Westmoreland sheriff names Hempfield woman new chief deputy

November 20, 2018

Just days after her predecessor was fired, Sheriff Jonathan Held announced Monday he is promoting a six-year employee to be his chief deputy.

Denise Appleby, 51, of Hempfield was promoted to serve as second in command of the sheriff’s office and will oversee a staff of about 70 full- and part-time staffers. She will earn an annual salary of $43,407.

“I have full faith in her ability to lead the office as she worked her way up through the ranks,” Held said.

Appleby replaces Patricia Fritz, the department’s former chief deputy, who was fired last week after a county investigation into alleged workplace violence.

Fritz, 63, of Mt. Pleasant was convicted earlier this month of a summary harassment offense in connection with a physical altercation during a meeting with the president of the union that represents deputy sheriffs.

Fritz denies the claims and is appealing her conviction. Held testified for the defense at Fritz’s trial and allowed her to work from home after county commissioners barred her from the courthouse this summer as an investigation was conducted.

Held eventually consented to Fritz’s firing after a recommendation from the county’s Human Resources office.

Appleby was hired by Held in 2012 as a clerk in the sheriff’s office. She was named as a deputy in 2014 before being promoted last year to lieutenant.

She is a former elementary school teacher who previously served in the U.S. Navy, Held said.

Appleby takes over a position that puts her in line to serve as acting sheriff should Held voluntary leave office or be forced to relinquish his position.

Held, 44, is awaiting trial on three charges of theft and one count of conflict of interest. Officials allege Held forced deputies to perform campaign chores while on duty. He has denied the charges.

Held said Appleby’s appointment is expected to improve morale in an office that has been besieged with controversy and personnel conflicts, some of which rank-and-file deputies attributed to the former chief deputy.

“I think she’s proven to be someone everyone gets along with,” Held said of Appleby. “I’ll give our union members the benefit of the doubt and hope they all work together.”

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