The Rugg's been pulled out from under those overseeing Warren County's books.
According to a source close to the issue, one of Warren County's three elected auditors has stopped shouldering his share of the office's workload.
Nikita Rugg, one of three elected county auditors, has allegedly not been in to work for approximately three months, and while auditors are only paid for the hours they actually work, the absence is putting the remaining auditors in a difficult position.
Auditors in the county are paid for hours actually worked, but the total they can be paid in a year is capped, currently at $23,000. If an auditor fails to complete his or her share of the work, the remaining auditors must take up the slack while still remaining under the cap.
According to the source, auditors put in approximately 182 days of work per-year. This breaks down to approximately three-and-a-half six hour days per-week, or about 21 hours per-week.
According to the source, Rugg has put in enough hours to total approximately $16,000 in billing, meaning he has not put in another $7,000 worth of hours. That $7,000 equates to approximately 333 hours, or about 55-and-a-half six-hour days. It's the equivalent of about one-third of an auditors total workload.
Both the source, and Commissioner John Eggleston, who agreed to speak on the record concerning the matter, said they have heard Rugg may not even be living in the county at this point.
"We've been told this individual may be living in Las Vegas," Eggleston said.
The commissioners are looking at possibilities to resolve the matter, but under Pennsylvania law, their hands may be tied.
"You have to understand, with the structure of county government, we control the budget but the auditors are elected officials and we have no authority over them," Eggleston pointed out. "We have our solicitor looking over the laws to see if there's anything we can do."
In Pennsylvania, the means of removing an elected official from office is difficult to employ at best. The courts have ruled the grounds for removal are limited to those outlined in the state constitution, which requires an official to be convicted for an "infamous crime" or the loosely defined crime of misbehaviour in office. Actual impeachment action is reserved to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, where the state house of representatives has sole discretion to bring proceedings and the state senate has sole power to try the case. In other words, removal from office literally takes an act of the legislature.
"There is no recall election," Eggleston noted.
In the absence of legal means, the possibility of Rugg voluntary relinquishing his office remains. A vacancy would be filled by court appointment.
"This is just speaking for myself, but I hope he resigns and we can get the judge to appoint someone," Eggleston said. "After the new year, we'll be looking at what we can do, which may be nothing."
Rugg is currently facing charges in Warren County of simple assault and harassment related to a domestic dispute on Aug. 19.
He appeared for formal arraignment on Sept. 19, where he entered a plea of not guilty.
Rugg's case is scheduled for calendar call on Sept. 19, in which it will be determined whether the case can be settled or will proceed to trial.
The last verifiable interaction between Rugg and the county occurred on Nov. 4, when he was arrested in Youngsville by county sheriff's deputies on warrants issued by two separate district judges.
Attempts by the Times Observer to contact Rugg have been unsuccessful.