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Officer's answer on form probed



Published: Thu, November 23, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city law department said the state law violates the Ohio Constitution.

By AMANDA GARRETT

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The city's Human Resources Department is investigating a Warren police officer for possible false information on a residency questionnaire.

Patrolman Jeffrey Miller filled out a questionnaire this month that changed his address from Warren to Weathersfield Township, Human Resources Director Gary Cicero said.

Cicero said that when Miller filled out the questionnaire, he said he had only been living at the new address since this month.

However, Cicero said that he is investigating the possibility that Miller may have been living at the new address earlier than May 1, which would make his statement on the questionnaire false.

Miller has two residences, which he reported to the Human Resources Department, said Randall Weltman, an attorney for the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

"He's not hiding anything," he said.

Cicero said he expects the investigation to take some time because he has to look through Miller's personal records, such as motor vehicle registration. "It's a cumbersome process," he said.

Other problems with issue

Miller's case is only the latest episode in the residency issue, which has troubled city officials since Senate Bill 82 became law six months ago, lifting the residency requirements for municipal workers. The bill effectively makes Warren's residency law -- which requires that all employees live within city limits -- invalid.

In June, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 74 and Warren Management Association sued the city in Trumbull County Common Pleas court, asking that the city's residency law be declared invalid.

In a response to that lawsuit, Warren Law Director Gregory Hicks contended that the state law violates the Ohio Constitution's home-rule amendment, which allows municipalities the right of self-government. Judge Andrew D. Logan has not yet made a ruling on the lawsuit.

Several other Ohio cities, including Youngstown, Cleveland and Akron, have filed lawsuits challenging Senate Bill 82 in court.

Vetoed by mayor

In July, city council narrowly passed legislation that would bring Warren into compliance with the law, but Mayor Michael J. O'Brien vetoed the ordinance in September.

Since the mayor's veto, two city safety workers were fired because they moved out of city limits, although Detective Michael Currington and Patrolman Andrew Chovan were allowed to come back to their jobs until the lawsuit is decided.

If the Human Resources Department finds that Miller made false statements or that he is in violation of the residency law, he will face a disciplinary hearing.

If Miller is found to be in violation of the residency law only, he would probably be treated in a similar manner to Currington and Chovan, Cicero said. However, if Miller is found to have provided false information on the questionnaire, he could be permanently discharged.

agarrett@vindy.com




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