SUNBURY — Embattled Northumberland County transportation director Dennis Hepler met behind closed doors with the county commissioners Tuesday to discuss allegations that he committed fraud against the county and state.

Controller Charles “Chuck” Erdman Jr. said Hepler admitted overcharging the county Area on Aging agency and the state Department of Transportation’s Shared Rider program primarily for transporting Mount Carmel and Shamokin senior citizens since November.

According to Hepler, he did it to make up the cost of having to spend additional budget funds on taxi service.

The matter came to light during last week’s county commissioners meeting when Erdman confirmed the state has launched an investigation.

“I don’t think it will ultimately lead to criminal charges,” he said, estimating the overcharges at about $15,000.

Hepler, who denies he gained financially, met in executive session Tuesday with the commissioners to plead his case before any action is taken regarding his employment, Chief Clerk Kymberley Best said.

Following the 90-minute meeting, Hepler described the meeting as “good” and referred questions to Best.

Calling it a personnel issue, Best declined to comment.

Hepler has been employed as county transportation director overseeing 38 employees for about three years and is paid $25,686 annually.

He was criticized in December for aborting a holiday shopping trip to Lycoming Mall near Muncy when one of the eight senior citizens who paid $7.70 for the round-trip bus ride became ill at the last minute and couldn’t go.

Commissioner Chairman Frank Sawicki defended Hepler’s decision at the time, saying county-run bus trips require at least eight riders to make it financially worthwhile.

Upset by Hepler’s decision, Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Kurt Masser drove several seniors to the mall a few weeks later.

n E-mail comments to mmoore@dailyitem.com

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