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Westmoreland County assistant solicitor cleared of allegedly harassing sheriff’s official

July 29, 2018

The Westmoreland County Courthouse dome is silhouetted by the fading sun in the twilight of Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in Greensburg.

A five-month independent investigation has cleared a Westmoreland County assistant solicitor of wrongdoing in connection with harassment allegations raised this year by a sheriff’s department official, according to county commissioners.

The probe found the lawyer, who was not identified, did not violate any county employment policies.

“The assistant county solicitor fully cooperated in the investigation. The female employee in the sheriff’s office did not cooperate in the investigation,” commissioners said a news release issued Thursday.

In February, Chief Deputy Sheriff Patricia Fritz, the department’s second in command, contended she was harassed by a male assistant solicitor during questioning of her about allegations that she discriminated against black job applicants. Fritz, 63, of Mt. Pleasant, contended she was alone with the lawyer when he acted inappropriately.

The initial investigation of discrimination claims resulted in county commissioners asking Sheriff Jonathan Held to suspend Fritz pending a review of the allegations raised against her. The sheriff declined and instead said Fritz took leave of absence from her job citing mental anguish. She returned to work after about a month.

In the interim, county commissioners hired Thomas, Thomas and Hafer, a Harrisburg-based law firm, to investigate the complaint lodged by Fritz against the solicitor.

County Controller Jeffrey Balzer said that through July 12, the county paid the law firm nearly $8,900 for its work on the case.

A second law firm was hired to investigate racial discrimination allegations raised against the sheriff’s office. A report from that probe has not been released.

Meanwhile, two lawsuits since have been filed against the county and the sheriff’s office claiming racial discrimination in the department’s hiring practices.

Held in February defended Fritz and claimed she would file a complaint against the county with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Fritz has declined to speak publicly about the allegations. She did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

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