By NEIL H. HEINEMAN , Guest Columnist
February 9, 2003
I want to comment on your article about me in the Local News,
titled "Commission: Ex-supervisor abused power" (DLN, Jan. 25).
and foremost, you and your readers should realize that the State Ethics
Commission does not conduct what a normal person would consider an impartial
investigation into complaints received by its office. Its conduct is closer to
the Spanish Inquisition and the proverbial witch-hunt.
The process is entirely one-sided. You are most certainly guilty until proven
innocent. For example, there are comments from a lawyer and engineer that were
fired in 1998 but no comments from the current advisors who proved to the
investigator that I had never moved the sewer line.
NaÔve as I was, I welcomed the investigation in May of 2001 because I believed
it would prove me totally innocent of all charges. Little did I know of what was
to come. This so-called investigation went on forever, finally concluding this
month. That is close to two years.
Adding to the problem was the fact that most of the lawyers dealing with this
commission are located in Harrisburg. I had only one face-to-face meeting with
my attorney. As one can imagine, when my wife and I found out the direction this
investigation was taking we became very upset. The stress and length of the
process was taking its toll.
Therein lays the second mistake we made. When the report was completed, the
commission contacted my lawyer and wanted to plea bargain. Upon hearing this, my
lawyer emphatically recommended that I allow him to negotiate. He informed me it
could cost up to $20,000 if we went to a full hearing and could take years.
Because of the stress, costs involved and length of the investigation, my wife
and I decided to allow him to plea bargain just to have it finished. When the
plea bargain was ready, the lawyer called me and informed me of the draft. There
ensued a misunderstanding of the key element. We assumed that the sewer issue
was an unintended benefit and the backhoe was the main issue. Even though I had
the township solicitors opinion that it was training, which should have
eliminated any charges at all, in hindsight it was in poor judgment that I used
We approved him signing the plea agreement. When we got the final order, we were
shocked. The main charge was that I had moved the sewer line. This is not true.
I tried to renege on the plea bargain, but it was too late.
Now, instead of having the process over and done with, we are more upset than
ever. Not only have they impugned my integrity, they have also impugned the
integrity of the township engineer. This is unacceptable on both counts. The
township engineer is the most honest and has the most integrity of anyone I have
met in my life. The engineer would have never allowed me to dictate where the
sewer line was placed. Now, I have only one choice. I am pursuing civil
litigation against the individuals and their employers. Anyone who lied in his
or her sworn testimony will be pursued in court. I hope the Daily Local News
will deem fit to put the results of this litigation on the front page.
The writer lives in Sadsbury.