Oakmont councilman pushes for answers in vandalism of surveillance cameras
An Oakmont councilman has questioned whether Allegheny County police have fully investigated a vandalism incident last summer that disabled borough surveillance cameras.
Councilman Tim Favo raised his doubts about the investigation at a council meeting April 14.
According to Police Chief David DiSanti, the incident in question occurred last July when someone apparently cut a cable that provides a satellite link to security cameras positioned in Riverside Park.
The cable is on the roof of the Oakmont Fire Department, which is next to the borough building.
Damage amounted to about $1,500.
Nobody has been arrested in connection with the incident.
Police Chief David DiSanti turned over the investigation to the Allegheny County Police for investigation
Favo formally asked for council's approval to send a letter to Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffat, requesting an update on the investigation. However, that failed when no other council member went along with the idea.
Despite that, Favo voiced his doubts about the thoroughness of the investigation.
“I think we should be all after the same thing: a true and complete investigation,” Favo said. “We have a crime against the borough. It's the taxpayers money — can't ignore (it), can't just sweep it under the rug or pretend that it has been investigated when it obviously has not been.”
Among the points Favo made:
• A special security card is needed to enter the fire department's building and only a limited number of people have access to the cards.
• Firefighters feel they have been accused as a group and want to clear their names and offered to take polygraph tests, according to Favo. He said, to his knowledge, none of them have been interviewed by county detectives.
DiSanti said the detective in charge told him that interviews were conducted.
“She did not go into particulars but she said the agency did interview people and they felt they were at a dead end,” he said. “She has a really good reputation.”
He said he met with firefighters as a group to let them know that the incident occurred, that the county detectives would be investigating it and might want to interview them. He offered to try to answer any questions they had.
“I haven't had one single fireman complain to me,” DiSanti said.
Fire Chief Garret Segelson did not return calls from the Valley News Dispatch seeking comment for this story.
• Favo said he met with detectives and gave them the name and phone number of a witness, whom he did not name, who he said saw people on the fire department roof. Favo said that person has never been contacted by detectives.
• He said that the then-borough solicitor, Robert Shoop, was approached by a whistleblower with “pertinent information regarding this incident,” whom Shoop found credible. Favo said Shoop was instructed to contact the detective handling the investigation which he did, but his calls were not returned.
Shoop could not be reached for comment.
Mayor Bob Fescemyer, who oversees the police department, and Favo are political foes who have had a rocky relationship.
Fescemyer countered Favo's comments by reading a report from DiSanti regarding a conversation he had with the county detective handling the case.
According to that report, the detective told DiSanti that when she talked to Favo, he was rude and abrasive. The report stated that the detective told Favo that the policy of the county police was to report on an investigation only to the head of the police department that requested it, in this case, DiSanti.
In the report, DiSanti said the detective told him that Favo demanded to speak to her supervisor. She said that her supervisor was across the hall and she would be happy to summon him to the phone but Favo declined, saying it would be a waste of time because cops “stick up” for each other, and he ended the call.
Favo later denied that characterization.
“It was a polite conversation with the detective,” he told council. “Everything that was said here tonight regarding that was a complete fabrication.”
“Everything that the mayor said was the God's truth,” DiSanti said in a subsequent phone interview.
He said the detective handling the investigation has successfully worked many cases in Oakmont. He said that she told him, “There is nowhere to go with this investigation.'”
“Her work ethic, her integrity and her honor are beyond question,” DiSanti said.
Multiple calls to Allegheny County Police officials over several days seeking comment for this story were not returned.
DiSanti said the county is carrying the incident as an open investigation.
Other members of council indicated that they are tired of having this incident continually brought up by Favo.
“I just think we have to stop, I really do,” Councilman Tom Whalen said to Council President Nancy Ride. “We can't waste your time and my time over and over again.”
“I honestly don't see where we go from here,” Ride said. “It was a crime, but it was a $1,500 vandalism and I don't know if it is worth it to keep pursuing it.”
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.