Politics aside, Quincy Township supervisor deserves his day in court, according to columnist Dwight Weidman in this op-ed piece.
Sleepy little Quincy Township is as an unlikely place as you can find for a financial scandal; but they have a big one that has created turmoil in township government.
For those who have not been following the news, the Vice-President of Quincy Township’s Supervisor Board, Kerry Bumbaugh, was arrested on 17 charges involving the theft of over $150,000 of township funds for his personal use. All but four of the charges are felonies.
About two months after Bumbaugh’s arrest, former Township Water Department employee Travis Schooley was also arrested, for allegedly being involved in the same scheme. Schooley was charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor. Amid all this drama, the President of the Supervisor Board, Bob Gunder, who has not been charged with any crimes, has resigned.
It all looks bad, very bad, for Bumbaugh and Schooley, who will both soon face formal arraignment. The PA Attorney General’s Office, who did the investigation with the cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has laid out a very damning case against the two which resulted in their indictment by a grand jury.
The fly in the buttermilk in this whole mess is that Supervisor Bumbaugh has refused to resign from the Township Board while his case is being adjudicated; and that’s created an opening for some local politicians to jump into the fray.
Paul Schemel, Representative of PA’s 90th District, has introduced HR 117. The resolution would initiate the impeachment process of Bumbaugh with the expressed purpose of removing him from office; even though he has not yet been convicted of a crime.
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Impeachment: Duplicating grand jury’s work?
The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee, under Chairman Rob Kauffman, passed Schemel’s resolution to start impeachment proceedings; but it must go to the whole House of Representatives for approval before the House can begin an impeachment investigation. Such an investigation will essentially duplicate what the grand jury has already done.
Following an investigation, the House can vote to impeach Bumbaugh and send the impeachment to the State Senate, two-thirds of whom must vote in the affirmative to remove Bumbaugh from office.
Keep in mind that all of this would take place during or more likely before Mr. Bumbaugh would have his day in court, which begs the question: “Is any of this really necessary?”, and even more importantly, “what about the presumption of innocence for Kerry Bumbaugh?”.
Under our adversarial system of justice, “Presumption of Innocence” is the bedrock principle that an individual is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, “beyond a reasonable doubt” in a court of law.
Representative Schemel wants to throw the book at Bumbaugh before all the facts of the case come out.
Sure, the grand jury report and indictment look very damning, but any lawyer will tell you that “you can indict a ham sandwich,” especially because the defense is practically non-existent during grand jury proceedings.
A grand jury exists to produce charges against an individual, period, and is not concerned with justice.
Representative Schemel said, “My concern is Mr. Bumbaugh remains in a position through which he could continue to misuse township resources. I’d hope that he would resign, but if not, these impeachment proceedings are warranted;” and Judiciary Committee Chair Rob Kauffman, said in light of the detailed grand jury report he is “gravely concerned” about Bumbaugh staying in office.
Just as an aside, I find it particularly ironic when two members of the Harrisburg swamp are suddenly so concerned with public resources being misused, especially when they are prepared to involve the whole General Assembly in a lengthy and costly impeachment process.
Looks more like Schemel and Kauffman want something to brag about when they are up for re-election next year.
Again, do not get me wrong. I am not defending Bumbaugh, Schooley, or anyone else who might be involved in any alleged scheme to defraud the taxpayers; but like anyone else, the defendants are entitled to their day in court with an opportunity to present evidence and defend themselves.
Due process and presumed innocence
In America, we are not supposed to hand out punishment based on accusations alone. Any legislative impeachment process would be a political sham that could prejudice the legal proceedings against the accused and should not go forward.
Let the Justice system work. Politicians who feel electorally vulnerable should not usurp the role of the courts in order to distract from their own record of legislative failure.
Dwight Weidman is a resident of Greene Township and is a graduate of Shepherd University. He is retired from the United States Department of Defense. His career included assignments In Europe, Asia and Central America. He has been in leadership roles for the Republican Party in two states, most recently serving two terms as Chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. He has been involved in web publishing since 1996 and is publisher of the Franklin County Journal. He has been an Amateur Radio Operator since 1988, getting his first license in Germany. He is a past volunteer with both Navy and Army MARS, Military Auxiliary Radio Service, and is also an NRA-Certified Firearms Instructor.