Over the years, we've seen worse decisions rendered by arbiters than the recent ruling that former Youngstown Police Officer Carlo Eggleston should be reinstated to the job.
There was the arbiter who found no evidence of dishonesty in the case of a fired Mahoning County deputy who had pleaded guilty to falsification of records. In the arbiter's world, falsification apparently isn't dishonest.
Another deputy was fired for giving his supervisor a cock and bull story about why he ran the license plate number of a car that belonged to a candidate in a hotly contested political race. He said he'd seen the plate on a suspicious vehicle cruising his neighborhood, but he didn't know the make or model of the car. No matter, an arbiter ordered that he be rehired.
In Pittsburgh, one cop who admitted smoking crack cocaine that had been seized in a drug raid was ordered reinstated by an arbiter, and another got his job back after being found guilty of arranging the theft of his mother's car in an insurance fraud scheme.
Aiming to please
So we guess we shouldn't be surprised that a Shaker Heights arbiter bent over backward to return Eggleston to the Youngstown Police Department. Arbiters, it appears, see themselves as agents of compromise. If the city fires a police officer for misconduct and the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association takes the position that the cop should get full back pay, an apology from the chief and maybe an officer of the year citation, the arbiter thinks it's his or her job to find a happy medium. The result is that the city loses every time.
Carlo Eggleston forfeited the privilege of wearing the uniform of a Youngstown police officer two years ago.
He'd been on the force six years when he left work May 9, 2000, to have oral surgery. Days off the job stretched into weeks, then months, and his varying reasons for not returning to work ranged from headaches to stress to family responsibilities. But while Eggleston told supervisors that he intended to use up all his sick leave, vacation time and accumulated time and then take a leave of absence, he never followed through. He didn't make the proper requests, and he didn't provide the paperwork necessary to qualify for using paid time.
The arbiter ordered him rehired because Eggleston mentioned using Family Medical Leave, which is defined under federal statute. And even though he mentioned it only in the context of using unpaid leave after his paid leave was exhausted, the arbiter said it was incumbent on the city to walk him through the FMLA process.
That would have been difficult to do, even if the city had been so inclined, because Eggleston couldn't be reached much of the time. Though he was required to live in the city and, as are all police officers, had to keep a working phone number on file at the department, Youngstown police and the postal service had a hard time locating Eggleston at any of his three addresses, two of which were in Warren.
Name raised in murder case
Warren, by the way, is where Eggleston was living last September when his name was mentioned in the opening statement of a Trumbull County assistant prosecutor during a murder trial. Shawn Lynell Armstrong was being tried for aggravated murder in the death of Bradrick McMillan. McMillan was shot in the head outside the Elks Club on Highland Avenue in Warren Township Aug. 9, 1998, allegedly because he intended to testify against Lance Pough in a drug case.
In his opening statement, the prosecutor said Eggleston met with Pough, who eventually pleaded guilty in the case. The prosecutor said Eggleston told Pough he could have McMillan killed for $7,000.
Eggleston was not charged in that case, and he denied any involvement. He acknowledged knowing just about everybody involved -- a motley crew of drug dealers, accused killers and another former Youngstown policeman whose gun was used in the McMillan murder -- but steadfastly maintained that he did nothing wrong.
A big presence
He also said some interesting things to a reporter in response to prosecutors saying they hadn't been able to locate him: & quot;First, I am 6 foot 1 and 355 pounds," Eggleston said, "how am I going to hide? I am not working right now so that I can stay home and help raise my four children. I go to the football games every week and am talking to officers. Plus, I take my kids to football practice. I'm pretty visible. & quot;
Two things strike us in that statement. First, Eggleston seems to be saying he's a solid fixture in the Warren community. Just when did he stop living in Youngstown and start living in Warren? Where do he and his family live now?
Second: "6 foot 1 and 355 pounds?" The arbiter's ruling seemed to accept that Eggleston was too mentally stressed to function as a police officer in the spring and summer of 2000, when the police department listed him as AWOL. We have to wonder if he's physically capable of being a police officer now. There may be a few offensive linemen in the National Football League who carry close to that kind of weight, but they are exceptional specimens who spend their working lives staying in shape.
The city should appeal the arbiter's ruling, which is a lengthy process. But it should also thoroughly investigate Eggleston's residency status, check with the Trumbull County prosecutor's office to see if there is more to the McMillan murder story than meets the eye and determine whether Eggleston is both physically and mentally equipped to be a police officer before he is given a YPD badge and gun.