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Former Warren paralegal: drug addiction is not plague



Published: Thu, March 6, 2014 @ 12:06 a.m.

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

Jason Burns, the 33-year-old former paralegal assistant to Warren Law Director Greg Hicks, has resigned.

He submitted a resignation letter to the Warren human-resources director early this week, using most of the letter to thank Hicks and assistant law director Traci Rose for the opportunity to work for them — and for their understanding of his drug addiction.

Burns was charged with felony drug possession after a Warren police officer checked Burns’ coat pocket Dec. 23, 2013, while in Burns’ office at the law department and found illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Police were called to the law department because Burns was untidy, wearing no shoes and had slurred speech. He admitted to the officer he had used a drug.

Hicks said last week he had placed Burns on unpaid leave and recommended he be dismissed from the $12.47-per-hour position he held for about 18 months.

Hicks said he knew about Burns’ addiction problems when he hired him, but was willing to “take a chance on him,” and Burns had done a good job until his relapse Dec. 23.

Of Hicks, Burns said: “In my 33 years on this earth, I have never met such a genuine, caring, compassionate and brilliant man.”

He said he hopes he will someday be forgiven for the “negative attention” the incident brought to Hicks.

But he said “those at the city who looked at me like I had some sort of plague, I feel should be ashamed. Drug addiction is a disease, no different than cancer or diabetes.

“If I have to be a martyr to carry this message, then I will do so, but I feel there should be many changes in how the city both accepts qualified addicts and/or alcoholics as employees and treats us when there is a slip or relapse.”

Burns noted that he is a law-school graduate who worked for less than $13 per hour and has been clean and sober since the day of his arrest.

“I would like to be very clear about one fact. I take full responsibility for my actions, and my behavior was a direct result of not working my [Narcotics Anonymous] program and getting away from what I know does work to keep myself clean and sober one day at a time.”

Burns, a Youngstown Cardinal Mooney graduate, said he lost a younger brother to drug addiction, “but I refuse to let this affliction take my life.”


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