HUBBARD POLICE Attorneys: Chief's leave amounts to retaliation
Martin Kanetsky is planning to file a lawsuit against the city and mayor.
JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
HUBBARD -- Attorneys for a police chief recently placed on administrative leave say the leave placement and investigation into the chief are a means of retaliation.
Police Chief Martin Kanetsky was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this month. He has been a member of the department for more than 20 years.
Neither Mayor Arthur Magee nor Gary Gilmartin, law director, would say what about the chief is being investigated. The mayor did, however, say the decision was not made solely on an unfair-labor-practice ruling against Kanetsky from the State Employment Relations Board.
Attorney Brian Kish of Betras, Maruca, Kopp, Harshman & amp; Bernard, the law firm defending Kanetsky, said the chief was never notified of the SERB hearing or given the opportunity to defend himself in the proceedings. He said any investigation into Kanetsky is solely for retaliation.
"Our position is that Mayor Magee is retaliating against our client and trying to remove him from the position of police chief in favor of someone he has always liked better and someone who will support him in his personal agenda," he said.
According to Kish, Hubbard police Sgt. Kenneth Oyler is that person. The mayor has appointed Oyler as interim police chief to run the department during the investigation.
Oyler and Kanetsky took the chief of police promotional examination Jan. 23, 2003. Kanetsky's higher score gave him the chief's position by law.
Unfair labor charge
An attachment to the unfair-labor-practice charge filed by Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council Inc. on behalf of Oyler earlier this year, said that when Oyler was approached by Magee and Gilmartin in July 2004 and asked to discuss Kanetsky's job performance, Kanetsky was "eavesdropping" on the conversation.
Later that day, the attachment said, Kanetsky and Detective Robert J. Altier met with Oyler, and Kanetsky accused him of disloyalty. The complaint claims Kanetsky said, "If I was vindictive, I'd put you on night turn and forget about you."
The unfair-labor-practice charge claimed that Oyler was then placed on an undesirable midnight shift as retaliation. The city safety director ordered Oyler to be returned to day shift and the SERB ruling ultimately agreed.
Kish said Magee is attempting to oversee daily operations of the police department -- duties, he said, given specifically to the police chief by law. Should Oyler be made permanent police chief, Kish said, Magee would control the department's daily operations.
Mold in the station
Kish said Magee is also retaliating against his client for a workers' compensation claim the chief filed against the city concerning health problems from mold that he said is growing in the police department. The claim is still pending.
According to a letter from Kanetsky's pulmonologist sent to Magee in July, Kanetsky had been diagnosed with occupational asthma because of conditions in the police department. The letter says working away from the police station would be the only means of keeping Kanetsky healthy.
"The city has known for three years that the police department has extensive mold contamination and raw sewage," Kish said.
The city, Kish said, failed to provide Kanetsky with a safe place to work in consideration of his asthma and not being able to work inside the police department. The current investigation, he added, is an attempt to take attention away from the mold issue.
Kish said Kanetsky is planning to file a lawsuit against the city and Magee for retaliation and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing a reasonable place for him to do his job.
Neither Magee nor Gilmartin could be reached to comment.