MUNROE FALLS — About 35-40 people filled council chambers Tuesday night and several voiced objections to how officials handled a situation where a police sergeant was terminated from his job and faced criminal charges before the county prosecutor’s office decided to dismiss the case.
Robert Post was relieved from his duties as a city police sergeant on April 3 “following an investigation as the result of a citizen’s complaint,” said Chief Jerry Hughes on the day he dismissed Post.
Post was charged with four counts of unauthorized use of Law Enforcement Automated Database System (LEADS), a fifth-degree felony, in August. The Summit County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges on Nov. 28 after “[Hughes] provided us with information about a [police department] policy that had been on the books in the department,” said James Pollack, director of communications for the county prosector.
Post’s case was dismissed “without prejudice,” which means the charges could be refiled at a later date, according to Pollack.
When asked whether charges would be refiled, Hughes told the Stow Sentry on Thursday, “at this point, we have not made any decision.”
On Tuesday, Council Member Mike Barnes said that Post had been run “through a gauntlet” and added “someone has to be held accountable for this.”
Several residents expressed similar sentiments, using words such as “frustrated,” “shocked,” “outraged” and “disgraceful.”
Resident Ken Lambach drew applause when he stated, “I think most of the people in this room owe Bob Post a public apology.”
Post was not in attendance at the meeting.
According to a report issued by a State Employment Relations Board official, Post was terminated from his job after he showed up at a resident’s home in uniform in a police car when a letter regarding a civil dispute involving a local Homeowners Association was being delivered. The letter included Post’s signature, and those of others involved in the matter. Lambach was one of those involved.
Tonya Jones, a labor relations specialist for SERB, noted the city said it was “completely inappropriate” for an on-duty police officer to be involved in a civil dispute when that officer has an interest in the dispute, and that the city alleged Post used LEADS to “obtain personal information” about the resident to whom the letter was delivered.
On Tuesday, Hughes said the resident who received the Homeowners Association’s letter initially complained about the wording in the police report about the situation. Hughes said he spoke with Post about the verbiage and Post agreed to reword it.
In December 2017, Hughes said the resident returned to him, “reiterated his complaint,” and asked whether his name was run through LEADS. Hughes said he investigated and learned that the resident who complained, as well as three others, had their names run through LEADS by Post.
He noted he met with Tom DiCaudo, the police department’s legal adviser, who told him these were “four [LEADS] violations” and advised him to take the matter to the county prosecutor for an opinion. The prosecutor’s office determined it was a “felony matter” and Post was indicted by the grand jury on Aug. 17.
Hughes said one of his sergeants provided him in October with copies of emails that former police chief Tom Pozza had sent to officers while Pozza was chief. Hughes said he was concerned about a 2015 email Pozza sent to his officers stating: “If you talk to someone, a call record FI [Field Interview] is required.”
The chief said he was “confused” by Pozza’s instruction and believed his officers would be also, as a Field Interview is typically done when officers are “investigating a possible criminal matter.” In a Field Interview, Hughes said, officers may be checking a person’s date of birth, Social Security number and other personal data, which is when the officer could utilize LEADS to get or confirm the information.
The chief said he sent the email to the prosecutor’s office and then told his officers they should not do an FI or a LEADS inquiry on all citizens they speak with. Hughes said he believed the case was dismissed “based on concerns over the previous chief’s  email.”
The chief noted that while the department’s policies and procedures did not contain Pozza’s instruction, he noted Pozza’s email is “the same thing as an order.”
Mayor James Armstrong said the “real victim” is the resident who “was minding his own business in his home, watching TV, late at night ... when a bunch of residents with a homeowners’ dispute show up [at his door] with Munroe Falls Police without any reason.”
Armstrong’s comment prompted a vocal disagreement from some members of the audience, and Council President John Hegnauer tapped the gavel several times to restore order.
Lambach said an attorney advised him and his Homeowners Association colleagues to have a police escort when they delivered the documents to that resident.
“You weren’t there. You don’t know the tone of the delivery of any of this information,” Lambach responded to Armstrong.
Resident James D. Smith, who was part of the group that delivered the documents, said they did not request Post’s presence specifically, but noted Post was on duty that evening. Smith said Post and another officer remained “far away” from the resident’s door while the information was being delivered.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.
This story was updated Dec. 6 at 8:38 p.m.