Perry Township trustees accepted the resignation of Police Chief Timothy Escola Tuesday night amidst allegations of improper conduct that appears to be sexual in nature.
Escola, chief for four years, resigned Monday, just four days after township officials received an anonymous tip about such conduct.
Law Director Charles Hall said the tip was in the form of a phone call.
“The township received an anonymous allegation of improper conduct against Chief Escola,” Hall said. “It was serious enough that if true it warranted an investigation.”
The tipster, Hall said, “was fairly specific in terms of go here, do this and look at that.”
Hall launched an investigation that basically involved requesting an in-car video from a police cruiser and reviewing it. Trustees have not seen the video.
Hall, however, made copies available to reporters who requested it.
A copy of the in-car video from the cruiser shows Escola driving and a part-time officer, Janine England, who was hired April 13, as his passenger.
Trustee Craig Chessler said Escola and England were en route to the Cincinnati area on June 2 to pick up a male prisoner and return him to Stark County.
As Escola drives, England occasionally leans over to kiss him, the video shows. The conduct continues on the way back to the county as the prisoner is apparently asleep in the backseat.
England and Escola appear to be involved in a sexual act as Escola drives. England repeatedly turns her head and looks in the back seat to check on the prisoner.
Escola’s face is not in view during most of the recording, except for the occasional times he leans toward England for a kiss.
Chessler repeatedly refused to classify the type of conduct occurring in the video, saying that those who view it can judge for themselves. None of the trustees have viewed the video. But Hall has.
“There was allegations that there was some conduct that took place that was recorded,” he said. “I’ll just leave people to draw their own conclusions.
“It appears – and I haven’t seen the video but I’ve been informed – that it’s something that occurred in a police cruiser and it’s ostensibly on duty and involved two Perry Township police officers that were engaging in some conduct that is deemed inappropriate. Different interpretations could be made about what that conduct means.”
Asked whether trustees requested Escola step down, Chessler said no such request was made.
“This was a letter he submitted on his own to the board,” Chessler said. “There was some question whether the board had asked for it, prompted it, or were considering other things and no there wasn’t.
Page 2 of 3 - “The content of the letter speaks for itself,” he added. “Our role tonight was simply to accept that letter as it was submitted and that’s what we did.”
Chessler said the board is working on an arrangement where the department’s four highest-ranking officers – sergeants – operate the department during their given shifts. No one officer has been put in charge.
Chessler noted that trustees will turn their attention to the future leadership of the department. Hall has advised them that further investigation – of either Escola or England – is not necessary.
England, who came to the township after serving as a deputy with the Medina County Sheriff’s Office, remains a member of the department.
Hall said the alleged misconduct is not of a criminal nature and therefore he has not asked for any law enforcement agencies or the municipal court prosecutors to review the incident.
“After reviewing this with the law director and the letter we accepted tonight it was his advice that at this time there was no need to have any further investigation,” Chessler said.
Chessler said he did not know the specific allegations made against the chief. He said he first learned of the allegations from a reporter.
“I’m not saying there wasn’t any wrongdoing at all,” he said. “I’m saying the chief has submitted his letter of resignation, his retirement and we have accepted it. So the need to investigate as far as departmental violations as they relate to the chief is moot.”
Escola was a major with the Jackson Township Police Department prior to succeeding Mark Machan as chief in 2005. Prior to that, Escola worked with the State Highway Patrol and the Ohio Turnpike Commission.
“I appreciated the opportunity to have served the residents of Perry Township for the past four years,” Escola wrote in his letter to trustees. “Many goals have been accomplished, and through the efforts of many we had secured future financing through successful levies. I wish to thank the citizens of Perry Township for their support.”
Chessler praised Escola for his work. He said he was disappointed because he had a high regard for Escola.
“Tim is a very well-liked person,” Chessler said. “He has had an impeccable and stellar career in law enforcement. That is where the surprise and the feelings come in. This is something quite unexpected.
“It would only be fair if you are evaluating this to balance an otherwise exemplary 36-year career against one incident that I know of,” he added.
Trustee Anna Capaldi said she is very disappointed.
“It was certainly not expected,” Capaldi said. “The performance, the improvements to the department, are all a reflection of his professionalism and years of experience that he brought to the department.
Page 3 of 3 - “Real changes were made, real improvements were made,” she added. “We evaluate our department heads. We have job descriptions. We go through all those motions to manage our staff and when something happens out of character it certainly is a surprise or a disappointment.”
Escola did not return a call to his home seeking comment.