MONONGAHELA – Monongahela City Council heard a request Wednesday night for creation of a civilian police review board.
Resident Chad DeSantis, who brought the issue before council, said residents have raised a number of concerns on social media. “People are being pulled over for a burnt-out license plate light, when it isn’t burnt out,” he said.
DeSantis also noted that in 2009, Monongahela police officer George Langan was arrested and accused of selling cocaine and interfering with drug investigations in the Mon Valley, and in 2011, former part-time officer David James McClelland was involved in the robbery and murder of Evelyn Stepko of Coal Center. DeSantis asserted a civilian police review board would provide checks and balances.
Councilman Ken Kulak questioned what a review board would have done differently regarding the police officers DeSantis mentioned.
“These things were resolved,” said Kulak, adding that he didn’t think a review board would have changed the outcome. “You are going to have problem employees in any job. What would the review board have (done) in these instances?”
DeSantis said if there was a review board at the time, it might have served as a deterrent.
Monongahela police Chief Brian Tempest said that if anyone has a complaint against an officer, they can come to the police department and file a complaint in person.
“I believe our officers do a fine job,” said Tempest. He added he is not saying there can’t be times when an officer steps out of line, but if that happens, he encourages residents to file a complaint with the department.
Council also heard renewed complaints Wednesday about a condemned property at 1135 Lawton St.
On July 26, 2015, the building was heavily damaged by a fire that killed resident James Huffstickler. The property is slated for demolition by Washington County Redevelopment Authority, but the funds have not become available, said Councilman Alan Veliky. Bids cannot be awarded for the demolition until the funds have been secured. “This property is on the top of the list,” said Veliky.
Resident John Conte said the grass in the backyard is about three or four feet high. He asked council if the city could board up the windows and doors in the house.
“There are many kids around, and it isn’t safe,” Conte said.
Solicitor Todd Pappasergi said he would provide guidelines to the city for securing the property until demolition can be started. Mayor Bob Kepics said the money probably won’t be released until September.