Monroeville residents rip council for demoting chief

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Monroeville residents lambasted council for more than two hours Thursday night over the resignation of the municipal manager and the demotion of the police chief.

The standing-room-only crowd at the citizens night meeting spilled into the lobby, where the meeting was televised.

A majority of council members accepted the resignation of manager Jeffrey Silka on Jan. 31. Earlier last month, a bloc of council members gave Mr. Silka an ultimatum to remove police Chief Doug Cole or lose his job as manager, according to a letter sent from Mr. Silka to municipal solicitor Bruce Dice.

After Mr. Silka's resignation, council appointed municipal secretary Lynette McKinney to hold the post of interim manager for the second time in as many years.

Two days after she was appointed, she announced Chief Cole's removal "without cause" from the top of the department. He has been demoted to sergeant.

On Thursday night, a majority of the residents berated council members Diane Allison, Lois Drumheller, Bernhard Erb and Clarence Ramsey for a lack of transparency regarding their desire to remove the chief, failure to explain a reason for his demotion, the quick action taken by Ms. McKinney regarding his employment status, and the use of tax dollars to pay $67,592 in severance to Mr. Silka.

But some also castigated the other three council members -- Jim Johns, Steve Duncan and Nick Gresock -- for failing to attend the meeting in which the other four members unanimously approved Mr. Silka's resignation.

Sgt. Cole attended the meeting but declined to comment.

Many spoke of Sgt. Cole's character and commended him for doing a good job as chief.

Don Cwynar said Sgt. Cole was among the first responders to the scene when his 22-year-old daughter, Jennifer, was killed in a January 2010 crash on Thompson Run Road.

"His kind words were very comforting that night," Mr. Cwynar said.

Monroeville resident Jim Rosipal reminded council that elections are coming.

"I think certain individuals are going to find out how much this community respects its first responders," he said.

Several residents called on council to reinstate Sgt. Cole as chief. Council did not take any votes Thursday. It will hold its regular voting meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

On the draft agenda for that meeting are ordinances "amending and restating the rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission" and repealing an ordinance and "restoring the municipal manager as tax collector for all Act 511 taxes and other taxes, fees, assessments and charges that are levied by the Municipality of Monroeville."

neigh_east

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


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