An Akron police officer has been paid more than $83,000 to stay home while state and department investigators have spent about 19 months probing his conduct.
The time passage is further clouded by a lack of clarity as to where the investigation of Officer Donald Schismenos stands now and when it will end.
What is clear is that Schismenos remains on the city payroll despite not working since August 2011.
When Schismenos was first put on leave, city officials said the officer was being investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for possible illegal conduct. Afterward, the probe was to be assigned to a special prosecutor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for consideration of criminal charges.
An attorney general’s spokeswoman said Friday that the office’s special prosecution unit closed the case in November without charging Schismenos.
The case’s status in Columbus, however, contradicts recent statements from a spokeswoman for Summit County prosecutors as well as Akron Police Chief James Nice, both of whom say the case remains with the Attorney General’s Office.
Efforts to clarify the investigation status with local police and prosecutors were not successful Saturday.
Nice said last week that he is well aware of the protracted process since Schismenos was put on paid leave.
“I’ll be a happy guy to see this completed,” Nice said.
Schismenos was first placed on leave with pay on Aug. 3, 2011, and has been paid his regular salary — except for a 45-day period where he was suspended from the department without pay for an earlier incident. He received no pay from Jan. 2, 2012, to March 2, 2012, city records show.
City records show that Schismenos has been paid $83,077 plus benefits during his absence.
In addition to the criminal probe, the officer likely faces an internal investigation to determine what if any discipline will be brought. Schismenos could be fired, suspended or given a written reprimand.
If the criminal portion is indeed completed, it would appear the internal investigation has been needlessly delayed.
Although he has been disciplined in the past for misconduct, no one has spoken publicly about the circumstances of the latest probe.
Paul Hlynsky, the officer’s Fraternal Order of Police union president, said he has not been contacted about the investigation during the past 19 months. He said the investigation involves “thousands” of pages of documents related to Schismenos’ computer. He did not know the substance of the documents.
“I don’t honestly know anything, but I do think it’s been an inordinate amount of time and I think there needs to be a decision one way or another,” he said.
Hlynsky said he did not believe Schismenos, 46, was questioned during the course of the investigation. A message seeking comment from the officer was not returned.
The suspension came after he confronted a woman videotaping him as he made an arrest in 2010. Schismenos later arrested the woman and confiscated her camera while disregarding a sergeant’s order to leave the woman alone.
Schismenos, a former gang unit member on the department and once a frequent expert speaker on street gangs, was the subject of a series of Beacon Journal articles in 2010. The articles showed Schismenos was among the department’s leaders in terms of citizen complaints and use-of-force investigations.
After the series of articles, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic tripled an original 15-day suspension over the camera seizure and ordered Schismenos to undergo a “fitness for duty evaluation.” Schismenos has been with the department since 1992.
City and state officials have refused to comment on the criminal investigation.
The only document made available was a letter to Schismenos from Chief Nice informing the officer of his paid leave and telling him he is “prohibited from operating any city vehicle, carrying a firearm, working secondary employment or taking any police action whatsoever” until further notice.
Schismenos later sued the city for slander, but ultimately withdrew the suit before it went to court and without reaching a settlement.