Cecil residents seek answers in resignation of police chief
People in Cecil are clamoring for answers about what prompted the former police chief to resign this week and the quiet investigation that precipitated the move.
Questions revolve around former Chief John Pushak's use of money in a federal asset-forfeiture account the township said he controlled. A township official said nearly $10,000 in unauthorized activity is involved, but neither supervisors, the township solicitor nor a special investigator are divulging details.
Pushak did not return messages left at his Cecil home.
“The truth is the truth, and it does not need to be swept under the rug,” said Anna Coen, a retiree who has lived in the Washington County community for 40 years. “It's our right to know as taxpayers and citizens.”
“I think for us to put this to rest, details of the audit need to be made public,” said Supervisor Elizabeth Cowden. “I think for trust to be restored to our community, we need a forensic audit of all accounts.” She said she received calls from 40 residents requesting details.
Supervisors on Monday accepted the resignation of Pushak, 63, who stepped down following an investigation into the account, which pays for sting operations and police equipment. Supervisors named Capt. Sean Bukovinsky chief.
The board hired Phillip Binotto, a Cecil resident and labor lawyer, to head a special investigation and audit. Binotto presented his findings to elected supervisors and township solicitor John Smith in a closed-door meeting.
Binotto gave supervisors an oral report, board chairman Thomas Casciola said. He said there likely will not be a written summary. “We have total confidence that our investigator and auditor gave us all the facts,” he said.
Publicly, Binotto said only that the investigation showed unauthorized withdrawals and deposits on the account funded through the Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture Program, which shares money seized in federal investigations with local law enforcement agencies. The amount was less than $10,000 and money withdrawn from the account was restored, he said.
Binotto did not say who repaid it or provide precise amounts. He declined to elaborate.
“If (Binotto) has more information like that, he didn't give it to us,” Casciola said. “I don't know what the money was used for.”
Cowden said Binotto gave supervisors details on how much was spent and for what during executive session, but she said Smith advised her and other elected officials not to comment.
“I'm being told it is to protect the rights of our former chief,” she said. “I would like to be able to tell you everything I know, but I can't.”
District Attorney Gene Vittone said Binotto and Smith relayed the findings but not much detail.
“They haven't requested for us to do an investigation or anything yet,” Vittone said. “I haven't seen any evidence.”
Vittone said his office soon will audit the police department's evidence room, as is customary when a new chief is hired.
“Certainly, if we uncover anything we will take the appropriate steps,” Vittone said.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Millions in pollution fines went unused for decades in Allegheny County
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank adds chief financial officer Lutovsky
- Group’s proposed fracking moratorium for Allegheny County parks to go on council agenda
- Rare surgery helps woman beat paralysis
- Girl, 12, rescues 4-year-old sister from burning house in Homestead
- Apartment development outlined for former Schenley High School in Pittsburgh
- Dinners, other Thanksgiving events planned in region
- Newsmaker: Daniel Eichinger
- Allegheny County will stop asking about employees’ criminal history, Fitzgerald says
- Reading Harry Potter provides clues to brain activity, CMU researchers say