Ex-Sheriff Welsh, Deputy McKinney face charges over misuse of funds, deputies

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

Former Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh. Times file photo.

State criminal charges and arrest warrants were issued Tuesday against former Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh and her boyfriend former Sheriff’s Deputy Harry McKinney alleging misappropriated funds from a charity for the department and alleged misuse of resources of the Sheriff’s Department.

Welsh, who retired at the end of her term in December, 2019, and McKinney, who left the department as well, had been the subject of an investigation for more than a year in a case involving potential improper use of county funds and resources between 2015 and 2019. 

Welsh, who held the post of Chester County Sheriff for 20 years, reached national fame, seen often at the right hand of President Donald Trump during law enforcement media events in Washington, D.C. She also at one point served as Sergeant At Arms for the National Sheriffs Association.

“Bunny Welsh used her position of power for her and her partner Harry McKinney’s own personal gain instead of serving her community as she was elected to do. Welsh and McKinney allegedly used public employees to perform work for private charity events both on and off-duty at the expense of Chester County, and McKinney then used those fundraised dollars to cover his own personal expenses,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “This blatant misappropriation of funds is unacceptable. My office has made over 60 public corruption arrests since I took office and I will continue to hold any public officials accountable for abusing their office and public trust.”

Welsh faces charges of theft of services – diversion and theft by taking according to the complaint, filed Tuesday in Magisterial District Court 215-1-01. McKinney faces charges of theft of services – diversion, and two counts of theft by unlawful taking. 

The specifics of the charges against Welsh: that she allowed deputies to perform non-governmental services on her behalf during regular work hours when they were being paid by the county. Additionally, the charges say she paid deputies to work at her charity events with county funds, using compensatory time.

McKinney faces charges of directing deputies, in his capacity as head of the Sheriff’s K-9 Unit, to perform non-governmental duties while being paid by the county. He also faces charges of giving deputies paid time off — at county expense — in exchange for working charity events. He also is charged with taking funds donated to the K-9 Unit to pay for the care of his personal dog, not a working member of the Sheriffs Department.

Investigators said McKinney officially had the rank of Deputy 1, but was given the “honorary” title of Lt. by Welsh, and put him in charge of the K-9 Unit and fundraising. The department’s biggest fundraiser, The Wild Game Dinner allegedly used deputies as volunteers for the events. Welsh is alleged to have given each deputy who worked the event paid hours off for every hour they volunteered for the event. Deputies allegedly got 1.5 hours off paid for hours they volunteered outside of normal work hours. Investigators said that McKinney controlled all of the funds raised — seemingly without oversight from Welsh — and that he used those funds to pay for medicine, vet visits and boarding for his pet dog.

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