Spat over Memorial Day email comes to resolution

HOLLIDAYSBURG – The Blair County Courthouse ruckus created last week when Human Resources Director Katherine Swigart criticized an employee attempt to celebrate Memorial Day using the courthouse email system came to an end Tuesday after a lengthy meeting between the commissioners and Swigart.

“The matter has been taken care of,” said commissioners Chairman Terry Tomassetti.

When asked additional questions about the issue, Tomassetti continued to repeat, “The matter has been taken care of.”

Swigart, who was out of the courthouse attending a conference for several days last week, indicated Monday that she should would have something to say about the issue after her meeting with commissioners.

But her office staff indicated Tuesday after the meeting that any further comment would have to come through the commissioners office.

The situation began just before the Memorial Day weekend.

Employees and many elected officials circulated a tribute email titled “Preparing for Memorial Day” that consisted of newspaper editorial cartoons, a poem and two pictures. The email had been sent to an unidentified person at the courthouse.

The Memorial Day tribute was well received in the courthouse, but on Tuesday morning, as Blair County Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds Mary Ann Bennis stated, Swigart sent out an email scolding workers for using email “for this sort of communication.”

Swigart explained the such an expression of personal views are prohibited.

Bennis thought Swigart’s critical response hurt employee morale.

Workers in the courthouse were told not to state their feelings on the subject, but several elected officials, including Bennis, Tomassetti, Commissioner Ted Beam and Controller Richard Peo, all lent their support to the tribute.

The county has a four-page email policy that was issued five years ago. The policy prohibits use of email and other systems for personal use. It prohibits pornography, profanity, political activity, harassment, discrimination and the solicitation of contributions, among many other things.

However, many of the elected officials commented that they found the Memorial Day tribute to be appropriate.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.