State to KKK-prank troopers: 'You're fired!'

SANDUSKY The two troopers involved in the KKK prank have been fired. Craig Franklin a
MIKE FITZPATRICK
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The two troopers involved in the KKK prank have been fired.

Craig Franklin and Eric Wlodarsky appeared at hearings in front of Capt. Robert Markowski last week in Columbus and the highway patrol announced Monday the two will no longer represent the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

"There was just cause for discipline and the termination was carried through," patrol spokesman Anthony Bradshaw said.

The termination follows a firestorm of controversy that erupted nationally after the Register uncovered details of the troopers' behavior. Wlodarsky, a sergeant on duty at the Sandusky post at the time, snapped pictures of Franklin dressed in KKK-like garb the day before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Wlodarsky and Franklin were originally disciplined, but not fired, for their roles in what they called "a joke" based on a skit by black comedian Dave Chappelle. The two kept their jobs thanks to a union agreement. Wlodarsky was demoted from sergeant to trooper and restationed at the Norwalk post while Franklin was suspended without pay for five days. They were told they could remain troopers as long as they attended diversity awareness training and kept a clean record during the next two years.

After much public debate and attention by local and national media, the local chapter of the NAACP called for the firing of the two troopers.

On April 22, Gov. Ted Strickland ordered Col. Richard Collins, the head of the Patrol, and Ohio Department of Public Safety director Henry Guzman to immediately begin proceedings to terminate the troopers.

When reached by phone Monday afternoon, Wlodarsky would not say what his next move is, but did apologize for his role in the incident.

"We've been punished and we've lost our jobs over it," he said. "We're very remorseful."

The two troopers or their union could initiate an arbitration process within 14 days to try to get their jobs reinstated, Bradshaw said.

A message left for Elaine Silveria, assistant general counsel for the Ohio State Troopers Association was not returned. Silveria previously said Strickland's order was a "blatant breach of contract."

Leaders at the Patrol became aware of the KKK prank when they received a copy of the picture along with an unsigned letter that read: "Sergeant Wlodarsky on duty at the Sandusky Post on January 20, 2008. What a way to represent the Ohio State Highway Patrol!"

Wlodarsky had sent the picture via his camera phone to another trooper, Jason Demuth, who was disciplined for not reporting the picture to a supervisor. Demuth told investigators he forwarded the picture to dispatcher Gaby Highlander, who works at the Toledo post, according to a patrol investigator. Some time later, the letter was sent anonymously to post headquarters.