Perkins police Chief Timothy R. McClung and Lt. Al Matthews filed a lawsuit Friday against Township Trustee Bill Dwelle alleging defamation of character.
"I'm embarrassed it had to come to this," McClung said. "I've had 25 years invested into my career as a police officer. I had no choice. I had to protect myself and my family."
Along with Dwelle, the lawsuit includes claims against Dwelle's wife, Sandy, and Perkins Township.
McClung and Matthews are seeking damages against the Dwelles for "malicious defamation" resulting in a "hostile work environment," the lawsuit said. The defamation includes slanderous and libelous statements.
McClung said he chose to file the lawsuit now because the situation was escalating.
"I was hoping it would stop, and it didn't," McClung said. "It's become more malicious, and I had to do something. Hopefully, this will bring about a resolution."
Matthews is also claiming intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy against the Dwelles, the lawsuit said.
"I'm just kind of shocked by the whole ordeal," Matthews said. "I think he came in with an agenda. I feel like I'm under attack, and I feel this is the only way to make it stop."
"It's absolutely not true. Anybody that knows what's really going on, knows that it's not true," Bill Dwelle said. "They're taking the situation and turning it around."
Township Trustees Tim Coleman and Tom Pascoe did not want to comment on the lawsuit Friday.
Bill Dwelle served as Perkins Township Trustee from 1968 until 1999 and was again elected to the position in 2005.
McClung alleges Dwelle indicated his intention to "maliciously" have him fired from his position as police chief, the lawsuit said.
Among other claims in the lawsuit, the following are alleged acts of defamation against McClung and Matthews:
n In December 2005 before taking office, Dwelle indicated to citizens the plaintiffs were stealing and illegally shooting police ammunition.
n In January 2006, Dwelle, without a good faith bias, questioned McClung's spending of police department funds and the location of $250,000 worth of police equipment.
n In August 2006, Dwelle accused McClung, in front of others, of tapping phone lines at the Perkins Township Hall.
n In December 2006, Dwelle, while speaking with a school board member about township business, called McClung a liar who lies all the time and stated that McClung was suffering from a mental illness.
n In December 2006, Dwelle accused McClung of committing illegal activities with regards to purchases from Ohio's Homeland Security office.
The lawsuit claims that all of the above statements made by Dwelle against the plaintiffs are defamatory and false.
Matthews also filed a suit against Dwelle's wife, Sandy, who he claims stalked him on several occasions at the direction of her husband and/or Perkins Township.
The first incident occurred on or about July 16, 2006, when Sandy Dwelle parked at the corner of his street watching his house for about 30 minutes, the lawsuit said.
On another incident on Sept. 20, 2006, Sandy Dwelle was following and taking pictures of Matthews training with the U.S. Marshal, the lawsuit said.
McClung and Matthews are seeking more than $25,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, according to the lawsuit.