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Former Monroeville police Chief Cole files lawsuit against municipality

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By Kyle Lawson
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Former Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole filed a civil lawsuit last week against the municipality of Monroeville and five municipal officials.

The lawsuit — filed with the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas — accuses Monroeville officials of breaching his contract, the municipality's Home Rule Charter and the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.

The Sunshine Act governs the ways in which public meetings are conducted.

Monroeville council member Lois Drumheller, who is named in the lawsuit, said she read it for the first time Tuesday.

“This all seems out of order,” Drumheller said.

“I can't speak to any of the counts because I've not even been served.”

Cole said Tuesday that his attorney advised him not to comment.

The lawsuit accuses interim manager Lynette McKinney of violating Cole's contract when she demoted him Feb. 1 to sergeant rather than the position he held prior to becoming police chief, which was assistant police chief.

McKinney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The complaint also accuses four council members of violating Section 703 of the Home Rule Charter, which states no council member “shall direct or request the appointment to or removal from office or employment by the manager of any subordinate.”

Former municipal manager Jeff Silka wrote in a memo last month to Solicitor Bruce Dice that council member Diane Allison — speaking on behalf of the majority — told him to either remove Cole as police chief or they would remove him as manager.

Silka said council member Bernhard Erb met with him separately where “the same conversation on Chief Cole was basically restated.”

Allison has said she did not give Silka an ultimatum but that she did discuss concerns held by a majority of council about the police department with Silka.

The lawsuit accuses four council members — Allison, Erb, Clarence Ramsey and Lois Drumheller — of violating the Sunshine Act when they met to discuss the salary for McKinney as interim manager.

There are seven council members.

Cole is seeking damages for contractual losses and punitive damages for what the lawsuit describes as “malicious” actions taken by the four council members and McKinney.

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