Authorities in Summit County and Akron have asked Cuyahoga County prosecutors to take the lead on an investigation into the allegations that took down Akron’s police chief.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh on Wednesday asked Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into felony car theft and forgery charges against Joseph Nice. In that case, Nice made damning accusations that forced his uncle, Akron Police Chief James Nice, to resign unexpectedly Sunday.

According to a joint news release issued by Bevan Walsh and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, the special prosecutor also would “further evaluate any evidence that may be obtained in the investigation of former Akron Police Chief James Nice,” who stepped down after reportedly making derogatory comments and having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

The reason for calling in independent prosecutors from a neighboring county is to avoid any conflicts that might arise from Summit County investigating a former Akron official after years of collaborating to put away criminals.

“A special prosecutor is requested when we have a realistic concern that there may be a conflict in handling a criminal case or investigation,” Bevan Walsh said. “Based on the working relationship between the prosecutor’s office and the largest police department in the county, this appointment removes any concerns or appearances that could lead to questions of fairness or bias, either way, in the handling of either the Joseph Nice or former Chief Nice investigations and/or prosecutions.”

Horrigan said he’s following the city’s charter, which allows for special investigators from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office to review the matter at no charge through a mutual agreement between the local governments. Horrigan said he would hand over any and all details to investigators. His office added that the move to request outside help does not mean that new allegations have surfaced — only that the mayor seeks a full, fair and impartial handling of the matter.

“I am committed to a full and complete investigation of these matters,” Horrigan said. “I believe it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority to appoint special investigators to ensure the special prosecutor has sufficient resources to execute a fair and timely examination of the facts. The residents of Akron, and the men and women of the Akron Police Department, deserve no less than that.”

Former Chief Nice, who was hired in 2011 from outside the department by then-Mayor Don Plusquellic, tendered his letter of resignation to Horrigan on Sunday. The mayor’s office said the police chief admitted to having inappropriate contact with a subordinate police officer and using derogatory and racially insensitive language about officers in his command.

Through his attorney Mike Callahan, Nice has denied any criminal misconduct in those allegations or a third accusation that he meddled in his nephew’s criminal case.

It was Joseph Nice, the chief’s nephew, who told investigators working the case that his uncle made the damning remarks and had the affair with a subordinate officer, flouting city policy that outlaws fraternization between bosses and their employees.

Joseph Nice, 41, was indicted April 12 on charges of grand theft, forgery and tampering with evidence, Summit County Common Pleas Court records show. He’s accused of forging a motor vehicle title. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Jason Wells will preside over a Sept. 7 hearing to determine if Joseph Nice’s case will go to trial.

Joseph called the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com Monday afternoon to complain that his uncle was trying to hurt his case. The information he provided appears to be retaliation.

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: @ABJDoug.