The arrest of DuBois City Manager Herm Suplizio in March on corruption charges has brought the city’s ongoing consolidation with neighboring Sandy Township in Clearfield County to a standstill and thrown the future of the project into question.
The two north-central Pennsylvania municipalities began the consolidation after voters in both places approved it in 2021 — with a razor-thin margin of 1% among Sandy Township residents — after three failed attempts in previous decades. DuBois and Sandy Township officials have pitched the consolidation as a way to reduce overlap of government services and attract new businesses.
A 10-member joint board consisting of five elected officials from each locale, and supported by a nine-member committee of officials, government employees, and residents from both areas, was tasked with creating a new third-class city by January 2026.
But the charges brought against Suplizio — that he allegedly stole more than $600,000 from public accounts he oversaw — raised serious questions about DuBois’ oversight of its finances and cast doubts on the effort among Sandy Township residents and leaders.
“If a consolidation is to be done, it must be a fully transparent process built on a firm foundation of solid financial knowledge,” Sandy Township Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Beers wrote in a statement following DuBois’ decision to place Suplizio on paid administrative leave. “We do not have that transparency or foundation now.”
The joint board approved a consolidation agreement in November, establishing the governing structure for the future city, which Sandy Township Manager Shawn Arbaugh told Spotlight PA was “pivotal.”
“It was a lot of work to get there just because you have 10 opinions and you're trying to get everybody on the same page,” Arbaugh said. But in light of Suplizio’s arrest, “our residents are just really, really questioning what’s going on.”
Beers told Spotlight PA that the township has come to an agreement with DuBois to pause consolidation efforts until a forensic audit of the city’s finances can be completed. He said they expect to discuss the task in a May joint board meeting.
“We can’t keep moving forward without these unknowns getting clarified first,” Beers said.
The consolidation process has faced other challenges: Arbaugh reported in a committee meeting last August that some government employees fear losing their jobs. A month later, Sandy Township Supervisor Sam Mollica accused DuBois officials of “treating the consolidation process as a city takeover rather than deciding to work cooperatively with the township,” the Courier Express reported.
Arbaugh said he still supports the consolidation “if done correctly.”
It's unprecedented for a consolidation already underway to face questions challenging its root cause, as far as township officials are aware, Beers said. They lack guidance on what the next steps in the process should be, besides the planned audit.
“We’re charting uncharted water, pretty much,” Beers said.
Despite all the uncertainties, the countdown to the expected birth of the new city in January 2026 — what Beers called "a pretty aggressive deadline" — carries on. An arraignment for Suplizio originally scheduled for April 12 was canceled, and a prosecutor told the Courier Express the case awaits a judge assignment.
Day-to-day collaborations, including with DuBois interim City Manager Chris Nasuti and between the two police departments, continue, Arbaugh said. “I think we’ll overcome this and move forward.”
—Min Xian, Local Accountability Reporter