CLEARFIELD – Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts Brian Spencer has again publicly addressed the allegations of a criminal paperwork backlog in the clerk’s office with Jail Warden Greg Collins.
Spencer released his second letter to the warden to members of the local media on Friday. His letter read:
“Although you state in your letter you will not engage in a public discussion of the matter, you have chosen to send your response to the local media. That seems contradictory.
“You were the first to bring up this discussion at a public prison board meeting, where media were present.
“You now complain that I did not send you a letter through ‘normal office to office channels’; however, your complaint is hypocritical, since you did not send me a letter through ‘normal office to office channels’ before airing your complaints in front of the media.
“Actually, my deputy prothonotary did reach out to you by phone and left a message, so we could discuss the issue and investigate the matter. That phone message was never returned.
“Since you are continuing this discussion through the public, I will respond in like manner.
“You reference two orders, saying they were not docketed and scanned. As you were previously informed, the docketing is being processed timely once we receive the orders from the court administration.
“Regarding scanning, the CPCMS (the State’s electronic case management system) is an electronic file of the case, not an official record.
“The jail cannot release inmates by viewing the CPCMS system. The jail does not even have access to the CPCMS system.
“I have yet to receive specific examples (names, docket numbers and dates) of inmates who were not able to be transferred due to the orders not being timely processed.
“As previously stated, and I will repeat, I am asking you, as the warden of the jail and the one originally lodging the complaint, to work with me in order that I may investigate this further and attempt to uncover exactly where any hold up may be occurring and how my office may be able to help your office function more efficiently.
“I remain committed to providing the best service for the citizens of Clearfield County and am open to working with you to resolve issues that may be affecting your department. Please contact me, so we may arrange a time to meet and discuss the matter.”
GANT News contacted the Clearfield County Commissioners Friday morning. Commissioner John A. Sobel said that the board of commissioners didn’t wish to make any comment on the ongoing matter involving the prothonotary, warden and judges.
On July 12, a letter in regards to ongoing “mismanagement and disorganization” in the clerk’s office 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.
Collins has recently voiced his concerns about the many problems caused by the delay in receiving the sentences, parole orders and other necessary paperwork in criminal cases.
According to the judges’ letter, 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 prisoners in other counties.
In his own statement, Spencer refuted the judges’ allegations. He said that the judges’ “attacks” upon him and his staff aren’t being done to better the county’s court operations but instead are politically motivated.
Spencer has maintained the paperwork delays in the clerk’s office are, “quite frankly, not occurring.” Instead, he said there is “empirical data that shows my office has met all the standards that has been set before me by earlier administrations.”
On Monday a second letter from the judges was released to the media. Both judges have denied that their allegations against Spencer are “politically-motivated,” adding “nothing could be further from the truth.”
According to the judges, the internal problems in the clerk’s office are being discussed now because they are happening now and not because it’s an election year.
“The court has attempted since February to work behind the scenes with Mr. Spencer to try to solve these issues, just as with any other county office holder, regardless of political party,” the judges wrote.
“However, Mr. Spencer has refused to work with the court and court administration, instead inexplicably blaming us for causing the problems.”
Spencer continued to refute the allegations in a statement he released Tuesday. He said he’s been “open and willing” to work with the judges – specifically Ammerman – to resolve any issues.
Spencer said he’s made numerous requests of the judge to “sit down and discuss the matters claimed to be problems,” and not once has the judge been willing to have such a meeting.
Spencer again went on to accuse Ammerman of “airing” complaints about him and the clerk’s office through the media to try to influence the upcoming prothonotary election with his “political clout.”
On Thursday afternoon, Collins released a letter to members of the local media. In his letter, he acknowledged receiving Spencer’s request for certain information in regards to discussion of the criminal paperwork backlog at a recent prison board meeting.
“The normal professional means of obtaining information from me would have been a simple request by letter or e-mail …. through normal office to office channels,” Collins wrote.
“Instead, you have chosen to provide your letter to me and to the media, which clearly is an attempt to draw me into your public discussion of your office’s failings.
“There are no inefficiencies in the jail operations as referred to in your letter. I will not engage in a public discussion of the matter, as all I did was ask questions at prison board as to the status of a matter that had been previously discussed.”
Collins said he’s been employed in administrative positions at the jail for 21 years, and he’s never before experienced the issues that have been occurring in regards to the receipt from the clerk of timely and properly filed orders and documents.
“I am simply trying to perform my job as directed by the prison board in order to [ensure] the smooth and orderly handling of the directives and orders of President Judge [Fredric] Ammerman and Judge [Paul] Cherry.”