What had been scheduled as former Washington County clerk of courts Frank Scandale’s guilty plea to counts filed in connection with approximately $97,000 missing from his courthouse row office did not take place Monday when Senior Judge Gerald Solomon said he was “not inclined” to give his stamp of approval.
Therefore, Deputy Attorney General Evan Lowry, in a Washington County courtroom, asked that the matter be postponed.
Scandale, 52, of Canonsburg, said nothing during his time in front of the judge. He declined comment after the brief proceeding, and left the courthouse free on $100,000 unsecured bond.
Before the judge intervened, Lowry said Scandale had agreed to plead guilty to charges of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, seven counts of theft and one count of misappropriating entrusted government property.
The penalty was to have been seven years’ probation, with the first two years spent on electronic home monitoring, and performing 150 hours of community service.
Solomon brought up Scandale’s oath of office – when a public official swears or affirms to discharge his or her duties “with fidelity,” and asked about the victims of the crime.
Lowry said the victims are “the citizens of Washington County,” but when Solomon noted no members of the board of county commissioners were present, defense attorney Michael DeRiso objected.
“I don’t think the county commissioners have standing,” he said. “They may have a political agenda. The commissioners, as elected officials, are not the victims,” or they were victimized no more or no less than the 200,000-some citizens of the county.
Solomon granted Lowry’s request for a postponement, which seemed likely to be set for one of two dates in August that were mentioned.
Outside the courtroom, DeRiso said, “I think there was some confusion the terminology used. Emails that went out to the court may have contained different language. It’s a nonincarceration sentence.”
Scandale waived his right to a formal arraignment, so Monday was his first time in court since he appeared before District Judge Robert Redlinger and waived his right to a preliminary hearing in January.
Nearly a year has passed since Washington County Controller Michael Namie informed the county commissioners of an audit of the clerk of courts office that uncovered financial irregularities. Money was missing from the row office, which handles payments in criminal cases and for various criminal cases and other miscellaneous matters.
The county commissioners turned Namie’s findings over to state police, whose investigation noted $50,534 in missing cash deposits in 2019 and $39,714 in missing checks, bringing the total to $96,716, charging documents indicated late last year.
Under the Fourth-Class County Code, the clerk of courts, like other county row offices, is independently elected and not under the jurisdiction of the county commissioners.
No charges were filed until after the November election, which Scandale, a Democrat, lost to former Washington Mayor Brenda Davis, who was among a small group of spectators in the courtroom Monday.
With the exception of Judge Traci McDonald Kemp and Coroner Timothy Warco, who ran with both major party nominations, Republicans swept Washington County offices and took control of the board of commissioners for the first time in 20 years.