Thursday, May 29, 2003

Mayor resigns county position


Will continue in Middletown job

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MIDDLETOWN - Embattled Mayor David Schiavone, on paid administrative leave from his Butler County Adult Probation Department job, on Wednesday signed a document that will end his 19-year county career.

But Schiavone said he planned to continue his mayoral duties as usual.

Schiavone, who is accused of being inappropriately absent from work 10 times this year, avoided a predisciplinary hearing by resigning. The hearing would have focused on Schiavone's alleged absences and an accusation that he approved three subordinates' time sheets though he was "aware that they were not working or sick,'' records show.

The three employees - Rick Baker, William Gray and Ron Wells - resigned earlier this year amid an investigation that included surveillance of their workday activities, officials said.

Schiavone would not discuss details of his resignation, which takes effect Monday. He also has not publicly explained his alleged improper absences.

"The separation agreement I've entered into speaks for itself," he said. "I'm ready to move on with my life, and it's in the best interest for my family to focus on the future, and a separation from the county is best for me and my family."

He referred a request for a copy of the agreement to his lawyer, Steve Lazarus, who did not return a telephone call Wednesday. Three county officials who are aware of the case said Wednesday that Lazarus had not yet given them a copy of the document Schiavone signed.

Doug Duckett, county personnel director, said Schiavone's resignation ends the potential for civil court battles over any discipline he may have faced. But Duckett couldn't say whether criminal charges were being pursued as a result of the Probation Department's internal probe.

County Prosecutor Robin Piper said he would not comment until he knows the terms and conditions of the Schiavone agreement. Piper said he also wanted to hear more from Schiavone's boss, Gary Yates, about his findings.

Yates, chief probation officer and court administrator for the Common Pleas Court's General Division, has said he was reviewing more than 400 probationers' case files to make sure none of the cases were mishandled.

Meanwhile, Schiavone said officials had made no finding regarding the allegations he had faced.

On March 31, Yates put restrictions on Schiavone's job, requiring him to stay in his office and file detailed activity reports. But Yates put Schiavone on paid leave April 14 after several co-workers complained Schiavone was allegedly pressuring them to make statements on his behalf.

Schiavone has been on Middletown City Council for more than a decade and is in his second consecutive year as the city's top elected official.

"I plan to finish my year as mayor and I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Middletown,'' he said.

Vice Mayor Nancy Nix said, "If there are no findings against Schiavone, then I would be comfortable making no change'' in the mayor's position. "We need to presume he is innocent unless it is proven he is guilty of anything,'' she said.

City Councilman Robert "Sonny'' Hill said he "is glad it's over,'' and that he expects Schiavone's position as leader of the city council to remain unchanged.

Michael D. Clark contributed to this story. E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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