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Schuylkill County Commissioner accused of sexual harassment

The chairman of the Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners has been accused of sexual harassment.

The Office of the County Solicitor released a statement Tuesday afternoon about the allegations against George Halcovage by several female county employees.

First Assistant County Solicitor and Risk Manager Glenn T. Roth Jr. said last week that an investigation was launched.

“On the morning of May 22, the Schuylkill County Human Resources Director Deborah Twigg received serious allegations against Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage including claims of sexual harassment concerning several female county employees,” the statement said.

“The county was notified that one employee in particular retained counsel, and the county was directed that all questions should be directed to her attorney.”

County Administrator Gary Bender was notified of the allegations, and human resources was directed to conduct an internal investigation into the allegations. Interviews were conducted that day.

Halcovage was informed that serious allegations were made against him.

Commissioners Gary J. Hess and Barron Hetherington were also notified. After the initial interviews took place, Bender directed HR and Roth to conduct the remainder of the interviews.

The county took steps to accommodate the employees to ensure that they felt comfortable in the workplace, including directing Halcovage to not have contact with the employees, according to the statement.

Halcovage informed HR that he had retained an attorney, and an interview took place with Halcovage and his attorney on June 10.

On June 16, HR and Roth interviewed the county employee making the most serious allegations, along with her attorney.

A follow-up interview with Halcovage and his counsel occurred on June 23. During the interviews, Halcovage was questioned regarding specific allegations made against him by the employees.

It is important to note that no complaints were made against Halcovage by any of the employees before May 22, the statement said.

“The county conducted its internal investigation through HR as it does with any other allegation involving county personnel,” the statement said. “The investigation was conducted as expeditiously as possible, but took some time given the number of interviews that needed to be conducted and that there were multiple attorneys involved.

“While many of the allegations made by the employees were denied by Halcovage, it is apparent, based on the county’s internal investigation, that Halcovage has violated the Sexual Harassment Policy; the Conduct and Disciplinary Action Policy; and the Physical and Verbal Abuse Policy.”

If this investigation involved a county department head, the department head would be suspended immediately pending investigation followed by a recommendation of employment termination, the statement said.

“However, neither county administration nor other county commissioners may discipline a fellow county commissioner or remove him from office absent criminal conviction or impeachment. Given that this incident does involve personnel, involves multiple attorneys, and may proceed to litigation, the county may not provide specific details of the allegations made by the employees or the specific findings of the internal investigation.”

Halcovage released a statement Monday about an internal investigation launched against him.

“I have been advised that several county employees have filed complaints with the county alleging that I engaged in misconduct and they have threatened to file lawsuits in court,” Halcovage said.

“I have not been permitted to review the complaints or provided details regarding those complaints. However, in general, I understand the complaints to allege sexual harassment and discrimination,” he said in his statement.

“I vehemently deny engaging in any sexual harassment or any type of discrimination whatsoever.”

Halcovage said he was asked to respond to questions as part of the county’s confidential, internal investigation of the complaints.

“I have promptly and fully cooperated with the county’s investigation.

“I look forward to the conclusion of that investigation.”

He refused further comment because of the pending investigation and threatened lawsuits, he said.

“In the meantime, I will continue to proudly do the hard work necessary to serve the people of Schuylkill County.”

Halcovage, a Republican, has been in office since January 2012.