Pennsylvania’s top prosecutor has charged a court official in Lebanon
County with failing to report certain information to the state Department of Transportation.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Thursday that her office filed criminal charges against Lebanon County Clerk of Courts Lisa Arnold for failing to pass along motorists’ convictions for driving under the influence to PennDOT.
As clerk of courts, Arnold, 48, of Lebanon, Pa., is required to report DUI convictions or acquittals within 10 days after final judgment, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
The criminal complaint against her alleges Arnold failed to provide PennDOT with the required information a total of 203 times between Jan. 1 and Oct. 24, 2013.
State prosecutors assert that Arnold directed her staff to not participate in the notification process and that her office kept confiscated drivers’ licenses and associated paperwork in a plastic bag in a filing cabinet.
Arnold is being charged with one count of obstructing administration of law or other government function and one count of failure to comply with provisions of subchapter 75 – reports by courts.
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 13 at Lebanon County Central Court.
Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden of the Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecutions Section is scheduled to prosecute the case.
Arnold has reportedly worked in the Clerk of Courts’ Office since the early 1980s.
She serves as both clerk of courts on the criminal side and prothonotary on the civil side.
Arnold’s attorney, Horace Ehrgood, told the Lebanon Daily News that his client was expecting to be charged.
“It was not a surprise,” he was quoted as saying. “We knew the charges had been filed. We think the best thing to do is to let it wind its course and we will take care of it from there.”
The paper reported that Lebanon County District Attorney David J. Arnold, (no relation to Lisa Arnold), requested that the Attorney General’s Office review a complaint by his office and the county commissioners that Lisa Arnold neglected her legal duties by “continuously failing to comply with reports by courts.”
The criminal complaint, which was obtained by the Lebanon Daily News, said that during an interview with authorities, Lebanon County Administrator Jamie Wolgemuth said county commissioners, judges, probation officers and attorneys all have had “major issues with Arnold’s neglect of duties.”
The charges against her allege Arnold failed to send the DUI records of conviction, acquittal or other disposition to PennDOT within 10 days of the final judgment.
The move meant some drivers faced suspensions of their driver’s licenses that lasted longer than what is allowable by law, since a suspension doesn’t take effect until PennDOT receives paperwork and driver’s licenses of defendants.
The Lebanon Daily News reported that the county’s probation department reported to investigators that it attempted to contact Arnold because of “several probationers whose driver’s licenses were not showing as suspended.”
In those cases, the paper reported, no records of the proper forms being submitted to PennDOT were found.
The paper further reported that investigators executed a search warrant of Arnold’s office in late October, during which nearly 200 disposition sheets of criminal court dockets not entered into the state database were seized, along with an email from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts telling Arnold of forms that hadn’t been submitted, and other information.
During an interview with investigators through her attorney, the paper reported, Arnold explained that due to budgetary constraints, she was unable to make copies of the forms to be sent to the state that would be kept in a case file in her office.
Both the failure to report court records and obstruction charges are misdemeanors, although Arnold could face a maximum possible jail sentence of two years and a $5,000 fine if found guilty on the latter.
Lebanon County sits just east of Dauphin County, home to Harrisburg, the state’s capital.