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Former Monroeville police chief has 2nd Loudermill hearing

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Former Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole could be back on the job next week, this time as assistant chief. A court-ordered arbitrator ruled on Friday, November 1, 2013, that the municipality violated Cole’s contract when municipal manager Lynette McKinney demoted him “without cause” to sergeant in February.

Former Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole was suspended for 10 days this week amid an ongoing internal investigation, municipal officials said.

Cole — who was demoted to the rank of sergeant in February — attended a Loudermill hearing last month to defend himself against at least one accusation that he violated municipal policy. A Loudermill hearing is part of the “due process” requirement for a government employee prior to removal or disciplinary action.

The reason for the hearing was not disclosed, as personnel matters are private. Monroeville manager Lynette McKinney, police Chief Steve Pascarella and finance director Susan Werksman have filed a number of accusations against Cole.

McKinney said she could not comment. Pascarella could not be reached for comment.

Cole was notified Monday of his suspension. A second Loudermill hearing took place Tuesday, but it wasn't clear if it resulted in further action or when Cole may return to work.

McKinney scheduled that second hearing based on accusations that Cole violated the employee handbook, the home-rule charter and police policies, according to a letter obtained by this newspaper.

In February, Pascarella and McKinney accused Cole of buying emergency communication equipment years ago without the consent of then-manager Marshall Bond. At the time, Cole was an assistant police chief.

Bond defended Cole in a letter dated July 2, 2013.

“Doug Cole as the then-assistant chief of police did have my approval to move the JAG program ahead, which included ordering the equipment to be used in Monroeville,” he wrote.

McKinney had asked the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office to investigate the allegation. The DA's office decided prosecution wasn't warranted.

That's not the only issue raised against Cole, who some say was demoted for political reasons.

Last August, Pascarella filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that said the dispatch process in Monroeville — under Cole's leadership — resulted in a violation of a federal health-privacy law. Municipal officials are awaiting the results of the federal investigation, though Mayor Greg Erosenko said this month that Pittsburgh attorney Bill Bresnahan, who gathered information for that investigation, said it's unlikely that anyone will be charged.

An internal municipal investigation concluded that there were violations of the employee handbook.

Monroeville firefighters accessed police information documented during 911 calls, according to the investigative report, which also said Cole said he was unaware firefighters accessed old 911-call data.

According to multiple emergency officials and firefighters, Pascarella oversaw the computer system and was the only person trained to set it up.

“This was all Pascarella's (computer) system,” said attorney Michael Colarusso, who represents Cole.

“The police chief cannot do all the work in the police department. People under him had been given certain responsibilities.”

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