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Another arbitrator, another ruling that makes no sense



Published: Mon, June 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If there's a lesson to be learned from the latest legal travesty involving a rogue cop it is this: Prosecutors should refuse to plea bargain these cases unless the deal includes an irrevocable resignation from the force.

Had this been done in the case of Jeff Chance, the former corporal in the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department would not now be one step closer to again wearing a lawman's badge.

Every honest resident of the county should be repulsed by the idea of having an individual who has pleaded guilty to breaking the law being put on the public payroll to enforce the law on others.

Chance, the brother of county sheriff-turned-jailbird Phil Chance, was fired two years ago by Sheriff Randall Wellington after he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of falsification. The charges were related to misrepresentation of drug cases in municipal court. He had initially been charged with obstructing justice. This after the special prosecutor in the case, David Chuparkoff, dismissed 18 charges in an indictment.

But Chance struck gold when Chuparkoff failed to insist upon permanent resignation from the force as part of the plea agreement and when Visiting Judge Dominick Olivito suspended a six-month jail term in lieu of two years' probation and 200 hours of community service.

Mother lode: And the rogue cop really hit the mother lode when the arbitrator hearing the appeal of his firing by Sheriff Wellington determined that the former corporal should have been given a 30-day suspension instead of being terminated.

But that should come as no surprise seeing as how arbitrator Harry Graham of Solon never really considered Chance's actions to be all that serious. Here's what he wrote: & quot;There is no evidence on the record that [Chance] was dishonest. & quot;

What could Wellington have been thinking when he fired the crooked cop for breaking the law? In light of the arbitrator's ruling, Chance should have been made Officer of the Year.

Common Pleas Judge Maureen Cronin cannot be blamed for upholding the suspension and a possible reduction in rank that Graham determined to be the appropriate punishment. Both sides had agreed to abide by the arbitrator's ruling.

Standing rule: Given that there are already two other deputies in the sheriff's department who were fired by Wellington after pleading guilty to breaking the law but then won their jobs back through appeal, we believe it's time for Mahoning County to have a standing rule when it comes to crooked law enforcement types: No plea bargain without an iron-clad agreement to resign from the sheriff's department.

If there's no agreement, they go to trial. The county can't do worse than it has plea bargaining.




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