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A Pa. town seeks to pause consolidation with its scandal ridden neighbor city

In a rare move, Sandy Township argues that Herm Suplizio’s alleged theft of public funds in DuBois and the city’s lack of oversight justify a delay of consolidation proceedings.

  • Min Xian/SpotlightPA
A street in DuBois, Pennsylvania

 Georgianna Sutherland / For Spotlight PA

A street in DuBois, Pennsylvania

This story was produced by the State College regional bureau of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom dedicated to investigative and public-service journalism for Pennsylvania. 

In an unusual legal filing, Sandy Township seeks to pause its voter-approved consolidation with the City of DuBois as a result of corruption allegations against the city’s suspended manager and alarming financial oversight issues.

The consolidation, a rarity in Pennsylvania’s patchwork of more than 2,500 municipalities, was approved by DuBois and Sandy Township voters in a 2021 referendum — by a razor-thin margin of 1% among township electors — after three failed attempts in previous decades.

Now, Sandy Township officials argue in a new court filing that the sweeping fraud allegations against Herm Suplizio, one of DuBois’ most politically connected government officials, and mounting questions about city oversight and ongoing investigations necessitate an intervention.

“Given the unique and extraordinary circumstances presented here, including serious criminal malfeasance, absent a permanent injunction the township will suffer substantial financial losses and harm,” officials wrote in the complaint, filed in Clearfield County Court of Common Pleas.

The state attorney general’s office in March accused Suplizio of stealing more than $600,000 in taxpayer money over a decade. Suplizio has yet to enter a plea in the case or appear in court. Contrary to the allegations, the city’s mayor and solicitor have told the public there is “no money missing” from the city.

DuBois has an insurance policy that could cover financial losses resulting from the city manager’s alleged crimes, city officials told the public in a recent meeting, but the City Council decided against filing a claim, potentially absorbing the cost of the alleged theft.

The council also approved paying more than a quarter-million dollars toward Suplizio’s private defense. While DuBois taxpayers foot the bill for these expenses, Suplizio has been receiving full salary while on paid administrative leave.

A study conducted in 2021 by the Pennsylvania Economy League recommended that DuBois and Sandy Township consolidate, projecting lower property taxes and utility fees for most residents, as well as “improved long term regional financial health.”

The recommendations were based on “the 2020 budgets and revenues and expenditures from 2015 through 2019 for the city of DuBois and Sandy Township,” according to the study. Investigators with the state attorney general’s office who brought charges against Suplizio found not all city funds were documented and accounted for in those financial records.

The study’s financial analysis, foundational to the voters’ authorization of the consolidation, can no longer be relied upon, Sandy Township wrote in its complaint.

One example: “The accusations against the City Manager included selling City water to oil and gas companies at rates beyond the rates prescribed by the City’s Public Utility Commission approved tariff. Millions of dollars received from these unlawful water sales remain missing and unaccounted for in the City’s funds,” the complaint stated.

Additional discoveries have emerged since Suplizio’s arrest, further undermining confidence in city management.

A gift bag filled with more than $93,000 in cash of unknown origins showed up at DuBois City Hall last month. Citing Spotlight PA’s reporting, Sandy Township’s complaint said DuBois’ internal accounting system and controls “do not meet applicable standards.”

Evidence of “vast uncertainties and questions regarding the City’s finances,” the township told the court, make it “highly imprudent and irresponsible” for the consolidation to occur by the Jan. 5, 2026, deadline.

Sandy Township asked the court to stay the consolidation proceedings until the criminal investigation of Suplizio and a forensic audit of DuBois’ finances are done. DuBois Interim City Manager Chris Nasuti said in a May 22 public meeting that the audit is underway and could take a year to complete.

The court filing “very well may be the first and only action of its kind,” Scott Wyland, solicitor for Sandy Township, told Spotlight PA. “Municipal consolidations and mergers are rare enough, and to have one in which you have criminal allegations … severe enough to warrant judicial intervention, it is probably a unique case.”

Pennsylvania law governing consolidation and merger among municipalities does not address the situation facing Sandy Township and DuBois, Wyland said. But he said the township believes the court has “an inherent power to step into this legal process and make corrections or adjustments to it.”

It’s now up to the city to make an official response to the complaint. DuBois can oppose and ask to have the filing dismissed, or agree to the township’s request.

The city has no official statement at this time, Nasuti told Spotlight PA.

“We’re hopeful that the city will agree that it’s sensible to pause the act of consolidation process until both the city and township know the results of these investigations,” Wyland said.

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