Beaver County’s new Sheriff has revealed himself to be a near clone of his troubled predecessor, the version 2.0 of man whose actions threw county government into turmoil and ended his party’s rein of power in the process. History is repeating itself and local Republicans would be wise to heed lessons learned from mistakes made by the Democrats before them.
The county elections of 2015 saw Republicans gain control of the courthouse for the first time in half a century. The party achieved the majority of the Board of Commissioners, put two of their own in charge of the offices of Coroner and Sheriff, and installed a Republican into the powerful seat of District Attorney. Although several factors coalesced to help the Republicans achieve these historic victories, it can not be denied that nothing — or rather no one — had a larger impact on the election than Democratic Sheriff George David.
Stories of George David’s antics will outlive him; his shameful behaviors are destine to become cataloged among tales from a time when long-lived corruption began to be exposed for all to see, started to become explained for all to understand. George David’s extreme behavior unwittingly helped to unlock greater truths about Beaver County for the people who live in it — with that knowledge came power which the newly empowered denizens of Beaver County used to take sweeping actions toward ending the victimization of innocent people, the self-dealings and self-serving misuses of public monies, and the squandering of their community’s very future.
These Republicans were elected to the task of reforming and transforming county government, and while voters gifted them a clear mandate under which to operate, they also placed upon their shoulders a heavy burden of enormous expectation. It has been only one year since the seeds of that revolution were first sown, still far too early to realize what harvests may be reaped, but for one notable exception — it has already become disturbingly apparent the Office of Sheriff is once again beginning to bear a rotten fruit indeed.
Since taking office in January, Tony Guy has protected and defended corrupt elements of his department, sought to expand the scope and authority of his office, manipulated and intimidated fellow officials to increase the power and influence he wields within his party and throughout the county, retaliated against those who stood between him and his ambitions, and has tried desperately to stifle the free press to shade the public’s view of his actions. There is simply no mistaking that Tony Guy has been closely following the playbook written by his predecessor Sheriff George David; if his party does not wisen up to these realities the new Sheriff will soon ruin the Republicans in the same manner the old Sheriff destroyed the Democrats.
Tony Guy has been betraying virtually every promise he made to the people of Beaver County since the first day he was sworn into office. He has pushed for increases rather than shrinkage in his office’s budget, reigned over the continuation of false allegations against detractors, stood by the issuance of deceptive press releases for political gain, and helped to further retaliation against those who would be agents of change.
Among his first official actions as Sheriff was to fire long-time Deputy Curtis Larrick, a man whose testimony in court led to George David being placed on house arrest for three months. The Pennsylvania State Police had briefed the newly elected Tony Guy about Larrick’s pivotal role in uncovering corruption and will testify on the former deputy’s behalf in a federal civil rights lawsuit he filed against the new Sheriff.
Tony Guy’s firing of Larrick seems to be no more than an appeasement of the large group of George David loyalists who Guy kept employed in his office. Sheriff George David himself had lobbied Guy for Larrick’s termination, as did individuals who had lied to State Police, worked to hamper their investigations, and retaliated and harassed those who sought to expose wrongdoings being perpetrated by others who had violated their own oaths to protect and serve.
Sheriff Guy has often followed in Sheriff David’s footsteps, in part, because he has surrounded himself with many of the same people — another critical error made despite specific warnings issued to Guy by the State Police along with public officials and politicos from both the Republican and Democratic parties.
While Guy fired one of the few deputies in the Sheriff’s Office who lived up to his oath to the people of Beaver County, one of his few hires for new deputies since taking office was that of a former police officer who was twice arrested under allegations of filing false police reports. Although the man was acquitted at trial, an arbitrator upheld his department’s termination of him, and the municipality he worked for paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle civil rights lawsuits filed against him. This is apparently Tony Guy’s idea of restoring confidence in the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office by bringing in only the most qualified and dignified of personnel.
Tony Guy promised on the campaign trail that he would deflate a Sheriff’s Office which had become bloated under George David, yet just two weeks after taking office the new Sheriff approached the Board of Commissioners seeking to have the modest budgetary cuts made by the previous Board restored. When the new Board refused and then made further cuts to the Sheriff’s budget, Tony Guy spent a year attacking them in the press, accusing them of endangering the safety of the public — often times nearly echoing the arguments of George David verbatim. Tony Guy’s attacks against Chairwoman Sandie Egley are strikingly reminiscent of the ones George David perpetrated against then-Chairman Tony Amadio (it is hard to forget the time David and supporters went on television to accuse Commissioner Amadio of not taking the safety of children seriously).
Like George David’s wife Linda, Tony Guy’s wife has also interjected herself into the political mix. “John Paul is Raven,” petty political message chains similar to this regularly make their way from Sylvia Guy to Kathy Eckelberger (Representative Jim Christiana’s mother), on to people like former Republican prothonotary candidate Pamela Flara, operative Alicia Hinzman, and on and on. As with George and Linda, Tony and Sylvia have proven themselves to be small and sophomoric and consistently wrong.
Then there is Tony Guy’s seemingly masterful manipulation of District Attorney David Lozier, building a strong relationship which enabled Guy to interject his office into a “war on drugs,” duties far outside the scope of those mandated for Sheriff’s Offices in Pennsylvania. Lozier lacked experience in criminal law when taking office — lawman Tony Guy quickly offered himself up as a fence post to lean against. Guy and Lozier held joint press conferences to tout busts and the Sheriff repeatedly went to the media hyping up his K-9 unit and attacking Commissioners for limiting its funding. At the same time, disturbing truths once again began to be exposed about the Sheriff’s Office — two of the dogs were privately owned by their handlers who were running for-profit businesses with them that utilized public resources, one of the animals was previously rejected by another police department because of its poor temperament, thousands of dollars in donations to the K-9 program could not be properly accounted for.
Tales from the Sheriff’s Office since Tony Guy took control may be new but in many ways are no different than ones we have heard so many times before — stories of violations of sexual harassment policies, the apologist’s touting of a controversial former deputy for appointment to an advisory board, the filing of criminal charges outside the scope of a deputy’s authority, the list continues.
The most troubling realities about the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office are those which have yet to be fully reported to the public, allegations of social ties between some deputies and known drug dealers which have been documented, investigated, and continue to be cause of grave concern in law enforcement circles, yet substantially unaddressed by the new duly elected Sheriff.
Time and again, even after he has become fully aware of problems with programs or personnel within his office, Tony Guy has mimicked the George David tactic of denial and attack, denial and attack, denial and attack. Like his predecessor, Guy has been working diligently over the past year to quash reporting about the Sheriff’s Office, including by attempting to co-opt other officials from his party to join in his news boycott, not because the reporting has not been factual, but because there are simply no ways for him to legitimately rationalize to the public many of the major decisions he has been irrationally making since taking office.
Unfortunately for Tony Guy the days of rule through threats and fear and manipulation are over in Beaver County, protectionism will no longer be permitted by the public, attempts at obfuscation of the press will continue to backfire against him. Sheriff Guy’s tenure already epitomizes all that Beaver Countians rejected so handily in the last election — his methods will fail as will his ambitions of using the Sheriff’s Department as a springboard for higher office still.
We all saw how this nearly identical scenario played out for the Democratic party. The only real question left for the passage of time to answer, is how many Republican officials will allow Tony Guy to take them down with him too.