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Two former county workers face charges

July 24, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Two former Washington County employees were indicted last week on charges of extortion by a public official, Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said Monday morning during a press conference at the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

A conviction on extortion charges carries a penalty of 10 years in prison.

Both employees were released from their jobs with the Washington County Department of Water Quality earlier this year, Michael said.

The indictments allege that James Ernest Bishop Jr., 61, of Williamsport, the county's former water quality deputy director, convinced two companies performing work locally to give him laser survey levels worth more than $500 each in 2004.

One incident occurred in August 2004 and another in October 2004, according to the indictments.

Michael alleged that both incidents involved Bishop suggesting that the companies give him the levels to avoid costly excavations of work that already had been completed.

"Mr. Bishop's superior position put contractors at a disadvantage," Michael said.

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Michael also stressed that indictments are only accusations, and that both men are presumed innocent.

Jeffrey L. Shetron, 48, of Abbottstown, Pa., the county's former water quality project coordinator, attempted to convince W.F. Delauter & Sons to give him a gasoline-powered generator worth more than $500 in June 2006, according to allegations in the indictment.

Shetron pointed out that the company needed his approval for future projects, Michael said.

An internal investigation preceded the criminal probe, Michael said.

Both men were placed on administrative leave with pay Feb. 7, according to Dee Hawbaker, the county's acting human resources director.

There was no indication that the extortion was more widespread, Michael said.

Michael called the extortion charges "a disservice to many hard-working people in county government."

The initial investigation began because of rumors within the construction community, Michael said.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department began investigating in late spring or early summer, Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said.

Mullendore called the charges an "isolated incident" and said that in his 30 years with the sheriff's department, he hasn't seen any county employees indicted on similar charges.

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