CLEARFIELD – Both Clearfield County judges have accused Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts Brian Spencer of mismanaging the clerk’s office and causing a backlog in criminal paperwork at the courthouse.
On Wednesday a letter regarding the matter was e-mailed to GANT News by a court employee. It was signed by both President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman and Judge Paul E. Cherry. The letter stated:
“County Jail Warden Greg Collins has again voiced his concerns about the many problems caused by the delay in receiving the sentences, parole orders and other necessary paperwork in criminal cases.
“Without the necessary documents, prisoners are not timely paroled, transfer of prisoners to state prison is delayed and taxpayers’ money is wasted on jail overcrowding and housing of our prisoners in other counties.
“This unacceptable delay and up to 60-day backlog in necessary criminal paperwork is caused by the mismanagement of the clerk of courts office by Prothonotary/Clerk Brian Spencer.
“Clearfield County Judges Fredric J. Ammerman and Paul E. Cherry agree that the clerk’s office is extremely disorganized.
“Over the last few months, Judges Cherry and Ammerman have written letters to Brian Spencer pointing out the many difficulties in the clerk’s office and the negative effect on the criminal system, public and taxpayers.
“Mr. Spencer has been asked to provide a written plan to the court as to how he proposes to fix the problems and eliminate the backlog.
“Mr. Spencer has refused to provide his proposals to remedy the backlog and instead has claimed all the problems have been caused by the judges, court administrator’s office and court reporters.
“Judges Ammerman and Cherry have advised Mr. Spencer that his accusations are ‘outrageous, nonsensical and false,’ that he has no legal training and has shown no ability to understand the complexities of the legal system.
“Mr. Spencer has been advised by the court that since he will not provide his input about the problems in his office, the court will issue administrative orders setting schedules and deadlines on necessary criminal paperwork.
“Both Judges Ammerman and Cherry have attempted in good faith to work with Mr. Spencer concerning the disorganization and backlog in the clerk’s office; however, Mr. Spencer has consistently refused to cooperate.”
In his own statement Wednesday, Spencer refuted the judges’ accusations. He stated:
“From the beginning, my goal was to run this office efficiently and effectively and provide courteous service to the public.
“Although Judge Ammerman has been contentious in his relationship with me since I was first elected in 2014, he has noticeably, unfairly and irresponsibly ramped up his attack beginning with the Primary Election season.
“A recent meeting [was held] with the Court Administrator, F. Cortez Bell, on Dec. 12 of 2016. The meeting was also memorialized in an e-mail to Mr. Bell that same date.
“The purpose of this meeting was to proactively ensure that the office did not begin to fall behind, as we had just six months prior undertaken a much larger workload.
“We had begun scanning all documents into the AOPC’s CPCMS System, and we wanted to ensure that our new work policies were not going to degrade in any way our service to the public and the court.
“In this meeting and memorialized e-mail, Mr. Bell assured us that he did not note any degradation, and that he would let us know immediately should any such issues become apparent.
“It is my opinion that these attacks upon me and my staff are not done in the spirit of bettering the efficiency or effectiveness of the courthouse operations, but rather are partisan political attacks aimed at influencing the outcome of an election.
“Now four months from my [bid for] re-election, the judge has begun accusing the clerk of courts office for delays that are, quite frankly, not occurring.
“There is empirical data that shows my office has met all the standards that has been set before me by earlier administrations.
“These actions are all political attacks for political gain, and I am quite sure they will continue in zest.
“My staff and I have always maintained an open door policy. We have asked for input from anyone who is willing to make the system better but have always had the door closed on us.
“Anyone who knows me understands the severity of these attacks for a politically-motivated judge is to influence the public’s opinion of myself.
“I, Brian K. Spencer, prothonotary and clerk of courts, will continue to work and ask my staff to continue to work as a team for the people of Clearfield County.”