Guard back at work
SUNBURY - A correctional officer/maintenance man at Northumberland County Prison who was fired for allegedly stealing copper pipes from the jail before being acquitted of all charges returned to work Monday and is being paid approximately $2 per hour more than when he last worked at the prison in 2009.
Prison officials confirmed Wednesday that Shane Hoffman, 40, of Sunbury, is working third shift and receiving $13.19 per hour. His pay rate before he was suspended was $10.99 per hour. Hoffman is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Correctional Union.
An arbitrator ruled recently that Hoffman was entitled to get his job back and receive approximately $95,000 in back pay, minus any income earned since he was suspended in February 2009. Northumberland County Human Resources Director Joseph Picarelli said Wednesday it has not yet been determined how much back pay Hoffman will receive.
During a brief emergency meeting Jan. 28, members of the county prison board unanimously agreed to abide by the arbitrator's ruling that allowed Hoffman to be reinstated to his former position and claim back pay.
On July 20, Hoffman was found not guilty by a jury of institutional vandalism, theft and receiving stolen property for allegedly stealing copper pipes from the prison and selling them. The three-day trial was presided over by Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest. The jury deliberated approximately 90 minutes before rendering its verdict.
Upon being interviewed outside the county courthouse after the trial, Hoffman insisted his arrest was "politically driven," claiming former warden Ralph "Rick" Reish was looking for a reason to fire his father-in-law and former deputy warden John Conrad.
Hoffman, who was initially suspended without pay from his position before being terminated June 8 by current warden Roy Johnson, said he didn't know at the time if he planned to fight to reclaim his prison job or seek legal action against prison officials for firing him and initiating the investigation that led to the charges filed against him.
Hoffman, who was hired as a correctional officer Oct. 5, 2005, was earning $11.34 per hour at the time of his firing. Hoffman was terminated for violating the Northumberland County personnel manual and the Northumberland County Prison code of ethics.
Hoffman was charged by then-Sunbury Patrolman Wade Lytle with the offenses for allegedly stealing copper pipes from the prison and keeping approximately $320 he received for scrap metal instead of turning the money over to the prison. The charges were filed in connection with incidents that occurred between 2008 and early 2009.
During the trial, Lytle said Hoffman allegedly was in charge of taking scrap metal from the prison, such as old aluminum cots, brass and copper pipes, to Jeff's Recycling Center near Paxinos.
Lytle said Hoffman was supposed to turn in the money to Conrad.
The officer said Hoffman was also charged with breaking into the locker of fellow maintenance employee Don Keeley. Lytle said nothing was reportedly stolen from Keeley's locker.
Conrad was suspended with pay Feb. 4, 2009, by the county prison board before being fired March 25, 2009, after 18 years of service at the prison. The reasons for Conrad's suspension and firing were never revealed by the prison board.
Lytle said Hoffman's charges were not related to Conrad's suspension.
On Nov. 15, a lawsuit filed in 2009 against the county by Conrad and his wife over his firing was settled for $87,500.
Conrad alleged a conspiracy against him, wrongful termination, defamation and violation of due process, equal protection rights and whistleblower rights in the lawsuit. His wife's claim was for a loss of consortium.
The couple had filed the suit in U.S. Middle District Court and named the county, its prison board, President Judge Robert B. Sacavage, District Attorney Tony Rosini, Sheriff Chad Reiner, county commissioner Vinny Clausi, former county commissioners Kurt Masser and Frank Sawicki, former county controller Charles Erdman and Reish as defendants. On Nov. 14, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III dismissed all defendants from the suit, except the county.