Friday, March 26, 2021

Calls for Commissioner Halcovage to Resign Grow; Rally Planned for this Weekend

A week and a half after a lawsuit was filed by four women against Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage, calls for his resignation continue to grow from County Officials.

In late June of 2020, the Schuylkill County Solicitor's office announced that the County Human Resources Department had received allegations against Commissioner Halcovage including claims of sexual harassment concerning several female County Employees.

After an investigation that took place before the announcement, it was reported that Halcovage had violated the Sexual Harassment Policy #2005-18 (Revised September 2013), the Conduct and Disciplinary Action Policy #2005-19; and the Physical and Verbal Abuse Policy #2007-02 (Revised March 2007).

A week later, on July 7th, 2020, Schuylkill County District Attorney Mike O'Pake handed over the investigation into the allegations to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office.

O'Pake's office had been requested by the Human Resources Department to determine if criminal charges were appropriate. O'Pake felt that the investigation would better be handled by the State Attorney General's office.

In early February, we learned from Attorney General Shapiro's office that the investigation ended the week prior on February 5th, 2021.

The details of their findings were not released but the office said in a statement Skook News received on Wednesday that "Our office made a decision to close the case without filing charges and among our considerations was statutes of limitations. "

A month later, on Tuesday, March 16th, 2021, a lawsuit was filed in Federal Court against Commissioner Halcovage for his alleged sexual harassment of four female county employees.

The identity of the four accusers was not made available.

Also included in the suit were Gary Bender, Schuylkill County Administrator, Doreen Kutlzer, former HR director, Heidi Zula, current HR Director, and Glenn Roth, Schuylkill County's First Assistant Solicitor.

The four are included in the suit because the accusers alleged that they knew about Halcovage's alleged actions and did nothing about it.

Commissioner Halcovage and the other officials involved have been quiet, waiting for the proceeding to start.

During this week's Commissioner's Meeting, Schuylkill Clerk of Courts, Marie Casey, spoke during the public comment portion. Casey has been a critic of Commissioner Halcovage since the allegations became public in June 2020 and have been asking for him to step down ever since. During the meeting, she asked for Halcovage to be banned from the Courthouse.

On Thursday, Schuylkill County Treasurer Linda Marchalk hand-delivered a letter, that was signed by four other row officers, demanding him to resign.

The other signees included Clerk of Courts Maria T. Casey, Recorder of Deeds Ann Dudish, Prothonotary Bridget McGowan Miller, and Acting Controller Sharyn Yackenchick.

In the letter, it began as "We write you today to express our concern and contempt over the misconduct alleged by four female County employees and the impact that the misconduct and resulting claims are having on the people of Schuylkill County and the administration of County government. Quite simply, you have lost our trust and we collectively have no confidence in your ability to effectively lead our great County.

Also stated in the letter about the details that were made public through the lawsuit, they called Halcovage's alleged actions "abhorrent, repulsive, and inexcusable".

The letter ends with "We are unified in this request and feel strongly that anything short of resignation would be viewed as condoning your misconduct. Your failure to promptly resign your office will only further stigmatize our great Schuylkill County and the people who work so tirelessly to honorably serve our constituents. We strongly encourage you to act in the best interest of our County and resign the position."

Along with the others asking for his resignation, Schuylkill County Democratic Chairman, Hugh Reilly, issued a statement Friday saying 

The Schuylkill County Democratic Committee welcomes the Republican County Officeholders that have joined us and several of our affiliates in demanding that George Halcovage immediately resigns as County Commissioner because of the harm that has occurred to the County’s reputation and respect within the Commonwealth. Resulting from the allegations that have been alleged against him as a result of the County’s investigation, a civil suit, and the criminal charges stating that he personally engaged in sexual misconduct and harassment of four female County employees in the Court House. We encourage all of the other Schuylkill County Republican Commonwealth and Federal Officeholder’s, as well as the members of the Schuylkill County Republican Committee to stop overlooking the harm being caused to our Community by Mr. Halcovage and join in with those of us that want to end the disgrace. The Schuylkill County Democratic Committee condemns all sexual harassment and assault, and we support all victims. Also, any allegations should be investigated immediately.

A rally is also scheduled at the Schuylkill County Courthouse on Sunday, March 28th, 2021 at noon on the steps of the courthouse for the public to show their support in Halcovage's resignation.

The rally is being organized by Catherine Mahon of the Schuylkill County Young Democrats as well as the Schuylkill County Democratic Women's League.

"We needed to do something where we need to show him he needs to resign and we need to support these women," Mahon said.  

"The fact that they've had to deal with this the whole time isn't acceptable either" Mahon added.

She says she hopes the rally sends a message for Halcovage's resignation, who she says is the source of the problem, but also helps politicians hold other politicians accountable for their actions.