The chief executive officer of Highmark Inc. has been charged with simple assault and defiant trespass stemming from what police in Oakmont described as a fight this weekend between him and the husband of a Highmark employee with whom he was having an affair.
Kenneth R. Melani, 58, of O'Hara, is taking an unpaid leave of absence from the company in light of the charges filed Wednesday, Highmark spokesman Michael Weinstein said in a statement this morning, adding that "the situation related to Dr. Melani is a personal matter."
Later this evening, Highmark announced that the company's chairman of the board, J. Robert Baum, will serve as acting chief executive officer, effective immediately.
Defense attorney Robert Del Greco said the charges against Dr. Melani are low-grade misdemeanors and he is confident his client will prevail. He said he had only had a chance to review the case superficially and could not comment on the specifics of the accusations.
"It's certainly unfortunate that criminal charges were preferred," Mr. Del Greco said. "I have a qualified optimism that there will be a favorable resolution and outcome for the doctor."
Dr. Melani joined the medical insurer in 1989 as its chief medical officer. He became the company's chief executive officer in 2003.
The charges are related to a Sunday incident in which police said Dr. Melani showed up at the home of Mark Myler, the husband of Melissa Myler, who told officers she has been having an affair with Dr. Melani since shortly after he hired her to work at Highmark in October 2011.
In January, according to a criminal complaint, Dr. Melani's wife discovered the affair and told Mr. Myler. That prompted Mrs. Myler to move out of their home on Canterbury Court in Oakmont and in with Dr. Melani, according to a criminal complaint.
On Sunday, though, Mrs. Myler went to her husband's home to speak to him when Dr. Melani knocked on the door, entered the house uninvited and accused her of cheating on him, saying, "It's all about my money," police wrote in the complaint.
Mrs. Myler said her husband repeatedly told Dr. Melani to leave, finally taking him by the arm and moving him to the front porch.
A "fight broke out," police wrote, though it was unclear who struck first.
Mr. Myler told an officer he suffered a bruise on his forehead and a cut on the nose as well as cuts on his legs.
Dr. Melani agreed to have a paramedic respond to the scene, telling an officer, "it would be a good idea if he was going to sue," according to the complaint.
After the fight, police said Dr. Melani made phone calls to attorneys in which he said "something to the effect that if police hadn't been there he would have killed the Mylers."
The criminal complaint, written by Oakmont Officer David Brankley, offers glimpses into what appears to be a tumultuous relationship between Dr. Melani and Mrs. Myler.
He told police he hired a private detective to investigate her -- a discovery she made about two months after she began living with him.
The two argued, triggering a dispute that "led to the relationship becoming known throughout the company, and she knew once it became known that there would be problems," the officer wrote in the complaint.
Mrs. Myler said she chose to retain an attorney to assist with her expected exit from the company.
On Sunday, she went to her husband's house to catch him up to speed with the situation. She told officers she had no plans to reconcile with her husband, nor did she plan to break things off with Dr. Melani.
When officers questioned Dr. Melani after the fight, he refused to make eye-contact, instead directing his focus to Mrs. Myler standing 75 feet away.
He told police "the whole thing was about his money and he made reference to the fact that Mrs. Myler has a past that he was just finding out about from his private investigator," Officer Brankley wrote in the complaint. "He asked me in an emotional voice if I had ever had a relationship that was everything to me, and I declined to discuss that with him."
Mr. Myler told the officer that Dr. Melani called his wife a "slut," accused her of "a conspiracy" and said, "I hope you're happy with yourself." Police also learned that Dr. Melani had made threatening statements to Mrs. Myler in the past, according to the complaint.
Among those who arrived at the scene of the fight was a friend of Dr. Melani's, identified in the complaint as Karen Bellasario, as well as Dr. Melani's wife, Tracy, and his sister.
Sadie Gurman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1878. First Published March 29, 2012 3:00 PM