As lawyers were arguing on behalf of the Jane Doe plaintiffs suing Schuylkill County government during deposition testimonies given over the last year, they uncovered a scandal within the Children & Youth agency no one from the public ever knew about.
Apparently, according to the testimonies of several high-ranking County government officials, the Executive Director of Children & Youth was accused of timesheet theft.
The exact time when this was alleged to have happened is not made clear in any of the depositions released in court records. However, we did learn that it happened while Commissioner George Halcovage was still serving as Chairman of the board. So that would place it prior to the middle of 2020, when he stepped down from that role.
However, this allegedly did happen – or at least the County believed it happened – and that Administrator, Lisa Stevens, received a suspension from her job at Children & Youth. No official asked about this ever denied it happening on the record.
But it was the length of that suspension, given the nature of the accusation, that really seemed to spark a bit of outrage among the plaintiffs’ lawyers who questioned officials about it.
See, they’re trying to argue as a major part of their case against the local government that these same officials are acting in a retaliatory manner toward the 4 Jane Doe plaintiffs, and specially to the two of them who remain suspended for more than 2 years at their jobs.
Jane Doe 3 and Jane Doe 4 are still suspended from their Courthouse jobs after many of the County officials named in their lawsuit accused them of misusing LexisNexis and exposing the personal information of more than 9,000 people.
The attorneys believe it’s a bit odd that these plaintiffs have been suspended for years while this alleged time theft was punished by a 15-day suspension.
That’s how this was all uncovered, in depositions, because this alleged timesheet theft never made it in front of the public.
Schuylkill County Children & Youth Allegedly Had Employees Claim Time She Worked; They Paid Her Cash
Here’s a look at how this transpired, based on deposition testimonies:
This first came up back on Sept. 30, 2022, when former HR Director Debra Twigg testified. She was questioned by Catherine Smith, who represents the Jane Doe plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against the county.
Twigg’s testimony was the earliest of those released. In it, she found it rather absurd how one employee was treated vs. how the Jane Doe suspension is being handled.
Prior to the testimony shown below, Twigg suggests that one reason the accused Jane Does were looking up names on LexisNexis was to gather addresses to send condolences messages.
Twigg: Oh, sorry. No. Look, I can tell you — okay. Let me ask you all a question. Sending — using a system to get addresses to send condolences, a year suspension without pay.
I can tell you, and this happened while I was there, we had a director of a department falsify payroll records, collect money under the table, signed off on her direct reports falsifying, and she received a 15-day suspension. Are you kidding me?
Smith: Was she put up for termination?
Twigg: No. Absolutely not.
Smith: Was she put up for termination twice?
Smith: Who is this director?
Twigg: Lisa Stevens.
Twigg then explains how the timesheet theft scheme apparently went down. Stevens, according to Twigg, worked overtime at Children & Youth. But the County said it wasn’t going to pay for that overtime since she was a salaried employee.
Stevens worked the time anyway, and allegedly had other Children & Youth employees file for the time. Those employees would then pay Stevens, who covered the hours they were claiming.
Smith: You said she falsified records?
Twigg: So in Children and Youth, they have duties — they have — somebody is on call all the time. Certain supervisors didn’t want to, didn’t — didn’t — I don’t know if they didn’t want to, they couldn’t. They didn’t want to work overtime. Lisa would offer — in her own words, she offered to do the overtime for them, but she wanted to receive the pay. She had gone to, I believe, Gary Bender — maybe it was before Gary Bender, it might have been Mark, I don’t know which one she had gone to, asked about getting overtime if she — getting the pay if she did the work. She was told no. Actually, I think it was Gary Bender. In the end what happened was she ended up doing the work. The people who were on the schedule put it on their time sheet, she signed off on it. She then — they then paid her in cash for the time that she worked for them.
Smith: The county was aware of this?
Twigg: We became aware of it. We did an investigation. And the result of that was she had a 15-day suspension.
Smith: Was Glenn Roth involved in that at all?
Smith: So Glenn Roth was aware that an individual employee in children and youth stole time —
Smith: — and that she was only suspended for 15 days?
Twigg: It was an evening commissioner — I can tell you the people sitting around that table, Frank Staudenmeier, Gary Hess, George Halcovage, Glenn Roth, Al Marshall, myself. Did I say Gary Bender? I think that was all. I don’t know whether the clerk of courts was there or the — I don’t know whether Linda Dietrich was there. Probably not because it was probably an executive session.
Smith: Is children and youth funded in anyway by state grants?
Smith: So would her theft of time be theft of state funding for the county?
Twigg: Yes, I guess it would have been.
Smith: Is she still employed by the county?
Twigg: To my knowledge. Sorry. If that gets 15 days and you — really, try and tell me that’s not retaliatory. I’m sorry. My opinion.
Termination Never Put on the Agenda, Even Though Bender and Twigg Suggested It
A few weeks later, on Nov. 17. 2022, Smith questioned County Administrator Gary Bender about this.
Again, her questions were a set-up to show how one employee was treated for an alleged transgression against how the suspended Jane Does are being treated.
Bender explained how the alleged scheme went down and confirmed the 15-day suspension imposed on Stevens at the time.
Smith: Do you know who Lisa Stevens is?
Bender: I do.
Smith: Is she a county employee?
Bender: She is.
Smith: She is a county employee. Was Lisa Stevens accused of stealing money from the county?
Bender: The accusation for — for Ms. Stevens was that there were people that were working on call time, that were assigned to work on call time. Ms. Stevens took their place and the assigned employee was paying her.
Smith: Was Ms. Stevens disciplined at all in connection with that?
Bender: She was.
Smith: Was she suspended?
Smith: For how long?
Bender: Fifteen days.
Smith then wanted to know if Stevens was fired and if not, why. Bender said he and Twigg actually told the Commissioners to consider terminating her but it never appeared on a meeting agenda.
Bender said it was Halcovage’s call on whether or not to put Stevens’ termination on the Agenda.
Smith: She wasn’t terminated though, correct?
Bender: She was not.
Smith: Why didn’t the county fire Ms. Stevens?
Bender: That’s a question for the board of commissioners. They would not do that.
Smith: Was Ms. Stevens put up for termination on the agenda?
Bender: She was not.
Smith: Was it brought up that — in any meeting that she should be?
Bender: Ms. Twigg and I made that recommendation.
Smith: To the board of commissioners?
Smith: And they said don’t put that on the agenda?
Smith: Do you believe that that would be a violation of the Sunshine Act, as it’s essentially a vote on her termination?
Bender: Repeat that.
Smith: Do you know that the Sunshine Act is?
Bender: I do.
Smith: The Sunshine Act prevents votes outside of the public, including votes on terminations by the commissioners outside the presence of the public, correct?
Bender: Okay. Yes.
Smith: And do you understand that that’s what it says?
Smith: All right. Wouldn’t refusal to put a termination on an agenda essentially be a vote to not terminate an individual?
Bender: It was not a decision, no. It just wasn’t something that was going to be put on the agenda.
Smith: Well, by not putting it on the agenda, she could not be terminated, correct?
Bender: At that time, yes.
Smith: Okay. Has she ever been put on the agenda for termination, Ms. Stevens?
Smith: And that’s because the commissioners have said, do not put it on the agenda?
Bender: The chairman of the board of commissioners dictates what goes on the agenda. He would not put that on the agenda.
Smith: Who was the chair of the commissioners at the time Ms. Stevens termination was suggested?
Bender: It would have been Commissioner Halcovage.
Smith: And Commissioner Halcovage refused to put Ms. Stevens termination on the agenda?
We previously learned that Bender was the person who suggested Jane Doe 3 and Jane Doe 4 be put on the agenda for termination.
In this brief bit of testimony, answering questions from US Attorney Greg Townsend, Bender indicates that Stevens was not referred for possible criminal charges.
Townsend: Okay. All right. I want to ask about Lisa Stevens. Did anyone from the county ever refer her to law enforcement for any of the — any of her actions?
Townsend: Never referred for criminal charges to anyone?
Hetherington did, however, refer Jane Doe 3 and Jane Doe 4’s instance to Schuylkill County District Attorney Mike O’Pake for possible criminal charges. However, no charges have been filed against them.
The Commissioners chairman did answer some questions regarding the Children & Youth controversy when he was questioned by Smith on March 31, 2023. Hetherington indicated that he only knew of the situation but it was “before my time.”
Smith: Are you familiar with an incident in Children & Youth in which the department had an employee falsify time sheets?
Hetherington: Name the person.
Smith: I believe the person is Lisa Stevens.
Smith: Are you aware that Lisa Stevens was suspended for 15 days for falsified time sheets?
Hetherington: When did that take place?
Smith: Right. I’m asking if you are aware.
Hetherington: I don’t know. That must be before my time.
FULL COVERAGE OF THE COURTHOUSE FILES:
Check out all of our stories, to date, covering The Courthouse Files. These stories have been ripped from deposition testimony made available in the ongoing Jane Doe v. Schuylkill County lawsuit:
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