Westmoreland sheriff hires recent college grad as second-in-command |

Westmoreland sheriff hires recent college grad as second-in-command

Rich Cholodofsky

Embattled Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held hired a recent college graduate with no previous law enforcement experience to serve as his second in command.

Held announced the appointment of Travis Day, 23, of Jeannette to serve as a captain in the sheriff’s department, filling a void in the leadership team due to an indefinite medical leave and a resignation.

Day will earn $39,126 annually, according to the county’s human resources office.

Held, in an email exchange, said Day was one of six applicants for the job.

“His resume far surpassed the others,” Held wrote.

The Tribune-Review has requested information about the other applicants.

Day had sought a job as a deputy sheriff, according to his job application on file with the county’s Human Resources Department.

Day graduated last year with a master’s degree in criminal investigation from Waynesburg University and bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and political science from Clarion University in 2015, his application shows.

In his application, Day said he had worked since December as a manager at the Hollister Co. retail clothing store at Westmoreland Mall. His previous employment history included a year stint as a volunteer youth mentor at Small Seeds Development, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that works to strengthen families.

Held said Day will have to complete a 19-week training program in State College before he can perform all sheriff’s department duties. He will serve in an administrative capacity until he completes the training, Held said.

The sheriff’s department has 54 full-time and 19 part-time deputies and support staffers. It primarily provides security in county courtrooms as well as transfer services for inmates to and from jail. Deputies also serve arrest warrants and notices to sell foreclosed properties.

Day’s appointment comes less than a month after county commissioners launched a probe of hiring practices within the sheriff’s office. Three job applicants claim they were denied positions within the department because they are black.

Commissioners in February received letters from two job applicants and a current deputy who alleged Held’s chief deputy, Patricia Fritz, refused to hire black candidates to fill vacancies in the office.

Day is African-American.

Fritz took an indefinite leave of absence last month after county commissioners launched the investigation. She filed a complaint with the county that she was harassed and inappropriately touched by an assistant county solicitor during questioning as part of the investigation.

Day started work Monday. With Fritz on medical leave, he becomes second in command and would be in line to serve as the acting sheriff should Held resign or be ousted from office.

Held, 43, of Hempfield was charged this month by agents with the state Attorney General’s office with public corruption-related offenses in connection with allegations that he forced staff in the sheriff’s department to perform political duties while at work.

Held denied the allegations and claimed they were made by political adversaries.

In January, Held submitted a proposal to the county commissioners to abolish the captain’s job and give a $10,000 raise to Fritz and $5,000 pay hikes to two lieutenants in the sheriff’s office. Commissioners never acted on that request.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]

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