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Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Police chief to face discipline hearing

Slusser accused of misconduct, neglect, dishonesty

By William Kincaid
CELINA - A myriad of misconduct allegations, including insubordination, neglect of duties and dishonesty, have been levied against suspended police chief Dave Slusser.
Slusser, who has been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 14, will have a chance to defend himself against the allegations at a predisciplinary conference Thursday morning. Safety service director Tom Hitchcock will conduct the proceeding.
Slusser stands accused of improperly handling evidence, falsifying official time sheets, retaining a pistol he was only to keep for a two-week test and evaluation, failing to properly process an envelope of evidence and leaving sensitive data on computers disseminated to city council members, according to a document prepared by city human resources consultant Clemans-Nelson and Associates.
The notice was hand-delivered to Slusser by a police officer on Friday afternoon, according to Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel. Hazel had no comment on the matter; a telephone call to Slusser went unreturned.
The documents cite five instances of alleged inappropriate behavior.
• A victim of domestic violence gave a prescription bottle with Xanax to the police department on or about Nov. 12, 2012, while making an official complaint. Slusser allegedly took possession of the prescription narcotic after the suspect requested the return of the medicine.
"During this investigation, you have consistently offered an evolving version of events that are dishonest," the document states. "You have stated that you reviewed the case with the arresting officer, never conducted a search for the missing prescribed narcotics, didn't treat the narcotics as evidence because they were not part of a criminal case but just abandoned property, threw the narcotics away, didn't throw them away and directed an officer to take the narcotics to the sheriff's office and rebuked ... (Hitchcock) for conducting an improper investigation."
Department procedures, according to the document, do not authorize throwing any type of property or drugs into the trash as a proper way of destruction.
"After telling all these various stories, no one, including yourself, knows where the prescribed narcotics are," the document continues.
• Several official time sheets were allegedly falsified by Slusser during the last quarter of 2010.
"You falsified the time sheets to reflect duties that would qualify for ... (drug and alcohol funds) to be used for payroll that were authorized for use by city council when specific activities were performed by officers," the document states.
Those officers reviewed the falsified time sheets, logs and calls and verified that they did not perform the specific duties required by ordinance which would authorize payment from this fund, according to the document.
• Slusser also allegedly kept a .380 pistol manufactured by North American Arms, as well as two extra magazines, a gun lock, nylon case and instruction manual, that was shipped to him on or about Oct. 16, 2001, for the purpose of a two-week test and evaluation.
"On April 24, 2013, the above described pistol, magazines, gun lock, holster and instruction manual were found in your office desk drawer," the document states. "Upon investigation into this matter, it was learned that you failed to return the above described items."
• Slusser also is accused of failing to process evidence. On or about April 24, 2013, an evidence envelope dated Aug. 17, 2004, containing blood stain evidence, blades and edged weapons, was allegedly found in his office desk drawer.
"It was further stated on the envelope that it was placed into evidence on Aug. 17, 2004, at 1700 hours and signed by you," the document states. "You failed to follow police department policy and procedure regarding the processing and securing of evidence by leaving the above listed evidence in your office desk drawer."
• Slusser allegedly failed to execute an order by Hitchcock to wipe clean of information - data, files, pictures, etc. - two laptops that were to be given to city council members.
Those council members returned the laptops on or about May 10, 2013.
"Upon being reviewed, approximately 67 folders were found," the document states. "The files contained pictures of a juvenile naked and showed the front and back of the juvenile. Upon completion of an investigation conducted by the police department, it has been discovered that the pictures were from a prior child abuse investigation conducted by the police department."
The actions and behavior Slusser is accused of constitute conduct unbecoming an officer, insubordination, incompetency, neglect of duty, dishonesty and failure of good behavior, misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance, as well as discrediting the department and city in the eyes of the public, the document states.
The violations could result in termination of Slusser's employment.
The drawn-out investigation comes down to the fact the city is following through with due process, Pat Hire, a regional manager for Clemans-Nelson and Associates, told the newspaper in March.     
The city is honoring its obligations to the law and proceeding in a thorough fashion to give Slusser all the right opportunities, a process that takes longer in the public sector as the chief is considered a classified civil servant under Ohio Revised Code, Hire said. Those employed in the private sector don't have a right to the job, he explained.
Civil Service laws were created to end the practice of nepotism in the appointment of certain public positions, Hire said, adding the protection also prevents good people from being removed for spurious reasons.
Slusser's current salary is maxed out at $71,075 a year. Calvin Freeman is serving as acting chief.
   Hazel previously told the newspaper he was confident Slusser would at the very least be suspended.
"The hardest thing for the public to grasp is they (civil servants) got this protection, they have this bubble, and it's under the Ohio Revised Code," Hazel said in a previous interview. "And that bubble keeps you from going too far with it."
Slusser's personnel file includes multiple criticisms for job performance and he has previously been suspended.
Slusser joined the city police force in 1978 and he was promoted from sergeant to police chief on June 3, 1991, after achieving the highest score on a civil service test, according to the file.
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