AP NEWS

Westmoreland’s chief deputy sheriff still barred from courthouse

September 19, 2018
1 of 2

Chief Deputy Patricia Fritz meets with agents from the Pennsylvania attorney general's office while they conduct a raid on Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held's office at the county courthouse in Greensburg on Friday, March 23, 2018.

Westmoreland County’s chief deputy sheriff may be back on duty but she’s not allowed on county-owned property and that includes her office in the county courthouse.

Chief Deputy Patricia Fritz, 63, of Mt. Pleasant, was reinstated to work Friday by Sheriff Jonathan Held after being off the job for two weeks on a paid suspension.

Held suspended Fritz with pay earlier this month after the county’s district attorney’s office opened an investigation into allegations that she had abusive physical contact with the president of the sheriff’s union during a grievance hearing on Aug. 7.

County detectives filed a summary harassment charge last week against Fritz. Two days later, Held said it was time for Fritz to return to work.

But the county’s commissioners disagree.

They barred Fritz from stepping foot in the courthouse and all other county properties.

In a statement released Monday through the county’s human resources office, commissioners said Fritz is being investigated for alleged violations of the county’s work place violence policy.

“Once human resources completes its investigation, and if deemed warranted, a disciplinary recommendation will be made. As the sheriff has stated publicly, he will follow any disciplinary recommendation of the county,” according the statement.

The day of her reinstatement, Fritz took a personal day off to file a private criminal complaint against Cpl. Steve Felder, the union president, who is the alleged victim in the criminal case against her.

Fritz said she will challenge the harassment allegation and contends Felder was physically abusive towards her during an altercation.

On Monday, Held said he was not part of the decision to bar Fritz from the courthouse.

“Commissioners have the right to ban her. It’s their ball field,” Held said.

Fritz earns about $42,000 a year in her role as the second-ranking member of the sheriff’s office. Held said, despite the ban, Fritz will continue to be paid.

She is working from home, making telephone calls and sending emails, Held said.

“I find it very odd that, several years ago, commissioners took no action when there was video of a county commissioner attacking the controller in the courthouse,” Held said.

“They said in this case there is a county policy. She (Fritz) has filed five EEOC complaints against the county.”

Those alleged complaints with the Equal Employment Occupation Commissioner are not public record and could not be confirmed on Monday.

Commissioners said, pending completion of the county’s internal investigation of Fritz, she will be restricted from access to county property. Her county issued take-home vehicle will continue to be impounded, officials said.

“The county will take all reasonable steps to ensure that county security and workplace standards are upheld and to ensure the safety of county employees and visitors while on county property,” according to a statement released by human resources director Amanda Bernard.

Commissioners declined to comment specifically about the ongoing investigation of Fritz. Commissioner Ted Kopas, though, said officials did not learn about the sheriff’s action last week to reinstate Fritz until reading news accounts of it in the Tribune-Review.

Captain’s legal woes continue

Also Monday, the legal woes for sheriff’s department Capt. Travis Day, already suspended with pay after Penn State University Police charged him with harassment this month, worsened when he was “found guilty in absentia” of a unrelated citation filed by state police for a Feb. 10 incident at the Hempfield state police station.

Day, 24, of Jeannette, failed to appear Monday for a hearing on a charge of failing to obey traffic-control devices filed by Trooper John S. Robertson Jr. following a 2 a.m. Feb. 10 incident at the state police barracks.

Judge Tony Bompiani said he was finding Day “guilty in absentia” on the citation, and he fined him $192. Day originally pleaded not guilty in April and requested the hearing.

Robertson alleges in the complaint that Day drove into a restricted area of the state police property on Westmoreland Avenue posted “Do Not Enter” early Feb. 10.

After his brief appearance before Bompiani, Robertson said troopers “don’t know what” Day was doing in the restricted area of the state police barracks but added it is clearly posted.

″(Day) said that he had mistakenly driven up there to pay his landlord rent at 2 a.m. in the morning and gotten lost and was turning around,” Robertson said.

The incident occurred less than a month before Held hired Day as captain at $39,126 a year.

After the Aug. 10 incident on the Penn State University campus in State College, Day was suspended with pay by Held while he was attending a 19-week training course for sheriff’s deputies. Day was required to complete the course for new sheriff’s department employees before he could continue active duty with the sheriff’s office.

University police contend the incident occurred on campus at the student activity center, in which Day “with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person did follow the victim, did go through the victim’s belongings, and did not allow the victim to walk past him while going upstairs.”

According to the citation, Day was fined $300 for that offense. He has not entered a plea on that citation, according to on-line court records.

Held said he was not sure whether Monday’s hearing result before Bompiani will impact Day’s current status in the department.

“That is all being handled by (county) human resources and the legal department,” Held said.

“Travis Day’s citation was handled exactly the same as any other traffic citation issued to any other citizen. No special consideration or favors were requested by anyone in the sheriff’s office,” Held added.

Held said last week that Day intends to appeal his expulsion from the sheriff’s training program that is delivered by the Justice and Safety Institute and funded by the Pennsylvania Crime and Delinquency Commission.

Held, the two-term elected sheriff, was charged this year with public corruption-related offenses for allegedly ordering on-duty staff to perform campaign work. He has denied those allegations. His trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 24.

AP RADIO
Update hourly