Kim Nuesse’s long battle to reclaim her job as Sandusky police chief has ended — at least for now.
Retired Judge James Sherck decided Tuesday that Nuesse should be removed from her position as police chief.
Although Sherck ruled in Nuesse’s favor on three of the city’s four accusations, he said the former police chief didn’t display “absolute honesty” when it came to dispatch issues.
The city only had to prove one of the four charges because they were all fireable offenses.
Nuesse lied on three occasions when it came to dispatch issues, Sherck said:
- Nuesse told city dispatchers they would become county employees in the near future, even though it was decided they would stay city employees.
- Nuesse claimed assistant police Chief Charlie Sams went home early on Feb. 28, 2008, but Sams’ time sheet, Sams’ testimony and other testimony said otherwise.
- Nuesse claimed she didn’t order Sams and Lt. Chris Hofacker to tape record a meeting with then-city manager Matt Kline, but Sams’ and Hofacker’s testimonies said otherwise.
These three acts of dishonesty justified the termination, Sherck wrote.
“Honesty and truthfulness are essential virtues in a police chief,” Sherck wrote. “Chief Nuesse’s failure to display honesty undermined the effectiveness of the Sandusky Police Department.”
Sherck’s ruling overturns the Sandusky Civil Service’s Commission’s 2-1 decision in October to reinstate Nuesse.
Still, his decision won’t end the drawn-out controversy — it simply adds another chapter to this nearly 30-month saga.
Kim Nuesse’s lawyer, K. Ronald Bailey, said he’ll appeal Sherck’s decision to the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo, which would allow three judges to hear the case.
Nuesse’s fight began in March 2008, when Kline placed her on paid administrative leave and fired her three months later.
From October 2008 through October 2009, the two sides conducted a year-long civil service hearing, which resulted in Nuesse’s reinstatement.
Within hours of that decision, however, the city appealed.
The city commission also fired Kline in November 2009, for allegedly making racist remarks and breaching his fiduciary duty.
That month, Nuesse was elected city commissioner in a landslide victory.
To reach his decision, Sherck said he reviewed four charges the city had leveled against Nuesse: Putting false statements on grant applications; misleading city officials about the dispatch system; failure to cooperate with other law-enforcement agencies; and the use of her office for private gain, specifically regarding a parking ticket.
Sherck agreed with Nuesse on almost every issue.
Sherck called the parking ticket allegation “absurd” and said Nuesse didn’t intentionally file false grant statements. Sherck also said she kept a working relationship with other law-enforcement agencies.
The city also didn’t prove that Nuesse misled city officials about the state of the dispatch, Sherck wrote.
“The court cannot confirm the validity of the allegation that Nuesse misled city officials into believing the dispatch system was near collapse,” he wrote.
But her lack of “absolute honesty” in the days after a dispatch deal with Perkins Township fell apart was enough to uphold the termination, Sherck ruled.
Sherck’s ruling on this front leaves an opportunity for a successful appeal, since Nuesse beat the four charges against her, Bailey said.
The judge didn’t have the authority to expand the charges, Bailey said.
“It’s a denial of due process,” he said.
Margaret Cannon, the city’s lead attorney, declined to discuss specifics, but said the judge “clearly upheld the termination.”
“The decision speaks for itself,” Cannon said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
In recent months, city officials seemed to anticipate Nuesse would be reinstated — they’d already announced they wouldn’t appeal if Sherck ruled in her favor.
It didn’t turn out that way, and several city officials expressed disappointment.
“I was really hoping it would end today,” ex officio mayor Dan Kaman said. “I was really hoping it would be over.”
In addition to the three acts of dishonesty, Sherck listed seven other “falsehoods” he thought Nuesse committed.
Some of those falsehoods:
- Nuesse said Cedar Point police and Sandusky police were equals, though Cedar Point is a private police department.
- Nuesse said she placed Sams in charge of reviewing warrants, though Sams said that never happened.
The city had first appealed Nuesse’s reinstatement because a Sandusky Civil Service Commission chairwoman, Janice Warner, should have recused herself in the process, city attorneys said.
City leaders also suggested Warner and fellow civil service commissioner Vincent Rhodes didn’t “meaningfully review” the evidence.
Those arguments had no merit, Sherck said.
But since Sherck conducted a trial de novo — where he reviews all the evidence for himself and reaches his own conclusion — he decided Nuesse’s three acts of dishonesty were enough to warrant her termination.
Read a PDF of the judge's decision below.