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Pennsylvania Chief Retiring, Cites Hatch Act

Springettsbury Township Police Chief David Eshbach is retiring June 7, after being told by federal officials that he is violating the federal Hatch Act.

Eshbach, 46, of Dover Township, is running for Dover-area district judge. He won the May primary election, running on both the Republican and Democratic tickets. He's the only candidate to advance from the primary.

The position is currently held by longtime District Judge Gerald Shoemaker, who will be retiring in January.

Eshbach said he was told by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel -- which enforces the Hatch Act -- that he is violating federal law by running for a partisan election.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal, civil-servant employees from engaging in partisan political activity.

However, candidates running for partisan office who also work in supervisory positions for any agency or business receiving federal funding are also covered under the act.

"I didn't know that was an issue," he said. "I had every intention of finishing the year out. ... But so as not to jeopardize my campaign or the township, I'll just step down."

Federal funds: So far, Springettsbury Township has not received any federal funding in 2011, according to the township, but it is expected to receive a $1,500 grant for bulletproof vests in the near future.

Eshbach said that before deciding to run for district judge, he had his legal counsel research the Hatch Act issue and was told he would not be in violation if he cross-filed as both a Republican and a Democrat.

But simply cross-filing in a partisan election is not enough to satisfy Hatch Act requirements, according to the federal government's Hatch Act website.

Avoiding 'distraction': Eshbach said his attorneys disagree with the Office of Special Counsel's interpretation of the law, but fighting it would simply be a distraction.

"They enforce the law the way they see fit," he said. "If (my campaign) is in violation, we'll do whatever we have to do to remedy it, and that's what we did. It's about doing what's right for the people."

He said he will now focus on attending the June session of the state's required district-judge certification training. Elected district judges cannot serve until successfully completing the training.

Eshbach told his officers Wednesday that he is retiring early, he said.

"They didn't see it coming," he said.

No replacement yet: As of Thursday, no decision had been made about his replacement, Eshbach said.

"I have an awesome group of people here that I work with. I'm not happy that I have to leave earlier than I expected to ... but I have other endeavors I wish to pursue."

Eshbach is proud of his tenure as chief.

"Some days you love it, some days you hate it. That's just how the job is," he said. "The best part of it is just being able to help people."

Officer, farmer: Eshbach has been chief since 1997 and was hired by that department as a patrolman in 1986. He graduated from Dover Area High School in 1982 and, in his spare time, is a cattle farmer.

He is married to Senior Deputy Pennsylvania Attorney General Jonelle Harter Eshbach and has three stepchildren. His grown son, Michael Eshbach, is a paramedic with Memorial Hospital and a Dover Township volunteer firefighter.

He is a past president of the York County Chiefs of Police Association and is also a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Eshbach is a past team commander of the county's Quick Response Team and an original member of the York Suburban Communities that Care prevention board; he also serves as a deacon for Shiloh United Church of Christ.

-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at levans@yorkdispatch.com, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.


 

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