Murman report: 'Chaos' if Nuesse kept on

SANDUSKY The
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The investigative report regarding Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse came to a clear conclusion.

Unless the city is prepared for "chaos" and "the wholesale replacement of the command and support staff in the police department," Nuesse should not be reinstated, the report said.

"There is no doubt in the minds of the investigative team that Chief Nuesse can no longer lead the Sandusky police department," the report stated.

The investigative report from Murman and Associates, totaling more than 500 pages of interview notes and supplementary exhibits, was made public Wednesday.

The report includes signed statements from more than 50 people, including Sandusky police officers, who were interviewed by two investigators, both of whom are retired FBI special agents. The investigation began March 12, two days after Nuesse was placed on paid administrative leave by city manager Matt Kline.

"Chief Nuesse began well. Almost universally her subordinates and the law enforcement community credit her with doing an outstanding job during her first months in office. Then she changed," the report stated. "She ordered rash initiatives without consultation with her subordinates or colleagues from other agencies and abruptly reversed course when she met resistance."

The report went on to say "she seemed stunned and personally offended when both the command staff and the rank and file objected to initiatives that they believed subordinated the Sandusky police department to the much smaller Perkins Township."

Investigators said they believed Nuesse would sacrifice public safety for her "personal vision."

On the morning of May 3, Nuesse spent five hours answering questions from the investigators.

The report concluded that "she denied or blamed others for most of the accusations against her."

Working relationships

The investigative report concluded that the Sandusky police officers and the larger law enforcement community cannot rely on Nuesse to be truthful.

"(Perkins police) Chief McClung is a special case. He has nothing but praise for (Nuesse) and acknowledged that he would be pleased to be appointed captain of the Sandusky police department and serve under her command following his imminent retirement from Perkins Township."

Nuesse and McClung, along with the U.S. Marshal's office, went on a raid to arrest criminals with warrants without contacting the county prosecutor or the sheriff's office. This led to overcrowding problems at the jail and added to communication issues, the report said.

Over time the situation within the department continued to deteriorate, and officers began to question her rationale in decision-making.

A parking ticket issued to Nuesse in September 2006 was voided by retired Capt. Gary Frankowski.

Sandusky Lt. Max Jarrett told investigators that although he had always been in the investigations unit, Nuesse put in him command of the firearms unit.

"I had no experience in firearms training," Jarrett said. "Yet there I was in charge of firearms ... The department had six experienced firearms instructors but I, with no training, was put in charge."

"Chief Nuesse failed to utilize resource(s) that we had," Jarrett told investigators.

Lt. Christopher Hofacker told investigators Nuesse's honesty was also an issue.

"You just don't know what to believe," Hofacker told investigators. "The chief is routinely making conflicting statements, which adds to the confusion in the department."

Nuesse instructed her command staff to tape record meetings and conversations, which they told investigators was unusual considering the department's standing policy that prohibited surreptitious tape recording.

According to the investigative report, Nuesse also bypassed usual procedure and ordered her subordinates to take certain cases to the U.S. Attorney in Cleveland for prosecution without consulting the sheriff's department or the city or county prosecutors.

"Eventually the U.S. Attorney and the Erie County Prosecuting Attorney educated (Nuesse) and put an end to what turned out to be a wasteful and disruptive stunt," the report said.

Dispatch drama

"When (Nuesse's) rash behavior puts her on the defensive she dissembles rather than admit error. The most serious example is her inability to back down from her recommendation that the city commit to a joint emergency dispatch system with Perkins Township," the report said.

According to statements made by Sandusky fire Chief Mike Meinzer during his interview with investigators, Nuesse was not entirely truthful about the city's emergency dispatch situation.

As plans to combine the Sandusky and Perkins dispatch systems began to pick up speed, Meinzer said he was instructed to put the other plans that had been in the works on the back burner.

The dispatch situation quickly took on an urgent tone with city officials looking to make agreements with Perkins in a matter of weeks and months. Following an inspection of the county dispatch system, Meinzer said he contacted commissioner Brian Crandall and told him "Nuesse had not been providing accurate information" regarding the city and county dispatch systems.

According to statements made by city dispatchers, Nuesse never consulted them regarding the city's dispatch needs.

"If the chief's own staff had not broken ranks to protect the city from a significant expenditure, about to be based on their commanding officer's prevarication, the city might have undertaken a very expensive, unnecessary expenditure," the report stated.

Commissioners Dennis Murray Jr., Craig Stahl and Brian Crandall all told investigators about the Feb. 26 meeting at the Sandusky fire station that Nuesse has described as an "inquisition."

All three testified that the meeting was related to dispatch issues, not Nuesse's employment status.

Money trouble

According to a supplemental report provided by investigators May 27, there is evidence Nuesse falsified information to receive federal grant money.

Nuesse admitted that she filed a grant with the U.S. Department of Justice stating that $28,085 had been spent on wireless Internet equipment. She said this information was based on information provided by others, and the money was the total of several purchases.

Further investigation determined there were no records in the finance or police departments of such expenditures.

"The evidence is clear and convincing that Chief Nuesse lied on the (2005 WiFi grant) report to the Department of Justice, and that her explanation that she relied on others is wholly unconvincing, as she had centralized all purchasing and grant communication in her office," according to the supplemental report.

Nuesse also falsified or exaggerated information in an application for a Weed and Seed Grant to fund emergency dispatch upgrades.

Investigators concluded that criminal charges were not warranted because none of the grant funds were actually expended, nor did the city enter into a dispatch contract based on her recommendations.

Also of financial concern was how the department paid for water, coffee and other refreshments purchased for the personnel.

Nuesse also did not respond to requests from county prosecutor Kevin Baxter to ensure that $180,000 in forfeited drug money was provided to the police department, according to the report.

Nuesse said "she verbally spoke to Baxter about these funds on one occasion" and authorized McClung to represent her in a second discussion.

The next step

Nuesse declined comment and referred all questions to her attorney, K. Ronald Bailey of Sandusky.

Bailey said they have been able to go over some of the report since receiving it on Wednesday.

"This appears to be a very biased report based upon nothing more than innuendoes and gripes of some employees and ex-employees," Bailey said.

Bailey said neither he nor Nuesse have heard from Kline as to what his decision will be.

"Matt Kline needs Kim Nuesse gone to cover up his own misconduct," Bailey added.

Kline said he has done everything properly.

"We've done everything professionally and above board," Kline said.

Bailey said he found it interesting that a local psychologist, Dr. Wayne Morse, told investigators certain city police officers wouldn't take orders from a woman.

According to the report, Morse told investigators that one of his clients, who was in law enforcement, told the Morse that he had heard from officers in the Sandusky police department that when Nuesse was first hired they wouldn't take orders from a woman. Morse would not identify the individual because he was a client.

Kline said he has no timeline in mind, but the process will move forward as efficiently as possible.