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Conduct hearing on Halcovage set for September

The next step in determining whether Schuylkill County Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr. should be impeached for alleged sexual misconduct is set for September.

“The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts has scheduled a hearing into the conduct of Schuylkill County Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr.,” subcommittee chair state Rep. Paul T. Schemel, R-Franklin County, said in an emailed message.

“On Sept. 15, the committee will receive testimony to assess if Mr. Halcovage is liable for impeachment. House Resolution 99 authorizes the subcommittee to investigate the commissioner’s potential misbehavior in office. Because of House rules related to investigations, specifically Rule 51, much of the hearing will be held in executive session after the subcommittee convenes,” he said.

Halcovage has denied the allegations.

His attorney, Gerard J. Geiger, said Halcovage would decline comment as of now, but anticipated releasing a statement in the coming weeks.

The hearing furthers the process that began on Jan. 11, when the six member House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts voted unanimously to begin an investigation, which can include calling witnesses and compelling entities to turn over information.

Because Halcovage is an elected official, lawmakers are required to conduct an investigation and go through legal proceedings in order to remove him from office through impeachment.

In order for Halcovage to be impeached, the House would have to vote to impeach him, and a trial would held by the Senate.

The impeachment proceedings are being held parallel to those of a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed by four women who work in the courthouse.

They allege he has sexually harassed them since his election to the office in 2012.

An investigation by the county Human Resources Department in June 2020 determined Halcovage violated the sexual harassment, conduct and disciplinary action, and the physical and verbal abuse policies.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2021 in U.S. District Court, Scranton, also alleges some county officials failed to stop the harassment and subsequent retribution against the women, and helped try to cover it up.

The retribution was the focus of an amended suit filed in October 2021. In that suit, two of the women allege commissioners attempted to fire them.

Those women were also accused of misusing sensitive county software to search personal information on a number of people, including Halcovage.

In addition to Halcovage, County Administrator Gary R. Bender, Human Resources Director Heidi L. Zula, Assistant County Solicitor/Risk Manager Glenn T. Roth, and Schuylkill County.

Interim Human Resources Director Doreen Kutzler are also named.

The women are represented by Catherine W. Smith, of the Derek Smith Law Group, Philadelphia.

United States Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson, who is handling the suit, in May ruled the U.S. Department of Justice may join the suit. His ruling came after the state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Jan. 14 referred the matter to Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

That means the federal government may have the authority to exercise oversight over the courthouse to avoid any future complaints; review future complaints, write policy, and provide training.