June 30, 2016

Mostly sunny

Brunswick Hills trustees back police chief

BRUNSWICK HILLS TWP. — Township trustees showed their support for Police Chief Sharon MacKay on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting about personnel and management problems in her department.

During the public part of the meeting, Trustee Christina Kusnerak said they will continue to monitor the department but that “the public is not in any imminent distress or danger.”

David Zelenka addresses the Brunswick Hills Township trustees Tuesday. Zelenka resigned from the township’s Police Department earlier this month after receiving no response to a letter he sent to trustees regarding safety and personnel concerns in the department. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JENNIFER PIGNOLET)

Trustee Michael Esber said the trustees “don’t feel this Police Department is going in a bad direction.”

The trustees met after MacKay responded to allegations from a former employee that the department was creating an unsafe environment for its staff and the township.

On July 23, David Zelenka, a lawyer and police officer hired to help administer the department, wrote a letter to the trustees outlining what he deemed serious safety issues and violations of police protocol.

His letter alleged one sergeant used fear and intimidation with his subordinates, another failed to follow through on cases and that the evidence room was in disarray, among other problems.

Zelenka, who was hired June 26, resigned Aug. 1 after the trustees did not respond to his letter.

Esber said the trustees were waiting for MacKay’s response before contacting Zelenka.

On Friday, MacKay sent an 11-page, single-spaced letter to the trustees and to The Gazette.

MacKay dismissed Zelenka’s accusations that the department was unsafe but acknowledged problems exist.

However, Esber said the chief “has been and has addressed many of the issues in Mr. Zelenka’s letter.”

In her response, MacKay said the department’s evidence room was a mess when she became chief three years ago. But she said she ordered an audit of the room through the Medina County Sheriff’s Office last year and reassigned a sergeant who had been named “evidence custodian.”

The trustees agreed to hold another executive session at a later date to follow up on progress in the department.

After Tuesday’s meeting, MacKay said she is hoping she and the department will be able to move on.

“I’ve been working for three years on correcting the problems in the department and moving the department forward,” the chief said.

She added that her department is “one that the citizens can be proud of.”

Zelenka and his attorney were present for the meeting Tuesday. The trustees invited Zelenka into their closed session. Zelenka declined because the trustees would not permit his attorney also to be in the room.

Zelenka, who is the brother of township police Officer Derek Zelenka, spent four years as a police officer in San Diego after passing the bar in Ohio in 2006.

His attorney, Warner Mendenhall, said after the meeting that although the trustees ultimately supported the chief, Zelenka was happy to have his grievances aired.

“It’s good that the trustees are paying close attention to this Police Department,” Mendenhall said. “It’s important that police procedures are professional.

“Hopefully that will be the case from this point forward.”

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.