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MAHONING COUNTY Firing of deputy tied to drug charges



Published: Tue, February 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The longtime employee has already filed a grievance against the sheriff.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A longtime Mahoning County deputy sheriff has been fired because of his conduct related to drug charges pending against him in Trumbull County.

Sgt. William Frease of Southern Boulevard, Boardman, had been with the department nearly 25 years. His termination was announced Monday by Sheriff Randall Wellington, though Frease said it actually happened Friday.

Frease, who had been on paid administrative leave since his indictment in August 2001, said he has already filed a grievance against Wellington because of the action and expects to prevail.

Indictment: A Trumbull County grand jury indicted Frease on 16 counts of deception to obtain a dangerous drug. Wellington said he launched his own internal affairs investigation after the indictment, which is what led to Frease's firing.

A predisciplinary hearing officer who heard the department's evidence against Frease sustained all the charges against him in a report last Tuesday, Wellington said.

The Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council had objected to conducting an administrative hearing before the criminal charges are resolved, but the county prosecutor's office ruled there was nothing to prohibit such a hearing, Wellington said.

Probe's findings: The investigation determined that while serving as officer-in-charge of the midnight shift at the county jail, Frease left the jail on numerous occasions to fill OxyContin prescriptions for himself and another employee.

The other employee, a deputy, is not identified and was never charged because he did nothing that was knowingly deceptive or illegal, the sheriff said. Frease never notified other officers or logged his departure from the lockup, Wellington said.

"The rules and policies just didn't seem to matter to him," Wellington said, noting that Frease's behavior did not set a good example for younger deputies.

The prescriptions were filled at pharmacies in Liberty Township, which is why the criminal charges were filed in Trumbull County, Wellington said.

"Between his firing and ultimately the conclusion of his criminal case, the public should be assured that Bill Frease's career as a law enforcement officer will be over," Wellington said.

Plans to fight: But Frease said he expects to be cleared of the drug charges and to successfully appeal his firing. He said the prescriptions were legitimate, though he would not elaborate because of the pending criminal charges.

"These charges are 100 percent false," Frease said. "I'm confident that this case will be resolved in my favor."

Frease called the firing "vindictive and mean-spirited." He applied for retirement several months ago, but Wellington has deliberately held up the paperwork so he could fire him instead, Frease said.

Wellington said Frease applied for a disability pension but never specified his disability.

"He was trying to circumvent the system and I wasn't going to let him do that," Wellington said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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