Log In

Reset Password

House vote is unanimous for Halcovage investigation

By a vote of 200-0, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Resolution 99 Wednesday that empowers two committees to conduct an investigation into Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage Jr. to determine if impeachment or removal from office is warranted “due to alleged misbehavior in office and violation of public trust.”

The House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on the Courts can subpoena witnesses and other needed actions.

Halcovage has been sued in federal court by four women, all Schuylkill County employees, who have accused him of sexual harassment. He denies the accusations. An amended complaint was also recently filed that lists employment actions that took place after the first lawsuit.

Speaking on the House floor, Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill said, “Mr. Speaker, determining whether an elected official should be removed through the impeachment process is not something that this body should take lightly. We truly wish that we were not here today seeking your support for House Resolution 99. Unfortunately, the circumstances demand the action,” Knowles said.

He was joined by Reps. Joe Kerwin, R-Schuylkill/Dauphin, and Tim Twardzik, R-Schuylkill.

HR99 was introduced in May by the trio and voted on by the House Judiciary Committee in June.

If the Subcommittee on Courts finds Halcovage engaged in “impeachable conduct, the committee may approve articles of impeachment for the full House to consider,” Knowles said.

If approved by the House, the Senate would conduct a trial. Upon voting of two-thirds of the senators for impeachment, Halcovage would be voted and removed from office, Knowles said.

Knowles said he did not know when the investigation would start. That is up to the chairman of both committees.

The legislators released a joint statement later in the day.

“While we await the Subcommittee on Courts to begin its investigation, we acknowledge that this is very rare for legislators to ask for an investigation of a public official,” they said. The representatives said they have an obligation to county residents to determine the facts and act as needed.

“With the passage of this resolution, we hope that Commissioner Halcovage will do the right thing for Schuylkill County and resign,” the representatives said.

Sen. David Argall Tuesday also introduced legislation to remove Halcovage from office. The resolution would establish a Senate Special Committee to pursue Article VI section seven of the state constitution, which states that civil officers elected by the people shall be removed by the governor for reasonable cause, after due notice and full hearing, on the vote of two-thirds of the Senate.Gov. Tom Wolf would then be required to remove him if two-thirds of the Senate vote after an investigation by the Senate Special Committee. Numerous county and state leaders have called for Halcovage to resign. The county’s solicitor’s office and Human Resources office investigated and determined that Halcovage violated three county policies, sexual harassment, conduct and discipline, and physical and verbal abuse. The investigation determined that if he was an employee he would be suspended and recommended he be terminated.

Halcovage’s legal troubles include the aforementioned lawsuit, and two rulings by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involving the county and the four women involved in the lawsuit. Lebanon County Senior Judge Robert Eby also ordered Halcovage not to “abuse, harass, stalk or threaten” two women who asked the judge for protection. Both sides consented to the agreement without admission by Halcovage. Party input Howard Merrick, chairman of the Schuylkill County Republican Committee, said he learned of the vote while watching TV. He said it should be “ a wake up call” to Halcovage about the seriousness of the situation.

“It’s time for him to resign,” he said.

He can defend himself as anyone should though, Merrick said.

Hugh Reiley, Chairman of the Schuylkill County Democratic Committee, agreed.

“George is still innocent until proven guilty and this affords all of us the opportunity to see whether he is innocent or guilty,” he said of Wednesday’s vote.