SIDNEY — A former Sidney Police officer addressed Sidney City Council Monday night questioning his termination for excessive use of force and brought forth allegations of wrong doing within the Sidney Police Department.
Former Sidney Police Sgt. Warren Melerine spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting to ask council why he was fired if he didn’t do anything wrong criminally and was cleared by use of force expert Samuel Faulkner.
Sidney City Manager Mark Cundiff told the Sidney Daily News Tuesday morning, “As far as for (Melerine’s termination) case, we followed the procedures and a neutral third party found his termination was warranted. When the response is given, I think it will show the Sidney Police Department didn’t do anything illegal or wrong.” Police Chief Will Balling agreed that the police department did nothing wrong regarding his case.
Melerine was terminated on July 14, 2017, for excessive use of force after he fired a “bean bag” shotgun and struck a male during an incident in May 2017. Melerine appealed his termination, but the decision was upheld by an independent arbitrator. He did not appeal the independent arbitrator’s decision.
Faulkner, Melerine said, is the “leading use of force expert throughout the world,” who is used in the state of Ohio and around the United States, and “literally wrote the book on the use of force for the state of Ohio.”
Melerine alleged that Balling received Faulkner’s independent report, which determined the use of force was appropriate and officers did nothing wrong, three days prior to arbitration, but did not turn over the report to his attorneys before the arbitration. He noted Balling did not release the memo until he filed a lawsuit forcing its release.
Melerine then asked council why the memo containing Faulkner’s findings was not turned over so he could use it as part of his defense during the arbitration.
When speaking to council Monday night, Melerine also made several allegations of misconduct within the department including officers conducting illegal traffic stops, working on city time for personal use, having residents’ pictures printed out and used for personal target practice, counterfeit money shredded and not reported properly and parking being excessively enforced, among other internal issues.
The allegations made by Melerine have not been confirmed by the city of Sidney and no documentation was provided to City Council Monday night to support the allegations.
Balling and Cundiff both noted the one item they could confirm to be true was Sidney City Council passed an ordinance to enforce parking. They agree parking enforcement has increased, including the blocking of sidewalks. Cundiff noted this is because not everyone has the ability to walk around a vehicle in the grass or off of the sidewalk area.
When asked for his response, Balling told the Daily News, “The situation at council on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, was very disappointing to me. Mr. Melerine is a past employee of the city of Sidney, who was terminated with just cause, according to an independent arbitrator. Mr. Melerine has a right to address council, but many items that he commented on were misleading and portrayed some officers in a negative light, which is simply not the truth. If council wishes to look into any of his allegations, I will be happy to comply with them. By no means should any of Mr. Melerine’s comments cast a negative light on the fine men and women of the Sidney Police Department that conduct themselves with courage, compassion, integrity and professionalism every day.”
When asked if Melerine’s work history with the department was taken into consideration when he was fired, Balling said, “Mr. Melerine’s personnel file was taken into consideration, including, but not limited to, an excessive use of force incident in which a subject in handcuffs was tased by Mr. Melerine. In another use of force incident the city had to pay money to the victim due to his actions.”
Balling is referring to two incidents, one in 2007, in which the city had to pay restitution to the victim. The second incident was in 2008. In the arbitrator’s 2018 report, the city of Sidney contended Melerine’s behavior was “nearly identical to (his) excessive use of force exhibited nine years earlier.” During the 2008 incident, Melerine tased a handcuffed individual because he was non-compliant. The city had hoped Melerine would improve, the report said.
Cundiff said City Council must meet in an official session to discuss the allegations, but does not reconvene again until January. He said they must follow the rules when discussing matters brought fourth during an official meeting.
“We will look into it, obviously, and will have a response to all of the allegations that (Melerine) made. He didn’t leave a copy (of the allegations for council to review). Council just heard about it (Monday) night and did not provide any direction.”
Mayor Mike Barhorst issued the following statement when the Daily News reached out for a comment: “I have this afternoon spoken with City Manager Mark Cundiff and requested that an outside law enforcement agency be asked to investigate the complaints that have been leveled against the leadership of the Sidney Police Department. Upon completion of said investigation, I am asking that a report of their findings be forwarded to City Council.”
The Sidney Daily News emailed Melerine with follow-up questions and as of press time Tuesday had not received a response.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.