October 21, 2014

Medina
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Seville to give fired cop $75,000

SEVILLE — The village will pay the salary and benefits, totaling about $75,000, for one year to a former police sergeant fired for insubordination.

Former Sgt. Mark Milton appealed the decision to terminate his employment during a two-day hearing that concluded Wednesday. Village Council unanimously agreed to pay approximately $75,000 in salary and benefits, as well as legal fees, to Milton.

“We anticipated that … even if we agreed with the mayor’s decision, he would appeal the case and take it to federal court,” Council President Rick Stallard said. “That would mean approximately $200,000 in legal expenses for the village.”

Council acted as “judge and jury” at the appeal hearing Milton brought against Police Chief Don Burson and Mayor Carol Carter, Councilwoman Barb Schwartz said.

In January, Burson recommended Milton be fired for insubordination, which was upheld by Carter, who oversees Police Department operations, Schwartz said.

Burson and Carter did not return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

Milton’s firing stemmed from a November 2010 incident in which Milton asked the Medina County Sheriff’s Office to investigate Burson and another member of the department. The Sheriff’s Office was unable to substantiate Milton’s allegations, Stallard said.

The appeal hearing began March 14 with arguments from lawyers on both sides before Council went into executive session until 11:30 p.m., when it was decided the hearing would be continued on Wednesday.

After a second executive session Wednesday, Council agreed to pay Milton for one year, a move Stallard called “fiscally responsible.”

“The village of Seville was in a no-win situation here,” Stallard said.

Schwartz said the Police Department has been in “turmoil” since Carter introduced legislation to restructure it in July 2010. The ordinance would have eliminated a staff sergeant position to limit the ratio of supervisors to subordinates in the department. Council voted down the ordinance Dec. 13.

Also at the December meeting, Jared Prill announced his resignation as a patrolman, which meant disbanding the department’s K-9 unit. Prill was allowed to purchase his K-9 partner, Sonny, for a nominal fee.

“There are a lot of problems with the Police Department, but I think it’s an administrative problem,” Schwartz said. “It has yet to be determined what caused the issues, but it was a well-functioning Police Department a year ago.”

The department consists of Burson, one sergeant and two patrolmen.

Councilman Rich Barbera said the village plans to hire another patrolman.

“We’re intent on keeping the Police Department and making the department as good as it once was and even better,” he said. “I think everybody on Council is keeping a closer eye on what is happening in the Police Department.”

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.