When a report crossed the desk of Col. RichardCollins detailing the role played by Trooper Eric Wlodarsky in the KKK prank, it was not the first time the high-ranking official had come in contact with him.
Wlodarsky, it turns out, served under Collins when Collins was an Ohio State Highway Patrol districtcommander in Bucyrus in the late 1990s. Collins is now the superintendent of the Patrol.
Collins said he has played cards with Wlodarsky in the past and termed his association with the trooper "a casual relationship ... over the years."
There are several associates he knows from his days on patrol who get together to play cards and Wlodarsky is among them.
Collins and his wife, Brenda, are both long-time members of the Patrol and value the "personal relationships" they've kept with those they've worked beside, he said.
"I've prided myself (upon) maintaining social relationship outside the workplace with people that I work with every day," he said. "Golf outings, card parties, retirement functions or other social functions ... I've prided myself on that."
Collins and Wlodarsky have not played cards recently, Collins added.
Wlodarsky and another trooper, Craig T. Franklin, were disciplined after it was learned Wlodarsky snapped a picture of Franklin dressed up in a KKK-like outfit while on duty at the Sandusky post the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. They said the picture was a joke and based on a skit by black comedian Dave Chappelle.
Investigators in Columbus learned of the incident when a picture of Franklin was sent to them with a note that read "Sergeant Wlodarsky on duty at the Sandusky Post on Jan. 20, 2008. What a way to represent the Ohio State Highway Patrol!"
Following the investigation, Collins said, the patrol's office of human resource management recommended Wlodarsky and Franklin be fired. Collins said he signed off on the recommendation and forwarded it to his boss, Henry Guzman, who signed off on Collins' recommendation.
Recommending discipline for friends or former colleagues comes with the territory, Collins said.
"I have personal relationships with a lot of people in the patrol," he said. "A number of disciplines have come across my desk of people that I have known and have had social relationships with."
The troopers were ultimately able to keep their jobs because of their union contract.