Halcovage needs to resign
Nearly 30 years ago, the then Schuylkill County Commissioners responded to enactment of the federal Stop Violence Against Women Act by promptly creating a team of professionals to promote a “ … domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, and stalking (response) that prioritizes victim safety and holds offenders accountable.” VAWA’s impact here since 1994, and nationally, has been vital in protecting women’s right to be safe in public, private and workplaces alike.
Commissioner George Halcovage’s continuing presence as a top county executive in the courthouse sends exactly the opposite message. Multiple accounts of exactly the types of behavior that VAWA targets have been reported against him for years by numerous responsible women. Beside the accused and the nature of his acts, the common allegations apparently also are that all the victims came into contact with him by their official public duties. He has denied them, but a formal internal county investigation finally determined them not just to be credible, but to be so serious that any similarly accused county employee would be fired.
The commissioner has the right to his repeated refusal of calls to resign, but this clearly sets his interests ahead of the public’s. It leaves Schuylkill County, as a whole, in a weakened and embarrassing light, particularly as we aim to encourage growth and attract new businesses and residents to the area. It places people and businesses, and particularly public employees, dealing with the county in uncomfortable, uncertain and even risky conditions. It compounds public skepticism and distrust for government. It raises one specter of double standards in equal treatment (one for employees and a different one for elected officials), while reinforcing another (how women should expect to be treated by power and the law against what men might expect.) Most shamefully, it appears to revictimize women in the work force who courageously step forward to call out wrong behavior by falsely and cowardly insinuating that they are liars or hysterical.
A resignation would be swift, retain some claim to honor and service, and save the legislative time and money needed to impeach and remove him. But the safety of victims and ensuring that others do not become victims should be the state’s priority as well as the county’s. Our legislators should no longer wait for his decision. Neither writing letters nor issuing public statements, though understandable and welcome, gets the job done. If our representatives are as serious and concerned for women’s safety as the commissioners were way back in 1994, it is time to submit a bill of impeachment and to use their influence to speedily get it passed. Female staffers, voters and residents deserve it. And so do men.
Sarah T. Casey
President and CEO Schuylkill Women in Crisis