Middlefield – Ohio. Recently the K9 unit of the Police Department in Middlefield Village was terminated with no public discussion, and it was done very quietly in “Executive Sessions” In reviewing a series of
Middlefield Village Council meeting minutes it has become obvious to me that there are issues that may never be talked about publicly.
Not long ago the Police Chief Joseph Stehlik was put on Administrative Leave without any explanation to the residents as to why, it struck me as very odd how this chain of events unfolded. In fact when a member of the public tried to force the issue he was summarily shut down during the public portion of a later council meeting.
While tracing back the series of events which seem to have led up to the Administrative leave issue there has been very little to go on, and the agreement with the mayor and council has everyone pretty much locked down in terms of discussing the exact chain of events.
As far as the residents are concerned Chief Stehlik was doing a fine job for his community, and the times which I worked with him on things like the “Habitat for Humanity Street Fair” we held in the Village a few years ago, he was always very helpful and he appeared to be very good at working directly with the public.
In reviewing the village council meeting minutes to try and uncover the cause of this unexpected chain of events, I noticed that very shortly after Chief Stehlik was removed from duty, that village council moved over a series of meetings to abolish the K9 unit as well.
At first I thought it may have been strictly a financial decision, but then council began going into “executive session” at various later meetings, mentioning “pending litigation” as one of the reasons. In Ohio our government meetings are supposed to be held in an open forum so the public may participate, however if the council calls for an “executive session” then they may exclude the public while they discuss the specific topic which must be on the short list of reasons within the Ohio Revised Code as to why they can legally do this.
The end result is they do not have to make public the exact discussions, we only get to learn later when ordinances are voted on. Now we have a chief who was pretty much fired with partial pay until 2011, and then the K9 unit is suddenly abolished, and on top of all that, there is pending litigation with no details given to the public as to what that is all about.
Digging for the real truth began as I searched through the village council meeting minutes, I reviewed every sentence and paragraph of every council meeting from early December 2009 forward. Believe me it is all very enlightening but it did not fill in all of the blanks as to how or why these events were connected.
That is until I noticed that other committees have their own minutes available to the public via that same website. The information which I feel ties this all together is one small paragraph on the bottom of the “Safety Council meeting minutes” held on December 3rd 2009.
According to Police Chief Joseph Stehlik in those “Public Safety Committee” meeting minutes “Our K9 Rocky was left unattended by the K9 officer at the station. One of our employees opened the door to the lobby to assist a man. Rocky went through the door and attacked the man. It was decided to have Rocky and K9 officer retrained” the chief stressed “this will never happen again.”
At the end of the council meeting on 12-17-2009 Mayor Bill Poole Jr. noted that “Rocky and handler Patrolman Nick Davita attended retraining and found this very effective. Patrolman Davita is currently researching local weekly training.”
With this said you would think that the issue was resolved, but at the next council meeting on 12-31-2009 it was announced that the Mayor and Chief Stehlik had entered an agreement for him to receive “Voluntary Administrative Leave and Release Agreement” with partial pay until July 2011.
So I became even more curious as to what is really going on here, and now after thoroughly researching the meeting minutes, it seems to me that it all started with an unfortunate incident at the police station with the K9 unit “Rocky” It would appear that since he was left unattended and an employee opened the door when the dog escaped and attacked a man could be cause for dismissal, especially if there is now a lawsuit pending against the Village or one of its employees.
The trigger which pushed me to thinking there was more to this story has been councils mention of “pending litigation” when they adjourned to “Executive Session” which may be the reason there is so little information on this topic available. And then there is the fact that no one is willing to speak about any of this.
I hope that the man who was attacked by Rocky is doing okay, and maybe the man who was attacked will be understanding and not press the issue too far. It would be great if some good could come of all this, but we all know how lawsuits can go!
Middlefield Village Council Meeting Minutes:
Ohio revised code exceptions for public meetings:
121.22 Public Meetings – Exceptions.