Court affirms Rayland police chief firing

AN APPEAL by G. Michael Jenkins regarding his termination as Rayland police chief in June 2011 has been overruled and dismissed, and village council’s decision to terminate him was affirmed in a decision reached this month by Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas Judge David E. Henderson.

Action to terminate Jenkins as police chief was taken at a June 13, 2011, continued hearing before village council, and the vote was 5-1 with Councilman Roger Beck dissenting. The initial hearing, which lasted five hours, was held June 6 of that year and then continued until June 13 concerning charges leveled at a May 24, 2011, village council meeting.

The continued hearing lasted nearly 11 hours.

Judge Henderson’s decision recently reached notes, in part, “No written decision specifying the council’s reasons for their decision was provided; therefore, the court must decide based upon the totality of evidence presented at the hearing as to whether the decision of the council was unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable or unsupported by the preponderance of substantial, reliable and probative evidence.

“The court cannot say, after a full review, that the decision of council was either unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable nor unsupported by the preponderance of substantial, reliable and probative evidence.

“The individual counts when viewed alone and in isolation from the other counts may not appear to be substantial, but the court must view the totality of the record and not only a portion of the record. Further, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the council members,” according to the journal entry filed last Wednesday.

It also was noted in the entry that evidence was presented in regard to Jenkins’ use of the police vehicle without authorization; the inability of the mayor to discuss employment issues with Jenkins due to his actions; certain claimed instances of discourteous treatment of the public; improper use of OHLEG, (a law enforcement website) system to obtain personal information (a driver’s license number of Rayland Clerk-Treasurer Rick Soos); and an-off duty incident with an individual that included an alleged high speed chase outside village limits and involvement of other law enforcement officers; as well as alleged discourteous treatment of the public.

After listing that evidence, the entry went on to note: “Therefore, the court finds there exists within the record substantial, reliable and probative evidence which the council chose to believe and, thus, the decision of the council was supported by a preponderance of the evidence as presented.”

The 2011 hearing focused on eight instances regarding Jenkins’ actions that Rayland Mayor Tammy Morelli claimed as justification for the termination of Jenkins, who was employed on a part-time basis.

At the June 6 hearing, the village called five witnesses, and Jenkins’ attorney, Bryan Felmet, called eight witnesses including Jenkins, at the continued hearing. Originally, 16 charges had been leveled, but village officials dismissed eight of them at the June 6 hearing.

Felmet noted at the hearing’s conclusion in June 2011, he would file a notice of appeal.

It was noted in this month’s journal entry that each party is to bear its own costs.

Pokas can be reached at