MUNROE FALLS — An independent investigation has concluded that a Munroe Falls Police sergeant did not violate department rules and regulations in an incident involving the mayor in the city hall parking lot last month; however, the police chief said he still needs to review the findings with the law director.
Upon a request from the city administration, the Summit County Sheriff's Office investigated an apparent dispute that occurred between Munroe Falls Police Sgt. Bob Post and Mayor James Armstrong in the municipal building parking lot on Dec. 3.
In his investigatory report, Sheriff’s Office Lt. Michael Lowe noted Post and Armstrong gave "conflicting statements" about the conversation that occurred between them on that date and noted "there were no independent witnesses to the discussion."
Lowe thus concluded that Post did not violate police rules and regulations pertaining to: Insubordination, Truthfulness and Suspension. Lowe also noted in his report that "there is not a pattern" of Post violating rules and regulations governing insubordination.
Dan Leffler, chief of staff with the Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, represented Post in the investigation and said the Sheriff’s Office reached the conclusion that Leffler had expected.
"We didn’t think that there was any violation by the sergeant," said Leffler, who added that Post remained on paid administrative leave as of Thursday afternoon.
However, Leffler noted, "typically under these circumstances, the officer is returned to back to normal duty just as a course of business."
Leffler said the city administration is working through the process and added he is not planning to meet with them about the case.
In an emailed update he provided to City Council on Thursday afternoon, Chief Jerry Hughes wrote, "I feel that it is important to understand that their report does not condone Sgt. Post’s behavior. They do state that without independent witnesses they do not have a preponderance of evidence to support any of the charges listed on my report."
Hughes told Council that while he appreciated the Summit County Sheriff’s Office’s work, "I feel that I still must look at the totality of the circumstances and I will need to review these findings with our Law Director Tom Kostoff."
When Hughes first notified Council on Tuesday that the investigation was finished, Councilors said they would like to discuss the issue in executive session on Jan. 16.
Leffler characterized the incident between Post and Armstrong as an "unfortunate situation," and "probably a miscommunication."
Messages left for Post and Armstrong were not returned by press time.
Overview of report
A Dec. 8 letter from Hughes to Post suspended the officer from duty with pay pending the conclusion of the investigation and noted that the probe would examine whether Post had violated the aforementioned rules and regulations.
In his investigatory report, Lowe said he "was unable to determine the content of the conversation between Mayor Armstrong and Sergeant Post."
Lowe noted Armstrong and Post "gave conflicting statements of the content of the discussion between them and there were no independent witnesses to the discussion." Lowe added that a surveillance video — which does not have audio — "does not clearly show by a preponderance of evidence that either Mayor Armstrong’s statement or Sergeant Post’s statement is more factual."
Lowe also wrote that "there is not a preponderance of evidence that … Post was discourteous to … Armstrong."
Lowe wrote he determined there could not be a violation for insubordination because Armstrong is "not in the chain of command of the police department" as it is defined in the department’s rules and regulations.
Lowe noted that past incidents mentioned in interviews were not documented by the police or administration when they occurred and added Hughes discussed a recent incident that "he deemed did not warrant discipline for insubordination at the time of the incident."
"I was unable to determine there were any incidents of insubordination," wrote Lowe.
For his investigation, Lowe interviewed Post, Armstrong, Hughes, and Munroe Falls Police Sergeants John Altomare and Fred Jones. The two sergeants were speaking with Armstrong in the parking lot on Dec. 3 when Post pulled into the parking lot in his truck. They then left when Armstrong walked over to speak with Post, but returned a short time later when Armstrong called them back to the scene. Armstrong also summoned Hughes to the scene, but Post drove out of the parking lot before Hughes arrived.
The Stow Sentry viewed the surveillance video showing the interaction between Armstrong and Post, but the footage sheds little light on what transpired.