Schuylkill employee fired
A Schuylkill Conservation District employee was fired for gross misconduct Wednesday in the wake of an ongoing investigation into the embezzlement of at least $200,000 from the organization.
Commissioners voted unanimously to terminate fiscal technician Virginia Kunigonis of Pottsville, who earned $19.13 an hour.
No charges had been filed against Kunigonis as of early Thursday, but District Attorney Christine Holman said she expects that to happen.
"Trooper Bernard Walasavage has been working diligently to gather all of the evidence before filing a criminal complaint," she said.
Commissioners referred questions about the firing to county solicitor Al Marshall, saying they could not comment on personnel matters.
Efforts to reach both Marshall and Kunigonis were unsuccessful.
Commissioners Chairman Frank J. Staudenmeier described the conservation district as "quasi-governmental."
"They are a stand-alone entity under the umbrella of the county," he said. "They have their own board of directors."
He said the fiscal technician's job would need to be filled quickly.
The money was taken over 2012, last year and this year, Holman said.
She said county Controller Christy Joy, whose office uncovered alleged misappropriation of funds in the Clerk of Courts office in March, is now examining the conservation district's 2011 audit.
Charges have yet to be filed in the Clerk of Courts matter.
The possible financial troubles surfaced as Joy examined the conservation district's 2012 audit, done by Z&A Accounting.
His finding prompted state police to launch an investigation.
"The conservation district's audit report contained substantive findings. If these findings were addressed by management, this alleged embezzlement would have been prevented," Joy said last week.
Conservation district Manager Elizabeth Hinkel said she is taking steps to correct shortcomings that may have enabled the person to take the money.
The conservation district is supported by two funding streams: Federal and state grant money, and county funds.
Hinkel has said it appears that no county funds were embezzled.
In a prepared statement issued last week, when Joy's office released its findings, Hinkel said she and a staff member were doing a routine review of files on May 30 when the staff member "found what appeared to be file folders documenting fraudulent activity, which was first flagged when the staff person noticed what appeared to be fraudulent signatures."
After reviewing bank statements and other documents, she immediately contacted county administrator Mark Scarbinsky, and met with him and other officials on June 2. State police were alerted as a result of that meeting, and Hinkel met with them on June 4.
Kunigonis is the second county employee to leave office under a cloud of suspicion after audit reviews uncovered wrongdoing.
Longtime Clerk of Courts Stephen M. Lukach Jr. retired in April, a month after Joy's office uncovered alleged misappropriation of funds.
The matter is being investigated by state police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Attorney General.
Charges have yet to be filed against Lukach, who had held the job for 27 years.