City files appeal of arbitrator’s ruling on Hill firing

By RYAN DUNN
STAFF WRITER

An arbitrator overreached his authority in reinstating a fired Findlay police sergeant, the city of Findlay is arguing in court.

A motion filed last week in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court detailed the city’s request to keep Dave Hill from returning to the Findlay Police Department. It is the latest volley since Hill’s behavior during shift meetings two years ago led to his dismissal.

The arbitrator who ruled Hill can return without back pay acted outside the department’s standardized discipline system, wrote William Schmitz, an attorney from Cleveland representing the city.

During an officer roll call meeting in July 2012, Hill joked about the promotion of another officer to a supervisory role.

He referenced the officer’s prior mental health treatment and placed a loaded handgun in his mouth, according to a department investigation.

Police Chief Greg Horne recommended a 30-day suspension, with 15 days suspended. An arbitrator recommended a 10-day suspension, reducing the punishment to one permitted by department guidelines, according to the city’s motion.

Hill again drew attention during a shift meeting four months later. While discussing an upcoming Christmas party, he combined a female officer’s name with a term for prostitutes, according to a department review.

Arbitrator James Mancini found Hill’s comments to be a second “Class C” departmental offense within a short time.

This should allow officials to fire or suspend Hill, according to the city.

Mancini, however, ignored departmental guidelines and instead fashioned his own ruling, Schmitz wrote.

“He was not permitted to apply his own personal sense of justice by ordering discipline outside the (disciplinary standards),” Schmitz wrote.

Michelle Sullivan, attorney for the police union, which is representing Hill, said the city of Findlay presented the judge with a “lengthy and dramatic recitation of its version of the facts,” but the arbitrator already considered these details.

“The bottom line is that when a contract requires just cause for discipline, the arbitrator has the authority to review the type of discipline imposed and modify the penalty, if necessary,” Sullivan wrote.

Meanwhile, a defamation lawsuit between Hill and the female officer continues in Hancock County Common Pleas Court.

Hill filed a $1.5 million suit against her late last year. He argued in court documents that she made false and defamatory comments to internal investigators.

Hill is suing her for $750,000 in compensatory damages, $750,000 in punitive damages, and any additional funds the court sees fit, according to the complaint.

She has denied all of Hill’s allegations and is countersuing him for at least $50,000.

The case is next scheduled for an Oct. 2 pretrial hearing and a jury trial next year.

Dunn: 419-427-8417
Send an E-mail to Ryan Dunn
Twitter: @CourierRyan

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