Law dispute continues in Monroeville

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Tuesday night's Monroeville council meeting started on a celebratory note with the swearing in of five new police officers before devolving into ongoing arguments surrounding an investigation of whether the municipality's emergency service providers released sensitive health information in violation of federal law.

Police Chief Steven Pascarella introduced the five new officers -- Matthew Pastorius, Matthew Hickenboth, Steven Maritz, Timothy Bish and Jeremy Skaggs -- all veterans, and Mayor Greg Erosenko swore them in.

The chief said they are "another big step in rebuilding the Monroeville police department."

"We look forward to the youthful enthusiasm they will bring to our aging," he said, before laughing, then pausing to correct himself, "our maturing department."

Following the swearing in, Councilman Nick Gresock questioned the cost of the special counsel hired to conduct an investigation into an August 2012 complaint sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights. The complaint alleged that the municipality's emergency management service provided health information protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, to a former police chief via email.

The complaint also said generic user names and passwords were created to access a database of 911 callers' medical information, giving anyone with that information the ability to anonymously access personal medical records.

Mr. Gresock asked why the municipal manager wasn't handling the investigation and questioned the pace of the investigation.

"I don't know why we're spending all this money for little outcome at this point," he said.

Councilwoman Diane Allison said an outside investigator was necessary because the municipality would be criticized for not being objective if the manager, Lynette McKinney, were to conduct the investigation.

After passing three minor resolutions, council opened the floor to public comment. The first speaker suggested council request a detailed bill from the special counsel handling the investigation, and the second questioned a bill from a lawyer to the municipal tax collector, which resulted in disagreement between Lou Smith, the speaker, and other council members.

As Mr. Smith was addressing questions to the elected officials, Councilman Bernhard Erb -- who is the unopposed Republican candidate for mayor in Tuesday's primary -- moved to adjourn, which resulted in protests from the speaker and the audience. Mr. Erb, Ms. Allison, Lois Drumheller and Clarence Ramsey voted to adjourn; Mr. Gresock and Steve Duncan dissented. Jim Johns was absent.

After the meeting, residents shouted at elected officials and each other outside the building.

Barbara Masters, who has been a Monroeville resident for 45 years, said she's never seen anything like it.

"[Mr. Erb] has the nerve to put his name in to run for mayor, and he won't let residents speak at a public meeting?" she said.

neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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