Judge: County Sheriff Must Be Elected

Article excerpt

Allegheny County's longstanding tradition of electing a sheriff will carry on, at least for another five years, a county judge ruled today.

Common Pleas Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III sided with the Sheriff's Association of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in its lawsuit to keep the county and Chief Executive Dan Onorato from holding a public referendum in May asking voters to decide whether the county sheriff should remain an elected position or be appointed by the chief executive.

Strassburger wrote in his 15-page order and opinion that the county is prohibited from changing its form of government more than once in five years.

In 2005, the county amended its form of government by alllowing six of 10 row offices to be appointed rather than elected. Appointed department heads now include the medical examiner, register of wills, prothonotary, recorder of deeds, clerk of courts and jury commissioners. The four court-related offices are being phased out this year.

The county attempted to circumvent the five-year rule by having the decision on the sheriff's position take effect in 2010.

Strassburger said his ruling should not be viewed as an opinion on the outcome of any future referendum. …