Westmoreland County sheriff accused of having officers work on re-election

Written by The Associated Press | Feb 27, 2018 2:47 AM

(Harrisburg) -- The state attorney general's office has charged the Westmoreland County sheriff with directing on-duty officers to seek and collect political contributions for his re-election campaign.

Sheriff Jonathan Held, 43, of Claridge, has been charged with theft of services, theft and felony conflict of interest.

State prosecutors allege that beginning in 2015, Held assigned at least one deputy to solicit donations for his "I Out Shot the Sheriff" campaign fundraiser while on duty.

Officers made phone calls and collected contributions including checks, gift cards and firearms while on the job, authorities said. One officer estimated he would solicit donations twice weekly for about two to three hours a day. The gifts would then pass from the officers to a supervisor, who would catalog the donations into a county-owned computer, authorities said.

Held, through his attorney, said the allegations are politically motivated.

"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," said Held's lawyer, Ryan Matthew Tutera.

Authorities also allege that a witness said the sheriff discussed altering time sheets to hide the activity and punished anyone suspected of cooperating with investigators.

"Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect and serve our communities -- not to seek contributions for their political campaign while they're on duty," Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. "That is theft -- of tax dollars and the community's right to public safety."

Held was released pending a March 15 preliminary hearing.

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