High court to hear local case

The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to review an appeal of a case involving the firing of former Findlay police sergeant Dave Hill.

The decision to accept the case was filed last week with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Hill along with the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association filed the notice of the appeal on Sept. 25, according to court documents.

Both the 8th District Court of Appeals, Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Common Pleas Judge Steven Gall have upheld the firing of the officer.

In July 2012, Hill was charged with violating the Police Department’s social media policy and was issued a written reprimand after he used a Taser on a 14-year-old boy, who was the son of another officer. The other officer reportedly recorded the incident and the video was posted on Facebook.

Several weeks later, Hill was suspended for 10 days for violating department rules after he expressed displeasure at another officer’s promotion. While conducting roll call on July 27, 2012, Hill disparaged the mental health of the newly-promoted sergeant and placed his loaded pistol in his mouth upon learning about the promotion.

Hill then reportedly made disparaging comments to a female officer by combining her name and a term used for prostitutes. This occurred in November 2012 in front of other officers.

The female officer was scheduled to testify at an upcoming arbitration hearing involving discipline of Hill for the July 27, 2012 incident.

The former sergeant was suspended after the gun violation, and the city fired him after the nickname incident.

An arbitrator ruled in August 2013 that the city had good cause to discipline Hill for disrespectful behavior, but ordered that Hill be reinstated to his position as sergeant with no back pay.

The arbitrator found that the city failed to prove that Hill’s conduct violated the city’s sexual harassment policy and determined that termination was excessive discipline for the conduct, court documents stated.

The police department follows a “disciplinary matrix” which contains five steps of escalating discipline based on severity and frequency of offenses, starting with a verbal reprimand and ending with termination.

The policy also implies the police chief has the sole discretion to determine the appropriate level of discipline if one or more discipline level is indicated, court records stated.

The case was appealed to the Cuyahoga County court because the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association police union is headquartered in North Royalton.

In his ruling, Judge Gall stated the arbitrator overreached in fashioning a middle-ground punishment.

A “disciplinary matrix” allows for the police chief to either suspend Hill for three to 10 days or fire him for multiple violations, the judge wrote.

Hill and the union appealed Gall’s decision to the 8th District Court of Appeals, claiming the trial court exceeded its scope of review and the arbitration award should be enforced.

However, the appeals court concluded that once the arbitrator determined that the disciplinary policy and matrix should be applied to the case, the arbitrator “did not have the arbitral authority to modify the disciplinary action imposed” because the policy gives the police chief sole discretion to determine the appropriate discipline, court records stated.

Appeals Judges Eileen Gallagher and Larry Jones Sr. agreed with Gall, while Judge Mary Boyle gave a dissenting opinion.

In October, a separate civil case between Hill and the female officer was settled and dismissed with prejudice in Hancock County Common Pleas Court.



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