News

Area Ambulance Company Fined by U.S. Department of Labor

FORTY FORT, Pa. — An ambulance company co-owned by Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan broke federal overtime rules and must pay $23,470 in back wages to its employees, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday.

Trans-Med Ambulance Inc. of Forty Fort failed to keep accurate records of employees hours and did not count the hours employees spent on call or manning ambulances at community events when computing overtime pay, according to a Labor Department press release.

Trans-Med President Homer Berlew said the ambulance company misinterpreted the regulations and cooperated fully with the Labor Department. He said he didn t know how the overtime violations came to the department s attention.

Conahan, who is a shareholder and director at Trans-Med, did not return a phone message seeking comment Thursday. Conahan s financial interests have been the focus of scrutiny from other federal agencies recently. The FBI and IRS have been probing possible financial links between Conahan, President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Butler Township attorney Robert J. Powell, according to two courthouse sources who spoke on condition of anonymity and said they were interviewed by the agents.

Until recently, Powell was co-owner of a juvenile detention center that had a multi-million contract with the county,

Last week, FBI agents armed with a search warrant inspected county records detailing the placement of juveniles in the detention center, according to Paul McGarry, director of administrative services for the county court.

Labor Department spokeswoman Alisha Brown said department rules barred her from revealing how the Trans-Med investigation started. She said the department typically acts on complaints or targets specific industries for compliance checks.

Brown said Trans-Med was not fined for the violations, which involved 42 employees.

The investors in Trans-Med include Conahan, Berlew, company secretary/treasurer Fred Buckman and Patrick Judge Sr., executive vice president of Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. in Exeter, who serves on the state Court of Judicial Discipline, the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Board and Luzerne County Convention Center Authority Board.

Berlew said there are other investors, but he declined to name them.

Judge did not return a phone message seeking comment. Buckman declined comment on the company s investors.

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