HUBBARD TOWNSHIP Ex-cop, officials differ on firing

A trustee said the former officer's firing had nothing to do with retaliation.
HUBBARD -- A former Hubbard Township police officer says she was fired for blowing the whistle on the police chief for fixing traffic tickets. Township officials give a different version.
Joyce A. Coleman was notified Aug. 30 by Police Chief Todd Coonce that he intended to fire her for abandoning her job.
After a hearing officer upheld Coonce's position that he had grounds to fire Coleman, township trustees terminated her Oct. 8.
Coleman thinks Coonce wanted her fired while she was on workers' compensation leave because she told Judge Michael Bernard of Girard Municipal Court about traffic tickets written by township police officers that never made it to court. Hubbard Township is under the Girard court's jurisdiction.
On Aug. 17, Coonce was fined $1,308 for contempt of court, a charge that stemmed from the fact that not all township tickets went through the court.
As a part of the sentence, Judge Bernard ordered Coonce not to retaliate against police officers who brought the ticket problem to light.
Coonce referred inquiries about Coleman's status to township trustees.
What trustee said: Trustee Howard Bradley said that Coleman was not fired in retaliation and that her dismissal had nothing to do with the tickets.
Bradley said that he doesn't condone what the chief did in putting tickets in a drawer rather than sending them to court, but Coleman was fired because of "other issues."
He declined to discuss them, citing pending legal action.
Coleman is appealing her dismissal based on improper procedures used in her discipline.
She said she went to see Judge Bernard in late 1999 about the tickets and it was the judge who notified the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
BCI agents seized records from the township police station in August 2000.
Coleman, an 11-year police veteran, plans to sue Coonce and the township, contending she was fired in retaliation.
In an Aug. 30 letter to Coleman, Coonce informed her that she had been off work since she was injured June 24, 2000.
What happened: Coleman had said she injured her knee while working an extra job at Roma Manor, a township banquet hall on state Route 304, west of the city.
Her workers' compensation claim against the township was dismissed and collected from Roma Manor, she said.
Coleman said she has since talked twice with Bailey about her injuries.
She pointed out that three months after her injury, four fellow officers donated 35 of their own sick leave days to her, including Coonce, who provided five days.
She said "everybody knew" she was on workers' compensation.
In his letter, Coonce informed Coleman that she made no attempt to contact the department or township about returning to work or continuation of health benefits.
"As such, it is my opinion that you have abandoned your employment with the township," Coonce wrote.
On Sept. 12, Atty. Michael J. Angelo of Cleveland, who is paid by the township, conducted a pre-disciplinary hearing on the matter. On Sept. 27 he upheld Coleman's dismissal.
As hearing officer, Angelo pointed out that Patrick J. Daugherty, a Fraternal Order of Police staff representative at the hearing, didn't offer any explanation or argument that the termination wasn't just and there were no witnesses presented on her behalf.