‘Abuse of Your Mayoral Authority’: Fetterman Allegedly Ordered Cop To Dig Up Dirt on Political Rival

Pennsylvania lieutenant governor John Fetterman (D.) /
August 23, 2022

As mayor of Braddock, Pa., Senate hopeful John Fetterman (D.) ordered a police officer to dig up dirt on one of his political rivals, according to a town solicitor whom Fetterman later fired.

In a heated 2009 mayoral campaign, Braddock solicitor Lawrence Shields accused Fetterman of "abuse of your mayoral authority" for ordering a Braddock cop to obtain a police report from a 2004 domestic incident involving Fetterman’s challenger, Jayme Cox. Braddock city council members called for Fetterman’s arrest for violating state laws regarding the handling of criminal information in cases where charges are dropped.

Three years later, Fetterman cast the tie-breaking vote—his only vote in 13 years as Braddock mayor—to fire Shields as solicitor, purportedly to save money in the borough’s budget. Fetterman said he was an "enthusiastic yes" in favor of ousting Shields. Shields and Fetterman’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment about whether the earlier criticism of Fetterman was a factor in Shields’s firing.

The incident is another black mark on Fetterman’s tenure as mayor of the dilapidated steel town, which the progressive candidate has touted on the campaign trail as evidence of his blue collar bona fides. In 2013, Fetterman pulled a shotgun on an unarmed black jogger he wrongly suspected of firing a gun near his house. The jogger, Christopher Miyares, said Fetterman aimed a shotgun at his chest. Fetterman admitted in a television interview that he "may have broken the law," but he has refused to apologize for the incident.

Fetterman admitted to asking a police officer for the report on Cox and discussing it with others. But he denied pressuring the officer to dig up the information and said it was necessary to inform voters about Cox, who had charges dropped after taking a domestic abuse class.

Reached by phone, Cox acknowledged he got in an altercation with his wife in 2004 but said the allegation he hit her "wasn’t true." The seven-year Navy veteran told the Washington Free Beacon he and his wife reconciled and remained married until she passed away in 2017. He said he still doesn't know how Fetterman obtained the police report.

"He’ll stab anybody in the back who gets in his way," Cox said of Fetterman.

Fetterman also faced allegations from city officials of failing to perform his duties as mayor. He missed more than one-third of council meetings during his tenure, the Free Beacon reported. Jesse Brown, the president of the city council when Fetterman was in office, said he "should have been at all council meetings" but stopped showing up after multiple confrontations over his official duties.

In one city council meeting Fetterman did attend, he "began discussing his political views" about Cox, according to meeting records obtained by the Free Beacon. Fetterman’s rant during the May 2009 meeting prompted Brown to ask Braddock’s police chief "to remove [Fetterman] from the meeting after he refused to end the discussion." Fetterman was allowed to stay in the meeting after calming down.

As lieutenant governor, Fetterman has proposed rewriting the very same law he was accused of violating in 2009, the Criminal History Record Information Act. He claimed the act "unfairly" disqualified "many Black and Brown Pennsylvanians" from employment. Braddock solicitor Shields said in 2009 that Fetterman’s release of the police report on Cox, who is black, opened Braddock up to a potential lawsuit for violating the act, which bars the release of criminal information three years after an arrest when no conviction occurred. Pennsylvania’s Bucks County was fined $67 million in 2019 for violating the act by publishing protected criminal information.