York City firefighter union rescinds sheriff endorsement, now supports challenger

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
York City Fire Station No. 1

York City's firefighter union has voted unanimously to rescind its endorsement of York County Sheriff Rich Keuerleber and instead support the man challenging him for office, union officials said.

The political action committee of the city's unionized firefighters — who make up Local 627 of the International Association of Firefighters — voted at its Wednesday, Oct. 9, committee meeting to end its support of the sitting sheriff and instead endorse Shane Becker, according to firefighter Marc Ott, who is the union's president.

A full union meeting was held after the committee meeting, where the results of the political action committee's votes were announced, he said.

The move comes less than a month after the White Rose Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents York City's police officers, voted unanimously to rescind its endorsement of Keuerleber. A majority then voted to endorse Becker, according to the lodge's president, city Detective Jeremy Mayer.

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

York City Firefighter John Spencer, who is second vice president of the firefighters' local and treasurer of its political action committee, said Wednesday's vote to rescind the PAC's endorsement of Keuerleber was unanimous — as was its second vote, which was to endorse Becker.

There are about 38 firefighters who are committee members of the firefighters' PAC, he said. Donations to the PAC come from active and retired city firefighters, he said.

Spencer said committee members had concerns about recent media reports regarding Keuerleber, including those about the sheriff allowing a convicted felon to park in the York County Judicial Center's secure underground garage, where judges and row officers park. Think Loud Development CEO Bill Hynes was then escorted by the sheriff to the fourth floor via a nonpublic elevator, the sheriff has 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)

Keuerleber has said Hynes had parked before in the secure garage to visit sheriff's office K-9 Dargo because Hynes and Think Loud have donated money to the sheriff's K-9 program.

But when Hynes parked there on July 15, it was to attend a hearing regarding a protection of abuse order that had been filed against him by his ex-girlfriend.

The sheriff has said Hynes didn't receive special treatment. York County commissioners issued a statement that Keuerleber was derelict in duty for allowing Hynes to park in the garage.

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

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

Spencer said ranking union board members from the city firefighters' union have spoken with union board members from the city police union regarding the police union's concerns.

"Things are coming to light about stuff going on in the sheriff's department," Spencer said. "We thought our PAC committee name should not be associated with (that)."

Impression made: Also, he said, Becker made a good impression on city firefighters when, at the PAC's request, he spoke with them and answered their questions on Oct. 2.

"We feel his past experiences and his ideas and plans would be good for the sheriff's department," Spencer said. "So we had to make an adjustment."

He also said Becker seems knowledgeable, understands how to be a team player and has been in high-risk, high-intensity situations before. Becker — who left the York County Sheriff's Office and now works in the Adams County Sheriff's Office — has worked as a police officer in several York County departments and also worked overseeing the guarding of judges and dignitaries for a private company doing work for the United Nations, Becker has said.

Sheriff Richard Keuerleber, left, presents Deputy Shane Becker, Deputy Cody Myers and now Trooper Wesley Johnson at Letter of Recognition during the York County Sheriff's Department awards and promotions ceremony at the York County Judicial Center, Friday, July 8, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Ott said the city firefighters' union won't be taking out ads or actively campaigning for Becker.

"At this point Mr. Becker did not ask us to do anything like that," Ott said.

Keuerleber could not be reached for comment on Thursday, Oct. 10.

The York County Republican Committee is supporting Keuerleber, and chairman Jeff Piccola has said the city's police union was "double-dealing" when it voted to take back its endorsement of Keuerleber.

Becker said he feels honored to have the support of York City's firefighters and police officers.

"I think everybody has ideas of what we'd like to do to make things better, and I think it comes down to having an open dialogue," he said. "I think we connected and that's what (people are) looking for — fresh ideas of what needs to be done and what should be done."

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