The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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April 20, 2012

Accused principal waives hearing

LAKEVIEW — A high school principal charged with providing beer to minors at her home last summer waived her preliminary hearing Thursday.

Elizabeth A. Auer, 47, of 957 Schrader Road, Fairview Township, will appear next in front of a Mercer County Common Pleas Court judge. Forgoing her hearing Thursday is an acknowledgement that there’s enough evidence against her for the two charges to proceed to the higher court.

Auer appeared in District Judge Lorinda Hinch’s Mercer court with her attorney, Bob Varsek of Oil City, and made no comment during or after her appearance.

Varsek said he didn’t know Auer’s employment status with the district, and Superintendent Frank McClard didn’t return a message Thursday.

Auer faces two misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors after two of her former students were involved in a traffic accident July 11.

The driver, Ryan A. Herrmann, then 20, hit an Amish buggy and left the scene, but ultimately was questioned by police after neighbors provided a description of his vehicle and a patrolmen found him parked in a business parking lot in Stoneboro.

He initially denied that he had been drinking, but a blood test revealed a blood-alcohol content of .086 percent. Herrmann was charged with drunken driving.

Herrmann’s passenger, Kyle M. Scott, then 19, was not charged.

But the investigation into where the underage men got the beer led them to Auer. Earlier that afternoon the two had been drinking while working in Auer’s lawn, police said.

Herrmann told the trooper he had drunk beer at the principal’s home four or five other times, and some of those were while he still was a student at Lakeview. Scott told police he had drunk beer twice before at the principal’s home, and he thought one of those times was while he was still in high school.

They told police Auer normally would drink wine while they drank beer she provided for them. Herrmann said the invitation to drink would come via a text message, and Auer would include the phrase “camp fire tonight.”

Troopers later interviewed other Lakeview students who said they too had been at the principal’s home previously and that she provided beer for them.

Auer has denied the allegations.

Auer was suspended with pay the day state police filed the criminal charges against her in January. A week later the school board hired retired Mercer schools administrator Hendley Hoge to serve as Lakeview High School’s interim principal. He remains in that position today.

In January, McClard told The Herald that school officials had heard rumours about students going to Auer’s home and confronted her about them after they heard state police were investigating her in connection with the crash. Auer told them “she wasn’t there” and that “nothing happened,” McClard said.

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