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Schuylkill County News

Schuylkill County Lifts Tax Claim Employee Suspensions Tied to LexisNexis Controversy

Wednesday marked 942 days suspended.

Two employees from Schuylkill County's Tax Claim office had their suspensions lifted after 942 days, it was announced on Wednesday.

Schuylkill County has lifted the suspensions of two Tax Claim employees who were told not to come to work more than 900 days ago over their alleged misuse of the LexisNexis software.

At Wednesday’s Schuylkill County Commissioners Work Session meeting, Chairman Larry Padora remarked following a public comment from Jeffrey Dunkel, “There is help coming to the (Tax Claim) office. The suspension is ended.”

Padora did not offer any more details about it. The Canary has learned that he was referring to the suspensions of employees Angela Toomey and Denise McGinley-Gerchak.

Those two worked in the Tax Claim office and were suspended without pay on Sept. 17, 2021. That’s 942 days ago.

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The reason the County gave for the suspension was alleged misuse of LexisNexis software, which the government said these employees used to look up personal information on people. Their suspension was recommended by County Administrator Gary Bender.

It then launched what it called an “independent” investigation into the matter in an attempt to prove the point it was making that these employees’ actions – allegedly conducting more than 300 “unauthorized searches” using LexisNexis – exposed the personal identity of more than 9,000 people nationwide.

However, the County has never once offered up the results of that investigation, for which it hired an outside law firm to conduct.

Under the previous Commissioners administration, two attempts were made to fire these employees, during which the County cited the results of that investigation. And both times, the employees were kept on because there weren’t enough votes to sack them.

Previously, Hetherington backed the idea of firing them. Then-Commissioner George Halcovage abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest. And Commissioner Gary Hess would never offer up the second vote needed to approve the termination.

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In the meantime, the two employees were granted Unemployment Compensation even after the County attempted to block that, on which they collected for 26 weeks.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article indicated Padora confirmed the employees who’ve been reinstated. He did not. The Canary learned that from another source.

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  1. Coalregion12

    April 17, 2024 at 10:16 pm

    So I guess 942 days suspension is long enough.
    I wonder if these employees will have their personnel records cleared of any wrongdoings or they will still have this on their records.
    Will the recently contracted woman who was hired at 45/hr be retained?
    Will they get full back pay??

    • PTFloridian

      April 18, 2024 at 7:51 pm

      Our courthouse and the people in charge there, are an absolute dumpster fire…for years now. What a pitiful disgrace.

  2. Melinda

    April 18, 2024 at 7:02 am

    My, my, my, how times change! Better late than never? Interesting that Gary Bender not only recommended the suspension, he was the one who issued/commanded the suspension, when he lacked the proper authority to do so. Only the commissioners can hire, terminate, suspend. Still have the federal lawsuit looming and the DOJ Consent Decree is in place. Bringing those two qualified, experienced employees back to the beleaguered Tax Claim Bureau is long overdue.

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