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Schuylkill County News

State Ethics Board Slaps Schuylkill County Row Officer on the Wrist

Ethics Commission says no further investigation warranted, no penalty imposed.

The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission says Schuylkill County’s Recorder of Deeds, Ann Dudish, violated the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act when she promoted her brother from within her office and voted on his salary.

The decision, made on April 9, 2024, concluded that Dudish improperly used her position to appoint her brother, Gerard Klema, as First Deputy Recorder of Deeds and participated in the vote to approve his salary. Ethics board Chairman Michael Schwartz’ ruling was made public on Tuesday.

Despite the decision, the Ethics board also determined that no penalties against Dudish should be imposed and it will make “no specific recommendations” to law enforcement for further action.

Schwartz writes in his ruling that Dudish did not financially gain as a result of this violation.

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In a conversation with The Canary on Wednesday afternoon, Dudish said she had no malintent when promoting her brother to the First Deputy position in her office.

“I have always done what’s in the best interest of the office,” she said.

Investigation Details

The issue that resulted in this ethics finding happened back in November 2022. At the Nov. 16 County Commissioners meeting, it was presented to the board that the First Deputy Recorder of Deeds Marcie Schultz was retiring and that Dudish was appointing Klema in her place at a salary of $39,410.00.

That would be a little more than $3,000 than he’d been making in the Recorder of Deeds office in another role.

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The Ethics board discovered in the course of its investigation that Dudish didn’t go to Klema as her first choice to replace Schultz. Her first choice had the most seniority in the office but he declined the position.

Dudish told investigators that she consulted with others in her office about possible replacements for Schultz.

Further, Schwartz writes in his report, “Dudish wanted to hire someone with specific knowledge of the workings of the County Recorder of Deeds Office and its computer system, which was in the process of being upgraded. Accordingly, Dudish decided not to advertise or seek applicants for the position who were not already employed in the County Recorder of Deeds Office.”

So, Dudish turned to her brother for the job, considering he had about 14 years of experience in the office.

Klema was originally hired in the Recorder of Deeds office back in 2008.

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The Commissioners, during their board meeting, did not have to vote on that replacement because rules allow row officers to hire and fire personnel within their offices.

However, a vote was taken during the subsequent Salary Board meeting, which takes place immediately after the Commissioners meetings are adjourned.

In that Salary Board meeting, a vote was taken to approve Klema’s new salary. The vote was 5-0 with all three Commissioners at that time (Hetherington, Halcovage, and Hess), First Deputy Controller Sandy Pacenta, and Dudish voting to approve it.

Pacenta told The Canary on Wednesday that Klema “is the best qualified for that position.”

Responding to the Ethics Commission Findings

In response to the ruling, Hetherington – who was one of the five votes approving Klema’s salary in 2022 – told The Canary he understood what the Ethics Commission is saying in its decision.

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“I understand the position Ann put herself in by voting on the Salary Board,” he said. “At the time, I did not know that was her brother.”

However, he believes some change is necessary.

With regard to this specific case, Hetherington wonders if someone like Klema should be “frozen in that position forever”, meaning the job he held in the Recorder of Deeds office prior to the 2022 promotion, simply because his sister was elected to run the office. Klema, after all, was there first.

“There has to be a solution,” Hetherington said.

Currently, Schuylkill County government has no policy regarding nepotism.

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Commissioners Chairman Larry Padora reacted to the Ethics Commission finding by saying, “I read the report and it makes no recommendation for further investigation. I consider the matter closed.”

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Lori

    May 16, 2024 at 9:15 am

    Interesting how nepotism is legal in Schuylkill County. No penalties? Why not? Oh does she have a friend on the committee?

    • Tootsie

      May 16, 2024 at 8:31 pm

      Enquiring minds would love to know! Who was her slack a** solicitor who advised her- no problem on approving your bubba as First Deputy, and go ahead and vote on his salary while you’re at it!!

      • Tom

        May 16, 2024 at 8:58 pm

        Really, who was Recorder of Deeds Ann Dudish’s Solicitor for her office when all this transpired?! Did she really run it by her solicitor or run it by her bf, former county solicitor?? Ha ha Get Ready!!

  2. Chris

    May 16, 2024 at 8:27 pm

    Made public on Tuesday by whom and how? We are gonna be all over this mess. Thanks!

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