Monroeville officials have confirmed that a matter involving the municipality's ousted former police chief is being investigated by the Allegheny County district attorney's office, marking the second outside probe involving the department this year.
Sgt. Doug Cole, who was demoted from chief in February, was interviewed last week by special investigators hired by the municipality to review allegations that proprietary information from Monroeville's 911 dispatch center was released in violation of federal privacy law, municipal manager Lynette McKinney said.
Now Sgt. Cole's handling of police dashboard cameras appear to be at the heart of a district attorney inquiry into the alleged misuse of the federally funded cameras.
Ms. McKinney said that when Steven Pascarella took over as the municipality's police chief in February, he came across two matters that occurred during Sgt. Cole's tenure as chief. One involved the misuse of police cameras. The other involved the use of grant money designated for police radios that instead went toward the purchase of repeaters for the fire department.
Ms. McKinney confirmed that prosecutors are looking into the cameras, which were purchased with a U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services grant, but she said the prosecutors decided not to look into the latter issue. An internal investigation is underway.
Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., would not comment on any details of the investigation, nor would he confirm that the office is investigating the matter. Sgt. Cole declined comment.
Neither Ms. McKinney nor Chief Pascarella would elaborate on the investigations or the circumstances under which Chief Pascarella became aware of the issues. Chief Pascarella said he had reported the issues before he was chief but would not say to whom.
Ms. McKinney noted that both municipal auditors and Chief Pascarella brought the issue involving the purchase of the repeaters to her attention. She said an in-house investigation is underway, and Sgt. Cole will be interviewed sometime this week.
Amid the investigations, the municipality also scaled back plans to build a police satellite station at Monroeville Mall.
Council gave the police department approval for a new satellite station in the mall in July. In January, the police got approval for the public works department to begin making renovations to the 1,700-square-foot space in the mall, Ms. McKinney said.
She said police officers were directed to solicit materials and donations from local home improvement stores to complete the renovations, which began without a building permit. Paul Hugus, the municipality's director of engineering, issued a stop-work order earlier this month.
Chief Pascarella wrote in a May 6 email to Ms. McKinney that "a large portion of the building materials used in the project were 'solicited donations' from area home improvement stores" and noted that the arrangements for the satellite station were made when Sgt. Cole was chief. He said police department policies state that an officer can't solicit donations without administrative approval and said he didn't approve of soliciting.
Ms. McKinney said she met with mall officials last week and they came to a "mutual agreement" to use the space as a public area to display information from the police, senior center, library, and parks and recreation department. She said the area won't be staffed by officers but it will be open during regular mall hours.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1613.