Fifty-five years after McCarthyism died, Shohola’s era of McCarthyism may be ending. In 2009, Eric Hamill lodged his first unfounded but headline-grabbing allegation against former township officials Don and Nelia Wall. In 2010, a special solicitor appointed by the Shohola Board of Supervisors found Hamill’s accusations to be groundless. Undeterred, Hamill took his allegations to DA Ray Tonkin, who convened an investigating grand jury.
After 12 months, the grand jury indicted the Walls on a number of charges. Last week, Tonkin notified Shohola Board Chairman Fluhr that the Walls paid $7,500 in “restitution,” and Ms. Wall resigned as supervisor. Tonkin’s notification conveniently arrived on the day of the township meeting where the announcement was greeted by applause from those who ginned the rumor mill for three years. Tonkin’s announcement implied that the Walls admitted guilt.
Not so. The Walls pleaded innocent, and that plea never changed. The announced actions by the Walls were just part of an agreement presented to the Walls by DA Tonkin. The DA cruelly allowed six days to elapse between the first announcement and his action to drop all charges. Unlike the sensational news of last week, on Monday, the DA quietly dropped the charges with no notice to the media.
We’ve seen a paced release of information, which I believe was carefully staged to enable Tonkin to save face while placating Hamill, supervisors Fluhr and Hoeper and others and allow the DA to “un-stick” himself from the fly paper of a meritless case.
The end of McCarthyism dawned the day when a witness before McCarthy’s committee finally challenged the Senator: “I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Let’s pluralize “sir” and, at long last, end the travesty that devastated two lives.