EBENSBURG – Cambria County’s president judge denied a petition Monday from a Johnstown man asking for District Attorney Kelly Callihan to be held in contempt of court concerning records from her office.
John DeBartola first submitted a right-to-know request with Callihan in 2017 for a full accounting of of all payroll wages and overtime wages paid from the drug forfeiture account to any county employees and police officers of Cambria County from 2000 to present.
Cambria County’s commissioners eventually appointed attorney Calvin J. Webb as special counsel for Callihan’s office last year to handle DeBartola’s requests and appeals at a cap of $10,000.
At a hearing last May, both Webb and Cambria County Solicitor Bill Barbin argued the matter in front of President Judge Norman Krumenacker III.
Callihan, along with Barbin and Webb, argued these documents contained confidential information that could affect active investigations and included details protected by the Controlled Substances Forfeiture Act.
Krumenacker eventually issued four opinions in November directing Callihan’s office to redact investigative details from existing documents regarding specific financial activity, along with financial records concerning drug forfeiture funds.
In February, DeBartola filed a petition alleging the documents he received from Callihan in response to a recent court order were insufficient and asked the courts to hold her in contempt.
DeBartola said that while he received numerous documents, they included two attestations of nonexistent records Callihan signed stating certain records do not exist or are not in her possession.
Krumenacker’s one-page order denying DeBartola’s petition, which was filed with the Cambria County Prothonotary Monday afternoon, said Callihan was “in full compliance with the Court’s order of November 18, 2019.”
DeBartola said he was disappointed in Krumenacker’s ruling, along with Callihan’s explanations during Monday’s hearing.
“It didn’t have to come to this,” he said.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be heard. I didn’t expect to win, but I went in there expecting truth. Honestly, I still think there’s a greater need for transparency. I still think (Callihan) is hiding information.”
Callihan testified Monday that personnel records are maintained by the county’s human resources office and are not in her possession, which is why she signed one of the attestations.
According to Barbin, DeBartola was provided with employee and wage information from Cambria County through another right-to-know request in 2017 and was denied when he appealed that matter to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.
In addition, Callihan said she signed the second attestation concerning the drug forfeiture account because Price and Owens were no longer employees and therefore, unable to do so.
Callihan said no overtime or wages are paid from drug forfeiture accounts, nor is it recommended in the guidelines set forth by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, which is why she signed the second attestation.
No checks are issued to individual police officers, Callihan said. Instead, their overtime wages are paid by the police departments for work completed on the drug task force and is then reimbursed to the departments on a monthly basis by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, which now oversees the task force.
Overtime costs were reimbursed to participating police departments previously from the Cambria County Task Force.