Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Pennsylvania House Committee Makes Criminal Referral to Attorney General, Continues Impeachment Investigation into Schuylkill County Commissioner Halcovage

The Pennsylvania House Subcommittee on Courts held a meeting on Monday as part of their impeachment investigation into Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage.

The committee met publicly Monday for an 8-minute meeting after going into Executive Session last week to interview witnesses as part of the sexual misconduct allegations.

A vote was expected to move the investigation to a House vote but instead the committee voted to extend their investigation.

The committee chaired by Representative Paul Schemel (R-Franklin County), made a motion Monday to continue the investigation and authorize additional subpoenas.  

"We do believe that there's adequate evidence to move forward the investigation to complete that practice and it's still our intention to do so within the session so the House and potentially the Senate would have the opportunity to move forward." Rep. Schemel said.

Rep. Schemel also made remarks to those in Schuylkill County, included elected officials, that had urged the committee to impeach.

I understand that there are a number of individuals, especially those in Schuylkill county, that would like to see a quick resolution to this matter and are frustrated with the fact that it has dragged down for some time.  The committee and the subcommittee acknowledges that as was referenced by the co-chairman a moment ago there have only ever been two impeachments in the history of our Commonwealth.  So there is not a lot of pattern on how to move forward with these or what is the appropriate standard.  The subcommittee has been evaluating that.  This particular case has been further involved with the fact that, number one, we have an underlying Federal case, which involves three parties not only the plaintiffs, the defendant Commissioner Halcovage but also the county.

All entries from which we have been attempting to solicit information through subpoena. So that process has been longer than we what we would've normally wanted.  

Also in previous impeachments there is been opportunity for individuals to, I would say, to remedy themselves.  The most recent in my mind would be the Kathleen Kane impeachment where eventually Attorney General Kane resigned on her own.  So there's been opportunity as well for this, where the Commissioner in question would do likewise there for solving the problem for the subcommittee.  That is not occurred.  So this process has gone longer than what perhaps, many would have wanted in Schuylkill County but we are trying to move through it.

Prior to the motion to extend the investigation,  a motion was made to made a criminal referral to the Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office, based on the testimony given last week.

That motioned passed 5-1, with the single negative vote coming from Rep. Michael Zabel.  Rep. Zabel would remark, "I wholeheartedly see the need for additional investigation, is what informs my previous vote.  With regards to the criminal referral, which I believe is premature.  Not inappropriate, but premature".

The Attorney General's office had investigated the case after Schuylkill County District Attorney Mike O'Pake referred the case.  The Attorney General ended their investigation on February 5th, 2021 by not filing any charges only stating, "Our office made a decision to close the case without filing charges and among our considerations was statutes of limitations."

No further details have been provided when the committee will meet again or call on additional witnesses.