Saturday, May 25, 2002

Pardon gets firefighter better career

By Susan Vela,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWTOWN — He doesn't hang it on his walls, or sleep with it under his pillow. But the village's acting fire chief, Bill DeVore,treasures a pardon from Gov. Bob Taft like no other document.

        Arriving in the mail in February 2001, the document allowed Mr. DeVore, 36, to move forward in his career. He is now one of three finalists vying for the village's full-time fire chief position.

        The pardon also helped Mr. DeVore put distance between his present life as a career firefighter and upstanding citizen, and his past — tarnished with a felony criminal record when he was a teenager.

        At 19, Mr. DeVore purchased a stolen police scanner. A part-time photographer, he wanted to take pictures of fires and car crashes. Instead, he was charged with receiving stolen property, sentenced to two years' probation and fined $2,100,

        “It felt like a cloud was lifted away,” Mr. DeVore said. “I just wanted to not have that hanging over my head for something stupid that happened when I was 19.”

        Since he took office in 1999, Gov. Taft has pardoned 21 convicted felons, including Mr. DeVore. Convicted felons cannot hold an office of honor or trust.

        Mr. DeVore never tried to hide his past. He included information about his criminal record when he filled out a job application about seven years ago with Newtown's volunteer fire department.

        He was willing to face the consequences until three years ago, when he learned that his record stood in the way of further career advancement. Mr. DeVore was serving as acting fire chief when the top position became available. He was told that he would never be a serious contender unless he received a pardon. The mayor ultimately hired another man and Mr. DeVore immediately began seeking a pardon. The process took about a year.

        After the parole board unanimously recommended a pardon, he waited anxiously to hear from Gov. Taft. Then the letter arrived.


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