On Tuesday, the signs said it all. Propped up on chairs in the back of Monroeville's council meeting room were three black-and-white signs with carefully stenciled letters:
"Stop the persecuting of municipal employees."
"Stop 4 council members from continuing to bring down our community."
"Help bring back the pride in our Monroeville."
Four new police officers -- William White, James MacDonald, Pierre DeFelice and Chad Hoffner -- were sworn in, and Mayor Greg Erosenko recognized four residents for their assistance in an Aug. 30 accident in which a steam truck roller crashed on Saunders Station Road, trapping its operator underneath. The operator survived. Honored were Matthew Magill, Mark Magill, Jeff Cook and Josephy Dembowski.
After the brief pomp and circumstance, things got back to normal: heated.
Meetings have been tense since the beginning of the year, with the resignation of former manager Jeff Silka, the appointment of former municipal secretary Lynette McKinney as manager and shakeups in the police department.
Former Chief Doug Cole, who was demoted to sergeant in February, was placed on paid administrative leave last week, and three 911 dispatchers were fired.
Sgt. Cole and the municipality have been embroiled in controversy since August 2012, when then-Assistant Chief Steven Pascarella filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights alleging a breach of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The complaint alleged privileged information from 911 dispatches was sent to unauthorized individuals.
A July report from a private investigator hired by Monroeville claimed the municipality's 911 dispatch center was regularly accessed by unauthorized individuals and placed responsibility on Sgt. Cole. Health and Human Services will ultimately determine whether the municipality violated HIPAA.
Resident Tom Kimicata, who said he doesn't often come to meetings, attended Tuesday. He asked the bloc of four council members who almost always vote together -- Diane Allison, Lois Drumheller, Bernhard Erb and Clarence Ramsey -- to do nothing between now and January, when all will be out of office.
"As armies retreat, a common tactic is to burn the fields as they go so their enemies have no food to eat," Mr. Kimicata said.
To some extent, council listened, voting unanimously to table a capital improvement plan until the new council is seated in January.
Mr. Kimicata said he knows Sgt. Cole and wants council to halt any discipline against him until all investigations into his actions have concluded.
"If you let the process run its course, find out the truth, then take the appropriate action," he said after the meeting.
But perhaps the biggest controversy during the meeting was the appointment of a resident to serve on the municipality's zoning hearing board.
Ward 2 Councilman Nick Gresock nominated Gary Grysiak, who lives in his ward. Ward 3 Councilwoman Lois Drumheller nominated John Yakim, who also lives in Ward 2. Mr. Yakim, a pharmacist at Yakim's Compounding Pharmacy in Pitcairn, is a frequent candidate for public office and almost always attends council meetings.
Mr. Gresock said it's customary for council members to nominate people who live in the ward they represent and encouraged council members to "extend common courtesy" and support Mr. Grysiak.
Council voted, 4-3, to oppose the nomination of Mr. Grysiak, with Jim Johns, Steve Duncan and Mr. Gresock voting in the affirmative.
Mr. Erb then moved to appoint Mr. Yakim, calling him honest and compassionate.
Mr. Gresock said the four who ultimately voted to appoint Mr. Yakim to the seat -- Mr. Erb, Ms. Drumheller, Ms. Allison and Mr. Ramsey -- did it to spite people who oppose Mr. Yakim, but said it only hurt Mr. Grysiak, who was later appointed, along the same 4-3 lines, to the ethics board.
During the public comment period, multiple residents expressed concern with Mr. Yakim's appointment, saying he owes back taxes.
Ms. Drumheller read a letter from Mr. Yakim in which he explains the tax situation. Mr. Yakim wrote that S&J Enterprises LLC, a real estate company of which he is a member, encountered "several very bad things," including "a significant drop in real estate prices," the recession and flooding.
"Property taxes are always paid, just some are paid late," he wrote.
Correction, posted Sept. 12, 2013: John Yakim's role at Yakim's Compounding Pharmacy has been corrected.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1613 or on Twitter @AnnieSiebert.