The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 24, 2013

Northumberland County prison guard suspended

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — A month that began with two Northumberland County Prison guards being fired, one quitting and a fourth suspended and under investigation is ending with another suspended without pay for allegedly distributing narcotics and delivering tobacco to inmates.

County Commissioner Vinny Clausi, who earlier this month mounted a nearly weeklong crusade to address issues inside the prison, confirmed Thursday an incident took place inside the 138-year-old lockup.

Prison Cmdr. Brian Wheary said an investigation is under way into an incident involving a guard, but he and Clausi declined to identify the incident.

“I can say I am proud of Warden Roy Johnson and Commander Wheary for staying on top of this situation,” Clausi said. “I told everyone a long time ago we were having problems and the only way we were going to stop them was to keep on top this.”

Clausi: Jail officials can probe incident

Because Johnson and Wheary were handling the situation, Clausi said he would respect their probe and neither confirm nor deny what the guard did to warrant the suspension.

“We will continue to clean up the prison and we will continue to expose any crooks when we find them,” Clausi said. “If anyone is bringing drugs or cigarettes in the prison, they better be prepared to be arrested and prosecuted.”

A person in position to know said a guard was bringing pills and cigarettes inside the prison and distributing them to inmates. Nick Keck, who was hired Jan. 30, 2011, was the only guard who was suspended as of Thursday, according to Northumberland County human resource director Joe Picarelli.

Picarello declined to state the reason for Keck’s suspension.

Earlier this month, Picarelli said the employment of guards Luz Serrano and David Feese was terminated. Serrano was employed at the prison since November 2011 while Feese was hired in December. Guard Sharron Stokes, who was employed at the lockup since September, resigned. One guard was suspended, Picarelli said.

Picarelli, as well as Clausi, declined earlier this month to identify the reasons for dismissals, but a person inside the prison in a position to know said a female guard was recently caught kissing an inmate and a female guard was caught passing a cell phone.

Commissioner and prison board Chairman Steve Bridy on Thursday echoed Clausi’s sentiments about corrupt guards.

“If that is happening, then they will be prosecuted,” he said. “We will not stand for it.”

Police will be called if needed following the result of the most recent investigation, Clausi and Bridy said.