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Inaction cited in resignation of latest Monroeville manager

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Monroeville's municipal manager lost his job in a political dustup because he failed to conduct an internal investigation and not because of any secret agenda to restructure the police department, a council member said Thursday.

“We're having a flurry of politics and that is unfortunate, because it is being done to hide the real issue,” said Councilwoman Diane Allison. “The main issue here is trying to be averted.”

Jeffrey Silka resigned his manager post Wednesday night after claiming that council members, including Allison, ordered him to fire police Chief Doug Cole or be fired himself. Allison said she and three other council members pressed Silka to investigate why Cole did not look into a complaint that a former chief violated the federal privacy law by sharing information about a medical emergency.

“He needed to do something. Doing nothing is not acceptable,” Allison said.

Silka did not return calls seeking comment. He received a $67,592 severance package, equal to six months of pay and benefits.

Silka was hired in July to replace former manager Tim Little, who received about $63,000 in severance pay when he stepped down Feb. 1, 2012.

Some officials have said that Little quit under pressure from Allison and council members Clarence Ramsey, Bernhard Erb and Lois Drumheller — the council members who agreed to terms of Silka's departure. Ramsey, Erb and Drumheller could not be reached.

Councilman Jim Johns, one of three members who did not participate, said politics fueled both managers' resignations.

“I've never seen anything so political in my life,” Johns said. “This is the second time they've done it in a year.”

The back-to-back resignations and the cost of severance packages outrages some residents.

“I'm upset, as a former police officer and a resident, that they're upping taxes and doing this kind of bull with our tax dollars,” said Lou Smith.

Municipal secretary Lynette McKinney will be interim manager, as she was after Little's resignation. Monroeville's operating budget is about $27 million.

Silka told municipal solicitor Bruce Dice in a letter that Allison, Drumheller and Ramsey ordered him to fire Cole during a meeting on Jan. 17.

“Mrs. Allison ... then gave the ultimatum that if I did not remove him, I would be removed,” he wrote. “She made me repeat this statement to make certain that I understood what she stated.”

Allison denied giving such an order. She said council members were concerned that Silka failed to investigate the complaint alleging violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Assistant police Chief Steve Pascarella filed the complaint in August, accusing a former chief of sharing details about an emergency medical call with someone who wasn't involved.

An official with the Department of Health and Human Services said the case remains open. Dice conducted a review last year and said no law was broken.

Allison said Silka told council in October that he took the allegations seriously and would look into who was responsible for allowing unauthorized people to remain on a list of those who receive information about emergency calls from the Monroeville dispatch center.

Cole oversees the center, said Allison, whose husband is a Monroeville police officer.

Cole said that responsibility belongs to Pascarella. He said he has acted properly in his role as police chief.

Pascarella denied his actions are intended to oust Cole.

“I haven't been approached or spoken to any elected officials about being promoted to police chief,” he said. “I resent that speculation.”

Allison said she knows people have speculated that her actions are a ploy to get her husband promoted to detective or higher.

“That makes for a good story,” she said, adding he has not sought such a promotion. “This is more harmful than helpful to him.”

Jason Cato and Kyle Lawson are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach them at jcato@tribweb.com or klawson@tribweb.com.

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