Appeal hearing continued for former chief deputy sheriff Patricia Fritz
A Westmoreland County deputy sheriff testified Thursday that he felt intimidated when he said then-chief deputy Patricia Fritz started screaming at him during a conversation last year about union-related issues.
Cpl. Steven Felder, union president, said he was trying to leave the conversation and go to the county’s human resources department when Fritz, 64, of Mt. Pleasant, confronted him at the door of a meeting room in the sheriff’s office.
“She pushed me back from the door twice, she repeatedly” poked him, while ordering him to sit down, Felder testified. “Finger pointing, hand out — ‘Sit down, corporal, you sit down.’ ”
Felder was the prosecution’s first witness Thursday in Fritz’s summary appeal hearing. She was found guilty by a district judge in October of a summary harassment offense in connection with the Aug. 7 incident at the courthouse. She was fired last year as a result of the conviction.
Three Commonwealth witnesses testified and the remainder of the hearing will continue at a later date. Defense witness Lt. Denise Appleby, who was subpoenaed for the hearing, was at a conference in Erie.
“Her testimony is vital for today’s hearing,” said defense attorney Daniel Beisler.
Fritz was cited by county detectives in August after Felder’s report.
He testified that he was pushed and poked in the chest during the meeting that he tried to leave when a discussion about a union matter devolved. Fritz blocked his path out the door, but Felder was able to eventually leave and get to the human resources department and, later, county detectives, he testified.
“I thought it was totally unprofessional and I needed to get away from her,” he said.
Deputy Rob Orbin, who was in the room during the meeting, said he saw Fritz put her hand on Felder’s chest and make poking motions.
“(Felder) had his head down and was just staring at the floor waiting for her to stop,” Orbin testified.
Fritz and Felder were suspended after the incident by Sheriff Jonathan Held. Both returned to duty after serving two weeks on paid suspension. Appleby previously testified that she did not see Fritz touch Felder.
Fritz did not testify during her summary trial. She explained the meeting and the conversation with Felder to Westmoreland County Detective Randy Gardner, but denied pushing or poking him, Gardner testified.
Beisler questioned the motives and credibility of Felder and Orbin.
“This is a situation … that my client lost her job,” Beisler said.
Senior Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. will hear defense evidence at another time.
“We will try to conclude that matter in the next proceeding,” he said.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .