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Westmoreland worker's home raided after promotion, officials say

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A grand jury presentment released last week when the state Attorney General's office charged a Westmoreland County employee with drug trafficking contained an incorrect date.

Randy Strong, 40, was charged with trafficking cocaine and marijuana out of his Bell Township home. A 10-year county employee, Bell received a promotion and a $9,000 raise on a vote by commissioners Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney in February 2012.

State agents raided Strong's home in November 2012, eight months after his promotion, which put him in charge of the Geographical Information Systems office.

The grand jury presentment that detailed the Strong investigation contained an incorrect date of that raid, which netted more than $78,000, 36 weapons and 13 pounds of marijuana. Originally, the presentment said the raid occurred in 2011, before Strong was promoted.

“It was a typo. This mistake was ours. We're going to correct it when the grand jury meets again,” said Dennis Fisher, acting press secretary to Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Strong was placed on paid leave of absence three weeks after the raid and resigned in March.

Commissioners said Strong was a good employee.

“We had absolutely no idea what was going on. He was a strong performer and he really did his job well,” Anderson said.

Anderson and Commissioner Ted Kopas said Tuesday they support a drug testing policy to ensure that no county employee is using illegal drugs.

“In the environment I came from — the military — we had random drug testing,” Anderson said. “I would like to be able to do that, but we have to respect people's rights. We're working toward making it universal and as comprehensive as we can.”

Courtney said Strong's arrest should only bolster plans for future drug testing in county government.

The commissioner said he has been pushing for a drug-testing plan since March 2012.

“We need to step out and be a leader. Employees should be drug-tested,” he said.

The commissioners last month approved a policy requiring that new county employees, as a condition of their hire, pass a drug test.

Several county unions have agreed to random drug testing, while negotiations are expected to continue over the next several years on including similar language in labor contracts for the remainder of the unionized workforce. Drug testing for all nonunion workers also is being discussed.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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