Westmoreland chief deputy sheriff suspended over claim she assaulted union rep
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held said Monday his chief deputy has been suspended with pay while the district attorney investigates allegations she assaulted the department’s union president.
Patricia Fritz, 63, has been barred from all county properties, including the courthouse, and her county issued sports utility vehicle was confiscated.
“She tried to report it stolen and called 911, which was routed to the state police. They called us and we told them it wasn’t stolen,” said Kirk Nolan, chief of the county’s park police department.
Fritz, of Mt. Pleasant, has served as Held’s second in command since 2014. She earns about $42,000 annually.
Her suspension came after Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck last week confirmed his office had started an investigation into claims made by Steve Felder, a corporal in the sheriff’s office and president of the union that represents staff in that department.
Felder told the Tribune-Review last week that Fritz became physically aggressive toward him during a meeting involving a union grievance filed by another deputy in the sheriff’s office. Felder was suspended last week by Held.
Fritz on Monday referred all questions to her lawyer, Noah Geary, who could not be reached for comment.
Held said the suspension of Fritz was required under county policy.
“Chief Deputy Fritz has been placed on suspension with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation by the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office,” Held said. “I will strongly emphasize that her employment status is consistent with county policy and has absolutely nothing to do with guilt or innocence. Just as every citizen, she is presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.”
County commissioners declined to comment on the suspension and the pending investigation. Officials said Fritz left the courthouse Friday afternoon before she was notified about the suspension. Held said he intended to tell her about the personnel action Monday morning.
She was not aware that her county-issued car was to be confiscated, Held said.
“The park police took it upon themselves to go on to private property and take the county property off of it,” Held said.
He said Fritz has turned in her badge. She was not issued a county-owned firearm and instead used her own, privately owned weapon, the sheriff said.
The suspension came months after county commissioners originally asked that Fritz be removed from her post after officials received complaints of racial discrimination from black job candidates seeking positions in the sheriff’s office.
At that time, in February, Held refused to sign off on the suspension when Fritz took a medical leave, claiming emotional distress after she filed her own complaint of harassment against a county lawyer assigned to investigate the discrimination allegation.
Commissioners last month cleared the lawyer of any wrongdoing in connection with Fritz’s allegation.