Interim police chief appointed

Published 1:35 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Council says mayor did not break law

CHESAPEAKE — The village of Chesapeake has named an interim police chief, following the resignation of Lenny Abrams from the position.

Council member Paul Hart, who serves a mayor pro tempore, said Templeton has named Randy Lewis to the position. The announcement was made during a work session of council on Monday afternoon.

Hart said Lewis has served in law enforcement in departments in the Columbus area and was called and recruited to the position by Templeton.

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Abrams announced his resignation on Sept. 6, after only a few months on the job. In a letter addressed to council and provided to The Tribune, Abrams cited his reasons for departing the position.

The Chesapeake Village Council has also responded to allegations made by the former police chief in his resignation statement.

At the center of his argument were disagreements with Templeton regarding Riverside Recovery Services, a drug and alcohol counseling program that operates a sober living home in the village.

Templeton has publicly stated his opposition to the home’s location in a residential neighborhood and had recently refused a donation by Riverside to the village for bulletproof vests for the police department.

Abrams made a number of other allegations, alleging possible criminal conduct by Templeton.

The council responded to these allegations in a statement faxed to The Tribune on Tuesday.

“The Village Council takes these allegations very seriously, and requested that the village solicitor, Casey W. Baker, of the firm of Meyers, Neville and Baker, review the allegations and advise the Village Council of their merit,” the statement read.

Baker completed his review and provided an opinion letter to the council, which is on file at village hall, according to the statement.

Regarding an Aug. 20 incident, in which Abrams said the department had received a complaint that Templeton was “impersonating an officer,” stopped a vehicle near Riverside and produced a badge, the council said the solicitor concluded, “The Mayor has broad law enforcement authority inside the village limits. Under the Ohio Revised Code, the mayor is expressly denoted as the “chief conservator of peace” within the village. In fact, the Mayor is vested, within village limits, with ‘all the powers conferred upon sheriffs to suppress disorder and keep the peace.’”

Abrams said the incident was reported to the county prosecutor.

According the statement the village solicitor concluded “As Ohio sheriffs have the authority to arrest and detain any person who violates a state or municipal traffic law, the mayor, within village limits, may arrest and detain, or issue a citation, to any person he observes violating state or village traffic law” and that “The mayor acts within his authority as chief conservator of peace witihin the village by enforcing traffic laws, following an individual the mayor suspects may be involved in a drug transaction, or issuing citations.”

The solicitor concluded the mayor qualifies as a “peace officer” and cannot be found to be impersonating a police officer, the statement read.

The statement also responded to an allegation made by Abrams that Templeton had engaged in “tampering with evidence.”

Abrams said an officer conducted a traffic stop in August, resulting in cash and drugs being seized. He said the vehicle was suspected to contain narcotics and was ordered towed to police department until a search warrant was issued.

Abrams stated that, upon arriving for duty following Monday, he observed that the vehicle was missing and learned it was ordered towed from the lot by order of Templeton.

“This resulted in a report being filed and that report sent to the prosecutor’s office for charges of tampering with evidence, a felony,” Abrams stated in his letter.

In the village’s letter, it was stated that Baker concluded “Mr. Abrams’s allegations regarding tampering with evidence are not sufficient under Ohio law to establish that crime.”

Abrams also took issue with Templeton on the issue of ticket quotas. He said the mayor had verbally reprimanded every officer in the department for “not writing enough citations to cover costs.”

“This is a practice that is not only illegal but one that I am morally and ethically against,” Abrams stated in his letter.

In response, the village said the solicitor concluded “Ticket quotas are not unlawful in Ohio.”

The village stated the solicitor did not conduct a factual investigation into the allegations to ascertain their accuracy.

“Thus, even assuming all the allegations are factually true, the solicitor nevertheless concluded that the mayor engaged in no criminal conduct,” the statement read.

The statement concluded by thanking Abrams for his service as village marshal, and said, given the solicitor’s conclusions, the council “is choosing to conclude its investigation into the allegations and will move forward with retaining a new village marshal.”

Abrams was soon followed in his resignation by officers Amanda Webb and Kim Bennett, leaving the department with one officer at the time, Aaron Christian.

An additional officer, Kyle Stamper, was sworn in last Monday. Christian is currently in intensive care at Cabell Huntington Hospital, following a car crash on Sunday that left him in critical condition.

Hart said the village is working to fill the positions and build the department, and that Mike Ferguson of Proctorville’s police force, and Randy Henderson are working on call to help out in the interim.

The next meeting of village council is set for 7 p.m. on Oct. 3.