Parents question DA's ties to school investigation - abc27 WHTM

Parents question DA's ties to school investigation

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Former Asst. Principal Shawn Sharkey Former Asst. Principal Shawn Sharkey
District Attorney Ed Marsico District Attorney Ed Marsico

Susquehanna Township parents have questions about the investigation into the school district's handling of suspected child sexual abuse.

A high school principal was charged last month with having a relationship with one of his students, but now some parents are calling for the district attorney to remove himself from the case.

Wendy Weaver-Carter, a mother of two former students and a recently retired Harrisburg police officer, said there are clear conflicts with the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office investigating how her school district handled allegations last spring that assistant high school principal Shawn Sharkey was having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.

"I just think everyone needs to be accountable and there needs to be transparency," Weaver-Carter said.

She said there is no excuse for school officials not taking claims against Sharkey to police when they surfaced in May.

Sharkey was charged last month and resigned from his position; DA Ed Marsico is now investigating who in the district knew what, and when. But Weaver-Carter and several other parents told abc27 Marsico should pass this case on to the Office of the Attorney General because of school board member ties to his office.

Though none are under investigation themselves, board member John Fabian Jr. is married to assistant district attorney Jenna Lewis, and board president Mike Ferguson also once worked as an assistant district attorney in Dauphin County. Both voted 'yes' on the latest contract renewal for superintendent Dr. Susan Kegerise.

"For those reasons, I don't see how a fair and legitimate investigation can be conducted," Carter said.

Carter compares this to the investigation into a Harrisburg police officer recently put on leave for misuse of Police Athletic League (PAL) federal grant money. In that case, Marsico has turned things over to the Attorney General because he serves on the league's board.

"So what is the difference in the Susquehanna case?," Weaver-Carter asked. "And we're talking about monies in Harrisburg -- which is a serious issue -- but we're also talking about sex with minors in Susquehanna Township. So that bothers me a lot."

When reached for comment Wednesday, first assistant district attorney said in an email:

There is no conflict of interest warranting referral of this matter to the Office of Attorney General. None of the school board members are subjects of the investigation. In my experience, if we referred the matter to the OAG, they would not adopt it for lack of a conflict of interest. I spoke to the head of the criminal investigation division of the OAG today and he agreed with my assessment.

I should note that Jenna Lewis, whose husband is currently on the school board, is not involved at all in the investigation. Michael Ferguson has not been a member of this office for many years. In short, there is no conflict of interest.

There is a vast difference from the PAL case. In that case, Ed Marsico knows the target of the investigation well and served on the board of PAL. The investigation relates to the activities connected with PAL. This is completely different. The connection is to an ADA not involved in the investigation. The connection is not to a suspect or even a witness. It is to a person connected to the school district. This is not a close call.

Attorney General press secretary Joe Peters told abc27 the office can only accept a conflict case if a district attorney chooses to conflict it out. The Attorney General has no jurisdiction to independently investigate a county case, he said.

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