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Ex- EL police officer loses firing challenge; other lawsuits still pending

EAST LIVERPOOL — Former East Liverpool police officer Chris Green recently lost the challenge to his 2021 firing, but a federal lawsuit remains pending against the city for money he claims he’s owed for off-duty canine care.

His appeal over a dismissed East Liverpool city income tax case against him also remains open at this time. Also open are appeals by former East Liverpool city service/safety director Brian Allen and his brother Daniel Allen over their assault convictions in a criminal case that contributed to Green ultimately losing his job.

Green filed the federal complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in December, alleging the city should have been paying him overtime when he cared for his former K-9 partner Nero during his off hours. He’s seeking $65,000 in back wages and an additional $65,000 in damages for alleged violations of federal and state fair labor laws.

The case has been referred to mediation, with a status conference set for Sept. 13.

In the tax matter, Green filed an appeal of that case in February in the Seventh District Court of Appeals. Charges of failure to pay city income tax and failure to file city income tax had been dismissed in December, with Green ordered to pay $97 in court costs. That appeal remains pending.

Also pending in the Seventh District Court of Appeals are the appeals filed by the Allen brothers, who were found guilty by a jury in East Liverpool Municipal Court jury of assaulting their nephew, Dillon Allen, in late February 2021. An argument occurred regarding ownership of a hunting crossbow and a deer head that had belonged to the late Gale Allen, Dillon’s father and brother to Brian and Daniel. The family argument led to a fight in the street in front of the Garfield Street home of Linda and Daniel Allen Jr., parents of the Allen brothers. A third brother, David Allen, was acquitted of the assault charge he was facing.

Green was the first officer on the scene that day and his handling of the situation and some of his actions following the incident were contributing factors in his firing, according to a description of the events leading to his dismissal in arbitration documents. He had been placed on paid administrative leave in March 2021 after captains in the police department brought their concerns about Green’s conduct to Mayor Greg Bricker, who ordered an internal investigation by Capt. Darin Morgan. Following the outcome of the investigation, which found he violated department policies multiple times, Green was given a chance to rebut the findings. He didn’t at that time and waived his pre-disciplinary hearing, then was fired June 24 by Bricker and city Safety/Service Director David Dawson.

In response, Green filed a grievance against the city through the Fraternal Order of Police with the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service. Both sides agreed to having the case assigned to an arbitrator, who issued his decision last month, ruling that the city was justified in the firing. The city recently had to pay $4,884, half the cost for the arbitrator.

“Based upon a review of all the facts and circumstances, I do not find sufficient evidence that the city’s decision to terminate the grievant (Green) was an abuse of discretion, capricious or arbitrary,” the ruling stated.

The arbitrator, Jerry B. Sellman, based his decision on testimony and documents from two separate hearings held in East Liverpool on Jan. 25 and April 5. Those testifying for the city included Bricker, Dawson, Morgan, city Deputy Safety/Service Director Jason Jackson, East Liverpool Police Capt. Fred Flati, and the city’s private legal counsel. Witnesses for the union included Green, East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane, city police officer Justin Watkins and legal counsel for the FOP.

Green argued the city had no just cause to let him go. He said he was not dishonest in handling the fight call, referred to as the Allen Call, and did not violate any department policies in handling the call, was not dishonest in his investigatory interview, did not retaliate against his captain supervisor, Flati, did not spread false rumors about a fellow officer and did not bring the department into disrepute with Facebook posts while on paid administrative leave. He also argued if any minor violations did occur, he wasn’t given the right to progressive disciplinary treatment.

The city disagreed, saying he committed gross misconduct by violating numerous policy standards of conduct, was repeatedly dishonest and neglected his duties both during and after the fight call, failed to file a proper report after the call, retaliated against his supervisor for filing a legitimate complaint against him, spread vicious rumors about a fellow police officer claiming he was selling drugs and mocked the city on Facebook posts.

The ruling went into great detail about what happened at the Allen Call, what happened after the call, how Flati found issue with Green’s handling of the investigation and how Green filed a complaint with the chief in retaliation against Flati. The rumor allegation stemmed from unfounded rumors about an officer at another department dealing drugs.

In his ruling, the arbitrator said Green’s misconduct “resulted from one primary event, which spiraled into multiple offenses, which in my opinion, was due to his demonstrated recalcitrant attitude. He was dishonest and did not conduct a proper investigation, probably because the Allen Call involved not only his friends, but a former City Service Director.”

He noted East Liverpool is a small town and “it may be understandable that he did not want to support the filing of any charges because of these relationships, but such action is inimical to properly performing his duties as a law enforcement officer.”

“Being called out on this misconduct caused him to retaliate against his supervisor, which apparently had happened when he was cited for misconduct in the past. This was almost worse than the initial dishonesty, for it destroys any trust an officer would have in another officer, let alone an officer up the chain of command,” the arbitrator wrote.

As for the rumors, the arbitrator said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to show that Green started them. He also ruled that there was no demonstrated harm to the city from the Facebook posts. He noted that the reason for progressive discipline is to correct an employer’s behavior and prevent further misconduct, but an exception can be applied when it’s clear the employee can’t be rehabilitated or has severely damaged the employer/employee relationship to the point it can’t be fixed.

In this case, he said Green had no notable prior disciplinary record and had positive accommodations for his drug enforcement work, but a lack of trust was created due to the dishonesty and retaliation.

The arbitrator also called out Lane’s lack of action regarding complaints about Green.

“It is unfortunate that the Chief of Police has failed to take up investigations in the past when brought to his attention and deemed proper by Captains or filed disciplinary action where appropriate for complaints received in the past, so that progressive discipline could be used as a teaching and rehabilitation tool,” he wrote.

The arbitrator said a mayor or safety director should not have to step in.

“When minor misconduct is not addressed, it can, as it did in this case, lead to more severe misconduct, which can lead to termination as a reasonable and rational discipline.”

Bottom line, he denied Green’s grievance and his decision was final since both sides agreed to the arbitration process.

In another court matter, in June, Green voluntarily dismissed a civil protection order request he had filed against one of his former supervisors, East Liverpool Police Capt. Chad Tatgenhorst.

mgreier@mojonews.com

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