A local funeral director conducted a state inspection of a Lebanon funeral home that she secretly co-owned, the State Ethics Commission says.
Because of her conflict of interest in that 2010 inspection, Melanie B. Scheid of Marticville Road was ordered to pay the state $7,560.
That’s the total she was paid as a shareholder of the Lebanon funeral home during the years she also was a state inspector.
However, the Pequea Township resident retains her funeral director’s license.
The Ethics Commission disclosed the action against Scheid earlier this month.
The commission says Scheid violated the state Ethics Act by failing to report her one-third stake in the Lebanon funeral home and her income from the business.
Asked to comment on the Ethics Commission action, Scheid on Monday issued a three-sentence statement:
“This is the end result of two years of negotiating on an agreed upon consent agreement which included a fine.
“This stems from my failure to disclose items while employed with the government nearly four years ago.
“At no time was the public or any individual harmed by my failure to disclose items while being a public employee.”
Ethics Commission Executive Director Robert P. Caruso could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Scheid was in the headlines in November when she and business partner James A. Porterfield bought the closed Gundel Funeral Home property in Conestoga.
It reopened as The Gundel Chapel of Melanie B. Scheid Funeral Directors and Cremation Services, with Scheid as supervisor and the head of its day-to-day operations.
Scheid also is a partner in the Porterfield-Scheid funeral home in Lebanon.
According to the Ethics Commission, here’s what happened to trigger the penalty.
In 2010 Scheid was working as a mortuary inspector with the State Board of Funeral Directors, covering a 19-county region.
Scheid, who obtained her funeral director’s license in 1995, had ample experience, more than the minimum of 10 years needed to be an inspector.
She had co-owned and co-operated the Scheid Funeral Home in Millersville from 1995 to 2005 with her then-husband, Andrew.
Scheid next had spent two years at Rohland Funeral Home in Lebanon, where she met Porterfield.
In 2008, Scheid, Porterfield and James Ruffner, owner of Taylor Ruffner Funeral Home in Lebanon, talked about building a larger funeral-home facility together.
A year later, Taylor Ruffner Funeral Home leased land on Isabel Drive in Lebanon and started constructing a larger facility there, with Scheid being a guarantor of the lease.
Scheid also was the primary contact for contractors on the project, the Ethics Commission found.
Despite those connections, Scheid performed a state inspection of Taylor Ruffner’s existing facility on Chestnut Street in Lebanon in June 2010.
Throughout that period, she also was inspecting the facilities of competing funeral homes.
In August 2010, the new location was incorporated as Ruffner-Porterfield, with Scheid secretly a one-third owner along with Ruffner and Porterfield.
The next month, Scheid accepted an assignment to inspect the new facility. It passed and opened the next day.
In November 2010, the Department of State got complaints that Scheid had used her government laptop to do marketing for Ruffner-Porterfield.
She explained to state officials that Ruffner and Porterfield were friends who she helped after hours, according to the commission.
Scheid did not mention her stake in the business, says the commission.
Scheid received a written reprimand from the Department of State for the inappropriate laptop use.
In March 2011, Porterfield and Scheid bought out Ruffner, with Scheid signing the paperwork as president of Ruffner-Porterfield.
The state began investigating Scheid in February 2012, responding to allegations she had a conflict of interest.
In May of that year, the state Office of Inspector General interviewed her about the allegations, says the Ethics Commission.
She stepped down as a state inspector two days later. Within a week, the business name was changed to Porterfield-Scheid.
Scheid later disclosed her stake in the business to the Department of State on its annual, mandatory Statement of Financial Interest form for the first time.