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Schuylkill County News

Cass Township Police Disbandment Leads to Evidence Room Dispute

One officer says the township is holding his gun belt; the former chief says the township is lying.

Cass Township supervisors may have disbanded their police department in May but serious issues there persist.

Right now, the main issue is a controversy surrounding access to the police evidence room at the Cass Twp. municipal building in Duncott, outside Minersville.

Cass Twp. supervisors voted in May to disband its police force. And at that time, the township says it essentially sealed off the evidence room and no one can access it.

However the former police chief at Cass Township and an attorney representing him say that would be a new approach to the evidence room there, as it’s been anything but sealed.

Gun Belt Held in Evidence Room

Access to that evidence room was a point of contention last week during the Cass Twp. supervisors monthly meeting in a separate but related incident.

On Friday, during the meeting, former Cass Twp. officer Joe Kavanaugh approached supervisors hoping to retrieve his gun belt.

The gun belt, he said, is being held in the supposedly sealed off evidence room.

“Can I get my stuff back today,” Kavanaugh asked supervisors during the Public Comment portion of the meeting.

Solicitor Mark Semanchik denied that request.

“Not at this time,” he answered.

The reason Semanchik gave Kavanaugh for denying him the ability to go into the evidence room to retrieve his personal gun belt is a supposed “ongoing investigation” into the now-disbanded police department, on which Kavanaugh served.

Kavanaugh was not happy with the response Semanchik gave him, which has been the same response he’s gotten for up to six months.

Former Cass Twp. (and current Minersville) police officer Joe Kavanaugh asked several times on Friday if someone could retrieve his gun belt that’s at his locker, which is inside the police evidence room at the township building. (Coal Region Canary photo)

“My stuff has been in there since January 31st. We’re going on six months that you’re not letting me get my stuff,” Kavanaugh told Semanchik. “That’s absolutely unheard of. I’m not here to cause trouble. I just want my stuff. That’s it. And you’ll never see me again. Just open the door, go in and get it, bring it to me and I’ll leave. You’ll never see me again.”

Facing constant denials from the township from being able to access his gun belt, Kavanaugh says he must consider taking legal action against the township.

The township’s side is that the former police officer’s locker – and the lockers of other now-former officers – is inside the police evidence room.

“You left your property in an evidence locker room,” Semanchik told Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh fired back, saying, “It’s not my fault the township put our lockers in the evidence room.”

Supervisors chair Brenda Helt objected to that statement from Kavanaugh.

“We did not put your lockers in there,” Helt said, adding, “Your chief is the one who made that the evidence room and the locker room.”

Later, Helt asked Kavanaugh why he didn’t ask to go into the evidence room to retrieve his gun belt prior to the meeting in February when supervisors initially voted to suspend all municipal police operations in Cass Township.

“You’re making us seem like we’re the bad guys,” Helt said. “It’s an evidence room and that’s the way we’re treating it.”

The Case of the Missing $575 from the Cass Twp. Police Evidence Room

Treating the evidence room now as it should be treated would be a new step for Cass Township, according to its former Police Chief, Ger Daley, and an attorney representing him, Joe Nahas. 

That incident involving the gun belt is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to access of the Cass Twp. Police evidence room, they say.

While Cass Township insists that no one aside from police have access to that evidence room, Daley and Nahas strongly disagree. 

Daley quite adamantly told The Canary, when reached by phone on Saturday, that the township’s claim that only the police had access to the evidence room is “false.” 

He said the township supervisors and the township secretary all had access to that room. 

Nahas painted a more colorful description of who had access to the evidence room at the Cass Twp. municipal building. 

“That evidence room had as much access and accountability as a hotel room,” Nahas told The Canary on Saturday “They should have put out a welcome mat. It was a shambles when the chief took office and it continues to be that.”

That evidence room has supposedly been sealed off by the township since it decided to disband the police force. 

The reason for sealing off the room – at least according to what the township is saying – is because of what it calls an active investigation into the police department over $575 in cash that has allegedly gone missing.

The $575 was evidence in a drug case prosecuted by the Schuylkill County District Attorney’s Office.

This controversy over access to the police evidence room actually dates back to February 2023. That’s when, according to Semanchik, someone employed by the township had “inadvertently” gained access to the evidence room. 

“There was a situation where it may have been inadvertent, there was access into the evidence room,” Semanchik said.

Semanchik said “it doesn’t matter” how access was gained to the evidence room at that time. 

Cass Township solicitor Mark Semanchik
Cass Township Solicitor Mark Semanchik is advising supervisors to keep the police evidence room sealed until an investigation into its contents is completed. (Coal Region Canary photo)

At that time, the evidence room was located in the basement of the former Duncott school turned municipal building.

After that happened, Semanchik said that Daley, under the supervision of someone from the DA’s office, conducted an inventory of the evidence room after it had been accessed by someone with the township. The goal of taking that inventory was to determine if any evidence had been removed at that time.

“There was a report given by the Chief of Police that, in fact, an inventory was performed, everything was present, nothing had been removed, and no cases were jeopardized,” Semanchik said Friday.

He also said that himself nor the supervisors know if that inventory indicates if the $575 that’s allegedly gone missing was there at that time.

Daley said he filed for a forfeiture of that money earlier this year with the Schuylkill County District Attorney’s Office. So he is sure the money was in the evidence room when he contacted the DA’s office.

He added that when you file for a forfeiture as he did, the DA’s office typically responds quickly, within a day or two.

On Jan. 18, Semanchik said on Friday, someone from the DA’s office showed up at the Cass Twp. municipal building looking to get that money.

“A member of the DA’s office came over with a court order, handed it to (the township secretary) and said ‘Give me my $575’. (The township secretary) said ‘I’m not the police department. I’m not the secretary for the police department’, and referred the matter to the Board of Supervisors,” Semanchik said Friday.

He added, “So, now it’s in our hands. We asked for, where’s the $575. We asked for, where’s the inventory from the year prior, and we’ve yet to see anything even though it’s been reported that it exists and there is nothing missing.”

Daley resigned from his position as Cass Twp. Police Chief on Jan. 25, during an executive session held prior to the supervisors regular monthly meeting, according to our previous reporting on what the township has said.

On Feb. 2, supervisors voted on the recommendation of Semanchik to suspend the entire police operation in Cass Twp. while it investigated a matter allegedly involving a believed-to-be former officer who had allegedly filed a form with a department of the state government as a police officer there.

Immediately following that Feb. 2 meeting, Daley was at the Cass Twp. building, according to Semanchik, with a member of the DA’s office to access the evidence room and recover that $575 that the township was under court order to surrender.

“That happened and nothing was found. No $575 was found. But that did not relieve the court order that was issued by Judge (Christina) Hale,” Semanchik said.

The following Monday, Semanchik and Helt said, Cass Township cut a check to the County to cover the $575 allegedly missing from the evidence room.

Helt said Pennsylvania State Police is supposed to visit the evidence room and conduct its own inventory of the items being held with Cass Township.

Following Friday’s meeting, Semanchik said the township has requested the assistance of the DA’s office and State Police with conducting an investigation into “certain actions” of the Cass Twp. Police Department.

“As of this day, we’re working toward it but no results,” Semanchik said.

Daley vehemently denies any hint of wrongdoing on his part.

“I’m the one who called the DA’s office,” Daley said. “I’m the one who filed for the forfeiture with the DA’s office. And I’m the one who called them about the evidence room being broken into.”

Nahas backed up his client with an even firmer defense. 

“If there was any malfeasance being reported, it was being done by the Chief,” Nahas said. “Myself and my law firm are going to have to address, if it continues, their outright defamation and slander of the Chief. They absolutely have zero evidence of any type of malfeasance. It’s amazing how these individuals have no accountability, no chain of custody. There is no liability, criminal or civil, that the chief bears. 


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Richard Paul Fedoriska

    July 3, 2024 at 5:49 pm

    This is a great article on the police situation in Cass Twp.
    Rich Fedoriska

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