Commissioners: No decision yet about next step in courthouse security breach
The York County Commissioners could decide on Friday their next step in response to an incident in which Sheriff Richard Keuerleber gave special treatment to a wealthy defendant who donates to the sheriff's department.
News broke last week that Keuerleber allowed United Fiber & Data CEO Bill Hynes — a sponsor of the department's K-9 program — to park in the secure basement lot at the York County Judicial Center to attend his hearing for a protection from abuse order, filed by Hynes' ex-girlfriend.
"Frankly, I don’t know how we’re going to proceed," said York County Commissioner Chris Reilly. "I guess the three of us need to decide that whenever we’re together again."
Commissioner Susan Byrnes has been out of town since last week and will return to the office on Friday, Reilly said.
But before Byrnes left, the commissioners released a joint statement calling the sheriff's decision to allow Hynes to park in the secure lot a “dereliction of duty" and said the board would be reviewing the county's security policies and procedures.
The commissioners might try to gather more information and then decide how to proceed, said Commissioner Doug Hoke.
"We’re not going to make any decisions or deliberate behind closed doors," Hoke said.
In addition to being the defendant in a hearing regarding a protection from abuse order, Hynes alsois a felon. He pleaded guilty to third-degree felony theft by deception in Northampton County in December 2010.
When Hynes was allowed to park in the secure lot on July 15, the sheriff did not require him to walk through a metal detector or undergo the usual security screening required for members of the public entering the York County Judicial Center.
Keuerleber has denied doing anything wrong, saying it's within his authority as sheriff to make exceptions to certain screening protocols at the judicial center.
A York County judge issued an interim emergency order Monday in response to the Hynes incident, requiring that the sheriff’s office properly screen any member of the public who enters his courtroom.
In his statement, Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock said individuals who are not properly screened for weapons or other illicit objects before being admitted to court proceedings are a threat to public safety and to equal justice under the law.
“The need for one standard of security to apply to all lay persons appearing before the court of common pleas is at the heart of the court’s mission to deliver justice in an impartial, unbiased manner,” Trebilcock stated. “When favorable personal treatment is afforded to a party to a court action that is not afforded to the opposing party, it erodes trust in the impartiality of the justice system.”
Political fallout: Keuerleber won the Republican primary in May by a margin of 5% over challenger Shane Becker, a former deputy in the York County Sheriff’s Office. But Becker received enough write-in votes to appear on the ballot as a Democrat in November.
Becker has said one of the main reasons he decided to run was alleged lackluster security at the courthouse.