FBI removes Pittsburgh police credit union files
Share with others:
The FBI on Thursday removed documents from the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union, according to a source familiar with the investigation, indicating the widening of a federal probe into the Pittsburgh police bureau that came to light earlier in the week.
On Tuesday, FBI agents took boxes of documents from two offices at the bureau's North Side headquarters -- the special events office, which coordinates officers' moonlighting, and the personnel and finance office, which handles payroll.
Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson has said he believes that agents were looking into allegations that funds had been misappropriated internally and are trying to follow the money trail.
News of Thursday's visit by the FBI to the credit union traveled quickly in some parts of the city.
"I have heard from folks in city government that the FBI went to the credit union in the West End," Councilman Patrick Dowd said Thursday evening.
The 78-year-old financial institution functions similarly to a bank with a clientele that includes active police officers. Its board of directors is made up of many retired officers. Several directors reached Thursday night either declined comment or said they were not aware of the FBI's visit.
Karen Janoski, the credit union's CEO, could not be reached.
"There's no comment," said a man who identified himself as her husband. "She doesn't want to talk to you."
Earlier in the day, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's campaign rivals called on him to oust police Chief Nate Harper and criticized the mayor for failing to do so.
Councilman Bill Peduto urged the mayor to place the chief on a leave of absence, while city Controller Michael Lamb, citing the controversies surrounding the bureau, said the chief should be removed.
The mayor has said that he still has confidence in Chief Harper, despite learning that the chief was involved in a private business venture with his subordinates, one of whom he later promoted to commander.
Mr. Ravenstahl's administration wants a consultant to examine whether it is legal for police officers to hawk T-shirts and other merchandise with City of Pittsburgh and police emblems as part of a broader exploration of moonlighting.
By the end of today, the mayor hopes to announce the hiring of a legal expert to review the laws and regulations governing how officers make money through outside employment. That review follows revelations about Chief Harper's connections to a side business and the discovery that Cmdr. Eric Holmes worked a second full-time job in public safety while he was a city police sergeant in 2007 and 2008.
Mr. Ravenstahl has said he was unaware of either situation and did not approve.
"There's rumors out there that officers were selling memorabilia," city solicitor Daniel Regan said Thursday. "That will be part of the review."
Chief Harper, Cmdr. Holmes and three others -- Sgt. Barry Budd, Officer Tonya Montgomery-Ford and police payroll clerk Tamara L. Davis -- were listed as organizers last year of Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC.
Chief Harper said the firm was dormant and never earned revenue.
Mr. Regan described information that police officers were selling various types of merchandise as "hearsay" and said work must be done to determine the legality of such business transactions by city employees.
"There's some fact-finding that has to occur before we determine whether what was occurring was inconsistent with the City Code or whether there were no issues with what was occurring," Mr. Regan said.
The City Code states:
"No public official or city employee shall use or allow to be used any city facilities, property, staff or information obtained in the course of his employment for personal use other than would be generally available to the public at large."
A company called Police Memories -- which lists Tonya Ford as president in state incorporation documents -- describes the nature of its business as "internet sales including independent sales on an auction site."
The incorporation paperwork -- with a date stamp of August 2010 -- lists Officer Montgomery-Ford's New Homestead residence, which has a Homestead mailing address. She lives there with her husband, Pittsburgh police Detective Dale Ford.
An eBay vendor, which has the user name "policememories2010" and ships from a Homestead mailing address, as recently as this week advertised a Kelly green "police shirt Irish pride highlighting Pittsburgh" with what appears to be an emblem similar to -- although not the same as -- the police bureau's emblem of a looped belt with a seal on top. The shirt sells for $12.99. Many of the items have been removed this week.
A website, www.policememories.com, also sells T-shirts and coins that say "Pittsburgh police."
Representatives from the police bureau and Officer Ford could not be reached for comment.
First Published February 15, 2013 12:00 am