Register of wills denies sexual harassment claims
A sexual harassment complaint was filed Monday against Westmoreland County Register of Wills Michael Ginsburg, his chief deputy and the county.
Katie Pecarchik of Jeannette, a deputy clerk in the office since 2003, claimed in documents filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Ginsburg and deputy register Charles Humberger repeatedly engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior toward her.
Ginsburg and Humberger on Monday refuted the allegations and said Pecarchik was a disgruntled employee who was an office discipline problem.
“I deny all the allegations, and I look forward to my chance to prove my innocence,” Ginsburg said.
Pecarchik, through her lawyer David Millstein, said both Ginsburg and Humberger inappropriately touched her and made offensive sexual remarks and derogatory statements about African Americans, Catholics and homosexuals.
“Most of the women in the office have experienced this behavior and are afraid to come forward out of fear of losing their jobs,” Millstein said.
Millstein said Ginsburg and Humberger threatened Pecarchik's job if she made a formal complaint to the county.
Pecarchik is under a doctor's care and has been off work on sick leave for the last six weeks as a result of the harassment, Millstein said.
“Emotionally, she was really struggling with the threats and the harassment. She wants the behavior to stop and for the offending parties to be sanctioned in an appropriate manner,” Millstein said.
The complaints filed on Monday are a precursor to a state or federal lawsuit. A lawsuit can be filed after the two agencies complete an investigation of the allegations, Millstein said.
According to her filing, Pecarchik said she first reported her allegations to county Commissioner Ted Kopas on July 9 and again to the county human resources office on July 16.
Millstein said Westmoreland County conducted an investigation, but neither he nor Pecarchik was told of its results.
Charles Dominick, the county's director of human resources, said he could neither confirm nor deny an investigation. Ginsburg, a first-term Republican from Penn Township, is responsible for the hiring and firing of staff in his office.
There are 12 female staffers who work in the register's office.
Ginsburg said Monday that he previously disciplined Pecarchik for her job performance.
“She's been a discipline problem for the last six months. She violated some guidelines,” Ginsberg said. “She was mad because she wasn't promoted. This is her way of getting back. Maybe I should have fired her.”
Humberger, a Jeannette resident who was hired by Ginsburg when he took office last year, denied Pecarchik's allegations.
“I am not a racist and I would never sexually harass any of my staff,” Humberger said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.