Oversight leads Schuylkill judge to return mandamus complaint

An administrative oversight led to a Schuylkill County judge being prematurely presented with a mandamus complaint filed last week by the commissioners against Controller Melinda Kantner.

“There was a document … that shouldn’t have been submitted. It was submitted inadvertently,” county solicitor Eric M. Mika said Thursday.

The commissioners filed the complaint Jan. 13, asking a judge to force Kantner to pay the last of three $18,000 installments to the county’s external auditor, Pottsville accountant Sam Deegan.

By Monday, the complaint had already found its way to Judge Jacqueline Russell’s desk.

Kantner’s solicitor, Sudhir Patel, has not yet filed a response. As such, Russell returned the complaint to the prothonotary’s office.

Russell made no ruling on the validity of the complaint, but merely ruled on the “praecipe” – a legal term for a request that the court act.

Mika said the praecipe should not have been submitted with the complaint last week.

“Judge Russell rightfully dismissed the praecipe,” he said.

Mika also said the issue remains “on track.”

In her ruling, Russell said “it is evident that the case is not trial-ready,” as Patel had not yet filed a response.

The mandamus centers on money owed to Deegan for his work auditing county financial records. Deegan is to be paid three installments of $18,000 and a $6,000 retainer fee when the work is complete.

He has been paid the first two installments, but Kantner has refused to pay the last. She has attempted to deduct $4,800 from Deegan’s check in order to pay another accounting firm, Maillie Falconiero and Co., Pottstown, for its work helping her complete two financial reports for the state.

The commissioners never approved that deal and have refused to use taxpayer money to pay the bill.