Agents from Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office inventory Girardville police evidence room | State

GIRARDVILLE — State Attorney General’s Office employees spent more than five hours Tuesday inventorying the police department evidence room in borough hall.

Four officers hired last spring following the resignation of former chief Fred Lahovski said evidence in the room would have nothing to do with their investigations, Mayor Judy Mehlbaum said.

“They didn’t want to be responsible for what was in there,” she said.

With the department in turmoil late last year over accusations between Fabrizio Bivona, who was then the officer-in-charge, and other officers, however, the situation gained urgency.

In December, the Attorney General’s Office had borough workers secure the room under their supervision and gave the key to the Schuylkill County District Attorney’s Office.

Three employees from the state agency returned Tuesday to go through the evidence, which typically includes things like narcotics, weapons, clothing, tools used in crimes, forged checks and stolen credit cards.

Lt. Jeremy Talanca, who is the acting officer-in-charge, said the inventory allows a fresh start for current officers.

“It’s a common practice,” he said, of an outside agency conducting the inventory.

Initially, Mehlbaum said she had no reason to think evidence had been tampered with or removed.

Questions arose later in 2022 when an evidence log book kept in the police station went missing. It’s not known if the book was taken on purpose or just misplaced, she said.

“I have no proof (that someone took it), but I know it’s gone,” Mehlbaum said.

The fact that the log book was missing delayed the inventory.

“They (Attorney General’s Office agents) couldn’t find the evidence log, so they couldn’t marry the items together,” Mehlbaum said.

On Tuesday, agents did the inventory without the log.

Mehlbaum described the room as “a mess,” but added: “We never thought there was anything wrong. These guys just wanted to start off with a clean slate.”

The Attorney General’s Office staff was assisted Tuesday by county Sheriff Joseph G. Groody, three of his deputies and county Detective Shawn Butler from the DA’s office, who brought the key.

Groody said the county staff was there simply to assist agents with retrieving items to be recorded.

Talanca said that to store evidence while the other room was locked down, officers used a cabinet secured by two locks with separate keys, requiring two authorized people to be present to open it. The arrangement was approved by the Attorney General’s Office.

With the inventory complete, Talanca and the other officers can now use the original evidence room.

“We’re ready to go,” Mehlbaum said Tuesday afternoon. “Now they can start from scratch with the cases they are working on.”

There is more work to be done, however, by the Attorney General’s Office, she said.

“Some of the things in there were old (and) there for many years,” she said. “They’re going to look at them and see if they’re connected to any open cases.”

She said the agents will be looking for any abnormalities in the inventory.

Bivona, hired in March to replace Lahovski, was suspended from the force Dec. 11 because he failed to provide the mayor with the key to the evidence room, according to a letter from borough solicitor Arlen R. Day II.

The officer was again suspended on Dec. 30, according to another letter from Day, over a number of allegations, including working when told not to work; filing citations against fellow officers while suspended; falsely representing himself as chief of police; and ignoring orders to turn in his badge, keys and other borough property.

Borough council, after a two-minute executive session Jan. 11, voted unanimously to fire him.

Bivona, who did not attend the meeting, has denied the council’s accusations.

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