Beaver County Sheriff Tony Guy is expected to have his clerks questioned this week about whether any of them provided information about his office to BeaverCountian.com.
Chief Deputy Dean Michael gathered the female employees together Wednesday to notify them that formal questioning about their interactions with BeaverCountian.com investigative reporter John Paul will be taking place this week. Michael will be conducting the questioning of the women along with office solicitor Allen Andrascik.
Andrascik shared office space with District Attorney David Lozier prior to his election at the end of 2015.
The 10-question interrogation of the women will attempt to determine who provided this publication with a copy of a newly instituted policy in the sheriff’s office aimed at the female clerks. The policy was announced in a Jan. 18 letter by Michael to the staff, in which he appeared to blame the women for a continued negative reputation the sheriff’s office has in the law enforcement community.
BeaverCountian.com published excerpts of Michael’s letter in a Jan. 18 edition of John Paul’s Notebook.
“When I worked here in the 1980’s, nearly every police department in Beaver County looked up to the Sheriff’s office. It could be that way again if it not for the ‘petty’ grievances that some of you simply will not let go.”
Michael is also expected to question Sheriff Tony Guy to determine if he provided the policy to BeaverCountian.com. Also questioned will be Captain Jay Alstadt and Thomas Plunkard. None of the men are believed by the office to be a source.
The decision by the sheriff’s office to question its staff about interactions with the press was made without consulting the county’s law department or human resources office. The office did however consult with attorney Marie Milie Jones of the Pittsburgh law firm JonesPassodelis, according to officials.
Jones was the attorney assigned by the county’s insurance carrier to defend Guy in a federal lawsuit brought by a former deputy who alleged he had been fired as an act of political retaliation (the county settled the litigation for $85,000). It is not immediately clear in what capacity Jones was serving when consulted about the planned questioning of staff.
Michael boasted to the women in the office that his planned interrogations had been greenlighted by two attorneys.
Sheriff Guy’s decision to allow Michael to conduct the questioning is raising concerns among other officials in county government. In June 2016, BeaverCountian.com published an article detailing the results of an investigation conducted by the county’s law department which determined Michael had violated the county’s sexual harassment policy when interacting with a female clerk.
The county had recommended specific disciplinary and corrective actions be taken against Michael as a result, but Guy refused.
This is not the first time BeaverCountian.com has found itself in the cross-hairs of the sheriff’s office during Guy’s tenure.
In March 2016, Guy wrote to commissioners accusing BeaverCountian.com’s John Paul of violating courthouse security. A subsequent investigation by commissioners determined the accusation was false.
In Sept. 2016, Michael sent a letter to county commissioners blaming BeaverCountian.com for the office’s inability to attract quality applicants for open deputy positions.
“Attempts to hire and recruit good quality personnel have been seriously hampered by the continued attempts to dismantle this office,” Michael wrote at the time.
“No one with necessary experience wants to subject themselves to the visceral attacks that are routinely levied by the courthouse blogger. These attacks serve no legitimate purpose and are nothing more than a disruption of County government. Nothing good will ever come of this if the negative influence is allowed to continue.”
Michael’s letter did not detail how the county should attempt to prevent BeaverCountian.com’s reporting.
The 2016 letters arrived to the board as BeaverCountian.com published articles detailing a string of controversies that hit the sheriff’s office, including improprieties involving the office’s K-9 program.
BeaverCountian.com has repeatedly exposed false statements made by the sheriff’s office under Guy which have arisen as controversies erupted.
In July 2016, BeaverCountian.com exposed a deceptive press release sent out by the sheriff’s office falsely claiming an inmate’s “escape” was the direct result of budgetary shortfalls.
In June 2017, this publication exposed a false complaint made by a deputy against county commissioners alleging he was the target of racial harassment. The compliant came as BeaverCountian.com was continuing to investigate controversies involving overtime in the sheriff’s office and disputes Guy was having with commissioners about the scope of duties being performed by his office.
Reports about the sheriff’s office have continued since that time. Most recently, reporting by BeaverCountian.com has revealed the Pennsylvania Statewide Investigating Grand Jury’s subpoenaing of sheriff’s deputies as part of ongoing investigations.