By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The head of a local police union said he's not surprised that Jeff Chance quit his job at the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department this week. Chance, brother to former Sheriff Phil Chance, encountered constant harassment by jail administrators after his return to the department last summer, said Deputy Patrick Gallagher, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141, which represents deputies.
"The man was treated unfairly, most definitely," Gallagher said.
Sheriff's response: But Sheriff Randall Wellington said that's not true.
"I don't know what Deputy Gallagher is talking about," Wellington said. "All Chance was ever asked to do was his job. I don't understand how that's harassment."
Chance was fired by Wellington in October 1999 after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of falsification. The charges were related to misrepresentation of drug cases in Youngstown Municipal Court.
He appealed the termination and was reinstated in June 2001, based on an arbiter's finding that the proper punishment should have been a 30-day suspension and possible reduction in rank. In July, Wellington demoted Chance from corporal to deputy. Chance unexpectedly resigned Tuesday afternoon.
Reasons for leaving: In his two-paragraph resignation letter, Chance cited "politics, prejudice, hostility, low morale and stress" as his primary reasons for leaving.
Gallagher said Chance was assigned to work every day in a general population pod at the county jail, even though he had enough seniority to bid onto another job. He said administrators ignored Chance's seniority and would not let him bid.
"We all have seniority rights and they chose to ignore his," Gallagher said.
Wellington denied the allegation and said no one, including Chance or Gallagher, even mentioned this before.
"We abided by the union contract and the bidding process," Wellington said. "Chance was not harassed in any way."
Gallagher said Chance complained to the union, but there was little the union could do.
"It surprises me that a union president would stick up" for Chance, Wellington said. "That's mind-boggling to me."
Gallagher said when the arbiter and a common pleas court judge ordered that Chance be reinstated, the union had to treat him like any other member.
"You might not like what he did, but he's one of the brothers of the FOP and we have to accept and embrace him," Gallagher said.