Dauphin County’s chief public defender facing charges for allegedly using public funds to support political work

HARRISBURG -- Bradley Winnick, the chief public defender for Dauphin County, is accused of compensating his employees for working polls in support of a judicial candidate during the county's primary and general elections in 2017.

Winnick, 47, allegedly approved double compensatory time for each hour county employees worked at a polling location -- each employee that worked 13 hours received 26 hours of time. Between the two days, that time totaled more than $26,000 in comp time. The Hummelstown resident faces the following charges in connection with the incident: theft of services, tampering with public records and conflict of interest, court documents show.

"Our election laws are clear—public funds are not to be used to support political work," said Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who announced the charges Thursday. "The defendant is charged with approving more than $26,000 in compensatory time for county employees to work on behalf of a political candidate at his direction. He allegedly not only misused taxpayer dollars and attempted to cover it up, but he also undermined the integrity of our democratic process. My Office will continue to investigate and prosecute public corruption wherever we find it, no matter what position of power the defendant may hold."

Dauphin County commissioners released a statement calling the charges "very serious and disappointing."

As a result, Winnick is suspended without pay, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Winnick, who was named chief public defender in 2016, is also accused of instructing the deputy administrator not to enter the time off int the payroll records, so that the records would indicate the employee worked when they were really out at the polls, a news release from the Attorney General's Office said.

In a statement from Winnick's defense attorney, he wrote in part: “Brad did not personally, financially benefit from his conduct. brad did not engage in any conduct to personally promote himself. In his zeal to help extraordinary candidates, he committed a huge error in judgment." 

Winnick turned himself in and waived his preliminary hearing on Thursday.

He has since been released on unsecured bail.

A formal arraignment is scheduled for December 13.

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