Cole returns as Monroeville chief

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Newly rehired Monroeville police Chief Kenneth “Doug” Cole stepped back into the thick of things on Wednesday.

In addition to being briefed on current investigations, Cole said he is evaluating the training of newly hired officers and starting to review the municipality's 2014 budget.

“The budget is the big line item that we're looking at here,” said Cole, who met briefly with interim municipal Manager Timothy Little.

Cole, 54, returned to work after Monroeville Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday night to bring him back to lead the Monroeville Police Department. He had been demoted in February and fired in September by then-municipal Manager Lynette McKinney.

Four newly seated Monroeville Council members and three incumbents have argued that Cole was unjustly removed from the position.

Cole provides the police department with the competent, permanent leader it needs, Monroeville Mayor Gregory Erosenko said.

“And the other thing is we're putting qualified, educated people back in key positions,” he said.

Former council members Diane Allison, Lois Drumheller, Bernhard Erb and Clarence Ramsey, who were critical of Cole during his first tenure as police chief, couldn't be reached for comment. McKinney also couldn't be reached.

Cole was removed as chief amid an audit by the state attorney general's office that found privacy violations involving the dispatch computer system, and a complaint filed with the federal government.

He never should have been fired, said Monroeville resident Ralph Greco, 72.

“Because I felt he was doing a great job. Just the way he handled the police department. He was a very fair man as far as the way he treated everybody,” Greco said.

Hired as a Monroeville patrolman in 1985, Cole was promoted to chief in 2010 and remained in that position until February.

As a result of political bickering that gave rise to personnel changes, taxpayers so far have paid about $130,000 to managers in severance pay and are expected to pay Cole between $10,000 and $15,000 in back pay.

Cole said he now oversees a department with 46 police officers. Since March, 10 officers have been hired, but one did not pass the probationary period, he said.

The department anticipates hiring up to five officers by March because of retirements, he said.

The budget process will help dictate his staffing, Cole said. Monroeville's 2014 proposed budget is $26.6 million, including about $10 million for police operations.

The budget typically is passed by Dec. 31, but because of council changes and other issues, it is anticipated that the council will vote on it on Feb. 11, Little said.

Monroeville has had four different managers and two police chiefs in the past two years.

Council is scheduled to vote on a contract for Cole in February, Little said.

“I believe that I was treated unfairly when I was demoted and subsequently fired. And I certainly believe I had a lot to offer the department. … I did not do anything that I should not have been chief,” Cole said.

After Cole was demoted, then-Assistant Chief Steve Pascarella ascended to the chief's job. Pascarella filed a complaint with Department of Health and Human Services in 2012, claiming a possible privacy violation involving the dispatch center's paging system occurred while Cole was in charge. That investigation continues.

Pascarella resigned as chief in November while on short-term disability and dropped in rank to lieutenant with McKinney's consent. He remained on short-term disability as of Tuesday, Little said.

Tory N. Parrish and Kyle Lawson are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

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