In addition to paying David Zink, taxpayers are also funding an increase in salary for the acting chief. But Ohio law requires a police chief be presented with due process before losing property interest, such as income.
The township has paid its police chief close to $13,000 as he has stayed home for nearly two months — and while no one seems pleased with that decision, it’s a move officials and attorneys say was the best option.
“When you’re in this situation where there are pending charges,” said attorney Greg Beck, who represents Jackson Township, “everyone’s presumed innocent. The best decision is to place them on administrative leave and expedite the investigation process so you can make a decision.”
As far back as March, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents were speaking with women who interacted with Police Chief David Zink to determine whether his behavior toward them was inappropriate. As of Monday afternoon, the criminal investigation remained open, said Jill Del Greco, spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The township put Zink on paid administrative leave in April. Ohio law requires a police chief be presented with due process before losing his or her job for wrongdoing. Because Zink hasn’t been formally accused of anything, all anyone can do is wait.
James Walters, president of the three-member board of trustees, would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Zink’s leave or when it might end, citing personnel matters. But he did say he is not happy about the situation.
“I don’t like it either, but it is what it is, and every other person in this position would do the exact same thing because there is no other choice,” Walters said.
Since being put on leave April 11, Zink has been paid $351 a day, according to data from the township’s fiscal office, as part of his $91,271 yearly salary. Zink joined the department in 1986 and was named chief in March 2010.
Lt. Ty Bissler’s salary has also risen since he absorbed Zink’s duties in his absence — as acting chief, he has seen an extra $1,200 during the past seven weeks.
Beck said a township has two options when dealing with a police chief. Per state law, township trustees can remove a police chief found guilty of misconduct as long as the chief receives notice and a hearing.
There is also a provision under the law stating that a police chief serves at the pleasure of the township trustees and can be removed for no reason. What a township runs into, however, Beck said, is having to replace an official who might have been serving quite well in his or her position — ultimately, it is a judgment call about what will work well for the township.
Beck said he has seen a board exercise its power to remove an official at will in other townships before. But then, many are left asking what the person did wrong.
Page 2 of 2 - ZINK’S SIDE
Zink’s attorney, Robert Tscholl, said Zink should be paid because no charges have been brought against him, and, consequently, he hasn’t had an opportunity to address any allegations. Tscholl said, at this point, he doesn't know whether there will be any charges against Zink or what those charges would be, and he is anxious to see the investigation come to a close.
“It’s very, very frustrating for Chief Zink. I’m sure it’s frustrating for the trustees. It’s frustrating for everybody,” Tscholl said.
Zink was also put on administrative leave during November and December after a female police officer accused him of sexual harassment. An out-of-county investigator found Zink, who is married, had made unwanted sexual advances toward his subordinate for about five years. Zink, who denied the allegations, was suspended for the month of January, and three weeks of his vacation was deducted to make up for the time he was previously on leave.
Walters did not comment on whether Zink might be asked to repay his paid leave this time.
Randy Gonzalez, fiscal officer for the township, said he didn't think Zink would remain on administrative leave long enough to warrant being taken off payroll.
“I don’t really think administrative leave is ever a good thing for the taxpayers,” Gonzalez said.
Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or email@example.com.On Twitter: @amatasREP