Beaver County officials have put an end to sheriff’s deputies use of the courthouse to operate a nonprofit corporation with a stated purpose of raising money for their office’s K9 program. The move came after BeaverCountian.com questioned officials about the deputies’ use of taxpayer resources to raise money for a corporation they control without county government oversight.
The Beaver County Sheriff’s office publicly solicited donations to the corporation in a July 28 post to its official Facebook page. Sheriff Tony Guy also used his Facebook page to drum up financial contributions from the public.
“We have a non-profit account that is run by donation and any fundraising. It is called ‘Beaver County K-9 Unit’ and now goes to fund … Ruke who is one of our active K-9’s specializing in narcotics and rescue … Also, K-9 Rangwo who specializes in bomb detection and rescue,” the post said in part.
“Anyone that would like to donate, at any time, can do so by making out a check to ‘Beaver County K-9 Unit’ and mailing it to our office at 810 Third Street, Beaver, Pa 15009 with attention to Deputy Jim Brown. If there are any questions about donations, please forward them to Sgt. Bredemeier who is in charge of the financials for our non-profit at email@example.com.”
The address of the Beaver County Courthouse is 810 Third Street, and the email address listed for Bredemeier is one maintained by the county for official governmental business.
The “Beaver County K9 Unit” was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in April by Deputy James Brown II, Deputy Sgt. Jennifer Bredemeier, and Bret Gradek, according to records maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of State. The filing contact is listed as Ryan Rapko.
According to state records, Gradek is president of the New Sheffield Cafe Inc., which operates a bar located in Aliquippa. Ryan “Chuckles” Rapko is the former controller of Coast2Coast, a company owned by prominent Aliquippa businessman Frank Catroppa. Rapko is also the brother of Deputy Justin Rapko.
The “Beaver County K9 Unit” lists its address in state filings as a personal residence in Aliquippa that Brown shares with his wife, fellow deputy Kristen Chapes Brown (Kristen also works as an officer with the Center Twp. police department).
The company was registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a public charity, which allows donors to deduct contributions to the organization from their taxes.
Unlike police officers and county detectives, sheriff’s deputies do not have investigative powers in Pennsylvania and are instead considered an arm of the courts, with responsibilities including serving civil writs, protecting courtrooms, and transporting prisoners. Brown’s ownership of a drug detection dog enables the sheriff’s office to involve itself in narcotics investigations in ways it would otherwise be unable.