State: Clausi did no harm in conducting auctions
SUNBURY - Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi has been cleared of any wrongdoing in a state investigation that examined his role as an auctioneer at county tax claim sales in recent years.
In a statement Friday, Clausi said an anonymous complaint was filed with the Department of State, apparently regarding him conducting an auction without a license. A letter sent Thursday from William A. Newport, prosecuting attorney for the Pennsylvania agency, revealed the result.
"Following review, this office has decided not to file formal charges in this case," the letter reads.
Because of that, Newport wrote, law prohibits the Office of General Counsel from releasing any additional information regarding why the file was opened and the evidence gathered.
"During the course of the investigation, I fully cooperated with the assigned investigator and provided her with all of the information requested," Clausi wrote in his statement. "I'm pleased to announce that the investigation has been closed and no wrongdoing was found."
But Clausi, citing experience as an auctioneer from early in his working career, performed those duties each year since the county restarted judicial sales in 2009, and for other tax claim sales.
Then-commissioner Frank Sawicki raised concerns about the issue in 2010. But it was noted that Clausi had saved the county $66,000 in the first two years of the judicial sales alone considering at least a 10 percent commission would have been paid to an auctioneer.
The county held two judicial sales in 2012. The one in June generated $157,000 in sales from the sale of 33 properties, while in November, when Clausi and fellow Commissioner Stephen Bridy shared auctioneer duties, $50,000 was generated from the sale of 19 properties.
"I feel it is a shame that, when I worked to save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, that I would be accused of violating the law," Clausi was quoted in Friday's statement.
Bridy acknowledged he helped Clausi with the November sale, "and also conducted the repository sale this past Wednesday," he said Friday. "Before we did anything, our solicitor checked and there are provisions in the code stating that a government sale can be conducted without a licensed auctioneer."
Bridy said he's not aware that anyone filed a complaint about his involvement.
Despite it being anonymous, Clausi wrote in his statement, "I assume that the complaint was lodged by another commissioner." Questioned further, he wouldn't say if he meant a current or past commissioner.
Bridy said he did not file the complaint, and would not speculate further.
"I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I'm not going to point fingers if I don't know it for a fact," he said.
If it's a current commissioner, that leaves only Richard Shoch, with whom Clausi has had an ongoing public battle over a number of issues.
Shoch said Friday night that Clausi "assumes wrong," if the chairman's statement implies Shoch filed the complaint.
"I was talking to the solicitor about a different matter and had heard that someone had made a complaint about the matter, but thought it was only at the county level," Shoch said. "I knew nothing about it until I heard it from another reporter asking me about the matter, and frankly I couldn't care less."