November 26, 2014

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Lorain police seek to plug leaks

LORAIN — The Lorain Police Department is conducting an internal investigation to determine who leaked information about probes into misconduct allegations against two of its officers last year, according to Chief Cel Rivera’s response to a union grievance over the issue.

The grievance, filed in August and scheduled to be discussed during an arbitration hearing later this month, complains that information about investigations into officers Jeff Jackson and Ralph Gonzalez was shared with people outside the offices of Rivera, the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards and Lorain Safety Service Director Robert Fowler.

At the time the information was reported in the media in August, the investigations were ongoing and “details of these respective investigations have been released, in bad faith,” the grievance said.

Rivera wrote he agreed that the leak was a violation of departmental policy and the union’s collective bargaining agreement, which calls for disciplinary matters to “be carried out in a private and businesslike manner.”

“The Department played no role in the release of this information — it was unauthorized and is the basis of an internal investigation,” Rivera wrote.

Among those who have been subpoenaed to appear at the arbitration hearing is Lorain City Councilman Dennis Flores, D-2nd Ward, who was quoted in a Plain Dealer article discussing the allegations against Gonzalez that centered on his mishandling of his department-issued firearms.

Gonzalez retired in September while the investigation was ongoing, but an investigative report stated that at least two of his city-issued weapons were believed to be on the black market.

A third gun, which Gonzalez had reported destroyed during a 2011 fire at his house, turned up during a felony warrant arrest in May.

Rivera had recommended a 60-day suspension in that case.

But Flores said he didn’t know many details about the probes of Gonzalez and Jackson, who was under investigation for scheduling and attendance issues. He said after he heard about the investigations, he sent a text message to Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer asking him what was going on with the two officers.

Flores said Ritenauer replied that it was under investigation, and Flores let the matter drop.

Flores said he has not been questioned by Lorain police as part of their investigation into who leaked the information.

Fowler wrote in a Sept. 4 letter to the Fraternal Order of Police that he considered the grievance resolved because Rivera already had launched an internal investigation.

The union had demanded the city cease violating its contract and the rights of Jackson and Gonzalez. It also had asked for a formal investigation.

Fowler, Rivera and union officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

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