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NEWS > 11 September 2011

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 Article sourced from

Massillon Police Department, OH
Canton Repository
11 September 2011
This article appeared in the above title/site.
To view it in its entirity click this link.
Massillon Police Department, OH

USA: Massillon suspends police chief for two days

MASSILLON — Police Chief Robert Williams used his work computer to write sermons, plan church events, conduct online graduate courses and apply for another job.

He also oversaw a fantasy football league that other police officers participated in. Last week, Williams was suspended for two days without pay for using his work computer for personal use, according to Safety-Services Director Mike Loudiana.

Williams violated a 2003 order from his predecessor, retired Chief Mark Weldon, that restricts computer and Internet use to work purposes only, as well as a policy from Mayor Frank Cicchinelli regarding city-owned assets, according to a disciplinary letter.

He was suspended Sept. 2 and for another date this month not yet determined. His loss of pay is $631.41.

“I did do it,” Williams said Friday. “I’ve never denied it. I accept the responsibility as the head of the organization that I shouldn’t be doing anything other than city work on our computers.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation reviewed Williams’ computer hard drive earlier this year after Capt. Rick Ullum submitted an internal investigation of his boss.

Both county and city prosecutors reviewed the evidence from the BCI report and determined it was not a criminal matter.

‘LONG-TERM CONDUCT’

Williams’ computer hard drive contained dozens of church sermons, religious essays and other documents from Life Song and St. James AME Zion churches, where Williams serves as pastor, according to evidence in the BCI report, which The Independent obtained last month.

It also contained email exchanges with police officers regarding a fantasy football league. In one email, Williams instructs recipients on how to sign up for the online league, supplying them with the password and log-in information.

There are also Internet history records showing that he visited the academic websites of Liberty University and Phoenix University, an Internet-based college.

Also found was a cover letter and Williams’ résumé for a security job at the College of Wooster.

Ullum launched the investigation four years ago after observing the chief’s “long-term conduct.” Ullum submitted the report by email to Mayor Frank Cicchinelli and Safety-Service Director Mike Loudiana on Jan. 21, just days before his retirement.

“Williams has neglected his duties on a long-term basis by using department equipment and time to engage in personal business,” he wrote.

Among the other allegations, Ullum accused Williams of rarely holding staff meetings, failing to keep police officers and staff members informed on departmental matters, limiting access to employees by locking the door to his office, failing to provide adequate training to officers and failing to equip cruisers with video cameras and failing to take advantage of other technology like crime-mapping software.

He also said Williams has submitted blank time cards.

“Williams’ conduct rises to the level of serious administrative violations as well as misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance,” wrote Ullum, who recommended in his report that Williams be fired.

As head of the department’s Professional Standards Bureau, Ullum was charged with “monitoring the ethical behavior and standards of our officers,” according to the city’s website.

Ullum began working as a city police officer in 1975, and made his way up through the ranks. In 2005, Williams and Ullum applied to become police chief when Weldon retired. But Cicchinelli ultimately appointed Williams, making him the city’s first black police chief.

Ullum said his investigation of Williams was not done to get back at Williams. He said his evidence is “clear cut” and that there is no history of a bad relationship between the two.

Williams said he is now aware of Ullum’s other accusations, and said that the only ones that have “any merit” are the ones regarding his computer usage.

“He never gave any indication over all these years that he thought I was doing something inappropriate or something wrong,” he said. “I met with my captains every Monday since I’ve been chief to talk about anything and everything going on in the police department. He didn’t reveal anything until he left.”

HOW CITY HANDLED IT

The city’s own investigation of Williams has been as closely watched as Williams himself.

A week after receiving Ullum’s report, Cicchinelli and Loudiana received an anonymous, cryptic email, titled “Investigation of Chief Robert Williams.”

“we [sic] are all aware of the investigation of robert g williams and know that you will not do anything about it. this is a criminal matter and you have knowledge of a criminal offense by a public official. Perhaps we will have to do something.”

When he submitted his report, Ullum said no one from the police department nor the city law director’s office, which represents the department in legal matters, should be involved. He wanted it to be continued “to a conclusion” and then submitted it to a police agency outside of Stark County.

“To do otherwise would compromise the legal process,” he wrote.

Loudiana turned the investigation over to BCI on Feb. 10, two weeks after receiving it. BCI examined Williams’ computer hard drive and returned its findings to Loudiana, who in turn submitted the case to Stergios and Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero.

Ullum believes the administration has not handled the investigation properly. He has submitted it to the Ohio Ethics Commission and a Stark County Common Pleas judge for review. He said he has never been consulted.

“How do you take a long-term investigation and don’t even involve the primary investigator or ask for his case files to ask where his investigation was carried out to follow up on it?” he said. “...The primary investigator, whether retired or not retired, would have to have some kind of role, if not to consult on this.”

Ullum, who became an auxiliary police officer, wanted to keep law enforcement status following his retirement so that if he was asked to continue his investigation he could.

He was also being recommended by Williams to become the department’s network administrator, a duty he performed as police captain prior to his retirement. Ullum expected that he would continue to have access to the department and its computer system following retirement and even discussed with Williams by email where his office may be located within the department.

Stergios advised Ullum on Feb. 11 that he was no longer entitled access, “either remotely or any other way,” to the department, city email accounts or the city computer network since he was no longer an employee of the city. He was also ordered to turn in any keys.

“It is hard for me to imagine that you think you should have access to these items to conduct some sort of investigation when the fact is you no longer work for the city,” Stergios wrote.

Loudiana removed Ullum as auxiliary officer on Aug. 29. He said state law does not require a reason to remove someone from the voluntary post.

“I don’t think it’s conducive to the operations of the department to have him on there as long as the chief’s there and his feelings against the department and the chief,” Loudiana said. “We don’t need someone like that.”

“How do you turn in that kind of an investigation on somebody and then get that kind of response from the law director?” Ullum said. “And then them, they piled on top of it and removed me from the auxiliary? You can see what kind of actions they’ve taken.”

Ullum said he turned in the investigation after retiring because he feared retaliation.

“I had a feeling it was going to be handled like it was handled,” he said. “You can see what kind of actions (were taken).”

Both Loudiana and Stergios refused to comment on Ullum’s allegations. Stergios said the city followed the proper steps in its review of Williams.

“I have no response whatsoever to him,” Stergios said.




TIMELINE IN INVESTIGATION OF MASSILLON POLICE CHIEF ROBERT WILLIAMS

Jan. 21
Capt. Rick Ullum submits an internal investigation to Mayor Frank Cicchinelli and Safety-Service Director Mike Loudiana.

Jan. 23
Ullum retires.

Jan. 28
Cicchinelli, Loudiana and Stergios have first meeting about the investigation.
Cicchinelli and Loudiana receive cryptic, anonymous email from Butusbuckeye@aol.com, with the subject “Investigation of Chief Robert Williams.” It reads, “we [sic] are all aware of the investigation of robert g williams and know that you will not do anything about it. this is a criminal matter and you have knowledge of a criminal offense by a public official. Perhaps we will have to do something.”

Feb. 4
Stergios proposes hiring private attorney, Robert Tscholl, to conduct an “outside investigation.” Tscholl was never hired since the case was referred to the BCI and the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office.
n Cicchinelli and Loudiana ask Ullum for all documentation of investigation. “The city has hired outside counsel to conduct an investigation.”

Feb. 5
Ullum advises Stergios he has forwarded investigation to county prosecutor’s office and Ohio Ethics Commission.

Feb. 7
Cicchinelli sends memo to all department heads and elected officials about the policy on city-owned assets, including city-owned vehicles issued to some employees. “Only you and a (sometimes when necessary) co-worker are permitted to travel in these City assigned vehicles.”
Stergios tells Ullum to return all city property still in his possession. Ullum calls for county to be involved.

Feb. 9
Ullum emails Connecting Point, the company that maintains the city computer system, advising officials of his investigation and warns them about blocking his access to the system. “Any actions that he (Williams) directs you to take to block my access to the department network, email, or any other service could potentially be determined to be interfering/obstructing that investigation and could result in charges being filed against those involved.” Connecting Point President Todd Fox denies request.

Feb. 11
Stergios warns Ullum about accessing city computer system, including email, and to refrain from further contact with the company that maintains that system, because he is no longer employed by city. Tells Ullum he is prohibited from “stepping foot” in Police Department or Detective Bureau without his consent or the consent of Loudiana. BCI releases Williams’ computer hard drive to Loudiana.

Feb. 24
After corresponding with Williams’ attorney Edward Gilbert, Ullum tells Loudiana in a memo that he may need legal assistance from the city as a result of conducting an investigation while employed by the City of Massillon. He said he was informed by Gilbert of the consequences of disseminating false information about Williams.

July
Law Director Perry Stergios and city Prosecutor John Simpson determine that evidence obtained in case does not rise to criminal charges.

Aug. 29
Loudiana removes Ullum as auxiliary police officer.

Sept. 1
Loudiana suspends Williams for two days without pay.
 
 


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