Saturday, March 23, 2002

New chief has cloudy work record


But city is confident he will be a strong leader

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPRINGBORO —The man who will take the helm of this northern Warren County police force April 15 leaves behind a history of controversy in Michigan.

Kruithoff
Kruithoff
        But Springboro officials said they aren't concerned that Jeffrey Kruithoff resigned from his Battle Creek police chief's job last year amid allegations that he manipulated a promotional exam, or that he was accused of illegally wiretapping one of his officers.

        “Our search firm did a thorough background investigation, and we are satisfied with the chief that we hired,” said Deputy Mayor Gary Hruska, who initially declined to comment and referred questions to City Manager Wally Douthwaite.

        Mr. Douthwaite recommended the 28-year veteran out of 80 applicants screened by Par Group executive search firm in Chicago. Other front-runners included Mason's deputy chief, Steve Schuchart, and former Miamisburg chief Tom Schanck.

        Mr. Douthwaite said he was impressed by Mr. Kruithoff's commitment to community-oriented policing and his ability to mentor and lead Springboro's young, 22-member force.

        The Battle Creek Police Department has 125 sworn officers, according to the department's Web site.

        City council members who were contacted for this story would not go into detail about how much they knew about Mr. Kruithoff's past or how much weight it carried in their decision two weeks ago to approve his hiring for the $65,000-a-year job.

        Chief in Battle Creek since 1996, Mr. Kruithoff resigned March 20, 2001, less than two weeks after the city manager placed him on administrative leave in regard to a situation that involved allegations of lies and missing records. Mr. Kruithoff, 46, now is employed as a caseworker in Battle Creek for a privately run corrections program.

        Accusations surfaced after three sergeants who were passed over for lieutenant's jobs filed public records requests for copies of their citizen evaluations, which were part of the interview process. Mr. Kruithoff turned them down, saying the records were destroyed.

        After pressure from the city manager and arguments that the destruction of public documents could be criminal, Mr. Kruithoff found the files in his city-owned vehicle.

        “I had computerized the results and didn't think the comments were important because they were computerized,” Mr. Kruithoff said.

        “There were allegations that the computerized records don't reflect what the results are. I found the documents a few weeks later and produced them for the city, and the manager was angry in terms of my handling of the documents.”

        Mr. Kruithoff said the paper copies and the computerized results matched, clearing him of manipulating the promotion.

        “In my opinion he got crosswise with a city manager in a political situation,” Mr. Douthwaite said. “I don't think it has any bearing in his taking our department to a higher notch.”

        Mayor John Agenbroad refused to say what they discussed in council's interview with Mr. Kruithoff earlier this month, or whether he was aware of the wiretapping allegations.

        Mr. Kruithoff told The Enquirer that a civil lawsuit accusing him of cloning a detective's pager to covertly monitor the detective's calls never came up in the Springboro interview.

        “I think there was a question in terms of if there was anything (negative) in my background,” Mr. Kruithoff said. “I told them there were unflattering allegations and to my knowledge, I had never been found personally responsible in any of the lawsuits that have been filed in my career.”

        A 1998 federal lawsuit accuses Mr. Kruithoff of authorizing a clone pager in 1995 to determine whether Detective David Adams — a man whose wife Mr. Kruithoff admits to having an affair with — was tipping off drug dealers about investigations.

        “There is nothing in the record that I was the person that did that. I was aware it was being done. There is no document with my name on it,” Mr. Kruithoff said of the wiretap.

       



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