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 Heineman Regrets Plea Bargain


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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).

First 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 solicitor’s opinion that it was training, which should have eliminated any charges at all, in hindsight it was in poor judgment that I used the backhoe.

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.  

©Daily Local News 2003


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