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Probe Reveals Corruption at Pennsylvania Jail

Probe Reveals Corruption at Pennsylvania Jail

A former guard at Pennsylvania’s Erie County Prison and his supervisor, who is also his wife, were accepted into a special diversion program for first-time offenders after being charged in connection with payroll tampering and missing ammunition. Another guard was demoted following an investigation into misconduct at the facility.

Sgt. Daniel S. Danowski, 41, and his supervisor and wife, Capt. Leslie L. Danowski, 40, were fired in October 2012 after being charged in a scheme that netted Daniel Danowski nearly $3,500 in pay he did not earn.

Jim Senyo, the deputy warden of safety and security at the Erie County Prison, was demoted and suspended without pay for five days for his involvement in a separate scheme in which Daniel Danowski sold over 400 rounds of prison ammunition to a former guard. Senyo’s duties as deputy warden included overseeing the facility’s armory, where the ammunition was stored.

The investigation uncovered a conspiracy between the Danowskis to falsify time-keeping records at the prison, resulting in $3,428 in payments to Daniel Danowski for work he never performed between February and July 2012.

Erie police charged Daniel Danowski with misdemeanor charges of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy to tamper with public records or information. Leslie Danowski was charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with public records or information; she did not face charges related to the sale of the ammunition.

At a July 16, 2013 hearing, Erie County Judge Stephanie A. Domitrovich accepted the Danowskis’ request to be placed in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which is reserved for non-violent, first-time offenders. If they successfully complete the program they can apply to have their records expunged; acceptance into the program did not require pleading guilty to the charges.

The investigation into misconduct at the prison also revealed that Leslie Danowski had signed off on the improper use of compensatory time for Capt. Jason Beasom.

Beasom “was paid as if he was at work, but he wasn’t there,” said Sue Ellen Pasquale, the county’s accounting manager. He was ordered to repay the time, which amounted to $3,811, and also suspended – the seventh suspension at the prison since January 2012.

Erie County Chief Executive Barry Grossman promised reforms. “My administration will not tolerate the misconduct of a few individuals,” he said. “It is unfortunate that the behavior of a few overshadows the hard work and dedication of so many of our dedicated prison employees.”

Former deputy warden Al Copeland, a “highly respected” 32-year veteran at the facility, was named to fill Senyo’s position pending a merit selection committee’s decision on a permanent replacement.

The committee may also conduct an independent review of the prison’s operations. One proposal under consideration was to create the position of inventory coordinator, whose duties would include keeping track of ammunition, county-issued prisoner clothing and other supplies. The position would have an annual salary of $40,584.

However, Erie County Controller Mary Schaaf, who was involved in the payroll tampering and missing ammunition investigations, opposed the idea as a waste of taxpayer money. “What we really need are honest employees doing their jobs,” she said.

Sources: Erie Times-News, www.goerie.com, www.contracostatimes.com

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