BY MARY GRACE KELLER
Times Staff Writer
Liberty Township Supervisors decided the cost to pursue civil litigation against the former secretary-treasurer is too high.
Resident Bob Keilholtz asked the supervisors at Tuesday's meeting why they voted not to take civil action against LeeEsta Shaffer, who was fired nearly two years ago amid fraud allegations.
Chairman John Bostek and Vice Chairman Bob Jackson on June 19 voted against civil action, while supervisor Walter "Mickey" Barlow was in the minority, according to minutes from a workshop meeting.
Township Solicitor John Lisko stepped in to say Tuesday the supervisors should be "cautious" and advised them not to discuss the concerns that motivated their decision because anything they say could be a "weakness" in the bond company claims.
The township is seeking to recoup about $278,000 from Cincinnati Insurance Company and Travelers Insurance. The companies provided bonding for Shaffer's while she worked for the township.
Addressing Keilholtz's query, Lisko offered an explanation on the supervisors' behalf. He said one of their "main concerns" was money.
"Legal fees add up once you get into court," Lisko said.
Bostek and Jackson were concerned the township would have to spend a "substantial amount of money" on a civil suit, he said. Litigation expenses could cost tens of thousands of dollars, Lisko said, noting Shaffer likely would not be able to make restitution anyway.
"It's my understanding she does not have a lot of assets," Lisko said.
Someone mentioned she has a home, but Lisko said in the state of Pennsylvania one would have to get a judgement against Shaffer and her husband if they own their home together, which poses an issue since her husband has nothing to do with the allegations.
"The question is, are you going to spend twenty, thirty, forty thousand dollars to maybe, what, sell her car?" Lisko said.
Zachary Mills, special counsel, said the board choosing not to pursue Shaffer in civil court does not mean it cannot recoup the full amount sought from the bond companies.
If the township succeeds in recovering money from the bond companies, the bond companies may then go after Shaffer themselves, Lisko said.
"Basically, we can't get double recovery. We can't get an amount recovered from the bonding company and Ms. Shaffer," Mills said.
Mills, who filed the claims on behalf of the township, said he is waiting on the bond companies to make their offers. The board will have to decide whether to accept the amounts offered or try to get the full amount by taking civil action, according to Mills.
Resident Donna Powers asked for an update on the status of pressing criminal charges against Shaffer. Mills said he spoke with the district attorney and presented his evidence.
"At this point, it's in his hands," Mills said. "There's not a lot more I can do."
Despite what Mills and Lisko said, Keilholtz said he was "disappointed" in the supervisors for not pursuing Shaffer in civil court. The supervisors did not respond to Keilholtz's comments.
In other business, road improvements on what locals call a dangerous intersection will begin soon.
The board received a letter from Rep. Dan Moul (R-91) stating the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will add a designated center left turn lane for southbound traffic on Route 16 at its intersection with Orchard Road, Bostek said. Moul also requested "rumble type" strips, the letter states.
An 11-year-old girl died in a crash at the intersection in January, and a few weeks later a teen boy suffered serious injuries in another wreck. These weren't the first major collisions there.
Moul took special interest in the project and prodded PennDOT to take over, as the township does not have sufficient funds for such a large scale improvement. Moul predicts the road work will be complete by Oct. 15, Bostek read.
Additionally, the board accepted a bid from SKR Paving and Excavating, of Littlestown, to add a handicap parking space to the township building's parking lot at a cost of $2,428.
The board also approved the purchase of a new desktop computer for the township secretary-treasurer, to replace a tablet with insufficient storage. Equipment and labor will cost about $1,100, township officials said.
The board of supervisors will hold a workshop July 17 at 11 a.m.