Veterans director seeks apology

Young contends commissioners were wrong in response to illegal recording

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The director of Blair County’s Veterans Affairs Department is asking county leaders for a letter of apology and admission of faulty actions in responding to an illegal recording of a telephone conversation he had with a fake IRS agent.

Veterans director Patrick Young, a former state police trooper, said he used some colorful language inside his office while speaking with the fake IRS agent on Oct. 31.

A few days later, Young said he met with county Human Resources Director Katherine Swigart, who said the county had a recording of his conversation that could be grounds for the disciplinary action. It was allegedly captured by three county employees using a cellphone in the reception room outside Young’s office.

“I told them right off that what they had was an illegal recording,” Young said in his own defense. “That’s a felony.”

During the seven months that have passed, the recording and its intended use were, at one point, the subject a sheriff’s department investigation.

Sheriff James Ott said his department has the training and expertise to handle this kind of investigation but is not in the position to release any information at this time. A report, Ott said, was forwarded to the district attorney’s office.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Christopher Tater said he maintained his role as fact-finder during the investigation. He declined to specifically name who he interviewed.

“I gave everybody a chance,” Tater said. “I’m no judge, jury or attorney.”

Swigart, when asked about Young’s accusations and his desire for an apology letter, said she wouldn’t discuss the personnel matter.

County Administrator Helen Schmitt, when shown a copy of an April 23 unsigned letter to Young, said that proposed letter was never signed. The letter indicated that it was to contain her signature as well as the signatures of commissioners Bruce Erb, Terry Tomassetti and Ted Beam Jr.

The letter specifically stated: “We, the Blair County Commissioners and County Administrator, regret the recording of your comments made during a telephone conversation. As you are aware, these comments were heard and recorded by an employee of the county without our prior knowledge or approval.”

The letter also indicates that a disciplinary notice about the event was withdrawn from Young’s personnel file, but Young said he later learned that wasn’t true.

Young said Thursday that he has received further “draft” correspondence from the commissioners’ office, reporting their desire “to conclude this matter.” But their proposed letter, he said, lacks the wording that he desires, as a victim of an illegal act, who otherwise remains interested in the filing of criminal charges or the pursuit of a civil lawsuit.

“I want a letter saying that a crime — a felony — was committed and that the commissioners, the county administrator, Swigart and that others knew what was going on failed to react appropriately,” Young said. “And the letter should say they’re sorry for these actions that occurred.”

Young also said he decided to talk with the Mirror about the incident because he doesn’t want incidents like this to happen to other employees.

“There’s a cabal in this courthouse of people trying to manipulate things, and what happened to me, some other people might not know that what happened was wrong,” Young said. “But I was a state trooper and something like this would have never happened in the state police barracks.”

The Mirror also asked solicitor Nathan Karn about the ongoing dispute and was directed to county labor counsel Crystal Clark of Lancaster. Clark said she wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.