CRESTLINE – Former Crestline Police Chief Joe Butler worked for the village for 18 years before being brutally suspended in August 2018.
The village filed 39 administrative charges against him on October 30, 2018, resulting in his resignation and nearly two years of litigation. The charges included incompetence, ineffectiveness, dishonesty, dereliction of duty, insubordination, breach of good conduct and other acts of fault, malfeasance and non-performance in the performance of their duties. official functions.
On Friday, Butler secured a $ 380,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit he filed against the village.
Butler said on Saturday that “I’m glad the public knows the truth.”
He said life has been difficult for him and his wife since leaving Crestline Police Department. He worked but said he had to apply for almost 100 jobs, mostly in law enforcement.
“It’s hard for me to apply for law enforcement jobs because of my age (40) and a lot of law enforcement people know what happened,” said Butler.
“It embarrassed me a lot and it was difficult for me to show my face to Crestline,” said Butler.
The trial sheds light
Although the investigation lasted for two full months, it has since been revealed that Butler was the only Crestline officer actually questioned by the village or its hired investigator, attorney Jonathan Downes, before sharing the charges with the public.
During the trial, the former Crestline police sergeant. Sean Nolen, former officer Nicolas Tenore and former village tax administrator Christi Knauber all provided affidavits challenging the main administrative charges against Butler, highlighting what was not reported by the village when he made the accusations.
Nolen said that, contrary to accusations, the ministry’s policy manual was easily accessible, its training records were properly kept and Butler kept his officers fully armed and trained them on the use of handguns, rifles every year. of hunting, rifles and automatic weapons.
Former officer Tenore also confirmed that everyone knew that the chief was the armourer of the department and that he would take weapons home to repair or modify them, as there was no room available in the department. to work on weapons.
Butler was also charged with putting officers to work 84 hours every two weeks in violation of overtime laws. “It was illegal. It meant officers would not be paid overtime even if they had worked more than 80 hours in a 14-day period,” said Fred Gittes, one of Butler’s attorneys. But the violation was not Butler’s decision. Instead, former finance administrator Knauber confirmed that the schedule was mandated by the village council. Knauber’s statement described how the labor department had issued findings against the village over the 84-hour work schedule.
Knauber also said that she, and not Butler, was responsible for keeping the records of the village staff, contrary to the village accusation that Butler lost or even stole the records. Knauber said no one in the village even asked him for the files before charging Butler.
One charge the village insisted on was the claim by village lawyer Rob Ratliff and then-mayor Allen Moore that Butler lied to them about an officer working with the group of METRICH drug work. Tenore directly disputed this, confirming, just like Nolen, that Butler had officers working with the task force, and in the months leading up to Butler’s suspension, Tenore had taken over that role and Nolen was helping train him.
Another claim by administrators was that Butler had refused to give the mayor access to a detective’s office in the building in the village’s golden age center. But documents provided to the News Journal between the mayor and Butler show the chief never denied access. He only said he had to accompany the mayor and offered to do so, as sensitive and confidential information (including law enforcement database information and investigative files protected by law) were contained in files stored in the office.
Nolan also disputed a related charge accusing Butler of lying when he informed Moore and Ratliff that there was evidence stored in the locked room of the Golden Age Center.
“Due to space issues at the police department located in the village office building, our lead investigating detective had to be accommodated in the Golden Age Center across from the department,” Nolen said. “His files were kept there after he left the department. I also kept some of my files there and kept the door locked.”
Tenore said he then accompanied village officials to the Golden Age Center and confirmed that sensitive materials were located and properly stored there, contrary to the charges against Butler and the sworn testimony of Ratliff and d ‘other.
Tenore said he was asked to record this inspection using his body camera and that, as far as he knows, the village should still have the footage on file.
Gittes said no such footage was ever provided to Butler or his attorneys during the trial, and that it was just one of many video recordings that had not been counted by the village at the time of payment.
A Crestline dispatcher also provided a statement corroborating Tenore’s statement that Moore, Ratliff, and village administrator John Rostash inappropriately entered the chief’s office unaccompanied by any officers and took items with them with them. them. The dispatcher said she saw “Mayor Moore carry some 3-inch binders of paperwork” out of the department.
When this was reported, Crawford County District Attorney Matt Crall protested that the actions could jeopardize criminal cases as the chain of custody of evidence was compromised, the News Journal reported earlier.
Rostash, Ratliff, Mayor Joy Miley and Moore did not return requests for comment via email.
A message left on Moore’s voicemail on his home phone was not returned.