As sheriff in Chester County, Pa., Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh was among President Donald Trump’s earliest boosters in the swing state. In 2016, Welsh attended the Republican National Convention as a delegate, spoke at rallies and helped her ailing mother cast an absentee ballot for Trump from her deathbed. After Trump’s win, Welsh made multiple trips to the White House, where she nabbed a spot at Trump’s side as he met with other law enforcement officers. Welsh, a 76-year-old Republican who left office last year after two decades as sheriff, has been charged with theft for an alleged scheme to charge taxpayers for volunteer work benefiting a K-9 unit. Welsh’s boyfriend, Harry McKinney, a former officer in the department, is charged with using donations to the K-9 unit to pay his personal expenses.
“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,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Welsh broke barriers in 2000 as the first female sheriff in Chester County, a then-heavily Republican area in the Philadelphia suburbs. As sheriff, she won national recognition for breaking into the male-dominated ranks and brought a wry sense of humor to the job. With GOP backing, she repeatedly coasted to reelection, often running unopposed. In 2016, she hitched her wagon early to Trump, speaking at Philadelphia-area rallies and meeting with Ivanka and Eric Trump. One month after Trump’s inauguration, she was among 10 sheriffs who met the president at the White House. She returned in January 2019 for another roundtable discussion, where Trump introduced her as a “friend of mine for a long time, from the beginning.” In November 2019, after Welsh declined to run for another term, she was succeeded by a Democrat, Fredda Maddox.