York County's C-SAU affair was a predictable disaster. It's not over

York Dispatch editorial board

More than a year ago, when county officials second-guessed their plan to renew a contract with a prison contractor who was the subject of alleged civil rights violations, we urged caution.

It was clear to anyone who cared to see that nothing good could come from staying in a relationship with the South Carolina-based Corrections Special Applications Unit.

C-SAU, which faced a string of allegations and litigation in other states, was the subject of numerous allegations stemming from their 2021 work inside York County Prison. In one exercise, inmates were reportedly forced to stand facing a wall for several hours while weapons were pointed at them. Two of those inmates also reported being forced to walk through the prison in handcuffs with their genitals exposed.

Sure enough, the county and C-SAU were named in a lawsuit soon after the Board of Commissioners entered into a new no-bid, $253,000 contract for prison training services. A judge issued a default ruling against C-SAU leader Joseph Garcia in November for failing to appear. Meanwhile, the case against the county marches on.

Joseph Garcia, who leads CSAU, in a promotional video he recorded last year for Tactical Life magazine in which he describes the group's tactics.

York County's elected officials continued to hem and haw.

In December, a month after the judgement, the commissioners — in their role on the Board of Prison Inspectors — advanced a recommendation to "resolve" its contractual obligations with C-SAU, only to fall silent on the issue for another month.

All the while, county officials have steadfastly refused to comment on the nature and frequency of C-SAU's work for the county.

On Wednesday, the county finally decided to cut ties.

In a written statement released by Greg Monskie, the county's chief operations officer, the county stated that it was "proud of the outcomes the county has achieved through this training."

Malarkey.

Never mind the Abu Ghraib-like descriptions, outlined in the inmates' lawsuit, of what went on inside the prison when C-SAU trainers were present. Just ask yourself this: Do proud partners cut ties with an organization 10 months prior to the end of the agreed-upon contract?

York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler speaks during the dedication ceremony for the 68th historical marker in York County, marking the birth place of the former Pennsylvania Governor George M. Leader, at Codorus Valley Corporate Center in York Township, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York County officials said Wednesday that they have — or will — pay the full balance owed to C-SAU and consider the terms of contract fulfilled. They have not, however, fully described what work C-SAU did to earn nearly $253,000 in taxpayer money.

Nor have they addressed the larger legal liability attached to C-SAU's work in York County.

According to the county, the prison plans to create its own Special Operations Response Team based upon C-SAU's playbook, raising a slew of troubling questions that our elected officials — surprise, surprise — refuse to answer.

York County doesn't appear to have learned anything from its C-SAU misadventure.

For everyone's sake, we hope we're wrong.