April 23, 2014

Elyria
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Former police chief appeals dismissal decision

ELYRIA — Former Grafton Police Chief Lonnie Carroll is appealing a county judge’s decision to dismiss his wrongful termination lawsuit against the village.

Carroll

In a ruling filed earlier this month, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge sided with village officials, who had argued that Carroll was legally fired Aug. 28. Burge made the decision based on a request from the village for summary judgment in the case rather than through a hearing, according to court documents.

Grafton Mayor Megan Flanigan has refused to divulge her reasons for firing Carroll other than to say “it’s in the best interest of the village” and the village is “moving forward.”

Carroll and his lawyers have argued that under state law, Flanigan isn’t allowed to remove the police chief without a reason.

The village has countered that, according to the charter, the mayor can remove the police chief as long as she obtains the consent of the majority of Village Council.

Carroll was placed on paid leave Aug. 27 and escorted out of the Grafton Police Department by Lorain County sheriff’s deputies. Council met the next night and voted unanimously to back Flanigan’s decision to fire Carroll.

Daniel Clark, who until then had been a part-time patrol officer for Grafton, was named Carroll’s replacement.

Before being fired, Carroll had been out on leave, and had only just returned to his job when he was terminated. In his absence, Phil Stoker, who had been one of the department’s two full-time officers, was promoted to lieutenant, bypassing the previous second-in-command, Sgt. Ken Jake.

Carroll became chief after his predecessor, James Brearey, was fired in 2004 for what village officials described at the time as job performance issues.

But in a lawsuit filed by him and former village prosecutor Joan Lissner, who also was fired around the same time, the pair contended they were fired for investigating then-Councilman Bob Frabotta’s vote to hire the insurance agency where his wife worked.

Carroll later closed the case without filing charges and Brearey and Lissner settled their lawsuit against the village. The Brearey settlement led to a “loss payment” of $200,000, while Lissner’s “loss payment” was $180,000, according to a village insurance claims report.

Carroll hadn’t been seeking a payout, his attorney has said, but rather wanted to be reinstated, given back pay and have his medical costs covered for the time he was out of work.

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