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Halcovage impeachment fades away

The impeachment procedures begun last fall against Schuylkill County Commissioners George F. Halcovage Jr. for sexual misconduct have gone belly-up, at least for now.

The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, which was investigating whether Halcovage should be unseated, heard testimony beginning in September. It ended its investigation in November, at the end of the 2022 legislative session, expecting to resume in January.

But, according to state Rep. Tim Briggs, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, the subcommittee has faded into the sunset.

“Of the six members from last sessions subcommittee on courts, only two members currently serve on this session’s Judiciary committee. So if a resolution is introduced and referred to the subcommittee on courts, yes the subcommittee would have to do a new investigation,” said Briggs, D-Montgomery County.

“It is a shame that Rep. (Paul T.) Schemel allowed the session to expire without completing its work,” he said.

That was a retaliatory remark aimed at Schemel, R-Franklin County, who on March 9 said Briggs has “not taken up the continuation of the Halcovage impeachment. Although the subcommittee was prepared to complete the Halcovage investigation and report a recommendation to the full committee, it is unable to do so until it is authorized to complete its work. We are over three months into the new session, but this issue will remain unresolved unless and until the leaders of the Democrat majority in the House allow the subcommittee to complete its work.”

For Halcovage to be impeached, the House would have to vote to remove him from office, and a trial would then be held by the Senate.

The subcommittee, in addition to Schemel, was composed of state representatives Joshua D. Kail, Andrew Lewis, David H. Rowe, and Joseph C. Hohenstein, and Michael Zabel.

Zabel, a Democrat from Delaware County, recently stepped down after being accused of sexual harassment by several women.

As the political parrying continues in Harrisburg, so does a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed in March 2021 in U.S. District Court, Scranton, against Halcovage by four women who work at the courthouse.

The women, identified in the suit only as Jane Doe 1,2,3, and 4, accuse him of sexually harassing them since he first took office in 2012.

Halcovage, who is running for reelection, has denied the accusations.

The allegations surfaced in 2020, when an investigation by the county Human Resources Department determined Halcovage violated the sexual harassment, conduct and disciplinary action, and the physical and verbal abuse policies.

The matter was sent to the state Office of the Attorney General, which did not file charges.

In addition to the accusations of sexual harassment, it also alleges some county officials failed to stop the harassment and subsequent retribution against the women, and helped try to cover it up.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson, who is presiding over the suit, has indicated information gathering would continue into July.

Halcovage did not respond to a request for comment.

Halcovage Jr.