(post gazette) – Pittsburgh postmaster facing charges released on bond; employment status unclear

Jeremy Wadsworth/Block News Alliance Daniel Davis, shown here in 2011, joined the US Postal Service in 1997 and worked as postmaster in Toledo before being transferred to Pittsburgh and appointed acting postmaster in February 2014

Pittsburgh’s postmaster this morning declined to address charges filed against him by the Allegheny County district attorney’s office that he intimidated and threatened four subordinates in an effort to cover up his alleged illegal opening of packages containing drugs and money.

“I’m confident we’ll have a conversation down the road,” Daniel P. Davis said in a brief phone interview before hanging up on a reporter.

In an earlier interview this morning, Mr. Davis referred questions to his attorney, Joseph J. Chester, who declined comment.

Mr. Davis joined the US Postal Service in 1997 and worked as postmaster in Toledo before being transferred to Pittsburgh and appointed acting postmaster in February 2014. His position was made permanent in August 2014, but whether he remains employed was unclear today.

Mr. Davis would not clarify whether he was still working. And Tad Kelley, a postal service spokesman, refused to divulge Mr. Davis’s employment status or salary.

“I have presented our statement to you,” Mr. Kelley said. “It is the Postal Service does not comment on personnel matters, including criminal investigations of employees or former employees.”

Mr. Kelley referred further questions to the DA’s office. Spokesman Mike Manko said he did not know whether Mr. Davis was working, fired, suspended or otherwise.

Mr. Davis was arraigned at 10:10 p.m. Tuesday by District Judge Elissa M. Lang on obstructing administration of law or other government function and four counts each of intimidation of witnesses or victims, criminal coercion and official oppression.

He was released on $10,000 unsecured bond on each of five cases filed against him. Judge Lang ordered Mr. Davis to have no contact with any witnesses or victims. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 30.

Mr. Davis, 50, of Canonsburg, has been in trouble with the law once before in Pennsylvania, according to court records.

In May, Pennsylvania State Police charged Mr. Davis with knowingly by trick/fraud win or reduce a loss and disorderly conduct. While gambling on mini-baccarat at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County, Mr. Davis “did, by sleight of hand or scheme, illegally win…” a criminal complaint said.

The first charge was withdrawn. Mr. Davis pleaded guilty to a summary count of disorderly conduct.

While District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.’s office filed charges Tuesday against Mr. Davis and outlined in a detailed affidavit an alleged pattern of the postmaster terrorizing employees over the past year by threatening to kill or ruin them, it is unknown whether any federal charges will flow from an investigation that began with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

Federal authorities provided no clues Tuesday about whether they planned to pursue charges. An affidavit prepared by detectives with the district attorney’s office alleged that Mr. Davis broke federal law and violated US Postal Service regulations by opening same-day delivery mail packages at various post offices, most prominently the one in East Liberty.

As postmaster, the affidavit said, Mr. Davis did not have any job duties that involved opening other people’s mail.

The pertinent portion of the U.S. Code states:

“Whoever, being a Postal Service officer or employee, unlawfully secretes, destroys, detains, delays, or opens any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail entrusted to him or which shall come into his possession, and which was intended to be conveyed by mail, or carried or delivered by any carrier or other employee of the Postal Service, or forwarded through or delivered from any post office or station thereof established by authority of the Postmaster General or the Postal Service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

It remained murky whether Mr. Davis was expecting packages containing drugs or whether he took drugs and money.

Mr. Zappala said Tuesday that the types of packages that Mr. Davis opened were not typically run through an X-ray machine. The DA also said that sometimes Mr. Davis had routing numbers for packages and called employees at post office branches to tell them to look out for them.

Four postal service employees served as witnesses for the DA’s detectives. They described situations in which Mr. Davis opened packages in front of them; some said they watched Mr. Davis open packages containing drugs, the affidavit said.

One, according to Josh Francis, who was working in the East Liberty station and is now a manager in Coraopolis, contained marijuana, cocaine and heroin, the affidavit said. That was in November 2014, and Mr. Francis told investigators that the drugs were hidden in bags of coffee, something that was witnessed on other occasions.

Mr. Davis described it as the “mother load [sic],” according to the affidavit.

On occasion, Mr. Davis told his employees to contact postal inspectors. But Mr. Zappala dismissed the actions as a possible ruse by Mr. Davis to lend him credibility as someone trying to stem the tide of drugs being sent through the mail.

Mr. Zappala said Mr. Davis would tell his employees that he was looking for drugs.

“Where I came from,” Mr. Zappala said Mr. Davis told his charges, “we took drugs off the street.”

Mr. Davis was aware that investigators were looking at him — or going to start.

In September 2014, the affidavit said, Mr. Davis called Donna Clay, now a customer service supervisor in Hazelwood, on her personal cell phone to tell her he was going to take another employee, Mavin Parker, “down.”

Mr. Davis warned Ms. Clay that when that happened, Ms. Parker would tell authorities about him opening packages and that someone from the inspector’s office might talk to her, “and that she better not say anything about him opening packages,” according to the affidavit.

Three months later, the inspector general’s investigation began.

Mr. Davis told Mr. Francis to lie about him opening packages, the affidavit said.

And he warned Dwayne Mayo, a transportation supervisor, that he was “ruthless” and not to cross him, the affidavit said.

At some point, Mr. Davis was interviewed by a postal inspector who asked how the package containing marijuana, heroin and cocaine had been opened. Mr. Francis had told investigators that Mr. Davis opened it. But Mr. Davis said “the self-seal adhesive had opened in transit,” according to the affidavit.

Based on that information, the inspector drafted an affidavit of probable cause for a federal search and seizure warrant. It is unclear what evidence, if any, that warrant produced or even whether it was executed.