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Butler County Commissioner Eckstein's behavior prompts more security, judge says

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By Bill Vidonic
Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
 

Butler County President Judge Thomas Doerr on Friday singled out Commissioner James Eckstein's behavior as the reason why he increased security in the commissioners' office.

“You've become more agitated and more aggressive,” Doerr told Eckstein.

“I'd rather be accused of overreacting rather than caught wondering why I didn't take appropriate action if something happened,” Doerr said during a meeting of the county's safety committee.

Eckstein angrily denied that he's a security risk, saying he did not have a criminal record and did not own guns. He added that his conduct during meetings constituted “free speech.”

“For a judge to say I'm the security risk, to call a public meeting and say that, I was shocked. I thought he slandered me,” Eckstein said, adding he would file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board over Doerr's order.

A deputy will patrol the government center and make unannounced visits to the commissioners' offices on the fifth floor beginning Monday, Sheriff Michael Slupe said.

Doerr on Nov. 19 issued an order placing a full-time deputy within the commissioners' office but reconsidered Friday after a discussion with the county commissioners. He said a roving deputy should be enough to guarantee safety.

Doerr, a Republican, said he has received reports of Eckstein, a Democrat, shouting at Republican Commissioners Bill McCarrier and A. Dale Pinkerton and employees of the office.

Eckstein has exhibited a “pattern of verbal abuse” to employees, including former chief clerk Bill O'Donnell and solicitor Julie Graham, McCarrier said.

Commissioners' meetings have become more contentious, the judge said, and he has watched tapes of the meetings showing verbal battles between Eckstein and the public.

“You're basing this on intuition. There is no factual basis. It's just your feeling,” Eckstein told Doerr.

Eckstein said he was satisfied the extra security would not cost additional taxpayer money. The county is considering a 2-mill tax increase for the 2013 budget.

“There are people out there who don't have enough to eat and need housing,” Eckstein said. “Is this a compromise? I guess so.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-380-5621or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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