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Boardman sergeant asks court to order trustees to promote him

Published: Sat, July 24, 2010 @ 12:05 a.m.




A Boardman police sergeant who says he’s entitled to be promoted to lieutenant has asked the 7th District Court of Appeals to direct the township trustees to promote him to that rank with back pay dating to May 19.

On Thursday, Sgt. Jack Cochran filed his petition for a writ of mandamus, in which he also asked the court to bar the trustees from making permanent the May 19 promotions of Stephen J. Riwniak and Edward R. McDonnell from sergeant to lieutenant.

Cochran, who was hired as a patrolman in July 1997 and promoted to sergeant in June 2007, was the top scorer on the civil-service exam given for lieutenant Dec. 11, 2008.

Based on his score of 109.6, Cochran was placed on a two-year civil-service-eligibility list for promotion to lieutenant that will expire Jan. 21, 2011.

After promoting two lieutenants to captain, the three trustees unanimously selected McDonnell, who scored second at 107.5, and Riwniak, who scored fourth at 100.6 on the exam, for the lieutenant positions.

The township has the ability, based on state law, to choose from the top-three candidates from the civil-service test, said Jason Loree, township administrator.

When one candidate is chosen, then the township chooses out of the top three again, meaning the person who originally scored fourth on the test would become the third top scorer, Loree said.

Riwniak was hired in 1990 and McDonnell in 1996, and both became sergeants in 2002. Both are within their 180-day probationary periods as lieutenants.

In 2004, the township made a $500,000 settlement of a civil lawsuit by the estate of Steven Memmer, who was killed when a cruiser that Cochran was driving hit Memmer’s car broadside Feb. 1, 2001.

Memmer, 21, turned his car into the driveway of his Southern Boulevard apartment as Cochran tried to pass him from behind at 76 mph en route to a burglary call.

A Mahoning County grand jury cleared Cochran of any criminal wrongdoing in February 2001, but Memmer’s family filed the civil lawsuit a month later, saying the township’s police pursuit-and-response policy failed to set safety rules or properly train officers.

Under the township’s latest police-union contract, the sergeant vacancies left by the promotions of Riwniak and McDonnell won’t be filled.

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