November 24, 2014

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Lorain officer suspended and demoted for bad time cards

LORAIN — A Lorain police officer has been suspended and demoted for manipulating the hours he worked in order to get a three-day workweek.

Jeff Jackson has been demoted from sergeant to patrolman and given a 14-day suspension without pay, according to a Feb. 22 letter sent by Lorain Safety/Service Director Robert Fowler.

“This misrepresentation of one’s time and modification of records to reflect hours that were not worked is very troubling,” Fowler wrote. “The sheer disregard for the public trust that is essential in the position of a public safety officer is also very troubling.”

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said Wednesday that the investigation into Jackson’s actions has been forwarded to his office for review.

Fowler said that Jackson, who oversaw the Lorain City Jail before he was placed on paid leave in June, was scheduled to work five days a week. But Jackson would work extra hours in the first few days of his workweek, Fowler said, and by the end of the third day he would hit 40 hours and be done for the week.

He also said the investigation will now turn to discovering how Jackson was allowed to manipulate the hours he worked.

“We need to discover how it was allowed to happen,” Fowler said.

The Fraternal Order of Police has filed a grievance over the punishment handed down by Fowler.

Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera had recommended a 60-day suspension and a demotion for Jackson, but Fowler said he shortened the suspension to 14 days to give it a better chance of surviving an arbitrator’s review.

Police union President Kyle Gelenius wrote in an emailed statement Wednesday that Jackson was exercising his rights under the contract and that there had been problems with the investigation.

“Obviously, the integrity of the internal investigation has been called into question and Sgt. Jackson’s contractual rights have been violated throughout the disciplinary process,” Gelenius wrote. “It will now be up to the Arbitrator to determine if the City had requisite cause to demote and suspended Sgt. Jackson. The matter will be resolved in due course.”

The grievance also renews a September complaint from the police union that “the disciplinary process was not carried out in a private and businesslike manner.”

The police union has complained that details about investigations into Jackson and now-retired Lorain police Officer Ralph Gonzalez were made public in August, something union officials contend violates the contract they have with the city.

Gonzalez fell under investigation last year after a city-issued gun he reported destroyed in a 2011 house fire surfaced during a felony warrant arrest. The investigation concluded that two other guns in Gonzalez’s possession were on the black market.

Rivera, who did not return a call seeking comment, had recommended a 60-day suspension for Gonzalez, but the veteran officer retired before punishment could be imposed.

Rivera has agreed that the details of ongoing investigations into police officers shouldn’t be made public under the Police Department’s policies and the union contract and has launched a probe to determine how the information got out.

As part of that investigation, Lorain police have asked the city to subpoena the names of Lorain City Councilman Dennis Flores’ email and phone service providers. City officials have acknowledged that information would be used to allow the police to review Flores’ communications, which they believe to be public record if they deal with city business.

Mike Duff, Flores’ attorney, has accused Rivera of trying to compile a list of Police Department critics by reading Flores’ communications.

Duff said Wednesday that Flores won’t comply with the subpoena and the city will have to seek a court order to force the councilman to turn over the information it wants.

Police also have launched an investigation into whether Flores lied about what he knew about the investigations during testimony in an arbitration hearing earlier this year.

This isn’t the first time Jackson has run into trouble for his attendance since becoming a Lorain police officer in 1990. He was criticized in reviews in 2001, 2006 and 2011 for his attendance.

A union representative noted in a 2011 disciplinary report that some of Jackson’s attendance problems were health related.

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