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State clears Saxonburg district judge of ethics violations

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Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Saxonburg District Judge Sue E. Haggerty has been cleared of alleged ethics violations involving Saxonburg borough police, state judicial officials said.

Even so, Saxonburg police must continue to take all criminal cases to a district judge in Chicora and plans are continuing to move Haggerty's offices out of the Saxonburg municipal building.

In a brief Oct. 25 letter made public Tuesday, the state Judicial Conduct Board said it dismissed the complaint against Haggerty “after a preliminary investigation.”

“I'm glad that this chapter has closed,” Haggerty said Tuesday. She declined further comment.

Saxonburg police Chief Joe Beachem didn't return a calls for comment. Borough Manager Mary Papik said, “I'm glad it is over so everybody can now move on.”

The Judicial Conduct Board has refused for months to comment about or even generally describe the allegations against Haggerty. The letter clearing her similarly gave no details.

In fact, conduct board Chief Counsel Robert A. Graci wrote that the complaint and the board's decision are private and details can't be made public in keeping with the state Constitution.

Graci wasn't available Tuesday at the conduct board nor his private office. The Judicial Conduct Board was among state offices closed because of Hurricane Sandy.

Last spring, county officials said the unspecified allegations involved Saxonburg police.In March, Butler County President Judge Thomas Doerr ordered Saxonburg police to take all criminal charges to the district judge's office in Chicora, almost 20 miles away, instead of walking across the hall from their police station to Haggerty's office.

In addition to Saxonburg, the district includes Buffalo, Clinton, Jefferson, Middlesex, Penn and Winfield townships.

Doerr wasn't available for comment Tuesday.

Tom Holman, the county's deputy court administrator, said Doerr issued a statement saying he wasn't surprised by the decision from the Judicial Conduct Board.Doerr again ruled that Saxonburg police will continue to have their cases heard by the Chicora district judge to avoid “any perceived impropriety,” Holman said.

Plans also are under way to move Haggerty's court and offices out of the basement of the Saxonburg Municipal Building at 426 W. Main St.

Holman said negotiations are under way to move the office to 333 W. Main Street in Saxonburg.

“It's across the street, closer to town. You can almost throw a rock and hit it. It's pretty close,” he said.Holman said the landlord is going through zoning and related issues.

“We expect to move the office by the start of the year,” he said.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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