By jeanne starmack
City leaders will now consider how to discipline an officer whose residence was the site of teenage drinking parties.
A predisciplinary hearing for patrolman Larry Neely took place Wednesday morning.
Police Chief Jeff Palmer said city services director Jerry Lambert, Mayor Jim Melfi and the city’s legal counsel will meet this week to consider discipline for Neely, who already has a disciplinary record.
Previous infractions include not responding to two calls in one night from a dispatcher, which resulted in a 10-day suspension, Palmer said.
The latest charges, for what Palmer said are six to eight months of parties in a garage behind Neely’s house, are internal within the department, not criminal. They include misfeasance, which Palmer said is not acting in a proper manner; nonfeasance, which is a failure to act; neglect of duty; and failure to follow department rules.
Melfi will make the final decision on how to discipline Neely, Palmer said.
“No decision on the discipline type has been made, but it is considered a serious offense,” Palmer said.
The meeting Wednesday included Palmer and the city’s legal counsel, Robin Bell of Clemons Nelson, a law firm that specializes in labor relations; and Neely and his union representative, Kevin Powers of the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
Powers could not be reached Wednesday.
If the OPBA decided to dispute the city’s decision, the two sides would go before an arbitrator, Palmer said. The arbitrator’s decision could be appealed in common pleas court.
Neely remains on paid administrative leave. He has been on leave since Feb. 8, when police broke up a party in his garage. The party included juveniles and teenagers who are too young to drink. Police found beer cans and smelled marijuana.
Of 19 teenagers at the party, nine were criminally charged. Four of them were juveniles. They were charged with underage drinking. One teenager over 18 was charged with disorderly conduct and marijuana possession. Three over 18 were charged with disorderly conduct. Neely’s 18-year-old stepson was charged with hosting.
Neely was not home during the party. Palmer said the department got tips about parties at the residence and had been investigating the reports since early January.
He said there was information indicating the parties took place for months, on weekends and days off from school.