Meadville Tribune

November 28, 2012

Replacements sought as two deputies move on

Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office has lost two of its deputies — including its chief deputy sheriff — to other jobs.

Chief Deputy Ira Custard resigned to take a position with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture as dog law enforcement officer for Venango and Mercer counties, while Deputy John Summerville resigned his position to take a patrolman’s position with Meadville Police Department, Sheriff Nick Hoke said Tuesday. Both men’s last day on the job at the courthouse was last Wednesday.

With resignations, the department’s complement of full-time deputies is down from nine to seven, plus Hoke himself and one part-time deputy.

At Tuesday’s work session of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, the board unanimously approved Hoke’s request for an emergency hiring of Brendan M. Peters, 24, of Cambridge Springs as a deputy sheriff.

Hoke wasn’t able to attend Tuesday morning’s commissioner work session in person as he was working courtroom duty due to the loss of staff.

Peters, who begins work Monday, was hired at $14.75 per hour, followed by $15 per hour after a 90-day probationary period, per the county’s union contract with its deputies. Peters was on the updated sheriff deputy applicant eligibility list Hoke filed Aug. 21 with the Crawford County Prothontary’s Office.

Hoke told a Tribune reporter Tuesday afternoon he planned to conduct interviews from those on the deputy eligibility list to fill the remaining vacancy. A request then would be submitted to the commissioner and county salary boards for approval, possibly as soon as those boards’ meetings Dec. 6, Hoke said.

“I’d like to fill the (open) position soon — rather than later,” Hoke said.

As far as naming a chief deputy sheriff, Hoke said he wasn’t sure when he would name a chief deputy, but would consult with the county since Custard technically is still on the deputy roster due to accrued vacation time.

Custard had been with the department for more than 10 years and was named chief deputy in 2010 following the retirement of Dale Collins, who was then chief deputy sheriff.

Summerville was hired in September to fill one of three additional full-time Crawford County sheriff’s deputies positions created to improve courthouse security.

Earlier this year, the new board of Crawford County commissioners moved to have front door security at the courthouse run by the Sheriff’s Office rather than using four part-time metal detector screeners at the courthouse’s main entrance. Commissioners and Sheriff Hoke agreed that three full-time, armed deputies were necessary to replace the screeners who had been under the control of the commissioners’ office.

In July, commissioners hired the first of the three new full-time sheriff’s deputies as part of a 90-day plan for the sheriff’s office to update security rules and procedures at county-owned buildings. The other two new deputy positions were filled in September.

The sheriff’s office took over operations of front door security at the courthouse in early October.

The loss of two good deputies was bittersweet for Sheriff Hoke. “It’s truly a loss for us, especially Ira,” Hoke said of the two departures. “He’d been there a long time. I couldn’t have made it without him. I came in there (in 2008, after retiring from Meadville City Police) not knowing a whole lot (about running a sheriff’s department). Ira was such a big help. And he was very well liked in the courthouse. I’m sure a lot of other folks will miss him, too. Crawford County’s loss, Mercer County’s gain.

“And the same with John — great kid. We were really excited to get him, but soon after he joined us he got the call from Meadville City police. They had their eye on him for a while. It was a great move for him, and I don’t begrudge him. It’s a nice career move. I really enjoyed the couple of months I had with him.”

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at