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Pre-discipline hearing ordered for Newton Falls police chief

Published: 2/5/13 @ 12:00


By Jordan Cohen

news@vindy.com

NEWTON FALLS

Village council took the initial step Monday to “begin removal” of Police Chief John Kuivila by ordering the law director to set up a pre-disciplinary hearing against him.

The unanimous vote followed a 45-minute executive session in which Law Director A. Joseph Fritz reported the results of an investigation against Kuivila that council ordered during a meeting last week.

Two female employees in the police department have accused the chief of inappropriate comments and conduct toward them. One of the women alleges that Kuivila threatened her, and the other claims the chief made improper comments about her body.

However, an attorney representing the chief says the woman exchanged “hundreds of text messages a week” with the chief amounting to nearly “a thousand a month” until late December.

“They were friends, and there was nothing amorous, romantic or sexual about their relationship,” Atty. Kimberly Kendall, Cleveland, told The Vindicator on Monday night after the newspaper informed her of council’s action.

The friendship ended after Kuivila’s wife discovered an unsent text and confronted the employee, according to the attorney.

Kendall also said she was told in late January by Fritz that there was no substance to the allegations against the chief.

After initially refusing to comment when told about the attorney’s statement, Fritz responded, “[Her statement] isn’t true.”

“I’m not going to get in a war of words with him,” Kendall responded. “I have not been presented with any evidence of any kind except copies of the complaints.

“These allegations are very easy for women to make and very hard for men to defend,” Kendall said.

Council’s actions are based on a clause in Kuivila’s contract that covers “just cause for removal” from office. The pre-disciplinary hearing, which is the first step of the removal process, would require an arbitrator agreed upon by both sides to hear the case and rule on its merits. In the meantime, Fritz said Kuivila will continue serving as chief.

The chief denied the allegations earlier Monday. “I have been falsely accused, and I was never contacted by the city manager or law director during the investigation,” he said.

Kuivila, police chief since 2009, said he is optimistic about the outcome. “I will be exonerated,” he said.