Douglass Township Manager: Ziegler Investigation Involves Township Funds, Materials
The criminal investigation of Douglass Township Supervisor Fred Ziegler reportedly started last October; all over his alleged use of a 100-pound propane tank. Township funds were utilized to fill the container, according to township Manager Pete Hyriak. The manager stated said the tank has not yet been returned to municipal officials.
On Monday, the manager disclosed details of the incidents – which also allegedly involved Ziegler's purchase of five sheets of plywood and a chainsaw he borrowed from the township, which led to a criminal investigation by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office and the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Hyriak said he decided to comment in response to statements made by Ziegler earlier this week to a neighboring daily newspaper. "I wanted to set the record straight," the manager said Monday.
A phone message left Monday afternoon for Ziegler at his home was not immediately returned.
Barry Templin, chief of the township's police department, and Solicitor Paul Bauer declined to confirm or deny Hyriak's statements. Reached on Monday, Templin said he would not comment on a criminal investigation, which was launched in October. Bauer said the last thing he wants to do is interfere with the state Attorney General's investigation.
"Mr. Ziegler has his own version of what happened," Bauer said. "A law enforcement official will determine the appropriateness of his conduct."
On Oct. 15, Ziegler allegedly directed a township employee to pick him up at his residence on Henry Road with a township truck, according to Hyriak. The two allegedly proceeded to Eddinger Propane in Bally, where they filled a 100-pound container with propane, according to an email message from the manager. Township funds were used to purchase the propane, according to the email information.
The same day, the Ziegler allegedly returned an empty 50-pound tank to the township, according to the same information. The email also states that Ziegler returned an empty 40-pound tank on Dec. 7.
At that time, Ziegler told the township employee that he wrote a letter to Eddinger saying that supervisors would pay for the township to get propane refilled until May of 2014, according to the manager.
According to the manager, on Nov. 4, Ziegler directed the township employee to pick up five sheets of plywood from A. D. Moyer Lumber Company, which allegedly was used for political signs on Election Day, and deliver the lumber to his residence on Henry Road.
Hyriak's email stated that on Nov. 12, Ziegler handed him a signed blank check with a note that it was for the plywood. The check was entered into evidence as part of the criminal investigation of Ziegler, the email states.
Nearly two years ago, on Aug. 9, 2012, the township's highway department purchased a new chainsaw from the Passmore Service Center for $315.
According to Hyriak's email, Ziegler borrowed the chainsaw the same day and did not return it until the criminal investigation had begun.
More than a year later, on Dec. 9, 2013, Ziegler returned a brand new saw to the department, stating that the saw he borrowed one year earlier was damaged, the manager stated.
Township officials initiated an investigation in October of 2013 before sending it to the detectives unit of the Montgomery County District Attorney's office on November 12, according to the manager. Bauer announced at the June 16 public meeting that the county office referred the case against Ziegler to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office.
The solicitor also said that he had been informed of the referral by Templin. After the meeting, Templin confirmed that Kevin Steele, the first assistant district attorney of Montgomery County, told him of the referral on June 5 or 6. County law enforcement officials had the ability to investigate the case against Ziegler, a former chief of the township's police department who has also worked in the county's Extradition Unit, according to Bauer. He said the office, headed by District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, chose to refer the case to the state attorney general.
According to court documents, Ziegler has filed a civil lawsuit against the municipality. The lawsuit, filed June 12 and identified as a defamation case, seeks to recover more than $50,000 in damages. Bauer said he does not know if the lawsuit is related to the criminal investigation since no details are included in the writ of summons filed with the county.
The lawsuit, which lists the township, supervisors John Stasik, Jr. and Anthony Kuklinski, Bauer and Hyriak, includes three plaintiffs. Along with Ziegler, the other two plaintiffs are C. Jeffrey Haring and Tammy Little.
A phone message left for Eric Winter, the Bechtelsville attorney representing the plaintiffs, was not immediately returned Monday.