MUNROE FALLS — The police officers union is requesting that a City Councilman be removed from office due to social media posts he made about two officers and the department which the officers’ union attorney described as “libelous and unprofessional.”
Meanwhile, the councilman countered that the comments he has posted “about the officers involved are true.”
Susan Bungard, an attorney for the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association — which represents the city’s police officers — on Tuesday sent a letter to Munroe Falls Mayor James Armstrong stating, “I am hereby requesting that you present this letter to Council as the officers’ request to have Councilman [Mike] Barnes removed from office.”
She wrote that a section of the city’s charter allows for removal of an elected official from office who “is guilty of personal interest, gross misconduct, gross neglect of duty, misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance in office, or has violated his oath of office.” Bungard added that Council is allowed to remove any of its members “for persistent failure to abide by the rules of Council.”
All Council members were provided with a copy of the letter at Tuesday’s Council meeting. No action was taken at that meeting.
In the letter, Bungard wrote, “my officers approached me because they are very upset that Munroe Falls Councilman Mike Barnes is posting libelous and unprofessional comments about individual Munroe Falls police officers, as well as the entire department.”
Bungrad wrote that Barnes’ comments “paint the city administration and police department in a bad light,” and are “particularly harmful and damaging to the two officers that he continually targets.”
In August, Barnes posted a document on his Facebook page detailing an investigation by Munroe Falls Police Chief Jerry Hughes in 2016 which concluded that two city police officers violated the department’s Law Enforcement Automated Database System (LEADS) policy when they used the system to run the name of a woman and neither could provide a reason why they took that action.
One officer received a one-day suspension and the second officer received a five-day unpaid suspension, according to the document posted by Barnes. In contrast, Munroe Falls Police Sgt. Robert Post was terminated from his job in April after Hughes said an investigation determined that Post used LEADS “in violation of city policy and Ohio law.”
Post is currently facing a fifth-degree felony charge of unauthorized use of LEADS. He has pleaded not guilty and has a pretrial in the case Sept. 26.
In a post on his Facebook page in August, Barnes noted: “These officers admitted to violations of the same LEADS policy for which Bob Post was fired.”
Barnes said the allegations made by Bungard in her letter “are false,” and emphasized that “Any comments I made about the officers involved are true.”
“I challenge anyone to say the two officers had just cause to use LEADS to harass that woman or do anything else that Chief Hughes says they did in his report,” said Barnes. “Demanding transparency and exposing the misdeeds of those sworn to uphold our laws is an important role elected officials should take more seriously.”
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.