HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) and Senator-Elect Scott Martin today announced that when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2017, they will work to invoke the provisions of Article VI § 7 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania to direct the Governor to remove the Lancaster County Sheriff from public office.
“The time has come to act, and if Lancaster County’s Sheriff will not do the honorable thing and resign based on his misbehavior in office, then we will seek his removal from this important post,” said Aument.
In June 2016, it became public knowledge that the Lancaster County Sheriff had been accused of sexually harassing a deputy sheriff, sending her progressively graphic and harassing emails.
Complaints were subsequently filed with the Lancaster County Commissioners and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, citing “severe and pervasive” sexual harassment.
The Sheriff has admitted sending pornographic emails to his deputy.
On July 26, 2016, the Sheriff put himself on paid leave from his office, and since that time, the Lancaster County Commissioners have called for his resignation.
The Sheriff has refused to resign his position and instead remains on leave.
Since his departure, according to newspaper reports, Lancaster county taxpayers have paid more than $36,000 in legal costs and salary for the sheriff. His annual salary is $85,460.
Aument and Martin have been exploring the best, most efficient method to remove a locally elected official who violates the public trust.
After consulting with the Senate’s legal counsel, they were informed that the Senate has the Constitutional authority take action under Article VI § 7.
Article VI § 7 provides that:
All civil officers elected by the people, except the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, members of the General Assembly and judges of the courts of record, shall be removed by the Governor for reasonable cause, after due notice and full hearing, on the address of two-thirds of the Senate.
“I join with all the people of Lancaster County who believe this situation is intolerable and must be addressed,” said Martin. “As such, we intend to pursue direct removal. The Sheriff is one of Lancaster County’s top law enforcement officials and his character ought to reflect the importance of this position of trust.”
Under Article VI § 7, if two-thirds of the Senate agree to remove a civil officer for “reasonable cause,” the Governor is then required to remove that civil officer. The process was last used by the Senate regarding Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who refused to resign from office despite being charged with serious crimes while in office.
Article VI § 7 is not the only method the Pennsylvania Constitution provides for the removal of a civil officer.
Under Article VI § 4 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a civil officer for any misbehavior in office. If impeached, a civil officer would then face a trial in the Senate. If convicted by the Senate, the officer would be removed from office. Impeachment proceedings can be lengthy and costly.
“People must have confidence in their elected leaders,” said the Senators. “If we ignore problems that we know exist, we not only destroy the solemn trust that people have in their government, but we neglect our duties to uphold the Constitution.”
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz, (717) 787-4420