November 28, 2014

Elyria
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Kipton chief steps down


Council agrees not to pursue charges against him

KIPTON — Suspended police Chief Pablo Cruz has resigned as head of the village’s basically defunct police department.

Village Council accepted the resignation, which came with a caveat that village officials would not pursue charges against Cruz, at a meeting Monday, said Mayor Dennis Watson. Cruz, who did not return calls seeking comment, also retained the right to file a lawsuit, village Solicitor Dan Mason said.

“He said, ‘I will retire if everything is dropped,’ ” Watson said.

With Cruz gone, the village of about 280 residents remains without a police department and reliant on county sheriff’s deputies to handle any problems. Watson said council members are weighing whether to try to create a new department from scratch.

“We’re letting it ride temporarily,” Watson said.

Lt. Robert Wolfkill, who had led the department since Cruz was first suspended in February, was suspended himself after being indicted on theft charges in Huron County. The department’s other two officers resigned last month as council was considering dissolving the department.

Watson said he suspended Cruz after opening mail from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy while Cruz was serving another suspension — for being reimbursed twice fo $98 worth of film he purchased for a village Christmas party last December — and saw a list of the village’s officers that included several names he didn’t recognize.

Watson’s inquiries, and a subsequent investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, turned up two officers who were never hired by the village and several who had left the department on the list.

The state requires that police officers be affiliated with a police department to keep their certification current. The Kipton Police Department was composed of officers who did exactly that — working 20 hours a month in exchange for $1 a year and remaining certified law enforcement officers. Cruz worked 30 hours a month for $7 an hour.

When Cruz was questioned about the allegations, Mason said, he blamed it on sloppy paperwork. Cruz said he had planned to hire the two officers whose names were on the list but were not village employees.But Watson said Cruz altered paperwork and, using paperwork the mayor had previously signed, got the two men to be considered officers by the state. One of those was listed as having been with the department as far back as 2004, while the other allegedly joined the department in December 2006, according to state records, Watson said.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said he has not received any information on the Cruz investigation from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, county sheriff’s deputies or village officials.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.