SUNBURY — Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi spent an hour defending his record against recent accusations by fellow Commissioner Rick Shoch this afternoon.
Near the end of his press conference, Clausi, who had major surgery on Nov. 21 and has been working only by phone for the past two weeks, was in tears as he said Shoch was causing him emotional harm.
He said at one point, too, that he didn’t want to sound overly religious, but that even if he were Jesus, Shoch would still “crucify me.”
The press conference got off to a rocky start as Northumberland attorney Greg Stuck, who at one point was representing two fired county deputy sheriffs then became a plaintiff in their defamation suit against Clausi, asked the commissioner to read the statement he had prepared for the media. Stuck was challenging Clausi’s ability to read English.
Clausi, who moved to America from Italy in the 1970s, has acknowledged in the past he has difficulty, but that he can read English.
Clausi eventually moved the press conference from the commissioners meeting room to a nearby conference room in the administration center. He said others from the crowd of about 20 were welcome to join him, but not Stuck.
Stuck objected, saying he had a right to ask questions at a press conference called by a public officials, but didn’t try to enter the conference room.
Shoch had raised the following issues: That Clausi kept secret the possibility the county would have to pay back $200,000 to $250,000 to the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for inadequate distribution of grant money; that he put the county at risk for a lawsuit because he publicly announced accusations that two employees in the sheriff’s office were viewing pornography; and that he didn’t act quickly enough to meet a federal mandate on upgrades to the county 911 system. Shoch has said Clausi should pay back or put in escrow $6.7 million related to the three issues.
Clausi used the press conference to defend his decision, including detailed timelines of when he knew what about the DCED grant and 911 upgrade issues.
Further details from the press conference will be printed in Thursday’s print, online and E-editions of The News-Item.