Chesco Controller Seeking To Kill K-9 Unit? –-The Democrats took control, last November, of several Chester County line offices, including controller, and as is their wont turned them into tools of toxic partisanship.
Controller Margaret Reif has released to the press an “audit” concerning the county’s K-9 Unit. The unit was started by Sheriff Bunny Welsh in 2006 and is funded with private money albeit obviously some public resources find there way to it.
Ms. Reif claims she has found financial impropriety and says she has a scandal. The Daily Local News is running stories about it.
The only thing Ms. Reif has revealed, though, is her profound ignorance. She mocks the notion that the unit’s dogs are considered sworn deputies, a tradition in law enforcement.
“What do they do? Sign with their paw?” she scoffed.
Is it hate that drives her or simple stupidity?
Naturally, however, the usual suspects have formed a lynch mob against much-admired Sheriff Welsh and want to subject her to two-minutes of hate each day until the 2019 election.
Dawson Muth, the sheriff’s department solicitor, has released a powerful point-by-point rebuttal which we are including below.
The most telling point is in the last paragraph.
“Finally, what is the controller’s goal here?” Muth says. “To shut down the K-9 Unit? To go back to the days of waiting hours for Philadelphia bomb dogs to show up during bomb threats?”
No good deed goes unpunished.
Does simple decency and the public good now take distant back seats to partisan hate for Democrats? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Statement of Chester County Sheriff’s Solicitor
“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.”
These are just a fraction of the egregious misrepresentations printed by Daily Local News reporter Michael Rellahan in a story published on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Yes, Mr. Rellahan was simply regurgitating the unverified information provided to him by County Controller Margaret Reif, but, at the very least, he should have attempted to verify the information. Had the Controller taken the least bit of time to ask any questions or conduct a proper investigation and audit, which any professional will agree includes asking questions concerning expenditures, receipts and accounts, or even attempted to the slightest degree of professionalism to verify any of the information she forwarded to the press, she and the Daily Local News would have learned that the Baltimore hotel bill covered the attendance of eight (8) Chester County Sheriff Deputies, two of whom were accompanied by their K-9 partners, at the National Sheriffs’ Association conference in Baltimore. For the first time in decades, the event, which offers a superb training and networking opportunity, was held in this region, making the CCSO’s participation affordable. It indeed was an honor for the CCSO to be featured at and to make a presentation at a National Conference.
The cost of meals over three years included a multitude of events, such as hosting regional K-9 trials and competitions – the kind of valuable training sessions that improve the quality of the CCSO’s award-winning K-9 teams. Yes, some of those funds were for meals for the K9 Deputies as a reward for their hard work and service. They are on-call and frequently get called out in the middle of the night or work weekend events. Again, these costs were not paid for with taxpayer funds.
The so-called “custom-made golf cart” is another gross inaccuracy. The vehicle in question is a used utility vehicle which was purchased with private funds and has been called into service at numerous Community and K-9 events. It has been used to transport people in medical emergencies out of crowded situations such as the Freedom Fest and other Community events the Sheriff’s Office is called upon for security. The vehicle is equipped with a medical kit just for such purposes. It has also been used for non-K-9 purposes,such as transporting county workers with health issues to their cars when the parking garage elevator went out of service. It is not a “golf cart”, it has a specific, legitimate function. This vehicle was purchased with private funds raised by the hard working men and women of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office and is now property of the County, at no cost to the taxpayers. You are welcome!
The accusation that mechanical work was done on a personal pickup truck represents a blatant malicious lie. The work was performed on a county-owned vehicle, which the Sheriff’s Office uses for special events. It is a surplus specialty vehicle, purchased with private funds and then titled over to the County. Perhaps if the Controller took just a moment of time away from attacking the Sheriff and checked to ascertain which vehicles are owned by the County she might have discovered this before making such an absurd allegation.
A $579 bill for a one-night stay at the Quality Hotel in Exton in September 2017 is equally inaccurate. The CCSO took its turn hosting the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Pennsylvania. The bill – again, at no expense to taxpayers — covered two nights for four deputies, who were working around the clock to ensure that the conference was successful and safe. Again, no taxpayers’ dollars were spent on this endeavor.
The controller has been quoted as saying that her review raised more questions than it answered; however, what’s significant is that no questions were ever asked of anyone connected to the Sheriff’s Office as would be done in a professional audit. In addition, no one bothered to take an inventory of items and assets that were purchased with K-9 funds, items that have since benefitted all county citizens in numerous ways. The controller interpreted the numbers in the light most unfavorable to the CCSO and then provided them to the Daily Local News, which ran them without verifying anything.
It’s outrageous to think that a report like this, filled with inaccuracies and assumptions was released, and even more outrageous that a newspaper would print it. A real audit is being done by a well-respected CPA in the area. I’m very confident that the results will indicate nothing improper, and I hope the Daily Local News will make sure that information gets publicized with the same prominence as the egregious misrepresentations to date.
In the meantime, the controller should be asked some questions. Why does she continue to reference hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been raised using county resources when no documentation supports that claim? The only way to reach that number has no connection to the county: It includes the value of the veterinary care and related services that have been donated by generous individuals who recognize the K-9 Unit’s importance. It also includes the increase in the dogs’ value. The initial investment for a dog and training is about $15,000 to $20,000. A fully trained canine is valued at $30,000 to $40,000.
Why has the controller opted to turn this issue into a prolonged public assault? Why does she leak information to the press in piecemeal fashion? Would she have handled matters the same way if the Sheriff were a Democrat? How can she suggest that she’s committed to reducing costs when she’s chosen to rack up legal fees and force county workers to spend weeks of their time examining a private fund that provides myriad benefits to taxpayers at minimal cost? She argues that CCSO employees received comp time for staffing the three annual fundraisers that support the K-9 Unit and other community programs; that time represents far less than 1% of the employees’ total hours. As a result of those efforts, K-9 teams have found lost children, cleared schools after a bomb threat, and removed dangerous criminals from the street, AT NO COST TO THE TAXPAYERS!!!
Why has the controller offered no suggestions for funding the K-9 Unit? With no expense line in the budget for K-9s, how could the teams possibly compete, host an event, train or teach without support from donations and contributions? As the K-9 program has grown, fueled by demand for its services, it has brought national acclaim to Chester County. The K9 Deputies and their K9 partners have won numerous awards, and its programs, such as the use of “control poles” to reduce dog fatalities during encounters with law enforcement, have served as national models.
Finally, what is the controller’s goal here? To shut down the K-9 Unit? To go back to the days of waiting hours for Philadelphia bomb dogs to show up during bomb threats? To bring negative publicity to a county that has always prided itself on resolving problems with collegial cooperation? During one early discussion with the Sheriff, the controller mocked the fact that the dogs are all sworn deputies. “What do they do? Sign with their paw?” she scoffed. One can’t help but wonder whether her lack of understanding and appreciation of the dogs’ value will make it impossible for her to retreat from her relentless attacks on one of the county’s most valuable assets. Perhaps she should have been standing in the ruins of the Barclay Friends nursing home when K-9 Don, named the top cadaver K-9 in the nation two years in a row, helped authorities search for and locate one of the missing victims of the fatal fire, at no cost to the taxpayers.
Dawson R. Muth, Esq.
Solicitor to the Sheriff