Frank Scandale, the former Washington County clerk of courts who stole nearly $100,000 while in office, is paying only a fraction of what he owes in monthly restitution after pleading guilty to theft in October.
Senior Judge Gerald Solomon sentenced Scandale to two years house arrest and seven years probation, while also requiring him to pay $117,899 in restitution, fines, court fees and home confinement supervision.
Scandale made an upfront payment of $11,000 immediately after his guilty plea and sentencing Oct. 15, leaving him with $106,899 to pay before his probation expires at the end of 2027.
The prorated balance means he would have to pay $1,271 every month for the remainder of his seven-year probationary sentence, but he has only paid an average of $140 every two weeks – less than one-quarter of the requested sum – since he began making payments in early December.
Brenda Davis, the current county clerk of courts who defeated Scandale in the November 2019 election shortly before he was arrested, said the payments being made cover his house arrest supervision and are close to the minimum he can pay without facing further discipline.
But Scandale must pay back the full amount of restitution before his probation is over, which means he could be facing a hefty final payment if he does not increase his biweekly stipend. If Scandale continued to make payments at his current rate, he would owe more than $81,000 at the end of his probation.
In a letter from Scandale sent to the clerk of courts office on Nov. 9, he disagreed that he should be required to pay the $1,271 monthly allotment since it was not spelled out directly in Solomon’s sentencing order. He added that he could only afford to pay $100 per month at the time and asked for the office to alter his payment structure.
His defense attorney, Michael DeRiso, was unaware of what payments Scandale was making or whether he was currently employed. But he disagreed with the clerk of courts office requiring a specific monthly amount to be paid to cover the total restitution.
“You can’t get blood from a turnip,” DeRiso said. “At the end of the day, if he’s paying something and doing the best he can do, it’s unlikely there will be a restitution hearing because he’s doing the best he can.”
Davis said no restitution hearings have been scheduled during the coronavirus pandemic and that it would be up to the victim – in this case, Washington County – or prosecutors to ask for that hearing. Senior Deputy Attorney General Evan Lowry, who prosecuted the case, did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Scandale, 53, of Canonsburg, was accused of stealing $96,716 from the office that he supervised in 2018 and 2019. He eventually pleaded guilty to felony theft by failure to make required deposit of funds and seven misdemeanor counts of theft and one charge of misappropriating government money.
The $101,876 in restitution he owes will be directed to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Insurance Program because it covered the loss of money from the theft. That program recently made the full repayment to Washington County, which now will be placing that money in the clerk of courts coffers this week, county Finance Director Josh Hatfield said Wednesday.
“They’re paying the entire claim over to the county. (The insurance company) will continue to get the restitution paid by Mr. Scandale. But the insurance company has made the county whole.”