Share This Page

Sheriff blamed over purchase of pricey shades

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 7:38 p.m.

Westmoreland County commissioners on Thursday said Sheriff Jonathan Held was to blame for 14 members of his staff purchasing expensive designer sunglasses with taxpayer money.

Commissioners unanimously voted to remove the $112 Oakley shades from a list of uniform items and equipment that sheriff's deputies are permitted to purchase with an annual allowance.

Commissioners said Held should have prevented the 14 deputies from buying the sunglasses.

“The sheriff should be ashamed of himself, and we had to put a stop to it,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas.

The purchases came to light last week when Controller Jeff Balzer discovered that deputies had bought the expensive sunglasses.

Held said then and reiterated on Thursday that he had no authority to stop the purchases.

“They can purchase whatever is on the list,” Held said.

The sheriff suggested the fault lies with the commissioners, who also approved the list of items that were eligible for purchase.

“Maybe they voted on something they didn't read,” Held said.

Commissioners, though, said Held should have been more vigilant in reviewing the items his staff purchased.

“It's the responsibility of the department head to watch what their people are using the (uniform) allowance for,” said Commissioner Charles Anderson. “Just because they have the allowance doesn't mean they can abuse it.”

Sheriff's deputies' duties include providing security in courtrooms, transporting inmates and serving arrest warrants throughout the county.

Each deputy has an annual $450 uniform allowance to purchase items such as pants, shirts and other necessary gear.

Sunglasses have been part of the eligible purchase list for a number of years, but the Oakleys were added this year, Balzer said last week.

Deputies can still purchase two sets of Wiley sunglasses, which cost $65 each.

“You can make an argument that sheriff deputies need protective eyewear,” Kopas said. “I've heard from a number of taxpayers who were offended the county was paying for expensive sunglasses.”

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.