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Somerset County reviewing hiring practices after two employees come and go

January 11, 2019

Two people approved for employment at Monday’s Somerset County commissioners meeting are no longer with the county.

During the meeting the board approved the hirings of Matthew Cody Graham, of Berlin, as operations and maintenance manager for $45,000 a year, and Scott Stuttard, of Altoona, as director of the entrepreneurship & innovation department for $51,500 a year.

Solicitor Michael Barbera said that Graham was “separated” from county employment on Tuesday, and that Stuttard was separated from employment on Thursday. Commissioners Gerald Walker and Pat Terlingo, and Barbera, said they cannot comment about why the men are no longer with the county, citing personnel issues. They said that they are reviewing their hiring practices and procedures. Graham, originally from Texas, was charged along with two other people in March 2017 with misappropriating funds at the La Salle County Regional Detention Center at Encinal after a sheriff’s investigation, according to published reports.

An article from the Frio-Nueces Current, a Texas publication, reports “that the three suspects may have failed to notify their superiors during the summer of 2016 that some of the federal detainees’ personal effects — notably cash — had been stolen and, instead of summoning an investigation into the apparent theft, allegedly diverted funds from a trustee account to repay the detainees what had been taken from them.”

{p class=”p2”}Stuttard, according to court documents, served five years’ probation after pleading guilty in 2012 to theft by deception and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds. According to court documents, Stuttard, as part of In2it Productions, worked with a talent agency to bring in the Doobie Brothers for a concert at the Jaffa Shrine in Altoona in 2009. Penn State in Altoona paid Stuttard $36,100 for talent and other costs; however, $32,500 was not forwarded to the talent agency, according to court documents. Later, the agency received the money after Stuttard asked for investments from two individuals but did not reimburse them. The concert went on as planned. According to a LinkedIn profile, he served as the marketing director of In2it Marketing from 2004 to 2009.

{p class=”p2”}Barbera said that he cannot say whether this information was available to the county before the hirings or whether it had anything to do with the separations from employment, again citing personnel matters.

{p class=”p2”}Applications for county jobs ask applicants “if (they) have ever been convicted or pled guilty or no contest to a felony or other crime (A conviction will not necessarily result in denial of employment.)”

{p class=”p3”}The Daily American has filed Right-to-Know requests to see if the individuals checked that box.

{p class=”p3”}The applications also have an acknowledgement to connect to background checks and reference checks, according to Barbera.

{p class=”p3”}Somerset County Human Resources Director Chloe Thomas said that, in general, each position involves different policies and procedures for pre-employment checks. Certain positions, including those working with sensitive material, such as at Children & Youth Services and the district attorney’s office, or positions that come in contact with those offices would be subject to background checks.

{p class=”p2”}“In general it depends on where that person is working,” Barbera said.

{p class=”p1”}Barbera said they could not comment on whether background checks were performed in these two instances.

{p class=”p3”}“We cannot comment on specific personnel matters,” he said.

{p class=”p3”}Thomas said the county is reviewing all of its procedures.

{p class=”p3”}“Certainly the events of this week have caused us to take a much closer (look) and make the appropriate adjustments where we see fit,” she said.

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