Shamokin PA
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Letter to the editor: Carpet payment called into question

To the editor: As your minority commissioner, I have been and continue to be critical of the secret dealings between Richard Shoch, Samuel Schiccatano and for-profit group, TrueCore Behavioral Solutions LLC. At every step, I have gathered facts that are supported by documents and presented them to the public along with law that governs county business. In response to my arguments, based on reason, law and evidence, Shoch has resorted to name-calling and blatant disrespect for women.

In his remarks, Shoch diverts public attention to 2011 when I was fired from the post of chief clerk for what Shoch calls “erratic behavior.” It is a matter of considerable public record, in the press and in court, that I was fired after I reported sexual harassment and violent behavior in the county offices. Shoch seems to be completely unaware of the extreme seriousness which our government, media and society are now treating claims of sexual harassment by powerful men. Or, perhaps, Shoch regards the many brave women now coming forward against the mighty as “unhinged,” “erratic” or “lying to the public in order to achieve the notoriety that (they) desperately crave.” I refuse to be cowed by Shoch’s bully behavior and will continue to present facts and evidence to the taxpayers.

As the press have well publicized, Shoch and Schiccatano have not only cut TrueCore’s rent in half, but have paid for carpet for the buildings TrueCore uses. Aside from the fiscal irresponsibility of this decision, I have grave concern that legal bidding requirements were not followed. The County Code requires that contracts for the alteration of buildings and the purchase of personal property that exceed $18,500 be advertised publicly for bids. This ensures that the public is protected from inside deals and that taxpayers get the best price for a job. The County Code at § 1803 treats this matter so seriously that evasion of the bid requirements can result in commissioners being held personally liable for waste and convicted of a third degree misdemeanor. The TrueCore carpet was never put out for bid. The majority commissioners admit this as the lease addendum they approved on Nov. 14 states, “Lessee has received an estimate … in the amount of … $19,720.03.” As with all of my letters, I have attached the documents and the law.

It seems that Shoch and Schiccatano, rather than bid out a public project, relied on TrueCore’s privately obtained estimate, which was not even attached to the lease on Nov. 14 and only appeared later with the signed document. In addition to name-calling and bullying, we can expect spurious denials from Shoch. He will, no doubt, claim that this project was exempt because the county was only paying $12,000 of the cost. Don’t be lured in. No provision of the County Code dealing with contracts provides for any exemption from bid requirements for contracts where the price is shared. Further, the majority’s rent cuts have effectively paid for the entire price of the carpet.

Shoch and Schiccatano have simply allowed a for-profit company to choose its own contractor, paid for by public funds, without public oversight or accountability. The mystery of the carpet deal, with its long list of confusing dates and dubious documents, gets deeper. I have verified with the controller that no invoice for carpet for this job has been submitted to him and no checks have gone out.

More confusing yet is the fact that Tom Bogovich of TrueCore has only given the commissioners a bill for $925 by email on Oct. 3.We can speculate that either Shoch and Schiccatano broke up the job to avoid bidding requirements or the high estimate was used as a pretext for a rent break when less carpet was installed. Only in Northumberland County could we see public officials sweep a deal about carpet under the rug.

Kym Best