A Repository analysis found that 34 Stark County law enforcement officers have been fired since 2003. Of the 19 officers who appealed, 10 returned to their jobs, including one officer who was reinstated twice.
A Repository analysis found that 34 Stark County law enforcement officers have been fired since 2003. Of the 19 officers who appealed, 10 returned to their jobs, including one officer who was reinstated twice. The Repository attempted to reach each officer where contact information was available.
ALLIANCE POLICE DEPARTMENT
• Officer Mark Welsh
Date fired: May 7, 2003
Circumstances: Fired for falsifying his time sheet and activity log. The city said Welsh submitted a time sheet and activity log that showed he had worked an extra duty shift for the Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority until 11:30 p.m. when he had worked only until roughly 10 p.m. Welsh admitted the error, saying he believed he could make up the time on a different day, similar to how other officers in the SMHA program previously had done.
Outcome of appeal: Firing upheld by an arbitrator who said Welsh’s dishonesty in submitting the falsified reports compromised his integrity and could subject him to attacks on his credibility in future court proceedings.
Note: Alliance rehired Welsh in 2011.
CANTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
• Officer Bobby L. Cutts Jr.
Date fired: Feb. 19, 2003
Circumstances: Fired after being accused of giving his personal gun to his cousin, who had a felony conviction, and then lying about it. Cutts had filed a theft report in October 2002 saying the gun was stolen. He was acquitted in court of unlawful transaction of a weapon and perjury charges in May 2003.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated with back pay and benefits by an arbitrator who did not find Cutts’ cousin credible due to the cousin’s felony record and discrepancies in the cousin’s testimony. The arbitrator said there was strong evidence to prove Cutts’ version of events, including that he promptly reported his gun missing, and that it was more likely the cousin took advantage of an opportunity to steal the weapon.
Note: Cutts resigned in 2007 after being charged with killing his girlfriend, Jessie Davis, and their unborn child.
• Officer Gary Edmunds
Date fired: June 3, 2003
Circumstances: Fired for violating seven departmental rules, including abusing his position for personal gain, associating with prostitutes and unsatisfactory job performance, after he was accused of receiving oral sex from five women who said they did it to avoid being arrested or ticketed. He was acquitted in court of 12 criminal charges of bribery and sexual battery in May 2003.
Page 2 of 7 - Outcome of appeal: Reinstated with back pay by an arbitrator who found the accusers to be unreliable and determined the city failed to meet the burden of proof needed for the firing. Edmunds remains employed with the city.
• Officer Steven Fowler
Date fired: May 15, 2004
Circumstances: Fired for conduct unbecoming an officer, rules violations, unsatisfactory performance, leaving his duty post and lying after the city said he used a state police computer to track the license plate number of a woman in hopes of scoring a date. He also began a relationship with a different woman who had filed a domestic violence complaint against her estranged husband. The estranged husband filed a harassment complaint against Fowler in January 2004.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated by an arbitrator who said Fowler should be penalized but the decision to fire him was too severe. Fowler was not given back pay. The arbitrator noted that Fowler had no prior disciplinary actions.
Note: Fowler died in 2012.
• Officer Greg Gilmore
Date fired: July 28, 2004
Circumstances: Fired after being accused of not being truthful about a Dec. 19, 2003 bar fight between a Canton City police officer and a drunk patron. Gilmore, who was off duty, had denied seeing the other city officer assault the handcuffed patron.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated with back pay and benefits in May 2005 by an arbitrator who said the city did not prove that Gilmore was lying as the videotape did not capture the entire incident. The arbitrator also credited Gilmore with a good work record.
Note: Gilmore remains employed with the city.
• Officer Daniel Harless
Date fired: Jan. 10, 2012
Circumstances: Fired for verbally abusing residents, including threatening to shoot and kill them, during three separate traffic stops.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated in November 2012 by an arbitrator who found Harless’ conduct defensible because he had been patrolling a high-crime area, suffered from “upsetting memories” due to a fight he had with an arrestee eight years earlier and believed he was in danger. The arbitrator also credited the then 15-year department veteran with a good work record. Harless, who has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and depression, has not been cleared to return to work. The city has appealed the arbitrator’s ruling in Stark County Common Pleas Court.
Page 3 of 7 - HARTVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT
• Part-time officer Aaron Bardwell
Date fired: Nov. 13, 2009
Circumstances: Failure to follow policies and procedures.
Outcome of appeal: Bardwell filed a lawsuit in November 2009 in Stark County Common Pleas Court that claimed he received unfair treatment, more severe punishment and was not removed from probationary status because he tried to alert Hartville’s mayor and council about problems in the police department, such as mounting police paperwork and lack of supervision and training. He dropped the lawsuit eight months later.
HILLS AND DALES POLICE DEPARTMENT
• Lt. Rodney K. Smith
Date fired: May 15, 2003
Circumstances: Fired for misuse of state computer system, abuse of subordinate, gross neglect of duty, disobedience of an order, misuse and damage of village property and sabotage of village surveillance equipment. Smith filed a lawsuit in federal court that claimed the village violated due process laws and its own disciplinary procedures because the mayor fired him without a vote from village council.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated through a settlement that said the village’s insurance policy would pay Smith $10,000 and he would resign.
JACKSON TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT
• Officer Troy Ransom
Date fired: Feb. 21, 2006
Circumstances: Fired after being accused of receiving oral sex in a church parking lot in September 2005 while he was on duty and then lying to investigators during an internal review. Ransom denied the sex act occurred.
Outcome of appeal: Firing upheld by an arbitrator who said these type of incidents, when they become public, severely compromise the reputation of the department, the trust and confidence of citizens and the employees’ morale.
• Officer Eric B. Martzolf
Date fired: Oct. 22, 2007
Circumstances: Fired after being convicted of disorderly conduct for entering his wife’s workplace, striking her twice in the face and pushing her to the ground.
Page 4 of 7 - Outcome of appeal: Reinstated by an arbitrator without back pay under a last-chance agreement that said Martzolf must seek counseling and would be fired if he was found guilty of committing a similar act within the next two years. The arbitrator said he was exercising the same level of compassion as the municipal court judge who reduced the initial domestic violence charge to disorderly conduct and ordered Martzolf to undergo counseling as part of his probation. Martzolf was sentenced to 30 days in jail with 28 days suspended on the condition of no related offenses for two years. Martzolf remains employed with the township.
• Officer Todd A. Macaluso
First firing and appeal: Aug. 28, 2008
Circumstances: Fired for making a false statement and engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer after an internal investigation said he used a cheat sheet on the state-administered annual breath alcohol certification exam. Macaluso admitted having the cheat sheet but said he didn’t use it.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated by an arbitrator who said Macaluso did not make a false statement because the township could not prove that Macaluso had heard the test administrator’s request for anyone with an answer sheet to turn it in. The arbitrator noted that the Ohio Highway Patrol troopers who also had been accused of cheating had been returned to their jobs, either by petitioning for reinstatement, grievance settlements or by the decisions of three different arbitrators. Macaluso did not receive back pay for the time he was off work.
Second firing and appeal: Aug. 2, 2011
Circumstances: Fired for violating a 2010 alcohol rehabilitation agreement he signed after he testing positive for alcohol while on duty in September 2010.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated with back pay by an arbitrator who said the rehabilitation agreement did not include a “zero-tolerance” policy and said that while Macaluso’s actions were “ill-advised,” they did not violate the agreement’s language.
Note: Macaluso resigned March 28, 2013, as part of a settlement agreement with trustees after he was accused of showing up to testify in court while drunk. In exchange, trustees gave Macaluso $5,500 in severance pay.
• Officer Richard Leon
Date fired: Jan. 9, 2012
Circumstances: Fired after violating a last-chance agreement by failing to complete workers’ compensation paperwork as ordered by the police chief. The 2009 last-chance agreement said Leon could not violate any rules, except minor offenses, within 36 months. Leon said he did not complete the paperwork because he thought it would be illegal to request temporary compensation when he was receiving a salary from the township.
Page 5 of 7 - Outcome of appeal: Firing upheld by an arbitrator who found that Leon failed to carry out the chief’s order for 30 days without raising any questions about the legitimacy of the order. The arbitrator said that disobeying an order was a major offense because it is a functional necessity within a paramilitary organization to have subordinates carry out orders from a higher authority.
MASSILLON POLICE DEPARTMENT
• Officer James J. Baumgardner
Date fired: July 29, 2004
Circumstances: Fired for allegedly lying about his actions on the night in April 2004 when a man killed himself in a cell at Massillon city jail. Officials said Baumgardner failed in his duties because he did not discover the suicide.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated by an arbitrator who said that a police officer should not be responsible or held accountable when adequate training and proper procedures were never in place. He said the city ignored recommendations to spend more money on jail operations, including better training procedures, due to strained finances. Baumgardner remains employed with the city.
• Officer E. Michael Bridenthal
Date fired: July 29, 2004
Circumstances: Fired for violating a 2003 last-chance agreement where he had agreed to lose 100 pounds within a year and to improve his physical condition. He lost only 60 pounds. The police union declined to file a grievance on Bridenthal’s behalf. Bridenthal appealed to the Massillon Civil Service Commission and to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
Outcome of appeal: Both appeals were dismissed.
• Officer Robert W. Boyd
Date fired: Aug. 26, 2005
Circumstances: Fired after the city said Boyd ignored a theft call for 17 minutes as he and another officer drank ice tea in a restaurant. He also was accused of entering a police captain’s personnel file without permission, printing photocopies of the captain to create a mask that was used a mocking way, lied three times to investigators and disobeyed orders such as allowing two cruisers at a restaurant at the same time. Boyd filed a federal lawsuit that claimed he was fired because he threatened to expose other officers’ on-duty use of city equipment to disseminate child pornography, obscenities and hate mongering.
Page 6 of 7 - Outcome of appeal: He agreed to an undisclosed settlement with the city.
• Sgt. Richard Siskie
Date fired: Aug. 26, 2005
Circumstances: Fired after the city said Siskie failed to take control of Officer Robert Boyd’s action, participated in the mocking a superior ranking officer, filed a false theft report claiming an unauthorized photocopy of the captain’s picture was stolen, lied five times to investigators and disobeyed orders such as allowing two cruisers at a restaurant at the same time. Siskie filed a federal lawsuit saying he was targeted because he threatened to expose that child pornography had been on departmental computers.
Outcome of appeal: He agreed to an undisclosed settlement with the city.
PERRY TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT
• Chief Mark A. Machan
Date fired: Dec. 14, 2004
Circumstances: Fired for failing to properly deal with personnel issues and mishandling the department’s budget. Machan filed a federal lawsuit that claimed he was fired as punishment for being a Republican candidate for county sheriff in November 2004.
Outcome of appeal: Under a settlement, the township paid Machan $2,500 and its insurance carrier paid him $11,500.
Note: Machan recently retired as police chief from the Millford Police Department in Clermont County and now serves as a consultant for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and is the interim public safety director at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
• Officer Janine (England) Senanayake
Page 7 of 7 - Date fired: July 7, 2009
Circumstances: Fired after being caught on a police cruiser’s dashboard video camera kissing and caressing the then-police chief during a trip to Cincinnati to pick up a prisoner.
Outcome of appeal: Filed a discrimination case against the township in federal court in February. That case is pending.
Note: Senanayake was hired as deputy with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department, but was fired last year after a reported relationship with her supervisor there. She has filed a similar discrimination complaint against Delaware County officials.
STARK COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
• Deputy Brian Pittman
Date fired: June 19, 2009
Circumstances: Fired after a woman claimed Pittman had fondled her breasts when he — off duty but in a sheriff’s cruiser — drove her to her relative’s home in April 2009. The sheriff’s office said Pittman also violated multiple departmental rules such as not notifying dispatchers that he had picked up the woman walking along state Route 153, failing to check whether the woman had any arrest warrants or a weapon, failing to activate the cruiser’s lights and in-car video camera and had looked at pornography on his department-issued laptop while on duty. Pittman had denied touching the woman and said the pornographic pictures had been emailed to him by a supervisor.
Outcome of appeal: Reinstated with back pay by an arbitrator who said the sheriff’s office did not prove that Pittman touched the woman because her statements were not believable and riddled with inconsistencies. The arbitrator said Pittman’s flagrant disregard of other departmental rules and procedures warranted discipline but not termination. He ordered that Pittman be suspended for 150 days. Pittman remains employed with the sheriff’s office.