Saturday, January 27, 2007

Local News - Saturday Jan. 27

Wolfgang may get lower bail

The father of a Mount Carmel man suspected in the death of his missing wife told a Schuylkill County judge Friday that he could post as much as $100,000 bail if the court would lower his son's current bail set in a district court. According to the Pottsville Republican and Herald, Clare Wolfgang, of Lavelle, also said that his son, Steven Wolfgang, could reside at the home he and his wife, Shirley, share. At a bail reduction hearing before Judge Jacqueline Russell, public defender Lora McDonald asked the court to lower her client's bail from $200,000 set at his arraignment earlier this month to 10-percent of $5,000. Russell asked Clare Wolfgang if there was any money available in the family to help with the bail. After more than an hour of testimony, Russell said she will render a decision later in the day or early next week. At the end of business Friday, the judge had not yet made a ruling, but is expected to do so early next week. Steven Wolfgang, 46, of 207 S. Market St., Mount Carmel, was charged with the Jan. 8 arson of his wife's 1986 Chevrolet Blazer that also burned his hands in a remote area in Eldred Township. State police fire marshal Trooper John F. Burns charged Wolfgang with two felony counts of arson and related offenses, one felony count each of causing or risking a catastrophe and criminal mischief. During Wolfgang's preliminary hearing Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Carol A. Pankake in Tremont, both sides agreed to lower the criminal mischief charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. Assistant District Attorney Michael O'Pake called Wolfgang a "serious flight risk" considering the felony arson and related charges and the fact that he could face murder charges in the near future if his missing wife is found dead. Wolfgang took the stand, first telling the court about a work-related injury he suffers from and how his prescribed medication for that injury is not being administered to him in prison. He also said that he will reside at his father's house and will attend each and every court proceeding that he is required to appear at. Burns testified that he examined the Blazer and determined the fire was intentionally set at two locations in an area between the front and back seats. Wolfgang was arraigned Thursday afternoon before Magisterial District Judge Michael F. Mychak, Mount Carmel, on two counts of child endangerment. Mychak set Wolfgang's bail at $30,000 straight, meaning a percentage will not be accepted. Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini had previously stated the child endangerment charges were filed so that, in the event Wolfgang was able to make bail in Schuylkill County, he could be arrested and held in Northumberland County while the investigation into his wife's disappearance continued.

ReDCo promises $300K

The ReDCo Group, a Pottsville-based nonprofit service provider, agreed to return $300,000 to Schuylkill County coffers during a Friday meeting with county officials, county commissioners said. According to the Pottsville Republican and Herald, no timetable was announced regarding the next step in the auditing process or how much more money may be owed. Officials did promise, though, to push for the public release of the report in "the very near future." The developments came nearly three years after the commissioners hired the private firm Parente Randolph Accountants and Consultants to study contracts between the county and ReDCo for fiscal years 2002 to 2004. The service contracts came under scrutiny after the state Bureau of Financial Operations found a $3.2 million overrun of state and federal dollars used to finance the Mental Health/Mental Retardation programs, leaving the county taxpayers to pick up the tab. Reports filed by the state's Bureau of Financial Operations raised concerns about of oversight which led to the review of several service providers, the largest of them being The ReDCo Group. The commissioners cut human service contracts and reduced spending to reduce the $3.2 million deficit to about $400,000, said county Commissioner Robert S. Carl Jr., a Republican. State officials with the Bureau of Financial Operations did not attend the meeting, although county officials expected their participation.


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