KITTANNING – The adoption of a proclamation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month took a personal and poignant turn last week as the executive director of Armstrong County’s domestic violence advocacy agency shared her own story of a case of abuse from years ago.
After county commissioners Pat Fabian, Jason Renshaw and George Skamai proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month on behalf of HAVIN (Helping Abuse Victims In Need), Jo Ellen Bowman said she has heard a lot of negative comments and pushback against the the ongoing #MeToo movement which has implicated a number of high profile celebrities and world leaders in sexual assault cases.
Bowman said that with everyone coming forward to share their personal stories, she decided to do so as well at last Thursday’s meeting of the county commissioners.
“I lived it,” she said, noting that this was the first time she had publicly shared this story, which took place years ago when she first started working for the county.
As a single mom at the time, and working to put herself through college, Bowman said a co-worker made a number of sexual comments to her over time, and eventually cornered her in her office, clearing off her desk and undoing his pants. She said she told him to leave, and the director of the agency “did a great job” in handling the situation so that it never happened again.
Bowman noted that the accused no longer works for the county.
After the incident, she said she felt ostracized from other co-workers who saw her as a tattle-tale and not trustworthy.
Bowman told those at last week’s meeting that “everyone has a responsibility to listen” to those making accusations, and men can help push back against that kind of behavior to make for healthier work environments.
“I got scared,” she said. “I’ve always been a pretty strong woman.”
Why bring this up now, years after the fact? Bowman said it has taken years for the climate to change and for women, like herself, to feel comfortable coming forward with their stories.
“I did want I needed to do,” she said. “It’s time for a social change.”
The proclamation issued last week states that one in five women and one in 67 men will be raped at some point in their lives; and that one in four girls and one and six boys will experience sexual assault before age 18.
The theme for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign is “Embrace Your Voice,” informing people on how to use their words to stop sexual violence before it happens by promoting safety, respect and equality.
• April was also proclaimed as Fair Housing Month in the county, with residents encouraged to report housing discrimination to the county. April 15-21 was also proclaimed as Volunteer Recognition Week.
• An engineering contract with Senate Engineering was approved for work on the second phase of the South Bethlehem Borough ADA sidewalk ramp improvement project. The engineer contract is in the amount of $7,882. The project is being funded by a $50,222 Community Development Block Grant and $1,000 from South Bethlehem Borough.
• The commissioners approved an agreement with JG Contracting in the amount of $1,925 per month for inspections at the county’s five owned and nine leased emergency radio towers.
• Approval was given for a $500 donation from the county’s Marcellus Legacy Fund to the Armstrong Rails to Trails Association.
• The commissioners approved an application for a Community Parks and Recreation Grant in the amount of $500,000 to help pay for the replacement of the ice rink refrigeration equipment and concrete floor at the county-owned Belmont Complex. The total estimated cost for the project is $1,051,600, with the county providing the remainder of the costs.
Salary Board Actions
Following the commissioners’ meeting last week, the county Salary Board approved a number of changes related to the retirement of county Executive Director of Administration Dan Lucovich.
After nearly five years with the county, Lucovich announced his retirement effective April 6.
Under his position, Lucovich handled duties previously done by the chief administrator, and took on the leadership role for county human resources.
With his retirement, salary board members restructured the position, creating a full-time chief administrator position and hiring Aaron Poole at a salary of $46,975.
They also created a full-time assistant chief administrator position with a salary range of $35,373 to $46,137, and a full-time director of human resources position with a salary range of $47,424 to $61,873. Neither position was filled at this time.
Also during the Salary Board meeting, members approved creating a full-time department clerk position for the register and recorder’s office at $10.25 per hour, and creating a similar position with the same pay for the controller’s office, abolishing a part-time position for that office.
The Salary Board also, due to a retirement, split the duties of assessment and tax claim. A full-time chief assessor position was created with a salary range of $35,373 to $46,137, and a full-time tax claim director position was created with a salary range of $30,556 to $39,858.