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Halcovage ordered to turn over documents

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Nov. 19—Schuylkill County Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr. has been ordered to produce documents requested by the U.S. Department of Justice, which earlier this year was added as a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit accusing Halcovage of sexual harassment and assault.

The one-sentence order filed Nov. 10 by U.S. Magistrate Martin C. Carlson requires Halcovage to “produce all documents responsive to the United States’ document request 13” by Nov. 24, which is Thanksgiving.

The department on June 28 had requested “all emails, text messages, and/or other written communications sent or received” on Halcovage’s personal electronic devices, personal email accounts or personal social media accounts between May 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020.

The request was one of 15 from the DOJ. Answers were provided to all requests from the June 28 correspondence.

Halcovage indicated in a Sept. 11 filing to the request from the DOJ that he would comply and said those documents sought were included. However, information submitted for request 13 did not cover the time period sought, according to a Nov. 8 letter from the DOJ. Subsequent attempts to get the information were not productive, and the DOJ requested a deadline for compliance, prompting Carlson’s ruling.

Halcovage, along with the county administrator, assistant county solicitor and two former human resources directors, was sued in federal court in March 2021 by four female county employees for sexual harassment and, in some cases, sexual assault. The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in October 2021 alleging retaliation against them for filing the suit.

Halcovage has denied the allegations. A phone call on Friday to his attorney, Gerald Geiger, was not returned.

Carlson earlier this year granted the DOJ’s request to join the lawsuit, despite objections from Halcovage. The government alleges violation of federal law in that the county subjected the plaintiffs to a hostile work environment and retaliated after the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Halcovage also faces possible impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts is investigating if his conduct should result in his removal from office. In September, the subcommittee voted 5-1 to issue a referral to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, citing information “which is of interest of a criminal nature,” and voted unanimously to authorize more subpoenas. Paul Schemel, chair of the committee, said in October the investigation will continue in the new legislative session starting next year.

House resolution 99, which authorized the investigation into Halcovage’s conduct, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee 25-0 and the full House approved it 200-0 in November 2021.

If the committee finds Halcovage engaged in “impeachable” conduct, articles of impeachment can be prepared. If Halcovage is impeached by the House, the state Senate would conduct a trial, and if two-thirds of the senators vote for conviction, Halcovage would be removed from office. A majority vote — 102 of 203 — is needed in the House; two-thirds of the Senate is 34 of 50 members.

The county solicitor and human resources office found Halcovage violated county policies on sexual harassment, conduct and discipline. District Attorney Michael A. O’Pake referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office on July 8, 2020. That office closed the case Feb. 5, 2021, without filing charges. Details were not provided, although a spokesman at the time said the statute of limitations were among the considerations.

Contact the writer: [email protected]; 570-628-6023

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