Pennsylvania mayor accused of disturbing graves

AP News
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Posted: Feb 01, 2017 12:05 PM

SHAMOKIN, Pa. (AP) — A central Pennsylvania mayor has been accused by authorities of disturbing 14 graves through work on a cellphone tower planned for the cemetery where he serves as board president.

Police charged Shamokin Mayor Bill Milbrand with vandalism over the plan to build the cellphone tower over the graves. He has denied the charges and said he had little involvement in the project, which would have generated money for cemetery upkeep.

Some of the 16,000 graves at Shamokin Cemetery date to 1919.

Milbrand told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he could not discuss the situation until he met with a lawyer. He was arrested and handcuffed Tuesday at his tour bus company.

Police accused him of letting construction crews cover more than a dozen graves with dirt in order to place the cell tower at the back of the cemetery. Milbrand hoped it could generate $900 to $1,200 a month.

"If it is proven that graves were disturbed, with my own money I will see that it gets righted," Milbrand told the Daily Item of Sunbury.

The arrest followed a complaint from local resident Thomas Ward. According to court papers, Shamokin Patrolman William Miner used burial records and photographic evidence to determine that 14 graves had been disturbed, and spoke with a contractor who said he had done work there at Milbrand's direction. Other residents complained that rocks and rubble had fallen onto graves.

Milbrand worked as a bus mechanic for the school district before buying the local tour bus company in 2010. He was charged with 14 felony vandalism counts along with lesser charges. He has been released on $20,000 unsecured bail.