August 23, 2014

Elyria
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Fired Elyria officer wants his job back

ELYRIA — A police officer who was fired this summer after he attended a party while on duty and then feigned illness to leave work so he could return to it is trying to get his job back.

An arbitrator will hear the appeal involving Michael P. Tanner, who was fired July 27 for a variety of infractions, including lying, leaving his duty post and unbecoming conduct, Elyria police Chief Michael Medders said.

 
Tanner

Medders said the breaking point was when Tanner, a 10-year veteran, lied when confronted about his repeated appearances at the party on July 7 and July 8.

“He said his wife called him over because she wanted a ride, but we discovered he was at the party earlier when he was supposed to be working,” Medders said. “If he had told the truth, I would have probably recommended a hefty suspension.”

An investigation into the incident said that citizens called police about loud karaoke music and reported that a police officer appeared to be attending the party on Carol Lane about which they were complaining.

According to the report, a dispatcher said that when she sent Tanner on some calls, it sounded like he was at “the Whiskey Ranch.’’

The report said while on duty that night, Tanner talked with another officer about the party getting wild — he said partygoers were doing wet T-shirt limbos and whipped cream Twister — and, at 3 a.m., not long after the conversation, he told his boss he was sick.

About 4 a.m., officers showed up to the party after receiving complaints about how loud it was. The responding officers recognized Tanner’s voice, and they looked inside and saw him holding a karaoke book over his face, according to the report.

Tanner had a blood-alcohol content of 0.06 — state law deems an individual impaired at 0.08 —  and he told officers he had had a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Later, he told officers he’d had a tequilia when he stopped home to use the restroom because of intestinal troubles, according to the report.

During the investigation, Tanner admitted that he was at the party while on duty and that he delayed responding to an emergency call about a woman who was beaten or needed help, putting another officer in jeopardy who had to respond alone.

Tanner also acknowledged that the department had a busy night on the night in question — emergency calls included shots fired, a man being robbed at gunpoint at 11 shots fired at a vehicle.

This is not the first time Tanner has been in trouble.

He’s been disciplined several times before, and his personnel file is several feet thick.

Early in his career, he was suspended twice for two accidents that were ruled to be his fault. He was counseled after 10 other incidents from 1997 to 2006 and anger management was ordered in 1999 after he damaged a microphone when he was ordered to work overtime.

Earlier this year, two incidents resulted in suspensions when he was late for court.

In the first, he was suspended for two days on Feb. 15 for infractions including unbecoming conduct, not reporting for duty on time and fictitious injury/accident.

In the second, he was given a one-day suspension March 22, again for unbecoming conduct, not reporting for duty on time and other infractions.

His personnel file also shows that police investigated numerous other incidents involving Tanner, including his denial of a complaint that he drove his patrol car around a school bus dropping off children and a complaint that he exaggerated the distance he had been dragged by a car.

In April 2001, the union representing police officers placed a full-page advertisement in The Chronicle that accused Medders of mishandling an internal investigation involving Tanner and fostering a hostile work environment.

The most significant discipline prior to his firing was in February 2001, when Tanner was determined to be unfit for duty and was suspended for 30 days. That came after a psychiatric evaluation, which was prompted by the allegation that he drove around the school bus.

An internal report involving that suspension questioned his ability to be truthful and correct his behavior. After a third evaluation, however, he was allowed to return to work.

Contact Cindy Leise at 653-6250 or cleise@chroniclet.com.