Liberty police officer fired after investigation


By LINDA M. LINONIS

linonis@vindy.com

liberty

Township officials have fired police officer James Smith, township Law Director Mark Finamore said Friday.

Smith, 47, of the 700 block of Santa Monica Drive, was terminated Oct. 4 after an internal investigation found that he was “guilty of misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, misconduct in office, neglect of duty, incompetence and discourteous treatment of the public.” He had been hired Jan. 7, 1992.

Records indicate Smith abused his position as a police officer to intimidate, threaten and harass neighbors when they complained about his property.

The termination document notes that “citizen complaints were made against [Smith’s] residence for housing more than 23 dogs, which caused a severe stench of dog feces and urine, and excessive noise from said dogs, constituting a public nuisance.”

The conditions at Smith’s home persisted despite notices from the township zoning department, Trumbull County Health Department and complaints from neighbors.

Finamore said the information was turned over to the police chief and township trustees, who agreed that Smith should be fired.

Smith’s disciplinary file shows that entries began in March 1992, just three months after he was hired. Among violations in Smith’s file are cruiser accidents, failure to obey an order, canine-training problems, diminished job performance, conduct unbecoming, abuse of authority/intimidation, incomplete work, unprofessional conduct, incomplete reports, abuse of sick leave and complaints about his residence to the police department.

Smith’s health insurance ended Oct. 31. The township contested unemployment benefits because Smith was fired for just cause.

Finamore said the situation is in the arbitration stage. Arbitration should take place within 30 to 60 days, Finamore said.

Smith said, “There are two sides to every story.”

He said his disciplinary file “is not accurate” but said he could not elaborate because of the arbitration process. “I’m not permitted to speak because of department rules and regulations,” he said.

Smith said he “disputed the entries in his personnel file and the allegations made against him.”

Smith said he had 21 dogs at his home but has since moved them. He and his family are involved in dog sledding. Smith, who said he is an “animal lover,” was the police department’s canine-unit officer.

Of his neighbors’ complaints, Smith said, “I can’t get into my neighbors’ motivation.”

Smith said he has his house up for sale.

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