Ambridge Police Chief James Mann is facing multiple felony and misdemeanor charges related to disability insurance fraud and threatening and intimidating his own officers who are witnesses against him.
State Police Officer Timothy Morando on Thursday filed the following nine charges against Mann, 61 of Economy: threatening harm to influence official and political matters; insurance fraud; theft; witness intimidation; obstruction of law; illegal retaliation; official oppression; lying under oath; and harassment. Mann is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.
Morando wrote in the criminal complaint that his investigation began on Feb. 13, when borough Mayor David Drewnowski contacted state police about a possible theft.
Drewnowski said a disguised man he believed to be police Sgt. Glen Sovich had put a letter under his door at night alleging a theft by Mann.
Mann, who had been off work for most of 2017 for a non-work-related back injury, had run out of sick, vacation and compensatory time, but he continued to fill out time sheets claiming those hours. In the meantime, he collected about $27,000 in disability payments from Aflac insurance, Morando wrote.
In addition, Mann claimed hours working for the state attorney general’s office drug task force. He claimed 18.5 hours of work just three weeks into an eight-week full-disability period following a surgery, and worked a total of 42.5 hours earning $2,926.98 while either off from full duty or on light duty, Morando alleged.
All the while, Mann continued to file disability claims stating he didn’t work and that he wasn’t receiving at least 80 percent of his pre-disability salary.
In late summer or early fall of 2017, police officer Zadock Dismuke contacted borough Manager Joseph Kauer by phone to ask if he could donate his sick time to Mann, but the transaction wasn’t documented until after the investigation began, Morando wrote.
Morando said Mann first contacted police Lt. Brian Jameson to adjust his sick time, but Jameson refused and referred him to the manager. Then Mann contacted Dismuke and the two claimed to have “found” a 2013 folder that included 138 hours of Mann’s unclaimed and uncompensated court time. But even with that alleged time, Dismuke needed to donate 173 hours of sick time to Mann.
However, with Mann’s hourly rate of $39.58 and Dismuke’s hourly rate of $30.32, Dimuke’s donation of $5,426.88 was short by $1,600.84 paid to Mann.
Mann also threatened and harassed officers, Morando wrote. In April 2017, 10 officers reported to state police that Mann was saying things like “I’m going to cut the cancer from the department,” “I’m a caged animal,” and “I’m firing everyone.”
The officers reported that Mann’s behavior became worse after the investigation began. He suspended officer Jason Sang for 30 days. He verbally assaulted officer AJ Balik and poked him several times in the chest. And he threatened firing and harassed Jameson and officers John Chickos and Michael McQuaide if they cooperated with the investigation, Morando wrote, adding that Sgt. Sovich had to take time off because of the stress he suffered from being harassed and threatened by Mann.
Mann is being represented by attorney Stephen Colafella. The case is being prosecuted by Beaver County Assistant District Attorney Albert Torrence.
After Mann’s arraignment, Colafella said he thinks the investigation by state police is a joke.
“We’ve known about this for some time. This investigation, if you want to call it that, has been going on for six months … We’ve been waiting for this day, because despite all of the evidence to the contrary, they seemed determined to do this no matter what. I got the complaint today and I almost laughed out loud, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that … It’s a case that’s motivated entirely by a handful of insurgents and the mayor, who made no secret of the fact he’s going to get rid of Chief Mann and that’s fine.”
Colafella continued, “We’re ready to go to court. There’s been enough posturing and enough conversation over the past six months to last me a lifetime. Chief Mann is one of the proudest, most dedicated police officers that I’ve dealt with in my legal career. It’s a pleasure to stand here next to him and it’s going to be a greater pleasure to watch them try to prove these ridiculous allegations … I look very much forward in the opportunity to confront and cross examine individuals who have managed to hide in the background making these ridiculous complaints for the past six months … We don’t hide from any of it.”
Ambridge Borough Solicitor Richard Start issued a press release saying council will be meeting in executive session to discuss the charges. “It is expected that action shall be taken regarding this matter with no further public comment as this is a matter of personnel, which for the time being is required by law to remain private and confidential.”
Ambridge Borough Council voted in April to place Mann on paid administrative leave after the officers in his department went to state police to file complaints against him. Council also voted at the time to have its own investigation conducted by CSI Corporate Security and Investigations, a private investigative firm run by Lou Gentile. Gentile is a former chairman of the Beaver County Democratic Committee.
Ambridge Mayor David Drewnowski did not return a message seeking comment.