SOMERSET, Pa. – While facing criminal charges, District Attorney Jeffrey Thomas’ access to his office – and to the courthouse itself – is now restricted, county officials confirmed Tuesday.
County Solicitor Michael Barbera said Thomas can no longer use a remote “key fob” to enter the building through side doors or after hours.
And because he is charged with a felony in Pennsylvania, he is not permitted to access the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Assistance Network – a database for law enforcement officials that catalogs criminal record histories, abuse orders, driver’s license numbers and other criminal justice information, Barbera said.
The system interfaces with the National Crime Information Center and the Pennsylvania State Police’s record center, among other information networks.
“Measures were taken to ensure the extent he does access the building, that it is supervised access,” Barbera said. “And that has to do with (restricting) his access to the CLEAN system in his office.”
That means if Thomas wants to enter his office, he must be supervised by another staff member, the board said.
To enter the courthouse, he must use the main, public entrance, which is staffed by county sheriff’s deputies and contains metal detectors and scanners.
Thomas, who is charged by state police with raping a Windber woman inside her home last month, is planning to plead not guilty to the charges and fight them in court.
Through his Pittsburgh attorney, he told media Friday he is taking a leave of absence to focus on his case.
Somerset County commissioners said they have not heard from Thomas or his office to verify that.
They learned of Thomas’ decision to go on leave “through press interviews on Friday,” Barbera said.
“We have reached out to the DA’s attorney to confirm,” he said.
As an elected official, Thomas is not an employee who can be hired, suspended or fired from the job by fellow county leaders.
The conduct he is accused of has traditionally resulted in investigations by the state Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board, which can result in temporary suspension of a law license and the disbarment – but such reviews are private and only yield details if a decision amends a license’s status.
“Our hands are tied,” Barbera said while sitting alongside Commissioners Gerald Walker, Colleen Dawson and Pamela Tokar-Ickes on Tuesday.
“These are obviously very serious charges that have been filed, but that process has to play out in the courts,” Barbera said.
Full-time assistant resigns
Thomas’ office lost another staff member last week.
Full-time Assistant District Attorney Megan Will notified the county on Friday she was leaving the job, effective immediately. Commissioners approved the departure through a personnel action Tuesday, but could not provide additional information about the reason behind Will’s decision.
Will was promoted to a full-time position on Thomas’ staff in April.
She was not reached for comment. A message left at her office was not returned.
Counting Thomas’ temporary leave from his post, the office is now down three prosecutors; the third, an assistant district attorney post that was vacated by Michael Carbonara in late May.
Four assistants remain, including first assistant Molly Metzgar, who is currently overseeing the office.
Barbera declined to provide Wills’s letter of resignation, noting that as a personnel matter, the document is not a public record.
911 advisory board named
The county took a step to formalize the Somerset County 911 Advisory Board on Tuesday, appointing 11 people with ties to the 911 department and area emergency services.
Somerset County Department of Emergency Services Director Joel Landis said Somerset County 911 has had an advisory board before, but they wanted to make it a bit more official – with appointees now county-approved.
Landis said the aim is to have a group of people with a vested interest in improving the system who can meet, discuss challenges and share ideas.
Unlike in some larger counties, the move is not a state-mandated one, he said.