York County sheriff: Political mailer photos taken after work hours

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
A former sergeant of the York County Sheriff's Office said he and other deputies were on duty in 2017 when Sheriff Rich Keuerleber either asked or directed them to change uniform shirts and pose in campaign flyer photos with Jonelle Harter Eshbach, who was running for district attorney. Keuerleber was Eshbach's campaign manager at the time.

York County Sheriff Rich Keuerleber said deputies who posed for photos that were used in a political advertisement did so after work hours and on their own time.

"This was like 4:45 in the afternoon," he said on Thursday, Sept. 19. "This was all done after-hours."

Keuerleber said he was unable to respond earlier to messages left for him by The York Dispatch but returned them as soon as he could.

"This is obviously a smear campaign," he said of allegations.

A former deputy confirmed that investigators with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office interviewed him several months ago about the political campaign ad in which he appeared.

The photos were for a political mailer and were done when Eshbach was running for district attorney in 2017. Keuerleber served as her campaign manager.

The controversy surrounding the campaign mailer broke the same week White Rose Fraternal Order of Police pulled its endorsement of Keuerleber and backed his opponent in November's election, Shane Becker.

Former Deputy Sgt. Richard Reincke said he and other deputies were called into Keuerleber's office and told to put on uniform shirts from other departments to pose for photos in front of York County's ceremonial courthouse steps.

It was neither an order nor a request, he said — it was the sheriff directing them to do it. Reincke said if the sheriff asked you to do something, you did it. 

Reincke said he doesn't remember having to punch out his time card before going to the photo shoot and doesn't think he did.

Several former and current deputies alerted The York Dispatch to the campaign photo shoot, and they allege they were told the deputies in the photos were on duty when the sheriff asked or directed them to participate.

It's illegal for government officials and employees to engage in campaign activities during work hours.

AG's investigation: Spokeswoman Jacklin Rhoads has confirmed the state Attorney General's Office investigated allegations made against the sheriff's office and chose not to prosecute. She did not return a message on Friday, Sept. 20, asking whether the campaign photo shoot was part of that investigation.

Eshbach has said she had no way of knowing whether the deputies who participated in the photo shoot were on duty or off duty.

"But it's my understanding they were on their own time — willingly — for me, at (Keuerleber's) request, because they obviously are his people," she said.

More:Ex-deputy: Sheriff had on-duty deputies pose for campaign ad

More:York City's police union rescinds sheriff endorsement, votes to support challenger

More:York County sheriff 'derelict' in duty over parking issue, board says

More:Sheriff: K-9 sponsor wasn't tipped off about his PFA

More:York County judge issues emergency order slamming sheriff's handling of PFA defendant

Reincke spent 10 years as a York County sheriff's deputy and held the rank of sergeant when he quit in spring of 2017, he said.

He, like other deputies with whom The York Dispatch has spoken, alleges there's a toxic work environment in the sheriff's office. Reincke primarily blames the sheriff's top leaders for the workplace culture but said the sheriff doesn't put a stop to it.

Keuerleber said that's not true. He said his office works with employees when it comes to scheduling and family issues and that only a small number of deputies are dissatisfied with his leadership.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.