The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

October 9, 2013

Northumberland County judge disputes commissioner's allegations

— SUNBURY — Stating that he wanted to return to the scene of the “attack,” President Judge Robert Sacavage on Tuesday denied allegations that he was involved in falsifying documents so that a friend could collect unemployment benefits.

In turn, Rick Shoch, the county commissioner making the charge, stood by his allegation that the judge had helped a former adult probation chief obtain the benefits illegally and called for an investigation by an outside agency.

Sacavage arrived for his press conference at 11 a.m., took a seat at the county commissioners table in the county administration building and spoke about the allegations leveled by Shoch, who left the conference early, but fired back in a statement Tuesday night.

Sacavage said, “This will not be a dog and pony show, and I chose this location because this is where Mr. Shoch decided to attack me when I was not around to defend myself.

“I could have done this in my courtroom and wore my robe and had sheriffs all around me, but I decided to come here.”

Sacavage said he would tell his side of the story and the verdict would be up to the residents of Northumberland County, and he also asked for Shoch to be removed as the liaison between commissioners and the courts.

Shoch sat in the front row and watched as court administrator Brandy Yasenchak passed out media packets that countered Shoch’s charges. About 40 minutes into the press conference Shoch left.

Shoch leaves early

After the press conference was over, Chief Clerk Gary Steffen announced that Shoch said he had to leave to attend a deposition.

Sacavage said: “Mr. Shoch wanted to paint this dark picture that I had been a part of corruption and was part of a co-conspiracy with other commissioners to scheme to set up a program that would reward a former employee by allowing him to receive unemployment benefits. But the truth is Mr. Shoch’s theories don’t hold up.”

During an Oct. 1 public meeting held by the commissioners to set row office salaries Shoch displayed a hire sheet that he said showed Sacavage signed off on former Adult Probation Chief John Wondoloski’s termination although Wondoloski actually retired.

The sheet had the signatures of Sacavage, Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Steve Bridy and other county officals.

Sacavage said he had a plan to save the county more than $100,000 and that plan included eliminating Wondoloski’s position.

“First I will not deny Wondoloski is a friend of mine, and he was a credited state trooper and we were lucky to get him after he left the state police,” Sacavage said. “But the fact is Mr. Shoch has said Mr. Wondoloski applied for unemployment benefits in June, which was before the salary board meeting in July. As an attorney and a commissioner you would think Mr. Shoch would have done his homework and made sure he had the proper evidence to back up these claims, but as you can all see Mr. Wondolsoki did not contact the state Department of Labor and Industry until July 21.”

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