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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Judges to be charged

Updated: Today at 6:26 AM Sources: Judges to be charged
County court system has been under investigation
By Terrie Morgan-Besecker

Law & Order Reporter for the Times leader
WILKES-BARRE – Two sources familiar with federal investigations involving the Luzerne County judiciary said authorities have concluded their probes and are expected to file charges soon, possibly as early as next week.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said two county judges and a county court official are expected to face charges. The sources could not say what those charges will be.

They also declined to publicly identify the suspects because the charges have not been filed.
Speculation that the filing of charges was imminent has run rampant throughout the county courthouse during the past few weeks.
U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson declined to comment when reached late Wednesday afternoon. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has a standard policy of not confirming or denying the existence of an investigation.

The investigations into the county have been public knowledge for several months as federal agents have served search warrants and subpoenas on several court offices.
Federal agents in June served a search warrant on the county’s Juvenile Probation Department seeking financial records related to the placement of juveniles at the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care centers. Those centers were formerly owned by attorney Robert Powell of Butler Township.

Paul McGarry, administrative director for the court system, said previously that the FBI sought administrative records, including billing statements and records for the number of children who were placed at the centers.
In August, FBI agents served subpoenas on the county treasurer’s office seeking records related to the court system. Sources previously said that investigation focused on whether money confiscated from gambling raids was turned over to the treasurer’s office.

The sources said the investigation began after it was learned that some court orders directing the forfeiture of gambling proceeds did not go through the District Attorney’s office, but instead were presented directly to the court administrator’s office – a departure from standard procedure.

It could not be determined Wednesday whether the pending charges are related to those investigations, or whether other persons may also face charges.

Also in the citizens voice they have this story.

Court appointments won’t be processed,
chief clerk explains
Luzerne County Manager/Chief Clerk Doug Pape said the recent appointments by the court judiciary will not be processed because they don’t fill vacancies.


Published: Thursday, January 22, 2009 3:47 PM EST
WILKES-BARRE — Senior administrators for Luzerne County commissioners said Wednesday they are not going to process personnel appointments ordered by Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr.It’s the latest flap in an ongoing struggle between county commissioners and judges over how much taxpayer funds will go to the judicial branch this year. On Tuesday, Ciavarella issued a court order to transfer his executive secretary Ann M. Hoedl to a new job in court administration and another order to appoint Joseph A. Dessoye as a senior law clerk for Judge Joseph M. Augello.“There are no vacancies for these positions, so we will not process them at this time,” County Manager/Chief Clerk Doug Pape said.Director of Human Resources Doug Richards said Hoedl and Dessoye won’t be paid unless they are appointed to replace someone in a job that had been approved by the county salary board.

Hoedl would take a pay cut from $45,703 to $39,338 in her new job, and Dessoye’s salary would be $39,455, according to court and county documents.
Last month, the judges obtained a temporary injunction to stop cuts in court spending of $3 million, and officials agreed to maintain 2008 personnel and funding levels in the judicial branch while the case is litigated. On Tuesday, Commissioner Chairwoman Maryanne Petrilla said the order to transfer Hoedl violated the agreement, but Ciavarella maintained it was allowed under the agreement because her new job is “an open position in the 2008 budget.”Judicial officials did not respond to messages seeking comment on Wednesday’s development.

The 2009 budget adopted by county commissioners last month eliminated funding for 138 full-time jobs, including 55 in the judicial branch. The litigation stopped plans to lay off 34 court employees.The budget eliminated funding for 65 vacant jobs, and judges have filled at least 10 of those jobs with court orders issued over the last six weeks. County chief solicitor Vito DeLuca said county administrators “will honor” appointments to court jobs that existed in 2008. The county has roughly 1,700 full-time employees, and about 360 work for the judiciary., 570-821-2073

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