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Westmoreland deputies now subject to drug testing

| Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County deputy sheriffs will join the growing number of county employees to be drug-tested in an attempt to detect use of controlled substances.

County commissioners on Thursday awarded a contract to a North Huntingdon Township company to conduct random drug tests on the sheriff's department staff.

The tests were approved last month as part of a new labor contract between the county and the union that represents the deputies.

“I'm just glad it got approved and we can move forward with it,” said Sheriff Jonathan Held. “This will increase the public's trust in the Westmoreland County Sheriff's Office.”

Held's office has been plagued by controversy this year involving staffing issues and alleged drug use.

Held forced the resignation of a part-time deputy earlier this year after she was arrested for allegedly using drugs outside an East Liberty department store.

Held later disclosed that a clerk, who has since left the office, had been charged with using someone else's urine for a drug test in a civil case unrelated to the sheriff's department.

The sheriff also confirmed a deputy he hired last year was charged with giving a minor alcohol in 2009 and served probation for one year. In a fourth case, a deputy was arrested for drunken driving in February.

In response to those disclosures, Held paid for drug testing of his 11-member administrative staff, including himself.

The sheriff on Thursday declined to reveal the results of those tests.

In April, commissioners approved a policy that requires all new county employees to pass a drug test before they are offered jobs.

Unionized deputies were the last bargaining unit among the county's public safety workers to agree to random drug testing. Tests already have been conducted for probation officers, prison guards and park police officers.

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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