Mahoning deputies fired on conduct charge

The deputies refused to take polygraph tests; one chose to resign.

Staff Report

YOUNGSTOWN — Two Mahoning County deputy sheriffs have been fired because of their involvement in a May episode in which Boardman police were called to a bar because of gunshots.

Sheriff Randall A. Wellington announced the firing Tuesday of Dan Miller, 33, of Poland, and Sgt. Thomas Assion, 30, of Youngstown. Miller was with the department for 12 years , and Assion served for seven years.

A third deputy, Vincent Dravecky, 23, of Canfield, resigned last month. They had been placed on paid administrative leave after the episode, pending an internal investigation. All were corrections deputies who worked in the jail.

Charles Wilson of the Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council Inc., who represented both Assion and Miller at a pre-disciplinary hearing, couldn’t be reached.

A fourth deputy, Adam Chasko, was at the bar with the other three but wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing. He continued to work while the other three were on leave.

Boardman police were called about 1:15 a.m. May 16 to the Lanai Lounge, South Avenue, on a report of gunshots fired in the parking lot. The person who called police saw the people involved leave the lot in a maroon sport-utility vehicle.

Police found a spent shell casing in the parking lot and spoke to a patron of the bar. The patron said she had been speaking to a man named Vince, who she believes was intoxicated. He showed her his badge and said he was an off-duty deputy sheriff.

The woman said the man later placed a small, black handgun on his leg while sitting at the bar next to her. She said that several other off-duty deputy sheriffs were with him.

Police found the maroon SUV in the parking lot of Days Inn, South Avenue, and saw a pistol in plain view inside.

They then located Miller, the vehicle’s owner.

At the time of the police report, Dravecky told police that he had an accidental discharge of his gun (not his duty weapon) while in the bar’s lot.

Police called the deputies’ supervisor, who came to the scene, and an internal investigation began shortly thereafter.

Conflicting statements from the three men led to an order that they submit to polygraph examinations administered June 16 in Akron, a news release from Wellington said. Dravecky, who was hired in February 2007, resigned June 12.

He had been on a two-year probation.

Assion and Miller both refused to take the polygraph exams, the sheriff said.

On June 26, Assion and Miller were served with an adverse-behavior report and notice of investigative findings as well as a notice of a pre-disciplinary hearing.

That hearing was conducted July 8 before William M. Coleman of the Mahoning County Sanitary Engineer’s Office.

Both deputies were charged with gross misconduct, misconduct, malfeasance, misfeasance, dishonesty and other failure of good behavior.

“Evidence presented detailed how the actions of each man violated their oath of office, Canons of Ethics and numerous other department rules and regulations,” the news release said.

Neither officer presented any testimony in his defense nor were any exhibits or witnesses presented.

“The conduct of Sgt. Assion and Deputy Miller would be unacceptable if these individuals were citizens and not part of the law enforcement community,” the hearing officer wrote.

“The law enforcement community is respected and a higher standard exists for their conduct, on and off the clock.”

Wellington pointed out that Assion, who had been promoted in May 2007, was assigned to the night shift in the jail division and supervised both Dravecky and Miller.

Both Assion and Miller are expected to file a grievance regarding their termination, the sheriff said.

“There is a duty, an obligation to the public that the conduct of those sworn in as peace officers be above reproach,” Coleman wrote. “When the conduct of these individuals does violate the established standards for law enforcement officers, action to maintain the confidences of the public must be swift but fair.”

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