House calls to investigate Halcovage
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the resolution calling for an investigation of Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage Jr.
The vote was 25-0.
The resolution calls for the start of an investigation as to “whether an impeachment or removal from office is required due to alleged misbehavior in office and violation of public trust.”
State Reps. Jerry Knowles, R-Schuylkill/Berks/Carbon; Joe Kerwin, R-Dauphin-Schuylkill; and Tim Twardzik, R-Schuylkill, introduced House Resolution 99 last month. The judiciary committee will report the findings of the investigation to the House of Representatives.
“The House Judiciary Committee has taken the next step in the process of beginning the investigation of Schuylkill County Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr.,” the delegation said. “While this is very rare for legislators to ask for an investigation of a public official, unfortunately, under the circumstances, we believe it to be necessary. We have an obligation to our constituents and all of Schuylkill County to determine the facts in this case and proceed accordingly,” they said in a statement.
Among other duties, the committee is authorized and empowered to administer oaths and witnesses, take testimony, request individuals and papers, documents and other materials, and prepare and file legal documents.
The committee designated the Subcommittee on Courts to among other duties make recommendations to the Judiciary Committee and take testimony, and prepare legal documents.
Howard Merrick, chairman of the Schuylkill County Republican Committee, said he was unaware the resolution had passed.
“They said they were going to do it and they got it done before recess,” he said.
The House goes into recess later this month. It comes back in September.
State Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill/Berks, knew about the passage of the resolution.
“I will be very carefully monitoring the investigation in the House,” he said.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what the House comes up with. I just hope they do a thorough and fair investigation,” said Chairman of the Schuylkill County Democratic Committee Hugh Reiley.
Cost for the investigation will be paid for by the Chief Clerk upon written request approved by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, or the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia/Delaware.
The civil case
Halcovage, who has been a commissioner since 2012, has been sued in federal court by four women, all Schuylkill County employees, who have accused him of sexual harassment. Their names are not in the lawsuit, but they are identified as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Jane Doe 3, and Jane Doe 4.
Other defendants are also named in the suit.
Halcovage’s access to the courthouse was restricted in May. His identification card was removed and access to the courthouse limited. He is required to enter and exit the courthouse through the main entrance and pass through security like the general public does. He is only permitted during regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The restrictions were instituted after Lebanon County Judge Robert Eby ruled Halcovage ordered to not “abuse, harass, stalk or threaten” two women who asked a judge for protection.
The sexual violence protection order, which has other prohibitions, is effective until March 22, 2024. The women are identified as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. Both sides consented to the agreement without admission by Halcovage.
A sexual violence protection order is designed to protect the victims of such violence from further abuse and/or intimidation by their abuser, regardless if criminal charges have been filed against the perpetrator, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Numerous county and state leaders have called for Halcovage to resign. The county’s solicitor’s office and human resources investigated and determined that Halcovage violated three county policies, sexual harassment, conduct and discipline, and physical and verbal abuse.
The investigation determined that if Halcovage was an employee he would be suspended and recommended he be terminated.