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Ex-Chesapeake police chief files appeal

Thompson says residency requirement was waived by council in 2016

By Mark Shaffer and Heath Harrison

Former Chesapeake police chief Randy Thompson has filed an appeal after being discharged last month.

The appeal was filed in the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court on Feb. 11, 10 days after he was discharged by the village council.

Under Ohio Revised Code 737.171, the only reasons that a duly-appointed marshal of a village can be fired is if the marshal “has been guilty of incompetency, inefficiency, dishonesty, drunkenness, immoral conduct, insubordination, discourteous treatment of the public, neglect of duty, or any other acts of misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance in the performance of the marshal’s official duty, the mayor shall file with the legislative authority of the village written charges against that person setting forth in detail the reason for the charges, and immediately shall serve a true copy of the charges upon the person against whom they are made.”

After the charges are made, they are to be presented to the next regular meeting village council no more than five days after the charges are served to the chief and the chief and his counsel are to appear at the meeting to answer the charges.

“At the conclusion of the hearing, the legislative authority may dismiss the charges, suspend the accused from office for not more than sixty days, or remove the accused from office,” the revised code reads, and removing or suspending “the accused from office requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all members elected to it.”

At February’s council meeting, a motion was put forward and seconded by council members, based on legal interpretation by village solicitor Derrick Fisher.

Council members Danny Burd, Larry Estep and Lonnie Salyers voted to remove Thompson, while council member Jim Smith cast a “pass” vote.

Council member Richard McMaster was absent from the meeting. Council member Paul Hart was also absent for the vote, having excused himself due to a personal matter earlier in the meeting.

After the vote, the chief then can file an appeal within 10 days.

Thompson is appealing on several grounds, including that the mayor did not serve the charges on him and the charges were presented at a regular council meeting without being served on him, that neither he nor an attorney were given an opportunity to appear at the meeting to examine witnesses and answer the charges, and that the council voted to remove him from office with only three yes votes, not the required two-thirds of six members of the council, since there were only four council members in attendance of the meeting.

Thompson said he was fired because he did not move to Chesapeake from Proctorville, where he resides, within six months of being hired as the police chief.

In his appeal, Thompson pointed out that the village waived the residency requirement at July 5, 2016 public meeting.

On March 1, the case was referred to the court of Judge Andrew Ballard for further disposition.

The council voted at February’s meeting to name Steven Woodyard as interim police chief. Mayor Kim Oldaker declined to comment on the case after that meeting.