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Innocent until proven guilty

To the editor:

Many words have been spoken and written about the allegations made against Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage.

We would like to add our own.

Both of us are friends of George, but our friendship is not the relevant issue. This same letter could be written if we were hostile to George.

If you were to ask us if we believe the allegations made against him, the only honest answer we could give would be that we hope that they are not true. Why do we hope that they are not true? That prompts a rather elementary reply: We hope that they are not true because we are happy to see virtue rather than to see vice!

As to our knowing beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not the allegations are true, all we can say is that we do not and cannot know beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is logical, is it not? How could we possibly know? The only ones, other than God, who know with absolute certitude are the accused and the accusers.

All that we know for certain at the present time is this: (a) George denies the allegations; (b) to the best of our knowledge, there is no evidentiary proof of the allegations; (c) the burden of proof is on those making the allegations; (d) the County Solicitor’s Office has determined that George violated sexual harassment policies, although it has not offered proof for its determination; (e) Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has reviewed the allegations and has decided not to file charges.

But the question remains: Should George resign?

We are of the opinion that, if he is guilty, he should consider the wisdom of resigning, but, if he is not guilty, he should not resign. Nor should he be harassed into resigning, simply in order to relieve the pressures on himself and his family.

The Pennsylvania Constitution wisely shields certain government officials from being fired by any state or county authority.

The only way to get rid of a county commissioner is to decline to reelect him or her, or else to secure his or her impeachment by the state Assembly, followed by conviction in the state Senate. It is important for the integrity and continuity of government that the proper legal procedures be followed.

Those who are passionate for George’s removal should stir up their representatives in the state Assembly to initiate impeachment proceedings. They should do this rather than hold rallies on courthouse steps or write angry letters or make threats.

Meanwhile, unless and until proven otherwise, we are of the opinion that George Halcovage is not guilty of the allegations that might warrant removal from office.

The presumption of innocence is absolutely fundamental to a decent society. Those who wish to short-circuit it in order to get back at those who do not enjoy their favor will find, one day, that the principle will be short-circuited to their own detriment.

We are a society of laws. We go back to Magna Carta (1215) which says: “No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned … or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

We hope and pray that Commissioner Halcovage will never be “ruined,” but, if he is to be “ruined,” it must not happen by lynch mob, but only by the lawful judgment of the state Legislature.

Meanwhile, being fully aware that God is the ultimate judge of all hearts, we pray that just decisions will be rendered in the appropriate human tribunals by those who are entrusted with making such decisions.

The Rev. Edward B. Connolly

New Philadelphia

David J. Moylan, MD