Police Lieutenant Loses One Of Three Lawsuits Against OU

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The State Personnel Board of Review acted properly when it declined to hear an appeal of an Ohio University police lieutenant’s suspension, a Franklin County judge has ruled.

Lt. Chris Johnson had attempted to appeal to the state review board a two-day, unpaid suspension he had received from the university in 2013. The State Personnel Board of Review declined to hear the case, ruling that it only had jurisdiction to hear appeals of suspensions that are three days or longer.

Johnson appealed that finding to Franklin County Common Pleas Court. In a recent ruling, Judge Kim Brown agreed with the State Personnel Board of Review.

Johnson had been on paid administrative leave from Aug. 2, 2012 through July 18, 2013, after which he was given the two-day unpaid suspension.

Last summer, an OU pre-disciplinary hearing was held regarding allegations against Johnson of: not speaking the truth while being questioned for an investigation, abuse of position, misconduct and neglect of duty. Johnson denied the allegations, but the hearing officer concluded they had been substantiated. Johnson was taken off paid administrative leave and given the two-day unpaid suspension.

While on paid leave, he had been required to be available to OU by phone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — nine hours a day, but was only paid for eight hours.

In the Franklin County Common Pleas Court case, Johnson argued that the accumulated unpaid hours met the three-day suspension requirement that would give the State Personnel Board of Review jurisdiction to hear his appeal. Brown disagreed.

“The first reason is that when Johnson was on paid administrative leave, he worked no hours. Although he was required to be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, he was not required to work,” Brown wrote. “The university merely required Johnson to be available during the investigation.”

Also, Brown said that Johnson did not appeal to the review board on grounds of reduction of pay, and did not allege to the board that his suspension exceeded two days because the university required him to be available by phone nine hours a day during his paid suspension.

Johnson currently has cases pending in the Ohio Court of Claims and in federal court in which he asserts he should have been paid for the extra hour each day that he had to be available to OU by phone during his paid administrative leave. The university is contesting both those lawsuits.