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HACC, whistleblower attempt to resolve case

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Harrisburg Area Community College and its former security director are attempting to negotiate an amicable resolution to a whistleblower lawsuit filed last summer, according to court records.

A June 2 order from Christopher C. Conner, chief judge of the United States District Court  of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, indicates that the parties submitted a joint motion for referral to a judicial settlement officer and to stay pre-trial deadlines.

According to the complaint, Todd A. Crawley started working for HACC in 2006 and in July 2012 was appointed director of public safety.

Crawley named HACC, President John J. "Ski" Sygielski and interim chief human resources officer Dennis Heinle as defendants, saying he discovered and reported internally that HACC was not compliant with the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, then provided accurate information to the U.S. Department of Education in December 2012 after it performed an unannounced audit.

The suit alleges that Sygielski then pressured Crawley and Heinle's predecessor, Lisa Sanford, to create a false report. Crawley said he refused in December and then, in January, Sygielski removed Sanford from her position and replaced her with Heinle.

Subsequently, the suit says, Sygielski and Heinle targeted Crawley in retaliation for his truthful disclosure and attempted to make him a scapegoat "for several of HACC's recent public embarassments," and then on March 26, 2013, Crawley was removed from his position.

HACC has denied Crawley's allegations of wrongdoing, saying it commissioned an independent investigation of the claims that found no misconduct and no retaliation and nothing illegal done by the college administration.

In an accompanying statement issued last summer, Sygielski said he was angered by what he termed the attack on the college and himself.

"I have made many significant, challenging but necessary changes since I was hired to serve as president of HACC almost two years ago in July 2011," he said. "When leaders make these types of changes, unfortunately, they become targets, and these situations occur. It is sad that hardworking HACC employees must spend precious time addressing these false, untrue and unfounded allegations instead of focusing on our top priority – our students."

HACC appointed Aimee Brough its new HR chief in November 2013 and said earlier this year that Heinle was no longer with the college. A statement from Brough said Heinle's "efforts were instrumental during a transitional period" and that HACC "owes him a debt of gratitude."

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