Clerk alleges inappropriate remarks from Newton Falls chief
By Ed Runyan
The village has opened an investigation into allegations against Police Chief John Kuivila from two female employees of the police department.
A records clerk with the police department wrote a letter to city Manager Jack Haney Jan. 11 indicating that Kuivila made comments about her appearance and “certain body parts” soon after she returned to work from maternity leave.
She felt the comments were “extremely inappropriate for him being my supervisor” and “asked him that all comments to be stopped immediately.”
She then received a phone call from Kuivila’s wife, Danielle, in which Kuivila’s wife read a letter she found that expressed the chief’s feelings about the employee, the employee said.
“At this point, I felt extremely uncomfortable and went to speak with Jack Haney, the city manager, with my concerns,” she said.
Another female employee, a police officer, wrote a letter Jan. 11 in which she said she felt she was working under a hostile work environment because of a threat she said Kuivila made to her regarding the other female employee.
According to the female officer’s letter, the chief told her, “If I discussed the information, he made a threat. This has since placed my mindset that I am in the environment which is hostile, and I am fearful.”
Kuivila also wrote a letter to Haney, stamped “confidential” at the top, in which the chief addressed the first woman’s complaint.
In it, Kuivila wrote that he and the clerk “have exchanged text messages, Google chats, emails and other electronic communications both related to and not related to work.
“On Jan. 7, 2013, my wife, Danielle, discovered messages and or electronic communications. Although they were drafted in my personal capacity, and one had only been drafted and not transmitted nor provided to” the clerk, the chief said.
“Apparently, my wife contacted the clerk and confronted her about the aforementioned communications,” Kuivila wrote.
Later Jan. 7, Haney contacted Kuivila regarding the issue and “directed me to write a statement regarding this incident,” Kuivila said.
Haney on Wednesday confirmed that he and Law Director A. Joseph Fritz are investigating the matter. Haney said he will discuss the investigation with city council during an executive session (private) at Monday’s council meeting.
Kuivila did not return a phone call seeking comment on the investigation.
According to documents in a federal appeals court case involving Kuivila’s employment in Conneaut before coming to work in Newton Falls, one reason Kuivila was let go in Conneaut was because of “inappropriate behavior towards a female dispatcher that [Kuivila] belatedly admitted were true after he initially denied the allegations.”
The courts ruled in favor of Conneaut in the suit, which Kuivila filed alleging breach of contract by Conneaut.
Kuivila worked for Conneaut as deputy police chief from September 2007 to July 2008, according to court documents.
Village council also passed a resolution Dec. 17, asking Fritz to refer a question to the Ohio Ethics Commission relating to Kuivila’s relationship with Pete Kepich, owner of Kepich Ford in Garrettsville.
Kepich and Kuivila have said Kuivila has provided Kepich with expertise on police automobiles to help Kepich sell cars to area police departments.
One council member said he and other Newton Falls residents want to know whether Kuivila is working at the dealership and steering Newton Falls police-car business to the dealership, and whether that would be illegal.