By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
The Northumberland County Prison board voted Monday to reinstate a former correctional officer who had been accused of selling copper pipes from the lockup for personal profit.
The former guard, Shane Hoffman, 40, of Sunbury, was acquitted of theft and related charges in July. He will now receive up to $95,000 in back pay, and he has the option of getting his old job back.
Hoffman was found not guilty of institutional vandalism, theft and receiving stolen property by a jury of eight women and four men at the conclusion of a three-day trial presided over by Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest.
The investigation started in February 2009 and took nearly four years to proceed through the court system. It took the jury 90 minutes to clear Hoffman’s name.
Prison board officials met Monday in an emergency session to vote on the reinstatement.
Hoffman insisted his arrest was “politically driven,” claiming former warden Ralph “Rick” Reish was looking for a reason to fire his father-in-law and former deputy warden John Conrad.
Hoffman was initially suspended without pay from his position before being terminated June 8 by current warden Roy Johnson.
Northumberland County President Judge Robert Sacavage made the motion to reinstate Hoffman.
“I think we should comply with the arbitrators right away,” Sacavage said. “We need to send Mr. Hoffman a letter and inform him we need a speedy decision on his position.”
Sacavage said the court system will iron out the payment Hoffman is going to receive.
Hoffman, who was hired in October 2005, was earning $11.34 per hour at the time of his firing. The reason Hoffman was fired officials said, was for violating the Northumberland County personnel manual and the Northumberland County Prison code of ethics.
Hoffman was charged by police with stealing copper pipes from the prison and keeping approximately $320 he received for the scrap metal instead of turning the money over to the prison. The charges were filed in connection with incidents that occurred between 2008 and early 2009. Hoffman reportedly was in charge of taking scrap metal from the prison, such as old aluminum cots, brass and copper pipes, to Jeff’s Recycling Center near Paxinos.
Police said Hoffman was supposed to turn in the money to his father-in-law, Conrad.
Conrad was suspended with pay on Feb. 4, 2009, by the county prison board before being fired on March 25, 2009, after 18 years of service at the prison.
Hoffman will have a “reasonable time” to respond to decide whether he wants to resume his duties, Sacavage said.
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