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Schuylkill Chamber asks Halcovage to stay away

The Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to county Commissioner George Halcovage Jr. requesting he not attend events.

Robert S. Carl Jr., president and CEO of the organization, confirmed Monday the letter was sent last week. Legal advice was obtained in the drafting of the document.

“There is a letter and the letter was delivered,” Carl said, adding it was signed for.

Carl did not sign the letter, nor did he provide a copy. He will ask Mark Weiderhold, chair of the executive board, if he would release the document.

“The release of the letter has to be by the authors of the letter,” Carl said.

The Times News has what Carl claims is a potential draft of the letter.

“Substantial changes were made to it,” he said before the final copy was sent.

Carl said all eight members of the executive committee of the board of directors, who have the final copies, signed the letter, which informs Halcovage he will not be afforded a speaking opportunity at the events, Carl said.

“We all should be trying to do the right thing,” he said.

Limiting him from attending private events will likely be easier than public ones, he said.

“If George shows up, we have to deal with it,” he said.

Carl said he isn’t going to throw Halcovage out if he attends.

While this is the first action the executive committee took, it is not the first time the matter has been mentioned.

“It’s been discussed before,” he said.

Members of the public, the chamber and executive committee members had made mention of it.

“The executive committee was reluctant to take formal action,” Carl said before. However, recent events brought the topic to the forefront. He said if the chamber of commerce offends members of its organization then “we are really not doing a great job of representing them.”

He said the chamber is “trying to do the right thing for all 767 members.”

While not saying it was a tipping point, Halcovage attended a Schuylkill Leadership class at the Tamaqua Library in June unannounced and was given the chance to speak by Carl.

“I don’t think I can benchmark the emotion,” he said, adding after the event the chamber received feedback.

Before the letter, commissioners were invited to attend. Sometimes they respond back saying they will do so.

“He has not been a regular attendee at all of the chamber events,” Carl said of Halcovage.

Legal troubles

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.

He said the members of the executive committee are “not making a judgment based on his innocence or guilt based on the charges,” when they signed the letter.

“Do we ignore that cry from our members or do we do something about it?” Carl said.

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 was 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.

Numerous county and state leaders have called for Halcovage to resign. The county 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.

The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the resolution calling for an investigation of Halcovage in June. 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 in May. The judiciary committee will report the findings of the investigation to the House of Representatives.

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 the duties make recommendations to the Judiciary Committee and take testimony, and prepare legal papers.