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Published: Wednesday, 8/18/2004

Marblehead blocks police chief s return

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A year and a half after being fired as Marblehead s police chief, Wood Holbrook showed up to reclaim his old job only to be suspended over an allegation that he misused a state computer database before his dismissal.

Mayor Jackie Bird said she and village solicitor John Brikmanis notified Mr. Holbrook of the suspension when he arrived at 8 a.m. Monday to begin work. The chief was fired in February, 2003, over allegations of misconduct involving a village councilman.

Ms. Bird said Mr. Holbrook had been set to resume his job Monday under a reinstatement order from Judge Paul Moon of Ottawa County Common Pleas Court. The judge ruled in February that the village lacked sufficient proof of wrongdoing by Mr. Holbrook to fire him from his jobs as police chief and street commissioner.

The chief was being investigated then by Ottawa County authorities for his handling of a November, 2002, traffic stop of Councilman John Imke.

As a result of the traffic stop, Mr. Imke was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, charges that were dropped shortly before Mr. Holbrook s firing.

Then-Mayor Joseph Ihnat, Jr., said at the time that Mr. Holbrook was removed based on evidence he urged his officers to target councilmen for traffic enforcement and to plant drug paraphernalia.

The Ottawa County prosecutor s office, which conducted the investigation of Mr. Holbrook, did not file criminal charges against him.

Ms. Bird said Mr. Holbrook s suspension this week is for alleged misuse of a LEADS law-enforcement data terminal. It was a situation that was before he was let go, but the situation didn t come to light until after, she said.

The mayor declined to elaborate. Thomas McCarter, Mr. Holbrook s attorney, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Ottawa County Sheriff s Department was notified about the alleged misuse of LEADS and passed the case on to the Ohio Highway Patrol, which owns the terminals and oversees their use, Chief Deputy Bob Bratton said.

The highway patrol investigated and found no wrongdoing in the alleged incident, which occurred in June, 2001, he said.

If they re using that as any part of a suspension and termination, I would think they d be extremely cautious, because there are time limits, and there was no misuse or criminal use found, Chief Deputy Bratton said. And if it s interpreted that I m protecting the chief, that s not it. That s just the way the facts fall.

Lt. Rick Zwayer, a spokesman for the Ohio Highway Patrol in Columbus, said the patrol began a review of the allegation Feb. 10, 2003, after receiving information from the sheriff s department. The inquiry, which began three days before Mr. Holbrook s dismissal, found no wrongdoing.

Ms. Bird said Mr. Holbrook would be paid during his suspension, which will last at least until Village Council conducts a disciplinary hearing Sept. 9.

She said Greg Fultz, who was named chief after Mr. Holbrook was fired, remains in charge of the department.

I m still considering Greg Fultz our chief of police, and I don t anticipate any changes in our personnel, she said.

The village appealed Judge Moon s reinstatement order in March, but the 6th District Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal in May, saying it had no jurisdiction because the judge had not completed his decision by setting the amount of back pay owed to Mr. Holbrook.

Ms. Bird said she expected the village to file another appeal once Judge Moon completes the necessary paperwork.

Contact Steve Murphy at:smurphy@theblade.comor 419-724-6078.



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