Monroeville council suspends top official

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In a municipality already reeling from a controversy involving its police department, Monroeville's municipal manager was placed on administrative leave with pay Tuesday evening and could be completely removed from her position Jan. 6.

At a special council meeting, a four-member quorum voted to suspend longtime employee Lynette McKinney. Joe Sedlak was appointed acting manager.

Of those present, councilmen Steve Duncan, Nick Gresock and Jim Johns voted for her suspension, with member Bernhard Erb abstaining. Mr. Johns said he made the motion to slow Ms. McKinney's spending.

Solicitor Bruce Dice said the process to legally remove the manager is intricate, though her duties ceased Tuesday night.

In accordance with the home rule charter, a public hearing must be advertised for at least 10 days, he said. That public meeting, as well as the reorganization of council, will take place Jan. 6.

Immediately after, council will hold a special meeting. If council votes to remove Ms. McKinney, she will continue to hold the position -- and be paid -- for 30 days, Mr. Dice said. Ms. McKinney could ask for a second public hearing; a permanent replacement could be chosen after that 30-day period.

If removed with cause, Ms. McKinney would not receive severance, Mr. Johns said.

Ms. McKinney was appointed interim manager at the end of January, after Jeffrey Silka resigned. In mid-March, she was appointed manager in a 4-3 vote, with Diane Allison, Lois Drumheller, Mr. Erb and Clarence Ramsey voting to appoint her, and Mr. Duncan, Mr. Gresock and Mr. Johns dissenting.

Ms. McKinney, whose salary as manager is $88,808, has more than 20 years of experience with Monroeville.

Ms. Drumheller, who was not present at the meeting, said the special session had not been cross-checked with her availability. Mr. Ramsey declined comment.

The municipality has been divided since August 2012, when then-assistant police Chief Steve Pascarella filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services alleging that unauthorized users violated federal privacy laws by accessing personal health information from the municipality's 911 dispatch center.

In the wake of that accusation, Ms. McKinney demoted then-police Chief Doug Cole to sergeant in February. He was fired in September.

Council promoted Mr. Pascarella to chief in March on a 4-3 vote. He resigned last week for health reasons, according to local officials.

Lexi Belculfine: or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. First Published November 26, 2013 11:27 PM

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