigator is that said investigator can not be “under the direct or indirect supervision of the alleged harasser or retaliator.”

That’s basically everyone at the Courthouse right now. So, it HAD to be an outside team hired for this job. And the County had no choice but to hire them or another firm.

Proactive? Hardly.

Bender tried bragging about this decision. On Wednesday, he said, “We have used an outside investigator in the past. The Consent Decree is requesting that we bring someone on board to do that.

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“The County decided to be proactive. Mr. (Al) Marshall (one of several County Solicitors) and I reviewed several things and picked this firm. We’re trying to be proactive in all of this,” Bender said.

Requesting? Nope. More like requiring them to do it.

As part of the Consent Decree, the County must also hire a consultant who will be tasked with crafting new anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policy for employees and implement new training on those policies.

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  1. It's Me

    February 21, 2023 at 5:33 pm

    Over $300 an hour!

    • Canary Commenter

      February 21, 2023 at 7:29 pm

      It’s almost a bargain compared to what we were paying for outside Human Resources help.

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