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The Suburbanite
  • Former Perry officer: Firing unjust

  • Part-time police officer Janine D. England submitted her resignation to Perry Township trustees in the late afternoon hours of July 8, 2009, attempting to put to an end the days of media scrutiny that had embarrassed both her and then-Police Chief Timothy Escola.

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  • Part-time police officer Janine D. England submitted her resignation to Perry Township trustees in the late afternoon hours of July 8, 2009, attempting to put to an end the days of media scrutiny that had embarrassed both her and then-Police Chief Timothy Escola.
    The video footage of England and Escola kissing, caressing and massaging each other during a June 2, 2009, trip to Cincinnati to pickup a prisoner hit the national media and seemed to play in a continuous loop. England wanted to move on.
    “Even though my work history with the police department was exemplary, due to the recent media attention to this matter I firmly believe this would be in the best interest of the Perry Police Department,” England wrote in her resignation letter.
    But township trustees fired England instead.
    England, 31, now says that her dismissal was unjust and that trustees discriminated against her based on gender, race and national origin by ignoring her resignation letter. In a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, England claims that she was treated differently than other former officers who faced discipline.
    “I am aware that white employees, both male and female, with lengthy disciplinary records, were allowed to resign in lieu of termination during their probationary period,” England wrote in the complaint, which was filed in late April. “Also, the Perry Township former police chief (Escola) who was involved in the incident with me was allowed to resign.
    “I am also aware that the white employees were subjected to progressive discipline while I was not,” she wrote. “I believe that I was treated differently and discharged (in lieu of being allowed to resign) because of my gender, race, national origin, and in retaliation for complaining about the disparity.”
    An effort to resolve the matter through mediation at a hearing in Cleveland on Tuesday was unsuccessful, according to township Law Director Charles Hall, who recommended England’s firing to trustees.
    Hall said England’s claims are “frivolous.”
    “There’s no basis for that,” Hall said. “She was fired for her misconduct as a part-time probationary officer.”
    England, hired April 13, 2009, claims that she was treated differently than Escola, who retired the day before the video footage was released to the media. Hall said trustees have no discretion over an employee’s decision to retire, but do have discretion over resignations.
    She also claims that three former township police officers were allowed to resign when faced with discipline while still in their probationary period. A native of Sri Lanka, England claims she was dealt with differently than those officers based on her race, and that trustees’ decision to fire her inappropriately effected a protected class.
    Attorney Gregory Beck, who is representing the township on the matter, said that claim is false. The three officers she lists in her complaint were no longer within their probationary period at the time they resigned.
    Page 2 of 2 - He said probationary employees do not have the same protections as others.
    “The probation gives a city, township or village a chance to see (an employee) in action so they know whether to waive that probation before (the employee) is fully protected under law,” Beck said. “She was a probationary officer. She was not protected by the Ohio statutory provisions that require a hearing and notice of charges for cause. She also didn’t have the protections of the bargaining agreement.”
    Beck noted that trustees have the right to accept or reject a resignation on a case-by-case basis.
    Hall explained that complaints filed with the EEOC either go to mediation or directly to fact finding. If there is enough evidence to support the claim, a hearing is held in front of an EEOC officer.
    The officer can either dismiss the claim or fashion a remedy, Hall said. The remedy can be equitable or financial.
    Hall has said that he recommended England be fired following an internal investigation into her role in the escapade. Hall said his first concern was that England may have been coerced into the conduct by her superior, Escola.
    However, he later determined that England “voluntarily participated with ... Escola ... in a continuing pattern of conduct,” that stretched from May 18 to June 25, 2009. Hall made the determination by reviewing e-mails between the chief and officer, as well as the video.
    England, Escola and the township are being sued by prisoner Matthew Ruble, who was sleeping in the back seat of the police cruiser during portions of the video. Ruble claims the two set up the trip to continue an extra-marital affair.
    Burglary charges against Ruble were dropped the next day when witnesses recanted their stories. Ruble is accusing Escola and England of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation and deprivation of fundamental constitutional rights.
    Beck said England and Escola have been deposed in the U.S. District Court case. Ruble will be deposed this August.