The investigators may soon become the investigated as local residents protest the ongoing investigation of Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse.
On Monday, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance announced it's seeking to recall three city commissioners. The group also called for the immediate reinstatement of Nuesse and an outside investigation into the motives and actions behind the city's investigation of Nuesse.
The spokesperson for the ministerial alliance is former commissioner and ex-officio mayor of Sandusky, Rev. Tom Darden.
"We have been observing this for some time," Darden said. "We felt that it's time to put a stop to it if we could."
The alliance, made up of 33 pastors and ministers from the Sandusky area, have initiated a formal petition to recall city commissioners Dennis Murray Jr., Craig Stahl and Brian Crandall. The group claims the three were part of "the improper meeting held at the Sandusky Fire Station with Law Director Don Icsman, and City Manager Matt Kline (via speaker phone call), that led to the Sandusky Chief of Police being placed on administrative leave since March 10," according to a news release from the alliance.
Recall actions and reactions(((SUBHEAD)))
According to the city charter, a recall petition must be signed by 10 percent of the total number of voters in the last municipal election and must also include a statement of the grounds on which the recall is demanded.
In this case, each petition will require 724 valid signatures, according to Jennifer Ferback, deputy director of the Erie County Board of Elections.
For the signatures to the valid, the signers must be registered voters in Erie County and both the signature and address must match the most recent records on file at the board of elections.
If the commissioner designated by the petition does not offer his or her resignation within five days after the petition and signatures have been validated, the city charter mandates a recall election be set within 30-60 days to take place at the same time as any other general or special election within that time frame. The recall vote will then determine if the commissioner will be removed from office.
Ferback said recall petitions are uncommon.
"It is a lot of work," Ferback said. "It's not real easy to do."
Stahl said he was surprised and saddened by the announcement.
Murray said there is no connection between that February meeting at the fire station and Nuesse's employment status.
"A certain amount of misinformation has been disseminated," he said, adding the meeting was about emergency dispatch not the police chief.
Crandall announced more than two weeks ago his plans to resign by June 1 to pursue personal and business opportunities in Huron.
Chief concerns (((SUBHEAD)))
The alliance is calling for the immediate reinstatement of Nuesse, who spent five hours answering questions from investigators on Saturday morning after Erie County Common Pleas Judge Roger Binette ruled she was not entitled to view investigation records prior to her interview.
"We're going to follow the process the right way," Kline said, adding that it was solely his decision to put the chief on paid leave.
Murray said the commission didn't call for the investigation and they can't cut it short either.
"I think that the commission as a whole has kind of taken a bad rap on this (situation)," said commissioner Brett Fuqua, liaison to the police department.
"Commissioners are legislators, not administrators," Stahl said. "It is absolutely preposterous to think that we make personnel decisions."
"I will not vote to bring her back to work and cut Matt's legs out from underneath him," commissioner Julie Farrar said.
Commissioner Dave Waddington said he spoke with both Kline and Icsman on Monday.
"They both know I'm not happy about this whole process," he said, adding that the recall petition is creating chaos.
"I urge citizens to do what I have done for the last six weeks -- let the investigation runs its course," Stahl said.
Investigators become the investigated (((SUBHEAD)))
A third request made by the alliance is for the other four commissioners to call for an outside investigation by the Ohio Attorney General's office to examine the motives and actions taken by Murray, Stahl, Crandall, Kline and Icsman.
"I don't think we should take any further action until we get the report of the ongoing investigation," Fuqua said.
Fuqua added that he does not believe the commissioners should try to micro-manage a situation that is Kline's responsibility.
"It is amazing to me how this situation with the chief has snowballed ... with each passing day," Farrar said.
Farrar said she knows and respects many members of the alliance, but does not agree with their position.
"I would think the ministerial alliance would want to wait to see what comes out of the investigation," she said.
Waddington said he has one request to make of Sandusky.
"Pray for all seven of us," he said. "We certainly need it."
WANT TO GO?
The alliance will host a press conference at 4 p.m. today at the State Theatre to declare its support for Nuesse and detail its plan to pursue a recall.