Sheriff Bunny

June 28, 2019
Controller moves to get $67G in OT pay back from sheriff’s department

Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh

WEST CHESTER — Chester County Controller Margaret Reif Friday filed an action in Common Pleas Court intended to recover more than $67,000 in what she characterized as “exorbitant overtime payments” authorized by county Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh over a three-year period.

According to a press release issued by the controller’s office, and a voluminous filing in the county Prothonotary’s Office, the recipient of the payments was Lt. Harry McKinney, a longtime member of the sheriff’s staff and Welsh’s live-in companion.

The filing alleges that McKinney, who is the supervisor of the sheriff’s popular K-9 Unit and a personal handler of two K-9 officers, regularly submitted overtime requests for hours he spent caring for the dogs he owns, in violation of the office’s policy. The requests were normally for about 10 hours per week, but sometimes as high as 23 hours for one day.

Beginning in 2016, McKinney was paid several times more in overtime than he had in previous years. He was paid $20,014 in overtime in 2016, $27,368 in 2017, and $19,951 in 2018. In 2015, he was paid $3,722 in overtime.

No other K-9 handler is paid regular overtime for care of their dog, in accordance with a policy put in place in 2014 by former Chief Deputy Sheriff George March that determined such activity was a part of a deputy’s normal work day. They are currently permitted to spend 30 minutes of their work day for canine care, plus one hour on the weekend. If they work more than 40 hours in a week, the K-9 handlers are entitled to one hour of overtime, according to Reif.

The controller is seeking refund of $67,335.25 in overtime payments to McKinney as part of a process known as a surcharge and allowed by the Third Class County Code. Welsh, who is named individually in the filing, has 60 days to appeal the filing.

Welsh, who announced last year that she would not seek a sixth term as county sheriff after drawing fire from some in the county for her robust support of President Donald Trump, said she could not comment on the specifics of the claims against her because she had not had time to review the documents, having received them Friday afternoon.

“You are asking me questions that I just can’t answer right now,” Welsh said. “But this is the second time that the controller has distributed raw data in an effort to smear me. I think it is a clear example of slinging mud to see what sticks.

“This is outrageous,” Welsh declared. “This is slanderous.”

McKinney, a county employee since January 1985, could not be reached for comment.

Reif, who was the first Democrat elected controller in the county’s history, in 2018 began an investigation into the way in which the Sheriff’s Office raised funds for a non-profit organization intended to support the K-9 Unit, and the purposes for which those funds were spent. When auditors in her office raised questions about the propriety of those expenses, Reif turned their report over to the county District Attorney’s Office, which in turn referred the matter to the state Attorney General’s Office. That agency’s review appears to be ongoing.

“My job is to assure Chester County residents that taxpayer funds are administered prudently and lawfully,” stated Reif in a press release. “What started as an anonymous letter to my office resulted, after months of investigation, as a clear abuse of inflated payroll records for Deputy Sheriff Harry McKinney, who shares a household with Ms. Welsh.”

Reif said she had taken the step of filing the surcharge against Welsh because she believed tax dollars had not been spent properly with regard to McKinney’s overtime payments, which she said made him the highest paid deputy in the Sheriff’s Office.

“I take this very seriously,” Reif said. “My staff spent hours working on this. It is a brazen abuse of authority on the part of the sheriff to enrich her deputy who she is co-habitating with. This is completely inappropriate. None of this money would have been authorized to be paid were it not for the sheriff’s role. And she is personally benefiting from it. I find that egregious.”

According to her press release, the controller’s filing was based on a tip that Welsh inappropriately created a scenario by which McKinney would submit overtime requests on a regular basis and they would be personally approved by Welsh.

The office investigated the claim and determined that Welsh used the authority of her elected office to personally benefit from the inappropriate overtime payments over the course of three years. Those payments resulted in an increase in her household income and artificially inflated McKinney’s potential future pension payments, which would also contribute to her future household income.

“I was elected by the citizens of Chester County as the watchdog over their tax dollars and I take that responsibility seriously,,” Reif said. “While the filing of a surcharge is an unusual step, we believed it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to ensure recovery of their money and to prevent future inflated pension payments.”

While unrelated to the ongoing investigation of the K-9 fundraising activities by the Attorney General’s office, information about the overtime payments has been forwarded to that office after conversations with its investigator, Reif said. The matter had also been reviewed over the course of the past several months with the county administrators and commissioners.

A spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, Joe Grace, declined to comment on the K-9 issue, saying his office, “cannot confirm or deny or comment on any investigation in this matter.”

The report, in its entirety, may be found on the controller’s website at:


April 2, 2019
Trump, Wrecker of Reputations

On Attorney General William Barr’s testimony and the coming constitutional crisis.

In his short time in politics, President Trump has shred the careers, professional integrity, and dignity of many who have worked for him. Attorney General William Barr is no exception.

In the first year of the Trump Presidency, White House advisers often promised reporters that this would be the week when they would unveil Trump’s plans for a massive investment in American infrastructure. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump had vowed to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding roads, bridges, and airports. He said that he would work with Democrats to do it. For a time, it seemed to be the only bipartisan project that might actually go somewhere. But, of course, Infrastructure Week never happened. There was always some distraction, some P.R. disaster that overwhelmed it—a chief of staff to be fired, an errant tweet upending foreign policy. Infrastructure Week lived on as an Internet meme, a Twitter hashtag, a joke; it became shorthand for the Administration’s inability to stay on message or organize itself to promote a legislative agenda it claimed to support.

Trump never fully gave up on the infrastructure idea, though, and this week he resurrected it in a rare meeting with congressional Democratic leaders, who emerged from the White House on Tuesday morning, smiling and apparently excited. The President, they explained, had decided to double the price tag of his proposal, from a trillion to two trillion dollars, because it sounded more impressive. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to whom the President reportedly offered Tic Tacs at the meeting in a friendly gesture, praised his vision for a “big and bold” plan. The meeting, Senator Chuck Schumer added, had been a “very, very good start.”

But it was all just a form of Washington performance art. There are no Republican votes for such an expensive package, as the Democrats well knew, and there is no way that the President’s allies on Capitol Hill, nor his own penny-pinching White House chief of staff, would agree to such a budget-busting deal. Trump’s “extreme and aspirational” idea, as Senator Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, put it, had Republicans “rolling their eyes,” Politico reported. The ranking member of the House committee that would have to approve any measure had offered a simple answer to the question of whether Trump’s idea could ever be passed. “No,” he said. It would not be Infrastructure Week, or even Infrastructure Day. The new era of bipartisan dealmaking was over before it began.

By late Tuesday, the news cycle had moved on. Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, was refusing to testify before the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee and would not turn over the unredacted Mueller report or its underlying evidence. The Administration, in fact, was refusing to comply with more or less any congressional demands for information and testimony on an array of investigations of the President, from his business-related conflicts of interest to his family-separation policy at the border. Then came more news: Barr had a behind-the-scenes dispute with the special counsel about his characterization of the report. Robert Mueller, it turned out, had sent a letter to Barr (who later called the missive “snitty”) weeks earlier, but it was only now being revealed. In the letter, Mueller suggested that Barr had minimized and deflected the serious questions about the President that Mueller’s investigation had turned up. The next day, the whole mess was fought over in excruciating detail when Barr appeared before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee to testify for the first time since the release of the Mueller report.

By Thursday, House Democrats were holding a hearing, with an empty chair where Barr would have been seated, had he shown up, and threatening to take the Attorney General to court. One of the Democrats had brought fried chicken, which some of his fellow-representatives ate during the hearing, to mock Barr—he’s a chicken, get it? It was all a “stunt,” a “circus,” and a “travesty,” Representative Doug Collins, the panel’s top Republican, complained. But Representative Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, said that nothing less than the “integrity of this chamber,” the Constitution, and the American system of “not having a President as a dictator” was at stake in Barr’s refusal to comply with the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena. “There is no way forward for this country that does not include a reckoning with this clear and present danger to our constitutional order,” Nadler added. Soon after, Pelosi, at a press conference, told reporters that the Administration’s refusal to coöperate with Congress on so many matters was itself obstruction. As for Barr, she said, he had lied under oath to Congress about his dealings with Mueller and “disgraced” his office. “We are in a very, very, very challenging place,” she said. So much for Infrastructure Week. The constitutional crisis was back on.

The Trump Presidency has been a great wrecker of reputations. In his short time in politics, Trump has managed to shred the careers, professional integrity, and dignity of many of those who worked for him. Rex Tillerson had been an American corporate superstar, the C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, one of the wealthiest oil companies in the world. He became Trump’s Secretary of State and, according to the account given to reporters at an off-the-record session by Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly, learned that he was being fired while sitting on the toilet, an indignity followed up with a Presidential tweet announcing his exit. Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was just leaving Air Force One, oblivious, when Trump tweeted the news of his firing. On Thursday, Trump did it again, with Stephen Moore, his controversial choice for the Federal Reserve, tweeting that he was out of contention soon after Moore told Bloomberg News that the President was his “biggest ally.” In the interview, Moore said, of the President, “He’s full speed ahead.” The Trump tweet abandoning him came at 12:29 p.m., which was apparently little more than half an hour after Moore told a Bloomberg writer that the President was still all in. “Moore got Priebus-ed,” the writer tweeted.

Just as striking as Trump’s own crude efforts to humiliate, however, are the numerous examples of those who seem to abase or degrade themselves in their efforts to curry favor with the President. Such behavior, of course, has long been a bipartisan feature of life in Washington, where access to power can do bad things to the character of those who seek it. The Trump Presidency has produced more than its share of examples, however, given that getting and staying in this President’s good graces appears to require an extra helping of public obsequiousness, grovelling, flip-floppery, and over-the-top televised pronouncements.

This unseemly aspect of the Trump era was on full display at Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, where both the committee chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Attorney General Barr went out of their way to appeal to the President, at the expense of their own credibility. Graham, who ran against Trump, in 2016, and called the future President a “kook” who was “unfit” to hold the office, opened the hearing by reading aloud text messages exchanged, in 2016, between two F.B.I. agents, who expressed the same fears about Trump that Graham had at the time. Graham then announced that he had not actually read the whole Mueller report, the contents of which he proceeded to dismiss.

For his part, Barr, once again, acted more as the President’s defense lawyer than as his Attorney General. Taking a maximalist position on Presidential power, Barr argued that Trump would be well within his rights to shut down any investigation of himself if he believed it to be unfair. Surely, that statement will go down as one of the most extraordinary claims of executive authority since Richard Nixon said that “when the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Throughout his appearance, Barr continued to assert that Trump had been cleared of all wrongdoing by the Mueller investigation, while admitting, under questioning by Senator Kamala Harris, that he and his deputy had not actually looked at the underlying evidence of Presidential obstruction assembled by Mueller before determining that it was not sufficient to warrant charges. Barr also said that Trump directing his then White House counsel to fire the special counsel—a key incident in the Mueller report—was not a big deal because Trump was actually ordering that Mueller be replaced, which, Barr contended, is not the same thing as ordering him fired. His client, not surprisingly, was pleased. “A source familiar with Trump’s thinking said the President thought Barr was great and did an excellent job,” Axios reported.

Barr’s whole performance, in fact, was so over the top, so Trumpian, that it immediately led to an array of tweets and op-eds wondering why Barr, a once-respected figure in conservative legal circles and a relatively uncontroversial Attorney General during the Presidency of George H. W. Bush, would choose to end a distinguished career in such a fashion. After all, Barr, like Graham, hadn’t even liked or supported Trump when he ran for President.

The most scathing take of all came from the former F.B.I. director James Comey, whose firing by Trump led to Mueller’s appointment. Writing in the Times, in a piece titled “How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr,” Comey posited that Barr’s conduct and that of others around Trump was a consequence of their having chosen to serve the President. “Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them,” Comey wrote. “Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from.” It doesn’t happen right away but over time, Comey wrote, in a series of compromises along the way. “Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”

So Washington enters May as it ended April, with a constitutional crisis in the making and no Infrastructure Week. But will the constitutional clash between the Democratic House and the Republican President be any less performance art than the nonexistent infrastructure deal they claimed to be making? After Wednesday’s contentious Senate hearing, Lindsey Graham, whatever you think of his credibility, spoke what appeared to be a genuine political truth. He said that, as far as he and his Republican-controlled committee are concerned, there will be no more discussion of the Mueller report, no more testimony, and no impeachment. “It’s over,” he said, and he may well be right.   Source

March 19, 2019
FAIR Board Member, Immigration Hardliner Sheriffs Appear With President Trump As He Vetoes Resolution To Block National Emergency

President Donald Trump was joined by sheriffs with ties to anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) last Friday as he vetoed legislation overturning his declaration of a national emergency and took a moment to deny a rise in white nationalism following the massacre at a mosque in New Zealand.

Trump used his first presidential veto to stop legislation overruling his declaration of a national emergency to fund a wall at the southwestern border.

He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, and three sheriffs with ties to the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). These sheriffs include: Thomas Hodgsonwho sits on FAIR’s National Board of Advisors, of Bristol County, Massachusetts, A.J. Louderback of Jackson County, Texas, and Mike Lewis of Wicomico County, Maryland.

FAIR, in its December 2005 – January 2006 newsletter noted, “Creating coalitions with police and sheriff’s [sic] departments all across the country to confront the issues posed by mass immigration has been a key FAIR goal for many years.”

The hate group realized these goals in 2011 when its staff met with sheriffs across the country.

“We identified sheriffs who expressed concerns about illegal immigration,” its annual report read, adding that FAIR staff “met with these sheriffs and their deputies, supplied them with a steady stream of information, established regular conference calls so they could share information and experiences, and invited them to come to Washington to meet with FAIR’s senior staff.”

All three sheriffs attended FAIR’s annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire media event Sept. 5 and 6, 2018. Coinciding with the conference, FAIR helped facilitate a gathering of 49 sheriffs including Hodgson, Louderback and Lewis, to meet with politicians in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 5. The sheriffs met with Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, Andrew Biggs, R-Ariz., Clay Higgins, R-La., and Mo Brooks, R-Ala., before attending a meeting on immigration reform at the White House with President Trump and Vice President Pence.

At the roundtable discussion with Pence, Louderback called for the expansion of 287(g). The program, with a history of complaints of racial profiling and discrimination, allows law enforcement to partner with ICE to enforce federal immigration laws.

Louderback and Hodgson are well-known and outspoken allies of the anti-immigrant movement. Louderback has attended FAIR’s annual media event and has appeared with anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). In December 2014, FAIR helped organize a trip for sheriffs around the country, including Louderback, to visit D.C. to speak out against actions taken by Obama to protect undocumented immigrants. In 2016, he participated in a CIS sponsored panel titled, “A Case Study of How Flawed Immigration Policy Begets Gang Violence.” In February 2018, Louderback joined Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at CIS, as a witness in a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Immigration and Border Security titled, “The Effect of Sanctuary City Policies on the Ability to Combat the Opioid Epidemic.”

Hodgson, during a radio interview at FAIR’s September 2018 media event, said the White House should use the Department of Motor Vehicles as a tool for immigration enforcement and called for the arrest of any elected official who supports sanctuary city policies. In his January 2017 swearing-in speech, he discussed the border wall saying, “I can think of no other project that would have such a positive impact on our inmates and our country than building this wall,” and offered to send Bristol County inmates to the border as labor to aid in its construction.

Sherriff Mike Lewis, minutes before he appeared in the Oval Office for Trump’s veto, wrote on his personal Facebook page, “This is not political propaganda. WITHOUT BORDER SECURITY, THERE IS NO HOMELAND SECURITY.” Lewis, also met with Trump in September 2018 and told a DelmarvaNow reporter, “The talks were good, and the ceremony was nice. It was very good to talk about immigration.”

The anti-immigrant movement continues to gain positions and clout in this administration. Earlier this month, Trump cited an erroneous report by FAIR claiming “illegal aliens are incarcerated at three times the rate of legal residents,” at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

FAIR and CIS were founded by John Tanton, the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement who has white nationalist beliefs. Tanton has written that to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required, a sentiment echoed in the manifesto posted by the New Zealand killer.

ABC senior national correspondent Terry Morgan took the opportunity to ask Trump, who signed the veto the day after the Christchurch mosque shootings in which 50 Muslims were killed, “Do you see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?”

Flanked by the immigration hardliners celebrating the veto, Trump deflected connecting a rise in white nationalism to deadly violence. “I don’t. I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people who have very, very serious problems. … But it’s certainly a terrible thing.”   Source

March 15, 2019: Trump vetoes a bipartisan resolution that blocked his national emergency

Feb. 11, 2019: SHERIFF SUPPORT: President Trump Border Security Update

National Sheriffs Association Executive Committee


The National Sheriffs’ Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the level of professionalism among those in the law enforcement
Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh

Chester CountyPA
2nd Vice President

View officers here

View staff here

February 2, 2019
Christian Science Monitor
‘We’re all border counties now.’ Sheriffs’ new role as immigration experts

President Donald Trump, with Carolyn "Bunny" Welsh, sheriff of Chester County, Pa., left, and AJ Louderback, sheriff of Jackson County, Texas, attends a roundtable discussion on border security with local leaders, Friday Jan. 11, 2019, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

© AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/File President Donald Trump, with Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, sheriff of Chester County, Pa., left, and AJ Louderback, sheriff of Jackson County, Texas, attends a roundtable discussion on border security with local leaders, Friday Jan. 11, 2019, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

Every president introduces their own tastes and traditions to the White House, and President Trump seems to have one for midwinter.

In each of the past three years, that has been when the sheriffs visit. National Sheriffs’ Association leaders made one of the very first official visits to the Trump White House in February 2017. They discussed immigration and border security, and a year later they were invited back to discuss gun and drug crime and, again, federal immigration policy.

This year’s roundtable occurred in early January, with border security the sticking point in the now temporarily lifted government shutdown. And as border security and immigration have become the foremost political and policy issue of the Trump era, the reaction from sheriffs has been as mixed – and polarized – as the general public’s. Many have called for tougher enforcement and more security, while others have said these are issues that should only concern border sheriffs. A longer-term result, some experts say, could be a heightened interest in the powerful but largely overlooked role of sheriffs generally.

“There’s always been some aspects of immigration enforcement devolved to the local level, particularly for border counties,” says Mirya Holman, a political scientist who studies sheriffs at Tulane University in Louisiana. “Now there’s a lot more attention on sheriffs as immigration policymakers.”

Border county sheriffs feeling strain

Operating in tens of thousands of counties across the country, from the urban to the rural, sheriffs’ duties vary dramatically by jurisdiction, ranging from running jails and guarding courthouses to policing roads and investigating felonies. Part law enforcement officer and part politician, they are held accountable by voters in elections – elections that incumbents almost always win. A 2012 survey found that some 99 percent were men and 95 percent were white.

And for large swaths of the country, particularly along the southwest border, the county sheriff’s office is the principal law enforcement agency. Even with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers empowered to operate up to 100 miles from the physical border, border county sheriffs say they’re feeling the strain.

As Terrell County sheriff for 13 years, Clint McDonald had four deputies to help him cover a 2,400-square-mile county and 60 miles of Texas-Mexico border. There also were more than 100 Border Patrol agents when he retired in December 2016. He says there are now fewer than 40.

“It’s really difficult to cover that much territory and assist the Border Patrol on the front line when you don’t have enough people,” says Mr. McDonald, executive director of the Southwestern Border Sheriffs’ Coalition.

Members of the 31-county coalition released a letter earlier this month describing Mr. Trump’s demand for a $5 billion border wall as “a lightning rod of division” and “not a cogent public policy position.” Building and repairing physical barriers is an important component of improving border security, added the letter, signed by Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot of Arizona, but only part of the solution. Focusing on a wall detracts from a meaningful debate on the other improvements that could be made.

“Everyone wants to talk about the wall. They’re not talking about a solution to the problem,” says McDonald. “We have to get past that somehow and determine what we’re going to do and do it, because these sheriffs on the border need help today.”

No longer only a border issue

Alongside the debate over how to tighten southern border security is a debate over the degree of the security problems that exist. Trump has often described the border as being in “crisis,” and suggested he may declare a national emergency to build the wall. Larger numbers of migrants than normal have also traveled to the border, mostly from Central America, in 2018 and sought to enter the United States legally by claiming asylum.

Illegal border crossings have dropped significantly in recent years, however. More than 1.6 million illegal border-crossers were apprehended in 2000, then another 1.3 million in 2001, according to CBP statistics. Last year 396,579 people were caught crossing the border illegally, a modest increase from 310,531 in 2017. The opioid epidemic in the US started by the overprescription of legal pain medications has been exacerbated by illegal opioids trafficked over the southern border, analysts say, though most evidence suggests they come through official ports of entry.

Then there is the perception of security. Residents of border cities in Texas have disputed characterizations of the border as a region in crisis, but residents of rural border areas have taken a different view.

Those are the areas where migrants actually cross illegally, and they can burglarize homes and steal vehicles, says McDonald. Migrants have knocked down fences and killed livestock on her family ranch in recent years, Pat Ozuna told the Los Angeles Times.

“Come spend the weekend [there] and see if you feel safe,” she added.

Immigration is no longer just a border issue, however, and there is much more attention on sheriffs as immigration policymakers, according to Dr. Holman.

“Prior to 2018 I could maybe name five or six [sheriff] elections where immigration was a major issue, and almost all of them were in border counties,” she says. “In 2018 there were maybe 45 elections … and others where people have maybe not paid attention to sheriff elections but are getting involved.”

Public safety versus politics

Immigration is as much a public safety issue as a political one, however, and sheriffs across the country have found it a fruitful campaign subject.

In Massachusetts’s Bristol County, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson offered to make inmates in his jail help build a border wall last year, part of a broader prison work proposal he campaigned on before winning a fourth six-year term. He met Vice President Mike Pence last September and announced an effort to crowdfund a border wall.

In Butler County in Ohio, Sheriff Richard Jones, described as a “mini Trump,” received national attention back in 2006 for posting billboards around the conservative county warning businesses against hiring unauthorized immigrants. “Illegal Aliens Here,” read one outside his office, with an arrow pointing to the jailhouse. He has been re-elected three times since then and is reportedly thinking of running for US Senate.

This attention is not entirely supportive of sheriffs with tough immigration policies.

In California’s Los Angeles County, Jim McDonnell became the first incumbent sheriff to lose a re-election bid in more than a century, in large part because the immigrant community was unhappy with how his department was working with federal immigration agencies. Sheriff candidates in Mecklenburg and Wake Counties in North Carolina, home to Charlotte and Raleigh respectively, won elections in November in large part due to pledges to withdraw from the federal 287(g) program, which allows county sheriffs to assist federal agencies in deporting immigrants.

Garry McFadden, the new Mecklenburg County sheriff, said he’d had difficulties investigating crimes in immigrant communities as a homicide detective during a three-decade career with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

“Suspects know they can continue to prey upon those people because they are afraid to report them,” he adds. “My focus is educating people, being inclusive with my community, building trust with my community.”

“I’m going to combat crime, but I don’t think 287(g) is a tool I need to do that,” he continues. “Immigration [enforcement] is not my job…. The border is not my issue.”

‘We’re all impacted’

While police chiefs rarely last more than a few years, county sheriffs can keep their positions for decades. Elected to four-year terms in 45 states, incumbents often benefit from one-party domination and a lack of voter interest in local races.

The same has been true of local district attorneys, but as public concern over criminal justice reform has increased, voters and advocacy groups have begun to focus more on those elections.

That kind of attention could soon turn to sheriffs. Advocacy groups opposing 287(g) played a significant role in the North Carolina sheriff elections last year.

“There’s the potential for communities to elect sheriffs more aligned with their values,” says Jessica Pishko, a visiting fellow at the Rule of Law Collaborative at the University of South Carolina School of Law, who is studying sheriffs. “It’s possible people will want to elect sheriffs that make the kind of immigration moves that people want.”

And sheriffs are making immigration moves. Only 75 of more than 3,000 sheriff offices are participating in the 287(g) program, but participation in it has doubled since Trump took office, according to a Pew analysis, driven largely by rural and suburban counties.

“We’re all border counties now, because what happens in my county also happens in their county,” says Mark Dannels, sheriff of Cochise County on the Arizona-Mexico border. “We’re all impacted in terms of drugs, human smuggling.”

“I’d hope all [sheriffs] would stand together on that front,” he adds. “We shouldn’t be policing for politics, we should be policing for people.”

For now, sheriffs across the country are deciding how they want to involve themselves in immigration enforcement – if they want to at all.

“They’re making difficult decisions about how to cooperate with [federal agencies] and run their jails, what to tell their deputies,” says Holman.

“Sheriffs’ actions on immigration are playing a part on immigration at the national level,” she adds, “but it’s more about sheriffs trying to navigate this difficult policy arena.”     Source

Sept 5, 2018: President Donald Trump Meets With Sheriffs From Across The Country

June 2, 2017

Alexandria, VA – The National Sheriffs’ Association’s (NSA) leadership was honored to meet with President Donald Trump this afternoon at the White House. Sheriffs from around the country participated in a signing ceremony with President Trump and other law enforcement leaders.

President Trump signed the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017 and the Public Safety Officers Benefits Improvement Act of 2017 in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room.

The American Law Enforcement Heroes Act authorizes law enforcement grantees of the Justice Department’s community policing COPS program to use funds to hire veterans. The Public Safety Officers Benefits Improvement Act works to decrease the waiting time before family members of public safety officers killed in the line duty receive survivor benefits.

“The legislation signed today is another important step to fulfilling President Trump’s commitment to support law enforcement, assist veterans striving to our join our profession and speed up the slow process of providing needed benefits to families of fallen deputies and officers,” NSA President and Sheriff Greg Champagne, St. Charles Parish, La., said. “This administration is dedicated to listening to our ideas, hearing our concerns and is acting swiftly to help law enforcement protect our citizens and make our communities safer.”

Leadership participating:

Sheriff Greg Champagne, St. Charles Parish, LA, NSA President

Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, Chester County, PA

Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, Wood County, OH

Sheriff Vern Stanforth, Fayette County, OH

Sheriff Paul Laney, Cass County, ND

Sheriff Craig Webre, Lafourche Parish, LA

NSA Deputy Executive Director John Thompson

From left: NSA President Sheriff Greg Champagne, Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, Sheriff Paul Laney, NSA Deputy Executive Director John Thompson, Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, Sheriff Vern Stanforth, and Sheriff Craig Webre.

About NSA

The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) is one of the largest associations of law enforcement professionals in the United States, representing more than 3,000 elected sheriffs across the nation, and a total membership of more than 20,000. NSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the level of professionalism among sheriffs, their deputies, and others in the field of criminal justice and public safety. Throughout its seventy-six year history, NSA has served as an information clearinghouse for sheriffs, deputies, chiefs of police, other law enforcement professionals, state governments and the federal government.    Source

February 2017: Sheriffs discuss meeting with President Trump

Feb 7, 2017: President Trump Meets With Sheriffs From Across The Country

February 2017: Trump: 'We'll Destroy His Career'

March 17, 2016: 5 Sheriff's Deputies Get Suspended Over Trump Rally Punching Incident

Chester County Sheriff Investigation

December 26, 2018
In 2018, K-9 Unit funds drew questions

WEST CHESTER—In November, Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh announced that she would not seek re-election to the post she has held longer than any other current county elected official.

In a statement, Welsh, who has served in the office since 2000 and seen its profile gain national stature, said she plans to pursue one of several opportunities that have surfaced, although the statement did not specify what those opportunities entail.

“Sometimes God leads you down a path and opens doors where you least expect it,” Welsh said. “After serving as sheriff for 20 years, I will be looking forward to a new challenge in 2020.”

The challenge that Welsh faced most in 2018, however, was a unique one. In August, county Controller Margaret Reif issued a subpoena for financial records held by Welsh’s office for the Chester County Sheriff’s K-9. Unit, the first time in memory that one county official had questioned the way another ran his or her office.

Reif and her team of auditors suspected, and later said they confirmed, that funds that had been collected for the K-9 officers and their handlers had been misused by people in the office, most notably Lt. Harry McKinney, the supervisor of the celebrated K-9 Unit and Welsh’s longtime life partner.

After some disagreement, some of the records that Reif’s office requested were turned over. Though incomplete, they formed a picture of improper use of the funds that the controller later detailed in a remarkable summary.

The expenses questioned included $4,718 paid for a stay at the Hilton Baltimore in June and July 2015; at least $5,290.74 on 75 miscellaneous lunches and dinners over a three year period; $4,200 for a custom-made golf cart; $2,500 for tires and front and back winches on a privately owned pickup truck; and $579 for a one-night stay at the Quality Hotel in Exton in September 2017.

The audit estimated that more than $198,000 was raised and spent over the years 2015 to 2017 for the K-9 unit through private donations to the sheriff’s office that used county property and employees to accept and record them. Among other expenses, paid for with checks and credit cards, the controller said that it could not ascertain how those individual payments directly related to the services K-9 Unit was formed to provide to law enforcement agencies and others in and out of the county.

The 23 instances of questionable actions by the K-9 Unit that a summary report of the controller’s audit cited — including failure to register as a charitable organization, file for tax-exempt status, and establish an overall “formal or informal structure” for receipts and disbursements — led the office to the rare step of bringing the matter to the attention of other elected officials in the county, according to a statement issued by the controller’s office

“Based on our evaluation of the limited documentation we received, it did not appear that the majority of the generous donations received from well-meaning donors and sponsors (of the K-9 Unit) were being used for their intended purpose,” Controller Margaret Rife said in a statement to the Daily Local News. “Given that fact, according to the County Code, our responsibility at that point was to stop what we were doing and bring our concerns to the commissioners and the District Attorney, which is what we did”

Welsh and her supporters fired back, saying the fundraising was not within the controller’s purview since they were private, not taxpayer, dollars.

In a separate statement to the Daily Local, attorney Dawson R. Muth of the West Chester firm of Lamb McErlane said that Reif, a Democrat, was pursuing the audit of the K-9 unit as a way of attacking county Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, a Republican. He also said the sheriff had recently enlisted an outside auditor to review the same records that the controller referenced, and that to date no wrongdoing was found.

“The sheriff offered several times, prior to being subpoenaed by the controller, to sit down with the Controller and explain all of the programs and fundraising efforts,” he said. “The controller and her solicitor chose not to accept that offer. Instead they have chosen to leak certain information to the press, to start a criminal investigation and to malign the hardworking professional law enforcement officers who protect and serve the citizens of Chester County.

“The controller’s conduct in this matter is clearly and without question politically motivated and is nothing more than a personal attack leveled at the sheriff of Chester County,” Muth said.

But after discussing the matter with Reif and the county commissioners, District Attorney Tom Hogan sent separate letters to the state Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, passing on a request by the controller for an investigation into, and potential prosecution of, allegations of what he called suspected illegal activity involving the K-9 funds.

To date, a review by the Attorney General’s Office is still on going, according to that office.

September 14, 2018
Chester County K-9 audit questions spending, control of funds

WEST CHESTER — Four-thousand, seven hundred, eighteen dollars and forty-one cents paid for a stay at the Hilton Baltimore in June and July 2015. At least $5,290.74 on 75 miscellaneous lunches and dinners over a three year period. $4,200 for a custom-made golf cart. $2,500 for tires and front and back winches on a privately owned pickup truck. $579 for a one-night stay at the Quality Hotel in Exton in September 2017.

Those are some of the expenses that the Chester County Controller’s Office has questioned in its audit of the way that funds for the county sheriff’s K-9 Unit, estimated at more than $198,000, were raised and spent over the years 2015 to 2017. Among other expenses, paid for with checks and credit cards, the controller said that it could not ascertain how those individual payments directly related to the services K-9 Unit was formed to provide to law enforcement agencies and others in and out of the county.

The 23 instances of questionable actions by the K-9 Unit that a summary report of the controller’s audit cited — including failure to register as a charitable organization, file for tax-exempt status, and establish an overall “formal or informal structure” for receipts and disbursements — led the office to the rare step of bringing the matter to the attention of other elected officials in the county, according to a statement issued by the controller’s office

“Based on our evaluation of the limited documentation we received, it did not appear that the majority of the generous donations received from well-meaning donors and sponsors (of the K-9 Unit) were being used for their intended purpose,” Controller Margaret Reif said in a statement to the Daily Local News. “Given that fact, according to the County Code, our responsibility at that point was to stop what we were doing and bring our concerns to the commissioners and the District Attorney, which is what we did”

In a separate statement to the Daily Local, attorney Dawson R. Muth of the West Chester firm of Lamb McErlane said that Reif, a Democrat, was pursuing the audit of the K-9 unit as a way of attacking county Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, a Republican. He also said the sheriff had recently enlisted an outside auditor to review the same records that the controller referenced, and that to date no wrongdoing was found.

“The sheriff offered several times, prior to being subpoenaed by the controller, to sit down with the Controller and explain all of the programs and fundraising efforts,” he said. “The controller and her solicitor chose not to accept that offer. Instead they have chosen to leak certain information to the press, to start a criminal investigation and to malign the hardworking professional law enforcement officers who protect and serve the citizens of Chester County.

“The controller’s conduct in this matter is clearly and without question politically motivated and is nothing more than a personal attack leveled at the sheriff of Chester County,” Muth said.

On Monday, District Attorney Tom Hogan sent separate letters to the state Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, passing on Reif’s request for an investigation into, and potential prosecution of, allegations of what he called suspected illegal activity involving the K-9 funds.

Hogan determined that his office could not conduct an investigation into the finances of the K-9 unit itself because of an apparent conflict of interest, he wrote in letters to the agencies, involving a donation his office made to the K-9 Unit for training.

Included in the referral to the two outside agencies was a copy of the controller’s 10-page summary of its findings involving the review of records for the unit, which consists of nine dogs and their county-employed handlers.

The unit is not supported by county tax dollars beyond the salaries of the deputies who handle the canine officers and insurance paid for those dogs. For several years, the sheriff’s office has solicited private funds for support for the unit — including appeals for donations on the county government’s website and outside events including a gold tournament, a “wild game” dinner, and a classic car show.

In June, the controller began asking the sheriff’s office to submit to an audit of those funds that had been raised for the K-9 Unit partially through the county’s website and e-mail. The sheriff, Reif said, initially agreed to the audit, but later backed away from that stance. The controller issued a subpoena for records involving the unit from 2009 to the present.

According to the summary, the audit began on Aug. 13, when the controller’s staff was provided with six file folders for the K-9 Unit fund for the years ending in 2015, 2016, and 2017, a third of the records that the controller had demanded. The staff photocopied the records, but after several days of sorting through them noted that, “a material amount of supporting documentation … was not included in the six file folders provided by the sheriff’s office.” It completed its review of the partial documentation regardless, ending that process sometime in early September.

Among the deficiencies noted in the summary as the fact that even though the K-9 fund listed five bank account that handled K-9 activity, the information provided by the sheriff’s office related to only two.

In its findings, the auditors noted that, “there is no formal set of documented controls, processes or procedures for the K-9 Fund. Even after asking for information about the fund’s system checks and balances, nothing was presented. From what the auditors could determine, only two people handled the account — a bookkeeper in the sheriff’s office and Lt. Harry McKinney, the longtime sheriff deputy and founder and head of the K-9 Unit.

When the bookkeeper was removed from the accounts, McKinney took over all responsibility of deposits and withdrawals for the bank accounts, the auditors wrote. He thus had authority for both requesting and authorizing funds from the bank accounts.

The audit showed that the two bank accounts reviewed showed deposits of $64,790 in 2015, $61,438 in 2016, and $72,039 in 2017, fo r a total three year income of $198,268. The K-9 accounts showed payments of $201,800 during the period, split essentially equally between check payments and credit card purchases. Those credit cards were listed under the names of Welsh and McKinney, who have had a longtime personal relationship.

In connection with the credit card expenses, the auditors said they determined that McKinney was “the main spending user,” along with Welsh. But there did not appear to be any authorization process to use the K-9 funds via credit cards, in contrast to the minimal check writing oversight between McKinney and the office bookkeeper, Lee DiMattia.

“Based on the structure noted, it appears that Lt. Harry McKinney was both the approver and the spender for the credit cards, giving him unchecked control and discretion of how and when the funds were spent,” the summary report states. It noted that of the $93,519 put on credit cards for the three-year period, only $52,836 was documented, leaving $40,683 unaccounted for — most of which were billed by McKinney.

Of the $52,833 in credit card purchases the audit team was able to document, $5,290 went for “non-event meals,” $15,899 to direct K-9 expenditures, $22,654 to store purchases, $7,448 to travel and automobile expenses, and $1,540 in membership payments.

“Due to the fact that only a vendor, date and amount was listed to the credit card support for the purchases, the appropriateness of many expenditures remains in question and in need of further explanation,” the report states. “Also, it appears that the direct K-9 expenditures were mainly for K-9 dogs under the control of (McKinney) and not the rest of the K-9 Unit.” The report further stated that $1,690 of the direct K-9 funds were spent on grooming services for McKinney’s dogs, including one, Roxy, which is not listed as a member of the K-9 Unit.

Of the questionable expenditures, such as the stay in Baltimore during the 2015 National Sheriff’s Association Conference or the purchase of the golf cart of installation of winches on the privately owned pickup truck, the auditors said they appeared to be personal expenses and not K-9 related. No reimbursement documents were provided.

Of the 23 items of concern pointed out in the report, the first is that the K-9 Fund did not appear to be in compliance with state Department of State guideline for organizations soliciting contributions from state residents that total more than $25,000 a year. It also noted that the fund did not appear to be in compliance with federal guidelines.

Additionally, even though some of the purchases from vendors were made tax-free, the K-9 fund was not a registered charitable organization and thus did not hold tax exempt status.

Also of note, the report states that funds that went to support the K-9 unit, for purchase and insurance of the dogs, came from federal and county tax dollars, and that despite Welsh’s insistence that the unit had brought $165,000 to county coffers since 2009, the county Finance Department listed only $34,000 in payments. “This number needs further explanation and documentation,” the report authors note.

In his comments on the report, Muth declined to address specific questions about individual findings in the report, citing the potential investigations by the Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s Office. He said, however, that the sheriff had retained an “independent, professional auditor” to review the records of what he referred to as “the K-9 entity.”

“Unlike the Controller, this auditor took the time and effort to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of the records, the actual receipts, the expenditures, the credit card statements and the bank statements,” Muth said. “It was a real audit, not a cursory review with assumptions of wrongdoing.

Muth stated that the auditor — whom he declined to identify — concluded at least for the 2017 records he reviewed thus far, “there was no wrongdoing, there was no self-dealing and that there were no expenditures inconsistent with the broad objectives of the fundraising efforts conducted by members of the sheriff’s office.

Muth promised that when the auditor’s work was completed, it would be made available to the public.   Source

Daily Local News
September 12, 2018
Hogan: State, feds should investigate handling of K-9 funds

WEST CHESTER — The Chester County District Attorney, acting on information from the county’s financial watchdog, has referred a request for a criminal investigation into the county Sheriff’s Office and its handling of funds for the sheriff’s K-9 unit to outside law enforcement agencies, sources say.

On Monday, District Attorney Tom Hogan requested in separate letters that the state Attorney General’s Office or the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia take on an investigation into, and potential prosecution of, allegations of what he called suspected illegal activity involving the K-9 funds, based on information that his office received from the Chester County Controller’s Office.

County Controller Margaret Reif, a Democrat who won election to the row office last November, has been reviewing the financial transactions of the K-9 Unit, which is operated through the office of longtime Republican Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, but which is not supported with county tax dollars.

Hogan determined that his office could not conduct an investigation into the finances of the K-9 unit itself because of an apparent conflict of interest, he wrote in letters to the agencies.

“The investigation was initiated by an audit of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office by the Chester County Controller,” Hogan wrote in the letters, dated Sept. 10. “The investigation involves allegations of misuse and fraud regarding funds collected by the Sheriff’s Office for their K-9 Unit, but used for other personal and political expenses.

“The DAO (District Attorney’s Office) donated funds to the K-9 Unit, making the DAO a potential fact witness/victim and creating a conflict of interest. A criminal complaint has not been filed at this time. Chester County Controller Margaret Reif and her staff have the basic information regarding the investigation,” he wrote. Hogan said that there may be overlapping state and federal legal issues in the case, so he forwarded his request to both agencies.

Representatives of Attorney General Josh Shapiro and U.S. Attorney William McSwain said Tuesday that their offices would not comment on the specifics of the matter.

“We will review the referral request from the Chester County District Attorney’s Office when we receive it,” said Joe Grace, a spokesman for Shapiro’s office. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined all comment.

A request from a local district attorney’s office to other law enforcement agencies for an investigation does not necessarily mean that a criminal inquiry will be opened by those offices. Those agencies must first determine whether a proper conflict exists with the local prosecutor’s office before proceeding. But it does move the matter one step closer to the virtually unprecedented situation of a Chester County elected official being the subject of a criminal investigation.

No charges have been filed in the case.

Reif said in a statement to the Daily Local News that her office had taken the step of asking the D.A.’s Office to investigate the K-9 funds after conducting an exhaustive audit of three years of records provided by the sheriff’s office last month — only part of the nine years of documents her office had demanded be produced pursuant to a subpoena it issued in July.

“What we found raised more questions than we have answers,” she said Tuesday. “It was enough to raise sufficient concern that what was there wasn’t right.”

Attorney Dawson R. Muth of the West Chester law firm of Lamb McErlane, solicitor for the sheriff’s office, acknowledged being informed about the referral from Hogan’s office.

“We welcome an independent, non-partisan review of the situation,” he said Tuesday.

Reif, who took office in January, has been accused by Muth and others of conducting a “witch hunt,”charging that her investigation into the K-9 Unit’s finances was politically motivated. Welsh, who started the independently financed K-9 Unit in 2006, is a Republican, and staunch supporter of President Donald Trump. Last month, county Republican and state GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio, a former county controller himself, assailed Reif’s audit of the K-9 Unit.

“Unfortunately, with county elections approaching in 2019, the recently elected Democrat controller has decided to bring partisan politics to Chester County and is trying to find scandal where none exists,” said Digiorgio in a letter to county Republicans. He contended that Reif had no authority to audit the K-9 Unit’s financial records because they did not involve taxpayer funds.

“I believe that instead of being criticized, Bunny deserves our support and even praise for her good work in providing an important tool for local law enforcement, again, at no taxpayer expense,” DiGiorgio said.

Reif has rejected the claims that she is acting out of partisan animus, and said that she was instead reacting to multiple complaints her office had received over the years about “improper spending” involving the K-9 program. She noted that while the K-9 unit is not funded directly by the county, some county resources, including the county website, was used to solicit the funds.

Reif approached the D.A.’s Office with results from her team’s audit on Friday. Prior to that, she said, she had met with the chairwoman of the county commissioners to inform her of her offices’s intention to ask the district attorney to open an investigation that would involve the sheriff’s office, a fellow elected official. Such a move is required by the Third Class County Code, she said.

The commissioners office confirmed that a meeting with Reif was convened.

“Per the process outlined in the state County Code, the controller met with commissioners’ Chair(woman) Michelle Kichline, then (now former) county Chief Operating Officer Mark Rupsis, and county Solicitor Tom Whiteman to provide a verbal overview of her audit,” said county Communications Officer Rebecca Brain Tuesday in a statement. Brain did not comment on the meeting otherwise.

Last month, the controller announced that the sheriff’s office had failed to fully comply with its subpoena for financial records from 2009 to the present concerning the sheriff’s K-9 Unit funding. The subpoena was issued after Welsh declined to voluntarily submit the K-9 Unit’s records to an audit by the Controller’s Office.

The sheriff provided the controller with only three years of records, from 2015, 2016, and 2017.

The K-9 unit is the largest of its kind in the southeastern Pennsylvania region, but is not funded by county tax dollars. Instead, Welsh has used grant money and private donations. The funds raised were meant to help defray the costs of the training, certification, veterinary care, shelter and food for the dogs, who have names like Luke, Nero, Dexter and Murphy.

The fundraising efforts have included golf outings, classic car shows, and “wild game” dinners, Welsh said. Over the years, estimates are that the fundraising has brought in “hundreds of thousands” of dollars that might otherwise have been paid for with taxpayer dollars, had the program been approved for funding by the county commissioners.

In his comment, Hogan said that his office made a contribution of $6,500 to the sheriff’s K-9 operation for the training of a drug dog. The contribution would present his office with potential conflict, he said.

“If a conflict in a potential criminal matter exists, we do not investigate any further because we would not want to interfere with or take steps not agreed to by the agency who is ultimately responsible for the investigation,” Hogan said in an email to the Daily Local News. “This is the same protocol that we follow when other agencies refer matters to us for an investigation because of a potential conflict – for instance, a local police department investigating one of their own township supervisors or an investigation from a different county.”

Welsh and her office have noted the popularity of the K-9 officers, their expertise, and the law enforcement benefits the group brings to the county and elsewhere. In a recent radio interview, Welsh boasted that her K-9 Unit was among “the finest in the country.”  The unit currently has nine canine officers, which specialize in bomb and drug detection, human tracking and comfort services. It has won several awards for its work over the years.

But funds for those dogs were also raised, notes Reif, with direct appeals to supporters through the county’s website, www.chesco,org. And that, among other factors, is what gives her the authority and reason to audit the K-9 Unit’s finances, she said. “This is strictly about hundreds of thousands of dollars solicited and received in the sheriff’s office, through the county website and flowing through a bank account that lists its address as 201 W. Market St. without any oversight,” she said last month.   Source


August 23, 2018
The Inquirer
Chester County officials spar over dogged audit of sheriff’s K-9 Unit

A dispute is brewing in Chester County, with tensions running high among county officials over how much money is being thrown to the dogs.

Earlier this month, Controller Margaret Reif issued a subpoena to Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, seeking to examine the finances of the K-9 unit operated by the Sheriff’s Office, and supported largely by grant money and donations.

Weeks later, the probe has plodded forward, with Reif contending that her office has had to sift through an incomplete set of financial records from the last nine years, the period before a nonprofit was formed to handle the unit’s fund-raising efforts. Those statements, she said, indicate that the unit received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” that passed through an account managed by county employees.

Welsh has said her office is fully cooperating with the probe despite her “grave concerns” about the audit’s objectivity.

“I think it’s unfortunate that this was not handled differently,” Welsh said. “Because now, these actions have created a confrontational situation that I felt was unnecessary.”

This is the first time in recent memory that an elected official in Chester County has subpoenaed a colleague. And it has spawned accusations of partisan motivation: Reif is a Democrat who took office in January. Welsh, a Republican and vocal supporter of President Trump, has held her position for 18 years.

Reif has fired back against those claims, which have been plastered across the pages of local newspapers.

“Since taking office, while fulfilling my duties pursuant to the county code, I have come across multiple issues that needed to be addressed in the Sheriff’s Office,” she said in a statement. “I didn’t go to the press, but rather sat down with their office to work out ways to correct the problems. It is not now, nor has it ever been, my intention to use my job as a political tool. Campaigns are for politics, governing is not.”

Reif said her concerns with the K-9 unit were catalyzed by a tip to her office about “improper spending.” She later discovered that similar tips had been sent to her predecessor, Norman MacQueen, a Republican, but that no investigation had been initiated.

So, Reif contacted Welsh earlier in the summer, asking for records for the K-9 unit’s finances. Welsh initially agreed to cooperate, Reif said, but later sent a letter saying her office couldn’t comply with the request.

To hear Welsh’s staff tell it, that refusal came from the belief that Reif didn’t have the authority to audit money that didn’t come from the county’s general fund. And because the K-9 unit has always been run on donations, including in-kind charity from veterinarians, officials in the Sheriff’s Office believed there were no grounds for an audit.

If Chester County were to take on the expense of the K-9 unit, Welsh said, it would put a $100,000 annual strain on the county’s budget, based on current expenses.

Because the fund-raising has been handled by county employees, and included events that used county resources, Reif said, she could use her authority to audit the account. So, the subpoena was issued, asking for bank statements, lists of assets, contracts, receipts, and other records.

In response, Welsh asked the head of the nonprofit Friends of the Chester County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit if it would be willing to hand over some those records, according to Dawson R. Muth, solicitor for Welsh’s office. Last week, staff from the Controller’s Office began sifting through the first batch of the documents.

“She has nothing to hide. The sheriff has played by the rules for nine years, and now the controller wants to change the rules,” Muth said. “This money was raised by fund-raisers — it’s not secret, it’s not hidden. And all of a sudden it’s now subject to an audit by the county controller.”

From about 2009 onward, employees in the Sheriff’s Office seemed to be managing those finances, according to Reif. An initial review of the documents Welsh produced shows that members of her staff had signing authority, and that all checks and statements were mailed to her office in West Chester.

Still, Welsh said, the people managing the account don’t report to her directly. She added that they began the process of forming a nonprofit to handle the fund-raising process about a year ago.

In February, the Friends of the Chester County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit registered with the Department of State and was granted nonprofit status a few months later. State records list Brad DeSando as the incorporator. DeSando is a corporal in the Sheriff’s Office.

The K-9 unit was formed in 2006, with grant money helping to acquire two bomb-sniffing dogs. Despite being initially “unsuccessful,” according to Welsh, the unit grew in reputation and acclaim, winning national awards in 2016 for cadaver recovery and narcotics detection.

Today, the unit has nine active dogs, with three more in training. It’s the largest K-9 unit in the region operated by a sheriff’s office. Most, including Philadelphia’s, have no more than three dogs.

Welsh says the size of her office’s unit has more to do with a declining trend in local K-9 units in Chester County. Her office’s dogs support 57 law enforcement agencies, of which only two, police at Lincoln and West Chester Universities, have dogs. The K-9 unit, she said, fields about 100 requests a year from different agencies.

In 2016, the county organized a K-9 training academy, with members of the unit providing services to other law enforcement agencies in the region. The academy, the only one of its kind in the Philadelphia area, is a source of income for the county, according to Welsh. But she noted that the revenue goes into the general fund, not back to her unit.

“I’m extremely proud of this K-9 unit and its development over the last few years,” Welsh said. “You cannot measure the value of these dogs.”    Source

August 18, 2018
Audit bugs ‘Bunny,’ she fires back at controller in records flap

WEST CHESTER >> An attorney for the Chester County Sheriff’s Office has pushed back against an assertion by the county controller that the office had not fully complied with a subpoena of financial records for the sheriff’s K-9 Unit, asserting that the comments smacked of partisanship.

“It is entirely inappropriate for the controller to leak certain things to the press in piecemeal fashion,” stated attorney Dawson R. Muth, the Sheriff’s Office solicitor and partner with the law firm of Lamb McErlane in West Chester, responding to a story in the Daily Local News in which Controller Margaret Reif said that her office was “not at all satisfied with the compliance of the subpoena” issued against Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh earlier this month.

“That is a clear indication that this exercise is merely a personal political attack on the sheriff,” Muth wrote in an e-mail. “To say the sheriff has not been cooperating with the controller is disingenuous. The controller’s staff has been in the sheriff’s office for days, tying up both controller’s personnel and sheriff’s office personnel.

“Reams of paper have been used copying records that have been provided to the controller,” Muth said. “They copied every deposit slip, every check, every receipt and every spreadsheet provided. They went through these records with a fine-toothed comb. Dozens of hours of work auditing accounts containing no county funds.”

But officials with the Controller’s Office maintained that it had received less than half of the records that Welsh had been asked to produce — only three years of receipts and disbursements from the K-9 fund, which both sides acknowledge involved hundreds of thousands of dollars. Reif has previously dismissed charges of partisanship.

Muth’s response comes as the two elected officials are in a confrontation over the Controller’s Office attempt to review financial records concerning the sheriff’s 10-member K-9 Unit. Reif and her staff of professional auditors consider the money that was raised with the help of the county’s website to be under her authority to audit as the county’s financial watchdog. Welsh has asserted, to the contrary, that the money is a private account not subject to review by the controller.

The accusation of partisanship arises from the fact that Reif is a Democrat, the first woman elected from that party to the important position of controller, while Welsh is a Republican, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and the longest serving row officer in the county’s history, with 17 years as sheriff.

In June, Reif’s office sent a letter to Welsh informing her of its intention to conduct an audit of the records involving the K-9 Unit, which is fully supported by private donations and fundraising efforts like golf outings and “wild game” dinners. The county does not budget money for the care, upkeep, or training of the K-9 officers, popular icons of the Sheriff’s Office with names like Luke and Nero and Dexter and Murphy.

According to Reif, Welsh refused to permit the audit, maintaining that the funds were not under her control but that of a non-profit organization that had been formed in February, the Friends of the Chester County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit. In response, Reif issued a subpoena requiring Welsh to appear for an examination under oath, and production of financial records involving the K-9 unit.

Reif and her office’s solicitor, attorney Anthony Verwey of the West Chester law firm of Gawthrop Greenwood, on Friday gave specific details of what records had been sought in the subpoena, and which had been made available to the auditors for copying and inspection.

According to Verwey, the subpoena demanded bank account records and other items – records of stocks and mutual funds, receipts and expenditures, tax filings and donor acknowledgment letters – connected with the Chester County Sheriff K9 account at the Bryn Mawr Trust bank from 2009, when the unit was formed, until the present. Fewer than half the years of the account’s existence were provided, he said.

“On Monday and Tuesday of this week, the sheriff and an employee, who maintained some or all of the requested records, permitted the controller’s staff to copy approximately three years of records (2015-2017),” he wrote in an email. “On Wednesday of this week, signature cards for one of the bank accounts, at Bryn Mawr Trust, were received for the years 2013 through 2018. However, the controller’s auditor is still working through the documentation provided. Documents for years 2009 through 2014 and 2018 have not yet been produced.

The questions that Welsh was asked under oath included issues related to the auditing and documentation of the K-9 Unit. Verwey declined to summarize Welsh’s responses to those questions, but said that a transcript of the questioning was being prepared for review. The session was overseen by Reif, who administered the oath, and lasted about one hour, he said.

“I believe (the Sheriff’s Office) is trying to gather the additional bank records,” he said. “In my experience, generally those documents should be available somewhere. But I am not sure how keeping those records was managed or overseen by whoever was in charge of those records.”

Asked to characterized the response, Verwey was circumspect. “I think it is fair to say that it has been slow, the sheriff’s response has been very slow,” he said in an interview Friday.

Reif also expanded on her earlier statement that the sheriff had not fully complied with her subpoena.

“While we are still in the preliminary stages of the audit, and we only have some of the records required by the subpoena, I can confirm that we are looking at several hundred thousands of dollars in income raised and spent using county assets without any oversight,” she said Friday.

“I am hopeful that the sheriff will fully comply with the subpoena by providing my office with all of the documents required by the end of next week,” said Reif.

Also on Friday, the county commissioners office issued a statement distancing itself from the matter. The county has never formally funded the K-9s.

“The Chester County Sheriff is an independent elected official,” it read. “The K-9 Unit is managed by the Sheriff’s Office. As an independent official the sheriff can make her own policy decisions about how programs are operated and managed. All independent elected officials’ policy decisions are subject to the county code and other state and federal laws.”

The statement also mentioned the sheriff’s K-9 Academy, in which members of the staff, including K-9 Unit supervisor Lt. Harry McKinney, contract with other law enforcement agencies to train and certify K-9 officers, and the unit’s use of the Chester County Public Safety Training Campus.

“It is, and has been, the commissioners’ understanding that the K-9 unit and training academy were to be supported by funds raised by the sheriff,” it stated. “The Public Safety Training Campus has been used by the K-9 unit for training and, similar to other Chester County public safety agencies, was not charged a fee. The Sheriff’s K‐9 Program helps to protect the courts and county buildings and is also called upon by many municipalities, schools, first responder, civic and community organizations.

In his comments, Muth referenced the fact that the Sheriff’s Office had already undergone its annual audit, and had received a relatively clean appraisal.

“The Sheriff’s Office undergoes an audit each year,” he said. “The 2017 audit was finalized earlier this year by the controller. The Sheriff’s Office position is that the controller has no right or authority to reopen a finalized audit. However, in the spirit of cooperation and transparency several prior years of records of the private fundraising efforts in support of the K-9 Unit were provided to the controller for her review. The K-9 unit would not exist without these private fundraising efforts.

‘The sheriff is very proud of the work the deputies and civilians have done in support of this nationally recognized unit that provides great service to the citizens of Chester County at little cost to the taxpayers,” Muth said.

Reif and Verwey, however, have stated that the records sought in the subpoena concern not the audit of the Sheriff’s Office itself, but rather the money that was raised over nine years through outreach efforts on the office’s pages on, the county’s official website.   Source

August 14, 2018
Controller not happy with sheriff’s records

WEST CHESTER >> Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh has not fully complied with the subpoena the county Controller’s Office issued against her for records concerning her office’s K-9 Unit, the controller says.

“Our office is not at all satisfied with the compliance of the subpoena,” Controller Margaret Reif told the Daily Local News on Wednesday in an email. “We have received, and are currently reviewing, only a portion of what was required of the sheriff.”

Reif confirmed last week that her office had taken the rare and unusual step of issuing a subpoena against a county elected official to turn over documents that her office had requested as part of a formal audit, but which had been refused by the sheriff. The records involve funds that were raised by the Sheriff’s Office privately, but through the county’s website, to support the 10-member K-9 unit.

Those who sent donations to the K-9 unit, or purchased K-9 items from the sheriff’s web page were instructed to make checks payable to “CCSK9” — an abbreviation for “Chester County Sheriff’s K-9” — and send them in care of Lt. Harry McKinney, the office’s K-9 trainer and supervisor, at the county Justice Center.

“CCSK9 was never registered as a charitable organization, nor does it appear that there was anything more than a bank account held in that name,” Reif said Wednesday. “And yet, someone set up an unsanctioned landing page on the county website for soliciting and raising funds using the county mailing address, emails, and employees.

“As such, requesting an accounting of all bank records associated with this miscellaneous account, is absolutely within my purview as county controller,” she said.

Reif did not specify what records had been turned over, and which might still be outstanding.

Attorney Dawson R. Muth, the sheriff’s solicitor, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Last week, Muth said that funds for the K-9 unit were not county records and thus not under the authority of the controller. Welsh, however, said she would voluntarily make them available because CCSK-9 had “done such good work raising funds to provide the county with a first-class K-9 unit.” The money raised, the office indicated, totaled more than $100,000.

The office formed a nonprofit organization, the Friends of the Chester County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit, a month after Reif, a Democrat, was sworn in as the county’s financial watchdog.

Meanwhile, another matter involving the sheriff’s K-9 unit and its financial dealings is still making its way trough the county courts, two years after it first came to light.

In 2016, a Delaware County automobile dealer filed a lawsuit against the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, claiming that it was owed the $30,000 price of a car it transferred and refitted for use as a K-9 unit vehicle.

The dispute, which centers on whether the 2014 Dodge Durango was a sale to the county or a gift to the sheriff, is listed on Common Pleas Judge Edward R. Griffith’s trial docket for Aug. 27. It is not expected to go to trial this month, however, as there are several cases ahead of it on Griffith’s list.

Attorney Thomas Schindler of Kennett Square, who represents Videon Chysler Dodge Jeep of Newtown Square, said Wednesday in a telephone interview that he had hoped to have the matter disposed of expeditiously after filing the suit in March 2016.

“That hasn’t happened,” he said. “It has been difficult.”

Attorney Guy Donatelli, of the West Chester firm Lamb McErlane, is representing the county in the matter. He declined comment on the suit Thursday, saying it was still in litigation. He noted, however, that it was being “actively defended.”

In this case, the value of the Durango, which was later refurbished to allow for use as a K-9 vehicle, including a rear compartment dog cage, was set at more than $30,000. After months of trying to settle what he considered the debt and being put off by McKinney, dealership owner Steve Videon said he was told that the Durango had, in the Sheriff’s Office’s view, been given as a gift to support the K-9 unit.

McKinney also told Videon that he understood that repairs done by the dealership to other vehicles in the sheriff’s fleet that were damaged in a summer hail storm, costing more than $3,600, were done at no cost to the office, according to the suit.

The outcome of the case may rest on the role played by Michael McVeigh, Videon’s former sales manager.

According to the suit, McKinney and Videon met to discuss the situation in March 2015, a year after the Durango had been transferred — whether by contract or donation — to the Sheriff’s Office. At that time, McKinney told Videon that McVeigh, “had told him that (Videon) was ‘donating’” the Durango to the Sheriff’s Office for its use. McVeigh had worked at the dealership for two years, but had resigned from that position several months prior, according to the suit.

In a follow-up letter to the discussion that was attached to the complaint, Videon told McKinney that he had approved no such arrangement, something that would have needed his okay. “This is the first time I had heard this,” he wrote. “Please understand this was done without my knowledge or consent. Therefore, I cannot donate the vehicle.”

Schindler said that to his knowledge, the car is still being used by the Sheriff’s Office.

August 10, 2018
Chesco controller issues subpoena for K-9 money records

WEST CHESTER >> The Chester County Controller’s Office has taken the unusual step of issuing a subpoena to obtain financial records from the county Sheriff’s Office related to its K-9 unit so funds raised for the unit’s support can be audited.

A spokesman for the sheriff, in response to the subpoena, called the effort “political witchhunting” by a “Johnny come lately” against an elected official who has won national acclaim for her work in office. He promised that the sheriff would cooperate with the controller’s investigation, however.

Controller Margaret Reif confirmed on Friday that the subpoena had been sent to the Sheriff’s Office earlier this month, several weeks after it refused to voluntarily comply with an Audit Engagement letter asking to review records for the K-9 unit in June. Reif said her staff was told that because the K-9 Unit’s support effort was not under the direct control of Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, the office was under no obligation to provide the records for inspection by the controller.

But Reif pointed out that the Sheriff’s Office had – up until recently – been using the county’s website,, to promote and advertise ways for people to send private donations to help support the K-9 unit. That inclusion made the organization’s finances part of her purview.

“We want to take a look at the entity that is supporting the K-9s,” Reif said in an interview with the Daily Local News. “We want to see how that money is being used. That is part of my responsibility as controller: to oversee funds that are being raised by the county.”

Reif said that the Sheriff’s Office could have set up a nonprofit organization to help support the K-9 unit when it began raising money, and that would have been out of her authority to audit. But in using the county’s website, it opened itself for review of those financial records by the controller.

Asked how much money the Sheriff’s Office had raised through the website donations over the years, Reif said she did not know. “That’s what I’m looking for,” she said. “That’s my job.”

She stressed tthat her office’s audit had not found any deficienes with the Sherrif’s Office normal financial transactions. But questions about the extra-curricular K-9 Unit continued.

Reif said she had met with Welsh in response to her subpoena on Friday morning, but that no records were turned over or made available to her staff. She said she anticipates another follow-up meeting next week at which time her auditors might be given access to the records dealing with the K-9 Unit.

“It was our hope that the Sheriff’s Office would have cooperated with the audit request when it was made seven weeks ago, but after receiving a letter telling me that the sheriff would not and could not produce the paperwork required for the audit, we were left with no other option but to issue a subpoena,” Reif said in a statement.

Said Welsh in an e-mail to the Daily Local News, “Even though our attorneys thought that the controller has no authority to request the records of an independent organization, I requested that the nonprofit provide the controller with access to its records since they have done such good work raising funds to provide the county with a first-class K-9 unit.”

In response to Reif’s actions, attorney Dawson R. Muth of the West Chester law firm of Lamb McErlane, who is the solicitor for the Sheriff’s Office, said that Welsh had agreed to cooperate with the controller on multiple occasions in the past in connection with the K-9 unit records, but that Reif had decided to take the rare step of issuing a subpoena for political purposes. (Reif is a Democrat; Welsh is a Republican and among the county’s staunchest supporters of President Donald Trump.) He also issued a stinging defense of Welsh’s career.

“Sheriff Welsh turned a ‘rag-tag’ office with a bunch of guys in brown shirts into a nationally recognized, professional sheriff’s office,” Muth said in a statement Friday. “We have attempted to cooperate from day one. Now, the six-month, Johnny Come Lately steps in and seeks records for a private fundraising effort. It’s the basest, worst form of political witch hunting that I can imagine.”

The sheriff’s K-9 unit is a well publicized and highly popular part of the office, with public events and promotional appearances by K-9 officers with names like Luke and Nero and Dexter and Murphy at local schools and organizations The officers have particular skills such as bomb or drug detection, tracking criminal suspects, or hunting down lost children.

The dogs are on display almost daily in the county Justice Center, with 10 K-9 teams deployed throughout the building at various times and places.

But the unit is not funded with taxpayer money from the office’s annual county budget, which totaled $6.537 million in 2018. There is no line item in the budget for the K-9s, although their partners, those deputy sheriffs who work with the dogs, are county employees.

Instead, the costs of the K-9 unit, which might include training and certification, food, shelter, and veterinary expenses, are borne either by their handlers or with help from fundraising efforts that are the subject of the controller’s inquiries. (Some funds are also raised through invoicing outside agencies that request the use of the K-9 services.)

In a page seen up until recently on the county website soliciting donations, interested people could purchase Chester County K-9 calendars, with the profile of a new officer team every month; T-shirts with a K-9 picture; Chester County Sheriff Office shoulder patches; or a lapel pin. The items cost between $7 and $25.

Those wishing to make a donation could do so via PayPal or credit card, and select an option to make a monthly donation.

Inquiries about the program or items for sale, or those wanting to make direct donation, were to be sent to Lt. Harry McKinney, who supervises the K-9 unit, at his county email address, or to his private Gmail account. The page – Reif said was taken down about three weeks ago, after her office’s audit request – was part of the Sheriff’s Office section on the county website and featured images of the sheriff’s insignia.

Those ordering items were instructed to make checks payable to “CCSK 9” and send them to the Sheriff’s Office in the Justice Center.

Reif’s decision to issue a subpoena – which she is empowered to do under the state’s County Code – is the first time in memory that a controller has done so. She said she understood that there had been questions asked in the past about the K-9 Unit’s fundraising activity, but did not believe any audit was ever begun of the funds.

By state law, the controller has the authority to set accounting standards, audit the county’s fiscal records, aid in overseeing its pension, and to investigate “fraud, flagrant abuse of public office or any act or neglect of any officer or other county employee.”

“The assertion that this is a political with hunt is absurd, frankly,” said attorney Anthony Verwey of the West Chester law firm of Gawthrop Greenwood, in response to Muth’s accusation “The controller is doing her job.”

Verwey noted that the fundraising effort by those in the Sheriff’s Office had only been certified as a nonprofit organization – the Friends of the Chester County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit – in February, and that it had continued raising money through the county’s website until recently. Those funds raised previously – which Muth and Welsh said were significant – had never been audited by the county controller or by any other agency.

“There was no legal group handling those funds” until this year, a month after Reif took office. “It was never audited by anybody.”

Said Reif: “Personal and uncivil attacks are inappropriate. The audit request by my office was simple, straightforward and well within the scope of my duties as Controller to conduct an audit of a miscellaneous account. It appears there is a great deal of money that has been raised over many years using the county website, county resources and county employees. That money has never been subject to audit by the county controller or to our knowledge the Commonwealth.

It was our hope that the Sheriff’s Office would have cooperated with the audit request when it was made 7 weeks ago, but after receiving a letter telling me that the Sheriff would not and could not produce the paperwork required for the audit, we were left with no other option but to issue a subpoena.

“I’m proud of the work done by our K-9 unit,” said Welsh in her statement. “The hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds and services from private sources over the last nine years has provided Chester County law enforcement a valuable tool without a burden to the taxpayers.

“These amazing K-9s provide public safety, they are a security presence in the courthouse,” she added. “They are essential in clearing schools when there is a bomb threat. They search to find lost children. They locate dangerous drugs. Our comfort dog helps care for children under stress in the courts. Their value cannot be measured.”     Source

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