2012-04-14 / Editorials & Letters

‘Watchdog’ says Kirkersville plays games with public records


There hasn’t been a carnival in Kirkersville for a long time but they still have a carnival game - the shell game. The shell game is played in Kirkersville with public records. I requested copies of impound forms and log sheets. A note on the copies of log sheets stated, “No tow logs kept. Contact LCSO (Licking County Sheriff’s Office).” They gave me the log sheets but don’t want me to have the impound forms.

So, I played the game and called the LCSO knowing they don’t keep records for Kirkersville or any other department. I was right and was also told they didn’t know why Kirkersville would say that they did! I informed Mayor Ashcraft of my attempt to get these records and he said he would talk to the solicitor (Brian Zets) and the police chief (James Chapman).

Chief Chapman called me and said they don’t keep “tow logs.” I told him I had received them in the past and was fairly certain that an officer has to inventory a vehicle that is being towed or impounded. The chief agreed they have to inventory the vehicle, but that wasn’t called a “tow log” that was an impound sheet! I reminded him that “tow log” was their word, not mine. He also agreed that impound sheets are public records, according to the solicitor, IF they kept them. He said impound sheets were shredded when the vehicle is released. He went on to say that he had five on his desk but they were part of a pending case and, therefore, weren’t a public record! I told him you can’t just destroy public records and say they don’t exist! I asked if he had a records retention policy. He said that Hebron and Heath have the same policy as Kirkersville and suggested I call them to verify. I told him I would do just that and I would like a copy of the records retention policy that allows Kirkersville to shred documents.

Already knowing the answer, I did call Hebron and Heath to verify and, of course, neither department shreds the impound forms and both departments have a records retention policy (at least one department holds the impound forms for 3+ years)! In fact, both departments were very professional and courteous. I phoned Mayor Ashcraft to see if he was aware that his police department was shredding records and he stated that he was and claimed they had consulted with Brian Zets, the solicitor. I told the mayor that I had not received the records retention policy from the chief. Mayor Ashcraft said he thought I had, but I told him that the record the chief gave me was NOT a retention policy - it was a page from a police training manual. Kirkersville apparently doesn’t have a retention policy which is required by state law according to ORC 149.39.

A local newspaper ran several stories about Kirkersville... primarily about Chief Chapman and Sgt. Derek Abner having been fired from past departments. One of the most recent stories says, “In job applications, Chapman wrote he left Mount Sterling police because of a pay reduction, school and a long commute. Abner cited the reason for leaving Springboro police was a “probationary release.” An earlier news story stated that Chapman and Abner were fired by previous employers “after finding them unfit to protect and serve.”

The front page of the Kirkersville application reads: “WARNING...Applicants are cautioned to answer every question truthfully and without evasion. The Ohio Revised Code provides penalties for making a false statement of a material fact, or for practicing any fraud or deception in obtaining or attempting to obtain employment. Such penalties include rejection for appointment or discharge after appointment and/or prosecution under Ohio Revised Code Section 2921.13.”

The most recent story claimed that Council member Woods responded to a resident’s concern about the rising amount of citations by saying that it was because, “the department increased the number of officers, and she sees many speeders on U.S. 40.”

However, according to public records, while there may be seven officers on the roster (Chief James Chapman; Sgt. Derek Abner; Ofc. Eric Sayatovich; Ofc. Staci Eiferd; Ofc. Greg Sanders; Ofc. Chris Hagstrom; Ofc. Jason Shepherd), only one officer writes the majority of the tickets. Sgt. Abner writes SIGNIFICANTLY more tickets than anyone else.

In October, Abner wrote 104 tickets compared to the rest of the department’s 17 tickets combined! In November, Abner wrote 88 tickets to the rest of the department’s 30; the score in December was Abner 98 to all other’s 31. This information comes from the police officer’s log sheets.

Council member Woods may see “many speeders on US 40” but the log sheets show that lots of people are getting pulled over on the FREEWAY for having burnt out LICENSE PLATE LIGHTS! Although these stops typically end with a verbal warning, Chief Chapman used “safety” (in the January council meeting) as a response to a business owner’s complaint of police pulling people over in front of businesses. Pulling people over ON THE FREEWAY at night to verbally warn them about a license plate light should be a HUGE safety concern for everyone involved in the stop!

Mayor’s Court intake amounts:

Buckeye Lake: Jan. $5,803.70; Feb. $8,424.35

Hebron: Jan. 4,360.00; Feb. 3,325.00

Kirkersville: Jan. 13,593.00; Feb. 9,191.00

In a local paper’s story that questioned whether the state needed to get involved in a standard for hiring police officers, Representative Jay Hottinger was quoted as saying, “Local governments have their own charters. They don’t like the state coming in and dictating to them what’s important.” Shame on you Mr. Hottinger! It is the STATE laws that we all have to follow! It was the STATE that shut down New Rome! They, too, had their own rules and didn’t want the state telling them what was important.

Bonnie Mansfield
Buckeye Lake

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