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Beaver County sheriff doesn't testify in case to halt his private security details

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 1:30 p.m.
Beaver County Sheriff George David (right) talks with Sergeant Randy Tallon on his way into court as the Beaver County Commissioners seek an injunction to have him stop using his uniformed deputies as a private security force, at the Beaver County Courthouse, Wednesday, January 16, 2013. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

A judge did not rule on Wednesday on a request to halt the Beaver County sheriff from providing private security details, but instead asked attorneys for the commissioners and the sheriff to submit written arguments as to whether an exception in the county code might allow the work.

The code prohibits deputies from working details for “any person, association or corporation,” but Erie County Senior Judge John A. Bozza asked if there might be cases in which the work is permitted.

If there is, “I am not sure how the statute would apply,” said the visiting judge, who is hearing the case because Beaver County judges have recused themselves.

The attorneys have two weeks to submit the paperwork.

The commissioners asked for an emergency injunction to stop Sheriff George David's practice of using uniformed deputies for outside security details. They claim the work is not permitted under the county code, which specifies that only commissioners can enter into contracts.

“I have not seen a contract,” Commissioner Joe Spanik said, noting it's customary for the county's law department and financial administrator to review service agreements before commissioners publicly approve them.

At the conclusion of a six-hour hearing on Wednesday, Bozza said it remains unknown whether the county is eligible for the injunction, noting it receives the payments for the security work, and as such “is a participant in this activity.”

Hopewell High School Principal Michael Allison and Chippewa police Chief Robert Berchtold testified that deputies routinely provide security for events held by their local school districts, which are government entities not singled out in the statute.

Deputies also work at two local fairs, which are sponsored in part by the county.

“I would be scared to death for the public” if deputies could not work the Hookstown Fair, said longtime fair organizer William Laughlin Jr.

Payments for the security work go into the county's general fund, which is used to pay the deputies, who get overtime pay equaling 1 12 times their hourly wage.

Witnesses said work is doled out through verbal agreements with people in the sheriff's department.

Accountant Ricardo Luckow testified that a preliminary financial review he performed for the county controller's office showed groups paid David‘s office $183,000 for security from January 2010 through July 2012.

Luckow said the fees covered wages but not insurance, use of county vehicles and gasoline. Luckow said it appeared some deputies built compensatory time by working extra duty, a claim disputed by sheriff's Sgt. Michael Tibolet.

“That's not allowed,” Tibolet said, adding full-time deputies can rake in an extra $15,000 or more through the added work.

David, 65, did not testify on the recommendation of Myron Sainovich, an attorney who represents the sheriff's office but not David in the case.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can bereached at 412-320-7847or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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