Security still a hot topic in the county
Eckstein says rules are lax
December 5, 2012
Building and office security continues to be a bone of contention among Butler County officials. County Commissioner Jim Eckstein said at last Wednesday’s meeting that the problem isn’t in the commissioners office on the fifth floor of the government center. He said the real issue is at the employee entrance on the bottom level in the rear of the building. “The county’s rules are very lax,” he said. Eckstein said employees can bring anything into the building. “We have almost no security,” he said. “They’re not checked at all.” Sheriff’s deputies man the front entrance on Diamond Street, where visitors must go through a metal detector to enter the government center or the courthouse. An X-ray machine there scans belongings on a conveyor belt. A security camera monitors the rear employee entrance, where workers and elected officials swipe an identification card to gain entry. Sheriff Mike Slupe didn’t directly respond to Eckstein’s claim of lax security. “It’s an issue the commissioners and the court needs to agree on,” he said. President Judge Thomas Doerr, who did not attend the meeting, said in an interview that no county official should discuss building security measures in a public venue. “It is not appropriate to discuss security policy,” Doerr said. Tom Holman, deputy court administrator, said there used to be seven public entrances to the government center and courthouse. But 12 years ago that number was reduced to one public entrance and three employee entrances. Eckstein said Doerr’s Nov. 19 order to station a deputy in the commissioners office on the fifth floor was a political move. “I guess I’ve been public enemy number one since taking office in January,” Eckstein said. He accused Doerr of issuing the order because of friendships with the other county commissioners, Bill McCarrier and Dale Pinkerton. Eckstein pointed out that Doerr was at their campaign headquarters last year. Doerr refuted his rationale was based on anything but safety concerns. “I did it because I see the conduct at the meetings, the level of confrontation being increasingly volatile,” he said. Doerr said he’s never engaged in inappropriate political activity. McCarrier pointed out his friendship with Doerr doesn’t extend socially. Eckstein stressed he doesn’t possess any weapons, so he’s not a danger. “I don’t own a handgun,” he said. Eckstein accused McCarrier of bragging about carrying a weapon. McCarrier said he only mentioned owning a gun, which he only takes with him into the woods. Slupe agreed with McCarrier that only law enforcement officers are permitted to carry guns into county buildings. Doerr stressed he issued the order to prevent an incident. “We need to be preemptive,” he said. Eckstein claimed Doerr exceeded his jurisdiction by issuing the order. “I think Judge Doerr is way overstepping his bounds in this matter,” Eckstein said. He said under the Pennsylvania Rules of Judicial Administration, the judge only has authority over building security during emergency situations. Doerr said Eckstein is mistaken because judges have authority over security at all times. Doerr’s order states a deputy should be assigned to the commissioners office as soon as it’s practical. However, he is meeting next week with the commissioners, who may ask him to rescind the order.