York County Commissioners back down after publicly lashing sheriff
Months after reprimanding Sheriff Richard Keuerleber for a security breach at the courthouse, the York County Board of Commissioners is backing down and will not challenge the sheriff's decision to make unilateral policy changes without the commissioners' oversight.
In a joint statement released in July, the commissioners pledged to review security policies and discuss potential changes, with officials saying the county's security committee would take up the issue.
But on Wednesday, Oct. 2, Commissioner Chris Reilly said that although the county commissioners are ultimately responsible for security at all county facilities, the board has historically entrusted the sheriff with that responsibility, even before Keuerleber was elected.
"Do we have oversight over the sheriff as an independently elected official? No," Reilly said. "And I would never presume to pretend like we did."
The trouble started July 15 when Keuerleber allowed United Fiber & Data CEO Bill Hynes to bypass regular security screening at the judicial center and park in the secure basement lot for his protection from abuse order hearing.
Hynes has donated money to the sheriff's office K-9 program, specifically to support K-9 Dargo.
After learning about the incident and investigating, the Board of Commissioners released a joint statement rebuking the sheriff for "dereliction of duty" in allowing the security breach.
"The commissioners believe this was a serious breach of security which will result in review of the county’s security policies and procedures in light of this incident and we intend to implement changes," they stated.
It was after the reprimand that county officials said a committee would meet to review and discuss policies.
Sheriff calls the shots: But on Sept. 4, Deputy Lt. Wesley Williams from the sheriff's department sent an email to county officials to announce changes to security protocols at the judicial center.
Effective Sept. 5, per the new policy, all county workers entering the judicial center would be subject to random security screenings and all employees were reminded to wear their county badges, according to county officials who spoke to The York Dispatch about the contents of the email.
The new policy also banned smoking on the judicial center's rear loading dock and prohibited people from using the rear door of the center, with a few exceptions for judges, commissioners and other county employees who may have a need to use the door, the officials said.
Neither the county commissioners nor the county's two security committees were involved in the policy change process.
"It wasn’t recommendations from the committee, that much I can tell you," the sheriff said Wednesday.
Commissioner Susan Byrnes said that the sheriff and the county administration have been collaborating to address security issues but that because she's not part of the judicial center security committee, she can't comment on what that committee did or did not discuss.
"We’re very happy that the sheriff made some new policies," she said. "This is going to be a continual process for the county."
The committees: York County has two security committees: one dealing specifically with the judicial center and a new committee that deals more generally with security at the rest of the county's facilities.
At its Aug. 29 meeting, the judicial center committee met to discuss general security issues at the courthouse, said York County Commissioner Doug Hoke.
The committee did not discuss specifics of the July 15 incident, Hoke said.
The commissioners directed the formation of another security committee to deal with general security at all of the county's facilities, and the first meeting was Aug. 30, said Scott Cassel, director of facilities for York County.
The new countywide facilities committee also did not discuss the Hynes incident, Cassel said.
"I think as it relates to the judicial center, that committee will deal with issues there," he said. "I think the new committee will deal with everything else."
Keuerleber is running for reelection in the Nov. 5 municipal election.
He survived a tough Republican primary in May, but challenger Shane Becker, a former deputy under Keuerleber, received enough Democratic write-in votes in the primary to be on the ballot as a Democrat in November.