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Published: Thursday, 3/22/2001

Police chief who helped snag Waterville's solicitor resigns

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Waterville's police chief has resigned a week after a covert surveillance operation by his officers videotaped the village solicitor stealing public property during and after a council meeting.

Lance Martin, 47, whose 14-year tenure as chief has seen the village police department increase in size by two-thirds, worked his last day yesterday.

A letter Tuesday from Chief Martin to village administrator Tom Mattis did not explain why the chief was leaving his job, which pays about $46,000 annually.

Mr. Mattis, the chief's boss, said “no comment” when he was asked whether he had requested Chief Martin's resignation.

But a Waterville official who asked to remain anonymous said the administrator called the chief into his office last week and asked him to quit.

Mr. Mattis acknowledged that the resignation stems from the surveillance operation, which only a few members of the police department knew about beforehand.

“I, like many other people in the community, am concerned about decisions that were made in the conduct of the investigation last week,” Mr. Mattis said. “It has been made clear to the staff that there is nothing they should be involved in of an investigatory nature that I don't know about.”

Chief Martin said he kept the surveillance operation on a need-to-know basis for a good reason.

“We knew going in that the suspect, whoever he was, would have a daily business relationship, if not a working relationship, with the administration. I wouldn't do anything differently.”

The chief declined further comment.

The village solicitor, George Runner, resigned last week after being caught on videotape stuffing handfuls of coffee packets, creamer, and a ream of paper into his briefcase, according to a police report.

The police began their probe after receiving a theft complaint from the village administration in January. The surveillance operation employed hidden, high-tech miniature cameras in a room off the council chamber. Two Waterville police officers were in the attic above the room watching the live action on a television monitor.

The village declined to press criminal charges against Mr. Runner. But the Lucas County prosecutor's office has referred the matter to the Toledo Bar Association, which could discipline the lawyer even though he has not been charged with a crime.

Mr. Mattis gave Chief Martin high marks for raising the professionalism of the Waterville police department, which has 14 full-time officers, with a minimum of two on duty each shift. “He led the department from a classic small-town department to a full-service operation,” the administrator said. “It's a completely different department than it was when he started.”



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