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Manager's arrest halts DuBois/Sandy Township consolidation

Penn State sexual misconduct survey shows student trust in the university is falling

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April 20, 2023
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Inside this edition: Arrest of DuBois manager brings city’s ongoing consolidation with Sandy Township to a halt, Pa. grapples with how to spend opioid settlement money, and a Penn State sexual misconduct survey shows student trust in the university is falling.

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

“They need to spend it on harm reduction, and they need to spend it on people not dying. They need to get people into treatment and get them into housing and things like that, but not jail — definitely not jail.”

—Pam Keefe, a Luzerne County resident whose daughter died of drug overdose, on how opioid settlement money should be spent
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» Expecting more than $1 billion in opioid settlement money, Pa. grapples with policing versus treatment

» WATCH: A free panel on Pa.’s Supreme Court candidates and why the 2023 election matters

» LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: Join us Thursday, April 27 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on what issues and policies are on the state legislature’s docket in 2023. Register for the event here and submit your questions to
Daniel Fishel / For Spotlight PA
» A complete guide to the May 16 primary
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» A guide to requesting, filling out, and returning your mail ballot
» A guide to vetting candidates
» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates
» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates
» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado
» At least one big hurdle remains to open primaries in Pa.

» Court decision does little to clear up ballot curing confusion
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» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1
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April blossoms.

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» WJAC: Former Congressman Bud Shuster dies at 91
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» CDT: PSU sexual misconduct survey shows students’ trust falling
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» Sun-Gazette: Lycoming College drag show threatened 
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Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» April 20: Old Crow Medicine Show, of “
Wagon Wheel fame, performs at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport.

» April 22: Shop sustainably and support secondhand businesses at the Bellefonte Vintage Crawl.

» April 22-23: The 17th annual Penn State Powwow celebrates American Indian community and spirituality.

» April 22-23: The annual Spring Antique Show & Sawmill Run at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum — located in Ulysses, Potter County — features vendors, demonstrations, and other attractions.

» April 26-29: The Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous in Ridgway, Elk County, features 75 carvers.
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