BY Jordan Cohen
Two veteran township police officers resigned Friday in the wake of an investigation into the disappearance of $1,500 of community- group funds from a police department safe.
The probe is being turned over to the Trumbull County Sheriff’s office.
The two are Patrolmen Jeffrey Ford, 35, and Nicholas Maccione, 28. Both had been Vienna police officers since 2004.
In a special meeting Friday evening in which more than 40 residents packed the small township hall, trustees voted to accept the resignations, with Trustee Heidi Brown accepting Ford’s “with regret.” However, after the meeting, Brown revealed that she had asked for both men’s resignations.
None of the trustees would comment further about the investigation.
Police Chief Brian Darby said the $1,500 consisted of “block-watch and Christmas-fund money.” Darby told The Vindicator that he first learned the money was missing when Ford told him about it last July.
Darby declined to say whether either officer took the money or whether any of the missing funds have been recovered.
Darby also said that both officers had taken polygraph tests in Akron, but he refused to say whether either or both failed the examinations.
He also was reluctant to use the word “theft” to describe the investigation.
“They both are good guys, and we’re all best friends,” the chief said.
During the public meeting, Richard Dascenzo Jr., trustee chairman, said trustees would not accept or answer any questions about the probe but would allow residents to comment.
Most of the speakers promptly criticized the trustees for refusing to provide more information. A number of others praised Ford despite the allegations about his role in the money’s disappearance.
“Losing Jeff Ford for this community is a tremendous loss,” said resident Gerald Rassega to loud applause.
However, a number of speakers directed their anger at Darby, whom they accused of failing to provide leadership.
Darby is the only full-time member of the department. The remaining 15 officers are part time.
“It’s a shame to see what’s become of our police department,” said Phil Pegg, a former trustee. “There’s a lack of direction.”
“We’re lacking one resignation and that’s the leader of the police department,” said Tarin Brown, a member of the Mathews school board.
Several residents voiced fears that they may never learn “the truth about what happened” and questioned whether they could again trust either the trustees or police.
“We know we have our work cut out for us,” Heidi Brown responded.
Contacted after the meeting, Maj. Thomas Stewart of the sheriff’s department said investigators will review the material turned over by the township, but was uncertain what the result might be.
“I’m not sure if any criminal charges will be filed,” Stewart said late Friday.
Darby said the incident has caused him to change his policy about holding community funds. “No more cash will be kept in the police safe,” the chief said.