Ambridge police chief charged with theft, witness intimidation
Ambridge police Chief James Mann allegedly falsified time cards and threatened his own officers if they cooperated in the state police investigation into the suspected theft, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday.
Mann, 61, of Baden, is charged with four felonies: theft by deception, fraud, witness intimidation and making threats to influence judicial matters.
He is also charged with summary harassment and misdemeanor counts of retaliation, obstruction, oppression and false swearing.
Mann was arraigned Thursday afternoon in front of Magisterial District Judge John Armour and released on $10,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 5.
The investigation began in February when Ambridge Mayor David Drewnowski told police a man in disguise — believed to be an Ambridge police sergeant — left a letter at his door alleging Mann was filling out fraudulent time cards while on sick leave, according to the criminal complaint filed by state police in Beaver.
The letter, which was delivered to Drewnowski’s home after dark, alleged that Mann, who was off due to a non-work related injury for most of 2017, had run out of paid time off but “continued to get paid his full wage by filing time sheets, which he signed, for sick time, compensatory time and vacation time,” according to the criminal complaint.
Mann worked at least 42 ½ hours over the course of 2017 for which he was paid, though he continued to file disability claim forms stating he was not working, the complaint alleged. Mann was off of work following back surgery on Dec. 30, 2016.
Mann also allegedly asked at least two officers to donate their sick time to him; one declined, and another donated 173 hours to Mann, according to the complaint.
In April, 10 Ambridge police officers told state police that Mann had threatened and harassed them, according to the complaint.
Mann allegedly told officers, “I’m going to cut the cancer from the department;” “I’m a caged animal,” and “I’m firing everyone,” detectives wrote in the complaint.
Officers told investigators that the harassment got worse after the letter alleging Mann’s theft from the department was delivered.
One officer alleged he was “verbally assaulted and poked in the chest several times,” and Mann allegedly threatened others with firing for their cooperation with state police. One officer took time off because of “stress from the threats (and) harassment.”
Mann could not immediately be reached for comment.
Borough solicitor Richard Start said in a statement that borough officials learned of the charges against Mann on Thursday afternoon.
“These charges are being closely examined and will be the subject of an executive session and a special meeting of borough council in the immediate future,” Start said.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, email@example.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.