WESTERHOLD: McClung earned my respect

The best law enforcement leader in Erie County will step down May 1, forced out by a man with a grudge. But don't cry
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010


The best law enforcement leader in Erie County will step down May 1, forced out by a man with a grudge.

But don't cry for Tim McClung. He won't be looking for a job. At 46, Tim won't have to work another day in his life.

Thank Bill Dwelle for that. Despite his hatred and dishonesty about all things McClung, Dwelle did the chief a huge favor.

There was a time when I was no fan of Chief McClung. I met him in 1994, when I was a free-lancer for The Morning Journal, and later that year when I was a brand new cops reporter here at the Sandusky Register.

Chief Richard Burrows was still alive, and Tim was a Perkins police detective investigating the alleged abduction from the Sandusky Mall parking lot of a woman who said she was driven to Royal Oak, Mich., and raped by three unknown assailants.

Many were horrified such a violent act could happen in a place everyone knows; a place everyone visits. But her story unraveled. Tim took no pleasure explaining to the media the young woman was trying to hide the fact she had lost her virginity. The rape story was designed to explain her pregnancy.

Tim's goal at a news conference a few days later was to assure people the mall was a safe place to go, but he was compassionate about the circumstances that led the woman to perpetuate the hoax.

He was a pro.

But he was a pain. I used to think McClung had the biggest ego of any man I'd ever met. He was full of himself. He hated reporters and they hated him. McClung was a cowboy cop, I thought, but he was a good cop. A very good cop. And I knew cops.

Former Perkins police detective J.J. McGuire became a better news source for me than McClung, and one day I met McGuire at the police station to review an arrest McGuire said would make a good story. But McClung showed up and read us the riot act.

"Nothing goes out from this office without my approval," he barked like a mad chief. He relented after reviewing the police report, however, and allowed McGuire to give me the story.

I sat in an office at the township hall with McGuire gathering information for the story. Tim at that time was a recognized police dog expert and was providing services across the county and the country to other police agencies when called. McGuire was a dog handler for the PPD.

"Are you guys are keeping good financial records on these K-9 services?" I asked McGuire, who responded by kicking open the office door and repeating the question to McClung, who was shuffling paper at his desk.

"Oh yeah, no problem," the chief responded. "No problem," McGuire repeated to me.

I got to know McClung a little better after that, and in 1997-98 he began explaining to me his frustration with the Erie County Drug Task Force, saying it sapped his manpower and was never held accountable. He yanked his officer from the task force some time during that period and in the process upset the good old boys something fierce.

"Play by our rules or pay the cost" is the way I think it all went down.

McClung was arrested in 2000 and charged with theft in office for allegedly mishandling invoices related to the police K-9 unit a short time later. I knew it was payback time. He'd had a falling out with McGuire, the sheriff and many others in the law enforcement community because he chose to do what was right, not what was accepted.

He chose integrity over mediocrity.

I knew McClung was a lot of things: a pain, sometimes an egomaniac and a cowboy cop. But he was no thief. Don't mess with the good old boys unless you have deep courage in your convictions.

McClung has deep courage in his convictions. He fought the good fight and transformed a police force from Podunk to professional. He was always an honorable public servant.

Enjoy your retirement, Tim. You earned it.