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Blair close to hiring veterans affairs head

Former director fired last year

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County leaders are moving forward with plans to promote the assistant director of veterans affairs to the top post, which became vacant in December due to the firing of Patrick Young.

The Blair County Salary Board, comprised of commissioners and Controller A.C. Stickel, voted Thursday to set the salary at $28,501 for Craig Swineford, upon his move into the top position. He has been the department’s acting director since December, when the county began advertising the director post, at a salary of $27,000 to $30,000 annually.

Stickel recommended the mid-range salary because of Swineford’s experience as acting director and certification.

Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb, who also chairs the salary board, said Swineford’s work as acting director has been drawing praise.

The county director of veterans affairs primarily serves county veterans and their dependents to identify and determine eligibility for county, state and federal veterans benefits. The job also requires supervision of the annual effort, prior to Memorial Day, to post flags and markers on the graves of county veterans.

Young’s firing in December ended a year in which he and county leaders clashed at least twice.

In May, the former state trooper challenged the county over what he said was an illegal tape recording — in violation of the wiretap laws — made outside his courthouse office while he engaged in a telephone conversation, later used in an attempted disciplinary action.

Later in the year, Young maintained that his application for the county administrator post was ignored and that commissioners showed favoritism by hiring Nicole Hemminger who had been assistant county administrator for three years.

The Mirror attempted, through the state’s Right-to-Know Act, to acquire more information about a sheriff’s department investigation into Young’s allegations of the wiretap law violation. In response, the county reported no private complaint on file and that investigatory reports don’t have to be provided because they’re exempt under the law.

The state Attorney General’s office, also in response to a Mirror inquiry, acknowledged the matter and the conclusion that no law was broken. No further explanation of that conclusion was offered.

Young, who has been in contact with an attorney about these disputes, has advised the Mirror that legal challenges are forthcoming.

Thursday’s salary board meeting was held in the courthouse public meeting room, with Erb and Stickel attending in person. In an attempt to limit the potential spread of coronavirus, commissioners Amy Webster and Laura Burke, plus other county leaders and department heads, participated via telephone.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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