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Buckeye Lake Police Chief retains lawyer

BUCKEYE LAKE – Police Chief Jimmy Hanzey has lawyered up. He appeared with his attorney, Larry Arnold, at Monday night’s village council meeting.

After several attacks on Mayor Peggy Wells and Council President Kitty Zwissler during unfinished/ other business, council member Arletta Ruton said, “I want to turn this over to Jimmy Hanzey.”

Arnold first introduced himself, stating that Hanzey had retained him to keep his job as police chief. He briefly referred to a letter that Wells and Village Solicitor Dan Hayes had drafted and that Wells presented to Hanzey Monday afternoon. “I think she did that in the best interest of the village,” Arnold said. Wells asked if he had spoken with Hayes and he said he had.

Hanzey has been on and off medical leave for the last several months. He has publicly self-disclosed that his recent medical problem has been infected fingers on his right hand, caused by a slip on the ice at his home. His treatment has resulted in several hospitalizations including last Friday for the partial amputation of his right ring finger.

Wells’ March 12 letter stated, “I received a call from you March 10 at 2:22 p.m. informing me that you had just returned home from being released from the hospital. You also advised that you had undergone a procedure to remove the ring finger on your right hand. You stated that you had a doctor’s release to return to work for light duty and would be reporting for work on Monday, March 12.”

The letter continues, “I advised you to bring the doctor’s release to the village office early Monday morning but, pursuant to the authority granted in the Charter regarding scheduling of Police employees, I advised you not to report to work until I checked with the village attorney about your return. Notwithstanding this conversation, you responded to a call in Leisure Village the evening of March 10. You decided to respond to this call despite not having delivered your doctor’s release and despite the fact that responding to reported violent felony is far from “light duty.” I have been made aware that, while responding to this call, you accidentally discharged a firearm inside a private dwelling.”

Wells also listed three general rules for scheduling of police employees including the Chief of Police in the letter. They are:

• “No employee of the Police department who has experienced a significant change in their physical health, including but not limited to: amputation, disfigurement and/ or other serious injury to said employee’s shooting hand, shall, while scheduled in their official capacity with the Village of Buckeye Lake, carry a firearm, be on patrol or respond to calls until said employee has been recertified with a licensed firearms instructor.”

• “No employee of the Police department who has discharged his/her firearm (accidentally or otherwise) while serving in his/ her official capacity for the Village of Buckeye Lake shall, after the conclusion of the call wherein said discharge took place, carry a firearm while working for the Village, be scheduled to be on patrol, respond to calls and/or perform any other scheduled service that would require the carrying of a firearm until such time as said discharge has been fully investigated.”

• “No employee who is disqualified from being scheduled for patrol, for whatever reason, shall operate a motor vehicle or police cruiser owned by the Village of Buckeye Lake.”

When Hanzey spoke to council members, he disclosed the amputation, adding that he has a lot of administrative duties. “She told me I’m not coming to work.” He said he arrived at work at 7 a.m. on Monday with his doctor’s release, but Wells’ notice wasn’t there.

Hanzey added, “I have no issues shooting a gun. I can shot with either hand.” Police officers must qualify with both hands. He added that he wasn’t on any medication except antibiotics.

Ruton prompted him to address his “write-up.” She was referring to a written reprimand Wells gave Hanzey last month for behavior unbecoming an officer/police chief at the February 12 council meeting. Hanzey was on medical leave at the time, but was sitting in the back row of the audience. Planning Commission member Doug Stewart, sitting in the audience, asked/motioned several times toward the back row to quiet down so he and others could hear what was going on. He finally asked Hanzey to “shut up.”

Wells’ reprimand states, “At one point, a resident asked you to ‘shut-up.’ You responded to him with disrespect at some point telling him he cannot tell you to shut-up. At the end of the meeting, you stood with your arms folded blocking the rear door. When the same resident attempted to leave, he was forced to go around you to exit. You followed him to his vehicle and had words with him. The resident claims he told you that he had noting to say to you yet you attempted to engage in an argument in the parking lot. This was unnecessary and aggressive behavior on your part.”

Hanzey said he had listened to the meeting tape several times. “You can’t hear me at all,” he said. “None of that happened…I never did anything to get that write-up.” He added that he never had a problem with Mr. Stewart before. Hanzey related that when he was growing up if you told someone to ‘shut up,’ you got smacked on the head. “You will respect me,” he concluded.

Wells told Hanzey and Arnold that she isn’t going to discuss personnel issues in a public meeting.

In other business Monday night, Licking County Building Code Department administrator Jack Pryor explained that village council could chose between the Ohio Department of Commerce or the building code department to do commercial inspections in Buckeye Lake. Inspections for buildings with up to three units is left up to the local jurisdiction. Buckeye Lake has already turned those inspections over to the county building code department. Anything above three units is considered commercial and will be inspected by the state unless the entity requests otherwise.

Wells asked Pryor to outline some of the differences between the county department and the state. He said both offer walk-thru services. “We’re a lot closer,” he added. “You don’t have to go to Columbus.” A major difference, he said is, “We offer on-site consultations.” The consultations, which can work out some potential problems ahead of time, aren’t available with the state.

“The fees are similar,” Pryor said. However, once the county sets the fee that’s it. There are no extra fees if additional inspections are needed or if an inspection is failed, requiring a return to the jobsite. Council member Doug Poorman DVM asked about scheduling inspections. “We give a two-hour window on concrete pours,” Pryor said, adding that’s the top inspection priority based on input from the Licking County Building Industry Association.

Council member John Geiger asked about enforcement. Pryor said the department doesn’t do enforcement but will advise the village solicitor of the situation.

Support for changing from the state to the county for commercial building inspections appears to be unanimous. Pryor has a sample ordinance to make the change. He will meet with the Community Development and Public Safety committees at 5:15 p.m. on Monday, March 26, to discuss the sample ordinance and work out any changes.

Buckeye Lake Village now has a storm water utility. Finance Committee chair Tom Wolfe asked for more discussion when the ordinance came up for the third reading. “I thought we had discussed it enough,” Zwissler told Wolfe. Ruton moved to adopt the ordinance and council member Bob Masone MD seconded it.

“I’m for storm water in this community,” Wolfe said. “I don’t believe $4 (per month per equivalent residential unit) is an accurate charge. I don’t believe we are going to have enough money to pull it off.”

After looking at the storm water improvement projects listed for the next five years, Wolfe added, “I don’t think the study is complete enough to move head…I don’t think it is financially doable.”

“It (the plan) was as well thought out as the water,” Masone said. Water supervisor Toby Miller was asked to comment. “The first step is to determine what you need,” he explained. “We laid out a five-year plan.” Any properties with five or more equivalent residential units (ERU’s) can get 40 to 50 percent credits based on work they have already done such as installing a retention pond or agree to do in the future.

“I’m not against it,” Wolfe repeated. “I don’t think businesses can get the credits as easily as presented.”

Council member Bill French said the last heavy rain cost his neighbor $13,000 to clean up. “I would like something to be done before another flood happens.”

“I don’t want to create false hope,” Wolfe concluded. The ordinance was adopted by a 6-1 vote with Wolfe voting “no.” It will be effective in 30 days.

Council members unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing Wells to enter into an agreement with ODNR for the sale of the village-owned lot by the entrance to AMIL spillway access road. ODNR is paying $22,000 for the small lot and will replace the former blacktop sidewalk with a concrete one.

Buckeye Lake Brewery owner Rich Hennessy told council he is interested in purchasing the nowclosed building housing the former Lake Drive-Thru. Wells, in her written Mayor’s Report, said three parties are interested in operating it as a drive-thru. She asked council members to determine the lease conditions, particularly the maximum term. A tentative sale arranged by the now former operator fell through when the prospective buyers demanded at least a six-year lease term and failed to provide enough financial information to assure council members that the lease would be paid. Earlier this year, council members seemed willing to accept a maximum four-year term, but that consensus fell apart as one council member wanted to limit it to a year and one proposed a simple month-to-month agreement. The lease generates about $1,000 a month for the village.

Resident Rich Smith urged council members to give consideration to the “highest and best use” for the property. Wolfe scheduled a Finance Committee meeting for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 9, to get public comments on the future of the drive-thru.

Council’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 26.

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