The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

October 3, 2013

Vote to cut job 52 days after job cut

— SUNBURY — Northumberland County Commissioner Rick Shoch said the state Department of Labor and Industry’s unemployment fraud division is aware of the former chief of adult probation’s unemployment compensation claim.

President Judge Robert Sacavage countered, saying nothing was “illegal” or “improper” about a hiring sheet that he and Northumberland County salary board members signed to eliminate John Wondoloski’s position of adult probation chief.

Shoch displayed the hiring sheet at Tuesday night’s special meeting and said that Wondoloski wasn’t terminated, as the hiring sheet states, but retired.

On May 9, the hiring sheet was signed by Sacavage, Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Steve Bridy, Chief Clerk Gary Steffen and budget Director Jeff McClintock and stated the employment of Wondoloski, of Elysburg, had been terminated.

On June 21, Wondoloski filed for unemployment compensation, Shoch said he recently learned.

On June 28, human resources director Joe Picarelli signed the hiring sheet reflecting Wondoloski’s termination.

On July 10, Wondoloski’s position was terminated, as the salary board approved a plan introduced by Sacavage that would consolidate management in the probation department.

A deal was in place for Wondoloski, Shoch said, or a Sunshine Law violation took place.

Shoch is on a witch hunt and his statements are inaccurate, Sacavage said.

“The position was terminated,” Sacavage said. “Whatever days or dates were not consequential as to what occurred. I can’t tell you how many times we sent something down to commissioners and they didn’t like something. Shoch was all part of it and I explained to him what we do. I have never in decades ever went in on day one with commissioners and started discussions and have a vote taken.”

Wondoloski told everyone in emails he was retiring, which would make his hiring sheet falsified and represent a tampered document, Shoch said.

Shoch also accused Sacavage of preparing a party for Wondoloski to be held during business hours and that the probation department planned to close the office that day, thus holding a celebration at taxpayers’ expense.

Shoch provided The Daily Item Wednesday with emails from adult probation supervisor Brian Updegrove to the department reading, “As per Judge Sacavage, and planned by SOS, we will be having a retirement party for Wondo in Blackwell (Friday) Sept. 13. Let me know who is going and who is not. If everyone is going, we will shut down the office for that day. If we have a handful that do not want to attend, will cover the office for that day.”

SOS, Shoch said, is Santina Sacavage, the judge’s daughter who works in adult probation. The email was dated Aug. 6.

Sacavage acknowledged a party was being planned, but that it was to be held on a Saturday, and when he heard emails were being distributed, he canceled the party.

Clausi said Sacavage requested a salary board meeting in June, but because commissioners didn’t like what was proposed, the meeting was canceled.

Once an employee leaves his position, the hiring sheet is signed by his department head, according to Controller Tony Phillips.

In Wondoloski’s case, Sacavage signed the form.

The hiring sheet goes to the commissioners office, where it gets a check from office employees, and is sent to the budget director, who sends it to the chief clerk. The chief clerk sends the form to commissioners. At least two commissioners need to sign the hiring sheet, then it is sent to the human resources director.

Picarelli, the human resources director, said Wednesday he found nothing wrong with the hiring sheet and said the dates didn’t matter.

Hiring sheets are not audited because there are too many, Phillips said.

Shoch said Phillips is supposed to sign the hiring sheets as part of the salary board, but for some reason he has removed himself from the process.

Phillips said he doesn’t have to sign the hiring sheets and the only time he gets involved is when they involve his department.

Phillips said he didn’t see the Wondoloski hiring sheet so he couldn’t comment, but said the dates don’t necessarily reflect anything.

“Sometimes they are filled out and then we can’t get ahold of someone,” he said.

“Then those dates would be off.”

Wondoloski, a retired state trooper, was hired by the county in 2008 until he left in July. Wondolsoki, who earned $61,000, said he did nothing wrong.

“But to say that a judge or commissioners would have done something illegal is just crazy,” he said. “I lost my position due to restructuring.”

 

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