Kim Nuesse is still the chief.
That’s what Sandusky police Lt. Chris Hofacker wrote to the rest of the department in an e-mail dated March 10, the day Nuesse was placed on paid administrative leave by city manager Matt Kline.
“She is on administrative leave but is still the Chief,” Hofacker wrote. “Each of you have shown a great deal of professionalism through all the changes we have experienced in the past couple of years, and I have no reason to believe this won’t continue.”
In an e-mail with the subject line “Nuesse Update,” Kline wrote to city commissioners he told Nuesse “the department as a whole have made an accusation of the creation of a hostile workplace under her leadership.”
“I had no choice but to place her on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation,” Kline wrote. “The investigation will include the hostile workplace accusations, Nuesse’s ability to lead, her (decision-making) abilities, (and) her relationship to the truth, which, of course, would lead us to the question of ethics.”
In the interim, Assistant Chief Charlie Sams is acting chief.
While on administrative leave, Nuesse will continue to be paid her usual salary of $1,535.73 per week.
In his e-mail to commissioners, Kline also wrote, “I remind everybody that our policy is not to comment on any ongoing investigations.”
A thin line
The accusations against Nuesse have been made, but the details of those accusations remain unclear.
Kline and Icsman said there was no written complaint made against Nuesse by the department.
Icsman said it would be unfair to both sides — Nuesse and her accusers — to go into any more detail on the accusations.
“At this point, the investigator is trying to determine the facts,” Icsman said.
Icsman said if city leaders were to go into details on the accusations, they could potentially be sued for defamation if the accusations proved false.
He referred to the case of Jackson v. City of Columbus, which was decided Thursday by the Ohio Supreme Court. The case dealt with allegations of misconduct against a police chief.
According to the ruling, what is disclosed in internal investigations could be grounds for a lawsuit.
Nuesse returned to town Monday morning from a week-long vacation. Days before leaving on her scheduled vacation, Nuesse hired attorney K. Ronald Bailey because she believed her job was in jeopardy.
On Feb. 26, Nuesse and Sams met with law director Don Icsman, Sandusky fire Chief Mike Meinzer, city commissioners Dennis Murray, Craig Stahl and Brian Crandall at the Sandusky fire department to continue ongoing discussions about dispatch services. Kline participated in the meeting by phone. Nuesse described the meeting as an “inquisition,” and said Crandall’s questioning was clearly part of an investigation.
Icsman said he could not discuss what transpired at that Tuesday afternoon meeting because of lawyer-client privilege.
Later that day, Murray, Stahl and Crandall announced their recommendation that the city should pursue joint dispatch with Erie County as opposed to Perkins Township.
Two weeks earlier, city leaders had expressed a desire to pursue joint dispatch with Perkins.
Nuesse, along with Perkins police Chief Tim McClung, had been a vocal advocate of joint dispatch with Perkins Township. McClung was later silenced by a gag order issued by township trustees, who wanted to wait for the results of a county study before pursuing a combined dispatch.
Nuesse said several weeks ago she was told by Erie County commissioner Tom Ferrell that she would do what her bosses told her to do, and that McClung would do what his bosses told him to do, or they could face disciplinary action.
“This investigation with the chief quite frankly doesn’t have anything to do with dispatch,” Kline said. “It’s more a reaction of how she reacted to that meeting ... but there’s a lot more to it than that.”
On Feb. 28, Kline said no one was in jeopardy with him. Little more than a week later, Nuesse found herself on a paid suspension.