March 6, 2012 —
After three days of testimony at a preliminary hearing, Pike County Judge Joseph Kameen ruled that a trial of Donald and Eleanor “Nelia” Wall, husband and wife, should be held to investigate whether they are guilty of the charges brought forth from a two-year grand jury investigation.
The information from the grand jury report is contained in a 31-page docket. The grand jury subpoenaed over a thousand township documents.
Nelia, currently a supervisor of Shohola Township, and her husband Donald, the former zoning officer of the township, are accused of a list of unlawful practices while in office. The allegation states that the couple is accused of using the authority of their offices to receive financial benefits.
Despite initial supportive testimony from eight of the 10 witnesses called, Kameen ruled that the prosecutors had shown sufficient evidence that the couple may be guilty of ethics violations in their dealings with the duties of their office, including the issuing of permits, the alleged promotion of their own business and other matters in the indictment.
Nelia was also at the time the township secretary who was in charge of the permit process while Donald was the township zoning officer. Both had been removed from these offices by an action of the township board last year. Nelia, however, is still the duly elected supervisor and has remained in office.
The removal action by the board was vigorously attacked by many Wall supporters at township meetings during the two years following. Because of a gag order, the two board members who voted to remove the couple from office could not reveal the reason for the removal.
It is alleged that the couple engaged in restricted unethical activities by referring businesses to their landscaping company, TLC, while acting as representatives of the township.
Charges that are bound over for Donald include several counts of conflict of interest, theft by deception, conspiracy to commit theft and several counts of tampering with township records. The allegation that Donald may be guilty of extorting $10,000 from a Shohola resident for removing a
trailer was dropped.
A charge of unlawful letting of contracts for work done at Rohman Park was also withdrawn.
Restricted activity and conspiracy to commit restricted activity charges were also bound over against Nelia along with charges of theft by taking, theft by deception and criminal conspiracy to commit theft.
All charges pertain to incidents from 2006 to 2009 when the Walls were both township officers.
The Restricted Activities Act says no public official or public employee shall engage in conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest. Testimony in the preliminary hearing showed the Walls were able to advertise their business and give estimates to potential customers before other contractors had a chance.
Donald’s attorney Benjamin Van Steenburgh said his client was gratified that the extortion charge was dismissed. The Walls have been advised by attorneys not to speak about the case. The Pike County District Attorney has not yet scheduled a trial date.