Prosecutors with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office filed criminal charges Monday in Greensburg against Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held, accusing him of ordering his staff to campaign for him while on duty.
Held, a Republican from Hempfield, is in his second term as sheriff, re-elected to another four-year term in 2015. He was charged with one felony count of conflict of interest for directing his staff to perform campaign duties and two misdemeanor theft counts for diverting county resources
State investigators contend Held directed staff members to solicit gift cards and merchandise from gun shop owners starting in 2015 for his annual campaign fundraiser, “I out-shot the sheriff.
Sheriff Held turned himself in and was arraigned by a district judge Monday afternoon. He was released pending a preliminary hearing March 15.
The deputies claim Held used office records to identify potential contributors to his fundraiser. Investigators contend he ordered deputies to drive county sheriff cars to collect items while in uniform and use county computers to log all of the donations.
“Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect and serve our communities – not to seek contributions for their political campaign while they’re on duty,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. “That is theft — of tax dollars and the community’s right to public safety.”
According to an affidavit of probable cause to support the charges, Paul McCommons, the former chief deputy under Sheriff Held, filed a complaint in early 2016 with the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s office, saying the sheriff’s office used personnel to perform political activities during working hours.
His attorney, Ryan Tutera, was adamant that politics were to blame.
“This is a political witch hunt by certain political opponents who are willing to stop at nothing to tarnish Sheriff Held’s good name and ultimately attempt to unseat him,” Mr. Tutera said. “He never directed anybody to do anything on work time for his campaign.”