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Sheriff's challenger scrutinized over unpaid taxes

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Shane Becker

In his bid to become the next York County sheriff, challenger Shane Becker has seen his personal life, including his pending divorce, become a political issue.

The York Dispatch has received several phone calls, emails and messages in recent weeks asking about a federal tax lien of $149,026 on Becker's property stemming from unpaid taxes in 2010 and 2012, according to tax records.

"That’s all part of the divorce issue," Becker said Monday. "When all the property and assets get divided out, that’ll be taken care of."

Calls for increased scrutiny of Becker's financial record come amid a contentious election cycle in which the conduct of incumbent Sheriff Richard Keuerleber has come under fire.

More than a dozen current and former deputies, as well as former York County Sheriff Bill Hose, have sharply criticized Keuerleber for what they describe as a hostile and toxic work environment in the sheriff's office.

Keuerleber declined to comment on Becker's tax liens when reached Tuesday.

"I’ll leave that up to the voters," the sheriff said. "That’s not for me to make a determination on."

Becker has campaigned on the need to boost morale, hire more deputies and restore the department's Criminal Response Unit, which was gutted when there weren't enough deputies to cover the both the CRU and courtroom security.

About half the total lien, or $74,743, stems from unpaid federal income taxes in 2010. The other half, $74,283, is from unpaid federal income taxes in 2012. The taxes are listed in the small business category.

Becker said his wife, Virginia C. Becker, worked for an online education company at the time. On Tuesday, Becker declined to name the company. 

Becker worked in private security overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo for companies such as Blackwater USA and DynCorp International, protecting members of the United Nations, the U.S. Department of State and others.

The couple's tax documents may not have been filed properly when he was abroad, he said.

Becker said the tax liens were out in the open during the primary and that his opponent's supporters are desperate to dig up some kind of dirt on him.

"They‘re trying to make more out of it than what it is," he said.

Becker and his wife are also in the middle of litigation over contract work at the home they shared in Dover Township.

The contractor, CC Deitz Inc., sued the Beckers for about $71,000, claiming the couple did not pay the final balance on the contracted work, which was part of a $659,000 home renovation.

The Beckers claimed in their response that CC Deitz Inc. did subpar work that had to be corrected by another contractor. The suit is pending.

The stresses of serving as a first responder and working overseas put a strain on his marriage, and the relationship ultimately didn't work out, Becker said.

York County Sheriff Rich Keuerleber campaigned outside his polling location on primary election day at Dover Township Community Center in Dover Township on May 21, 2019.
(Dawn J. Sagert photo)

This past week, Hose, the former sheriff, has called Keuerleber's behavior "despotic." He also said numerous former deputies have confided in him that they either retired or resigned from the department because they felt they were being targeted because of, among other things, either being friends with Becker or supporting his campaign.

Keuerleber has said high turnover is to blame for the staff shortage and that most of the deputies who leave York County take higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

In July, the York County Board of Commissioners issued a public reprimand saying the sheriff was "derelict in his duty" when he allowed United Fiber & Data CEO Bill Hynes, a felon, to park in the secure basement lot under the York County Judicial Center for his protection from abuse order hearing.

As a result of the ongoing public rebuke, the York City police union and the York City firefighters union rescinded their endorsements of Keuerleber and voted to back Becker instead.

Becker, a former York County sheriff's deputy and registered Republican who narrowly lost to Keuerleber in the primary, received enough write-in votes to run in the Nov. 5 municipal election as a Democrat.

He left the York County Sheriff's Office in the summer of 2018 to run for sheriff.

Becker isn't the only candidate being questioned about personal finances.

Sandra Thompson, a candidate for the York County Court of Common Pleas, has two federal income tax liens totaling $40,236. Thompson said she has been on a payment plan for years to take care of those liens and continues to make regular payments.

And York County Treasurer Barbara L. Bair had a credit card debt of $15,124 that went to a collection agency in 2015 and was paid off in 2017.

Bair said her husband was unemployed at the time while he cared for his mother in a nursing home and that they worked hard to pay off the debt.

More:York sheriff fosters toxic work environment, say former sheriff, ex-deputies

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