Rejected DARE officer looks to lawyer up against Mathews school board
By JORDAN COHEN
Theresa Hartman, the Hartford Township police officer rejected as DARE officer by Mathews school board for unexplained “personal issues,” says she expects to meet with an attorney to discuss possible litigation against the board.
“I have no idea what they’re talking about; I’m at a loss,” she said.
Hartman was a Vienna police officer from 2008 to 2013 and actually served as Mathews DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer for two years. She joined the Hartford Police Department in late 2013 on a part-time basis.
“I would have loved to be DARE officer and return to the school, but I don’t want to go where I don’t feel welcome,” Hartman said.
The controversy flared during a board meeting Wednesday as Vienna Trustee Heidi Brown defended Hartman and criticized the school board.
Board President Tarin Brown cited a performance evaluation of Hartman conducted in 2008 – her first year in the Vienna department – as a basis for his allegations. The evaluation by a former police chief recommended she “avoid bringing personal issues to the department.”
It is the only evaluation in her personnel file. During her five years in the department, she was promoted to sergeant.
“I’ve never had an incident or complaint, and I’ve never had a reprimand or a write-up,” Hartman said.
Township trustees appointed Hartman to the DARE post on the recommendation of Vienna Police Chief Bob Ludt. The former DARE and school resource officer, Sgt. Michael Sheehy, resigned after his indictment by a Trumbull County grand jury on eight counts that include grand theft and drug possession.
Ludt said Hartman’s appointment was temporary and would have ended with the start of the new school year next September.
“I asked her to do this as a favor, and now her name gets dragged through the mud,” he said. “I am very disappointed and confused as to [the board’s] objections.”
Ludt criticized the use of a first-year evaluation conducted nearly 11 years ago since police officers at that point “are still in the learning stages.” His comments about Hartman were all positive, as were those of his counterpart in Hartford, Chief Dan Gladd.
“She is very community-oriented and represents our OVI [Operating a Vehicle under the Influence] task force,” Gladd said. “We’ve had no issues, and I have no qualms about her at all.”
Tarin Brown said he stands by his earlier statements. “I have nothing personal against her,” he said. “I just don’t think she is a fit for this position.”
A special school board meeting scheduled for this morning was canceled Friday without explanation.
Ludt said he will continue the search for another certified DARE officer even though “they are few and far between” in Trumbull County.