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The Suburbanite
  • SPECIAL REPORT: Zink investigation delved into multiple allegations of sexual harassment

  • The Ohio Attorney General's Office provided limited information about what its Bureau of Criminal Investigation was looking into while the case remained open. The attorney general's office released its report to the Repository this month.
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    • Timeline of events
      Fall 2007 Alleged harassment against female police officer begins

      Nov. 28, 2012 Concerns about alleged harassment brought to township

      Nov. 29, 201...
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      Timeline of events
      Fall 2007 Alleged harassment against female police officer begins
      Nov. 28, 2012 Concerns about alleged harassment brought to township
      Nov. 29, 2012 Zink put on administrative leave; administrative investigation begins
      Dec. 18, 2012 Administrative investigation ends; trustees suspend Zink
      Jan 2., 2013 Zink begins 30-day unpaid suspension
      Feb. 1, 2013 Zink returns to work
      Feb. 5, 2013 Stark County Prosecutor's Office requests BCI investigation
      Feb. 13, 2013 BCI investigation opens
      April 10, 2013 BCI agents and township administrator, attorney meet
      April 11, 2013 Zink put on administrative leave
      May 15, 2013 BCI investigation information sent to Stark County Prosecutor's Office
      July 2013 Special prosecutor with attorney general's office agrees to review case
      Sept. 5, 2013 Zink files for retirement
      Nov. 29, 2013 Zink officially retires at the end of the day
      Dec. 2, 2013 Zink signs settlement; BCI case closes.
      Sources: Jackson Township documents, Hill investigative report, Repository archives, Ohio Attorney General's Office
  • Editor's note: The names of those interviewed in the Ohio Attorney General's report were withheld from this article unless the individual was willing to speak on the record, except David Zink, who was identified as the man being investigated by both the state and Zink himself.
    The state investigation of the township's former police chief involved a birthday celebration, a hot tub, a sexual-assault accusation and blocks of time the woman who brought the allegation doesn't remember.
    David Zink spent more time on paid leave than in the office while his behavior was scrutinized during the past year. No charges were filed when the case closed with a December settlement. The state will pursue no legal action against him unless he breaks the terms of the agreement. Zink maintains he never committed a crime.
    For the 10 months the case was open, the Ohio Attorney General's Office provided limited information about what its Bureau of Criminal Investigation was looking into.
    The office released its report to The Repository this month following a public records request. The documents show agents interviewed 17 people — mostly current and former township employees and Zink — from February to May 2013 in Jackson Township and at BCI's Richfield office. Some were interviewed multiple times.
    The name of the man who was under investigation is blacked out on the BCI report because the man is an uncharged suspect. The attorney general's office has identified Zink as the subject of the investigation, and Zink has acknowledged he cooperated with the investigation.
    The BCI investigation commenced days after Zink returned to his job at the police department last year, after trustees suspended him for a month as a result of a different investigation that determined his conduct constituted sexual harassment.
    Beyond Zink, interviews in the report mention township employees and elected officials. The comments include accusations of favoritism, painting a picture of a township administration that made leadership decisions based on friendships. Most women interviewed said they kept quiet about inappropriate conduct toward them out of fear of losing their jobs, and some men interviewed said they worried about backlash for speaking out.
    The Repository contacted women whom BCI agents talked with to give them an opportunity to speak about the case on the record. They declined.
    Zink also declined the chance to be interviewed. He has sent several statements to The Repository, calling into question the character of the women who made the allegations against him and accusing them of being liars. He came to The Repository office on Friday proclaiming his innocence.
    'THE LAST DEFINITIVE MEMORY'
    The focus of the BCI investigation was a sexual assault allegation made by a female Jackson Township police officer. Her name is redacted from the report to protect her privacy, according to a public records request response from the attorney general's office.
    Page 2 of 5 - Those involved give differing accounts of what occurred.
    The police officer claimed that on the night of her birthday, Zink came over to her house with two bottles of homemade wine. He suggested going back to his house to get in the hot tub. She said no, according to the report.
    "(The woman) said at this point, things become 'blurry,' " the report reads. "The last definitive memory is being outside at her house."
    Zink drove the woman to his home — where she was forced into his hot tub, she told investigators — and then he drove her back to her house. She was locked out, so he helped shove her through a window. The last thing she remembered, she told investigators, was walking with Zink in her home.
    She said she woke up naked. She also found bruising on her legs and said she felt sore and "raw" inside.
    The woman immediately put her sheets in the laundry. She did not seek medical attention and told BCI agents she was afraid because she knew the doctors would have to alert law enforcement of a potential assault, according to the report.
    Zink's version of what happened that night is that he showed up at the birthday celebration with a bottle of wine and then tried to leave. The woman was intoxicated, and she told him she was either going to walk or drive to his house because she wanted to get in his hot tub. He drove her there, which he is quoted in the report as saying was the "biggest error in (his) judgment."
    The woman got in the hot tub. Zink said he did not. He went in his house, came back out and saw her fall off the edge of the hot tub. He told investigators his immediate assumption was that "she was dead," and he didn't call for help because the circumstances looked bad.
    "I honestly thought that, 'You know what, I'm just going to control this situation,'" he told investigators. "In hindsight, it was a very stupid thing to do."
    He drove the woman back home, helped her through a window, and walked her to the landing of her inside stairs before leaving, according to the report.
    Zink submitted his DNA after BCI agents told him they might come back with a request for it.
    PREVIOUS ALLEGATIONS
    The BCI report also detailed accusations of years of sexual harassment against a different female police officer. Her complaints included Zink repeatedly showing up uninvited at her home, trying to kiss her and calling her multiple times a day.
    The same sexual harassment allegations were the subject of an investigation the township hired an attorney to conduct at the end of 2012. John Hill, with Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs, found Zink's action violated sexual harassment law and also the township's harassment policy.
    Page 3 of 5 - For the BCI case, a grand jury subpoenaed the woman's cellphone records, which showed Zink called her from his home phone, personal cellphone and agency cellphone, according to the report. Phone records the woman provided indicated Zink called her sometimes up to 12 times daily.
    In December 2013, Zink settled with the women who raised the main allegations against him. Conditions of the agreement included that Zink would retire within two weeks and that he would give up his peace-officer certification, rendering him unable to pursue a law-enforcement career in the state again.
    The main reason the case took so long to close, BCI spokeswoman Jill Del Greco said, was because it took several months for the state to process Zink's retirement paperwork.
    'POTENTIAL CRIMINAL CHARGES'
    The attorney general's office won't elaborate on the considerations that led to the case resulting in a settlement, other than to say the decision was reached with the blessing of the women it involved.
    But, Del Greco said, if Zink had declined the settlement, the case would have gone to a grand jury for a possible indictment.
    "This is an agreement that Mr. Zink had the option to accept or not," she said.
    Zink, in a statement emailed to The Repository, said he signed the settlement because he wanted to avoid the expense of taking the case to court and the resulting negative media attention.
    "I do not trust the complainants in this case or the Attorney General's office," he wrote.
    The day before Zink was placed on paid administrative leave in April, BCI agents met with the township administrator and a township attorney to interview the administrator as part of the investigation.
    The attorney asked investigators for details about the case so she could advise the township how to proceed. "With 'potential criminal charges against him' they need to know if they should put him on leave," the report on the interview ends.
    Within a week, one of Zink's attorneys, Robert Tscholl, sent a letter to the township alleging that during the meeting, a BCI investigator told the township official there were three felony charges against Zink that would go to a grand jury with a special prosecutor and that that information was the basis for putting Zink on leave.
    BCI will not accept a case if it doesn't appear a crime was committed, Del Greco said.
    But the agency doesn't track how many of its cases result in criminal charges being pursued, according to a public records request response from BCI.
    'THAT ALLEGATION IS LAUGHABLE'
    Zink, in his comments sent to The Repository, said it's "interesting" that the township's police department and BCI have the same union representation, through the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council. He says the investigation was biased.
    Page 4 of 5 - In January 2013, while Zink was suspended, Chuck Wilson, senior staff representative for the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council, read a letter before township trustees saying Zink was promoted to a job that exceeded his abilities and that he used his position for personal gain. His behaviors indicated "an utter incapacity to function as a leader and chief executive officer of this Police Department," the letter reads.
    In April, a township attorney told investigators she thought the union asked prosecutors to involve BCI, according to the report.
    A few days later, Tscholl wrote in his letter to the township that BCI was on a "witch hunt" against Zink, in part because of the Fraternal Order of Police.
    "Well, that allegation is laughable," said Paul Cox, chief counsel of the state Fraternal Order of Police, last week. He called the accusation that there was a conflict of interest in the investigation "a deliberate attempt" to deflect focus from "real problems."
    The investigators are people trying to do their official jobs, he said. Moreover, the union has a representative for state employees — BCI agents included — and different representatives for local law-enforcement agencies.
    OTHER ACCUSATIONS
    Zink and his attorney, Tscholl, contend the allegations are the result of personal vendettas against Zink because of frustrations related to the police department's internal handling of the high-profile investigation of the high school basketball coach in November 2012. Both have said they find it suspect that none of the accusations were made public until then.
    Tscholl, in January 2013, requested the township look into the conduct of two women with the police department following their complaints about Zink's management of the investigation, according to a letter included in Zink's personnel file.
    In Zink's statements to The Repository, he says the women who brought the charges included in the BCI report conspired against him to get him removed as chief and to benefit financially.
    Of the 17 people BCI interviewed, 10 were women. Of those women, six recounted to investigators personal interactions they'd had with Zink that made them uncomfortable.
    Each said she didn't tell because she was afraid for her job.
    Both men and women interviewed mentioned Zink's close ties to some of the township's elected officials as their reason for not approaching the administration with their concerns.
    Todd Hawke, president of the township's board of trustees, said the township does not comment on personnel matters.
    Interviews in the BCI report also bring up issues that aren't directly related to the allegations against Zink but shed light on the culture of the police department.
    They include: An employee telling investigators he and his colleagues took a jaunt to a Dayton-area strip club after a police training class; an employee finding notes with racial slurs in his mailbox; an employee who said he and his colleague gamble with people with a criminal history; allegations of officers taking shots at a bar while armed and being paid to work security; and allegations of supervisors attaching a GPS unit to an officer's car to monitor his whereabouts.
    Page 5 of 5 - In response to these, Hawke said the township routinely receives compliments about the professionalism demonstrated by its officers.
    "The township's police department is a great department," Hawke said. "They are providing the high level of service that the people of Jackson Township have come to know, expect and deserve from them."
    As for whether the situation with Zink will have any bearing on the township's selection of a new police chief, Hawke said the township maintains hiring policies and procedures that will be used in choosing the department's next leader.
    Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or on Twitter: @amatasREP

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