Campbell police chief gets suspension
By Jeanne Starmack
The Campbell police chief is receiving a three-day suspension of record over two accidental gun discharges in the police station this spring.
The suspension, said the city’s legal counsel, is a record of discipline “on paper,” but Chief Gus Sarigianopoulos will not be suspended from his duties for three days. He will not lose three days’ pay.
Mike Esposito of Clemans Nelson & Associates said “suspension of record” is a mechanism in state law that allows discipline to be on file but still doesn’t cause operational issues for an employer.
“You have to have somebody there to run the department,” Esposito said Tuesday, shortly after Mayor Bill VanSuch issued the notice of discipline.
Should questionable conduct happen again, the mayor could evaluate the situation and discipline could progress as necessary, Esposito said.
VanSuch and Esposito met with the chief Sept. 4 in a predisciplinary hearing to discuss administrative charges against him regarding the discharges. They happened in quick succession, first in Sarigianopoulos’ office and then in the hallway outside the dispatch room, the afternoon of April 17.
An internal affairs investigation, concluded in June, determined the shootings were accidental and a result of human error.
The report indicated the gun that misfired, a Colt .45 semiautomatic which was not Sarigianopoulos’ duty weapon, was in a cabinet in his office. He moved the gun to reach for a can of oil behind it when it discharged, he told the investigator.
The chief said he took the magazine out of the gun and went to two officers who were in the dispatch area at the time.
He said he attempted to clear the gun when it discharged again. The bullet struck the floor and sent shrapnel into the wall above the dispatcher’s desk and into the ceiling.
A predisciplinary hearing notice sent by VanSuch to Sarigianopoulos before the Sept. 4 meeting states four allegations:
Failure of good behavior, neglect of duty and misfeasance for careless handling of a firearm and endangering himself and others.
Failure of good behavior, neglect of duty, malfeasance and dishonesty for telling city administrator Jack Dill after the discharges that he did not know what had happened, then saying he “shot at an escaping prisoner.”
Failure of good behavior and malfeasance for implying he had information on people, including VanSuch, that would be released if the city pursued disciplinary action.
Failing to redistribute Youngstown Municipal Housing Authority overtime equitably across the police department despite being instructed to do so.
The chief is being disciplined only for the firearm discharges. VanSuch told The Vindicator on Tuesday he is satisfied with Sarigianopoulos’ explanations over the other allegations.
VanSuch said Sarigianopoulos indicated he wasn’t serious when he told Dill he shot at an escaping prisoner. Sarigianopoulos was upset because he’d given VanSuch reports concerning possible misconduct by two officers, and VanSuch did not act on the reports.
VanSuch said it was not up to him to act alone on the reports.
“We should have sat down and discussed it,” he said. “That wasn’t done.”
He also said the chief believes it is his prerogative to schedule YMHA overtime as he sees fit.
In the notice of discipline, VanSuch commended Sarigianopoulos for taking responsibility for the shootings and for taking remedial gun training.
Sarigianopoulos has the right to appeal the notice within 10 days.
He and his attorney could not be reached Tuesday.