Ousted Deputy Objects To Sheriff's Office Claim In Appeal

By
Susan Tebben - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Thu, Dec 5, 2013 12:50 pm

Former Athens County Sheriff’s Office deputy Shannon Sheridan is objecting to the office’s arguments against his return to duty after an arbitrator ruled that Sheridan should have his job back.

Sheridan, 43, was fired in June 2012 after he was accused of insubordination and sexual harassment. He has since appealed his termination to the Ohio State Personnel Board of Review, and Judge Christopher Young recommended that the board find the accusations unfounded and order that Sheridan be reinstated as a deputy. Young said back pay should also be issued to the former deputy.

The judge also said a 60-day suspension and attendance of a sensitivity class would be appropriate for Sheridan.

Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly, on behalf of the sheriff’s office, said they would appeal any decision that would recommend Sheridan’s reinstatement.
An official decision has not been made by the board in the case, but Sheridan’s attorney argued the objections presented by the sheriff’s office.

Mark Volcheck, counsel from the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and attorney for Sheridan, called some arguments by the sheriff’s office “laughable” and found all the accusations unfounded, citing the judge’s opinion on all allegations.

Sheridan was terminated under charges that he was insubordinate to his superiors, sexually harassed a cadet during academy exercises, lied to a superior officer during an investigation and mishandled evidence in a case he had been investigating.

One argument made in the response, filed Nov. 26, was that Kelly “did not want Sheridan to be a deputy at the Athens County Sheriff’s Office since the time that Kelly was a lieutenant in the office.”

But two deputies who testified in the Sheridan case were given commissions at the sheriff’s office upon their graduation. They were also, Volcheck claims, given full-time positions after testifying in the Sheridan case.

“After the hearing in this matter, both were named full-time deputies at the discretion of the sheriff such that neither hire was made as a result of competitive testing and/or placement on an eligibility list,” Volcheck alleged.

Kelly denies that the two were hired for any reason related to the Sheridan case. Deputy Sam Disaia’s hiring was conducted by a hiring board of two deputies and a lieutenant, according to Kelly, none of whom were mentioned in the Sheridan case. Deputy Jennifer Atkins was hired at the discretion of the sheriff, but because of her previous “professionalism and hard work” with the office, Kelly said.

“The two hires had nothing to do with Shannon Sheridan,” Kelly told The Messenger on Wednesday.

He said there was no bias on his part in the case of Sheridan, and that the former deputy was “probably given more opportunities than most” to correct behavior used as reasons for termination.

“We have given him many opportunities, through correction and through classes, to improve himself,” Kelly said.

But bias on the part of another high-ranking official at the sheriff’s office was claimed as a reason Young advised that board of review should order Sheridan’s reinstatement.

One of the claims of termination was in regards to a confrontation between Sheridan and Capt. Bryan Cooper, in which the sheriff’s office claimed Sheridan was insubordinate and slammed his fist on Cooper’s desk during a discussion about mishandled evidence.

Volcheck wrote in his response that the discussion was not about mishandled evidence and was also not insubordination, an argument that matched the judge’s recommendation on the charge.

“(Young) specifically found that ‘Mr. Sheridan complied with the only direct order he received, the allegation of insubordination in relation to this discussion is unfounded,’” Volcheck wrote.

Sheridan said what was called “slamming” his fist against the desk was not what it was said to be. Sheridan “hit one of his hands into the other causing the other hand to hit Cooper’s desk,” according to Sheridan’s testimony.

Volcheck also called the investigation into Sheridan’s discipline by the sheriff’s office “inherently flawed and biased” because Cooper conducted the investigation and questioned Sheridan himself.

In the case of the sexual harassment of a cadet at the academy, where Sheridan was an instructor, Volcheck argues that testimony by multiple witnesses and by the female cadet was conflicting and thus could not be considered credible.

The sheriff’s office claims that Sheridan repeatedly invaded the cadet’s personal space and made a sexual comment about the cadet’s hairstyle, according to previous Messenger reporting. Sheridan is also accused of questioning another cadet’s sexual orientation in front of other cadets.

Volcheck said testimony to that effect also does not match from witness to witness.

“The account (the female cadet) gives ... and her testimony at the hearing were also materially different,” Volcheck wrote. “...Such cannot credibly sustain the charge against Sheridan.”

A lack of identification of the tools alleged to have not been stored properly as evidence is argued by Volcheck. Chain of custody and possession rules were correctly judged in the recommendation, the attorney argued.

No timetable has been given on when the board will make a decision in the case.

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