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FAIRFIELD, Ohio - The leading candidate for a local police chief job admitted using a three-letter slur for gay men when he was a SWAT unit supervisor, then said he was only joking.
A month after his admission, he was promoted to chief.
The WCPO I-Team has uncovered more details about Chief Steve Maynard’s conduct with the Fairfield police department over the past decade and a half and how the city responded to it – including two instances when fellow officers said he exposed his penis to them in public.
The I-Team requested an interview with Maynard, but Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling did not allow the chief to comment.
Wendling made the decision to promote Maynard, a 19-year Fairfield police veteran, from lieutenant five months ago. Maynard has been honored with major commendations, including the Police Medal for his leadership in a dangerous tactical situation.
“Steve really distinguished himself as the right candidate," Wendling told WCPO. "He knows the department better than anyone and he has the confidence of the staff of the department.”
Before Maynard got the job, though, Wendling and Law Director John Clemons hired an attorney to do an independent investigation of Maynard. In his report, that attorney counseled Wendling to consider other factors than Maynard’s experience and standing in the department.
The “real issue” in considering Lt. Maynard is “not only in his ability to lead the department in the future but in making changes needed to clean up behavior and language that could damage the department and officers’ careers if left unchecked,” wrote attorney Douglas E. Duckett.
City Manager Wendling responded to Maynard’s admission that he used the three-letter slur by telling WCPO:
“It was more banter. He was counseled on that. He was corrected on that. He understands the error of that. He subsequently did a lot of training for the staff. We had all-day trainings for them about a month ago.”
In the investigation report, provided to Wendling a month before he promoted Maynard, Duckett doesn't indicate how recently or how often Maynard admitted to using the slur.
SEE the investigation report below.
But Duckett emphasized that Maynard showed "a disturbing lack of judgment and perception, at least in this area" and it is "a serious and more recent and relevant failing."
The I-Team asked the city manager if he agreed.
I-Team: “Do you believe that this was a serious and relevant failing by Mr. Maynard?"
Wendling: “I believe it is actions that he corrected. I believe -- if you read the whole report -- that Mr. Duckett does say it is not fatal to his candidacy.”
Duckett actually said that Maynard should not be eliminated from becoming chief based only on two different incidents that happened more than a dozen years ago.
In those cases, Duckett concluded that Maynard showed his penis in public at the urging of other officers while they were off duty.
Maynard admitted to one incident and didn't dispute the other.
“Chief Maynard has my full confidence,” Wendling said.
The I-Team filed a request for the Fairfield records a few weeks after Maynard became chief, but before the city provided them, Wendling sent out a news release. He emphasized the allegations against Maynard "were mostly related to off-duty actions that took place about 15 years ago."
Wendling added that "while (Maynard) admits to immature acts as a young man, he has grown tremendously in the intervening years."
Wendling failed to mention Maynard admitted using the slur as a supervisor and that the attorney who conducted the investigation was very concerned about it. So the I-Team asked Wendling about the news release.
I-Team: “That is not what your news release characterized.”
Wendling: “Is there a question there?”
Wendling: “What is your question?”
I-Team: “Why didn't your news release more accurately reflect the findings of Mr. Duckett in this investigative report?”
Wendling: “As I said, Craig, Steve has gone through extensive training. He understands that his use of the word may have been offensive to some. He did not intend it to be offensive.”
In the news release, Wendling also failed to mention that Duckett concluded that Maynard made an inappropriate sexually suggestive remark a few years ago. It happened during a meeting about discipline for a Fairfield officer who had made inappropriate remarks.
I-Team: “Do you believe you were up front and transparent with the public in the way you characterized this investigation of the chief?”
Wendling: “I believe we gave the public the information they needed to know.”
In his report, the attorney investigating Maynard said Wendling instructed him to “determine the facts behind stories of misconduct from several years ago when Lt. Maynard was a young police officer, as well as any other issues that may arise in the course of my review.”
Duckett said he interviewed Maynard and six other Fairfield officers in January. That’s when Maynard admitted that he had “jokingly” used a three-letter slur for gay men in front of officers on a SWAT team, where he was a supervisor.
In his interview, Maynard claimed that he knew no one on SWAT would be offended, partly because he claimed to know that none of the SWAT officers is gay.
“He said he felt freer to do that with SWAT because ‘we’re all family and we know each other,’” Duckett wrote in the report.
“This is a fundamental misjudgment on his part,” Duckett wrote, “and he and I had a rather intense conversation on this point during our interview … Lt. Maynard lacks understanding of the clear boundary that slurs like this can never be used in work settings, jokingly or otherwise, whatever group he is with … Lt. Maynard’s failure to grasp that point -- at least until our discussion – demonstrates a disturbing lack of judgment and perception, at least in this area.
“Of all the issues I examined," Duckett wrote, "that exchange gives me the most concern.”
The report referenced another instance when then-Sgt. Maynard “used language in a thoughtless and careless way.” That happened in a meeting with other officers when Lt. Kenneth Colburn said he couldn’t find a chair, according to the report.
In his interview, Lt. Maynard said, “I flipped him the bird and told him you can sit on this.”
“That is juvenile and inappropriate comment with sexual connotations,” Duckett wrote, “particularly coming from a supervisor in the context of a meeting about disciplining an officer for inappropriate language and statements.”
During the meeting, Maynard and other city officials discussed discipline for then-officer Martin Morgan.
In a December 2015 City of Fairfield report, Tim Bachman — Fairfield's director of development services — determined that Morgan should be fired for making a sexually inappropriate remark that referenced gay men and a female officer. Bachman also discussed the "inappropriate" culture in the Fairfield PD, finding, "There are sexual jokes, sexual innuendos and jokes and slurs regarding sexual orientation that occur periodically among the officers and supervisory personnel." According to the report, a female officer described it as a "locker room" atmosphere. Then-Lt. Maynard characterized the sexual banter as a "coping mechanism."'
The report was sent directly to City Manager Mark Wendling.
The instances when Maynard exposed his penis happened 12 years ago, Duckett said. Maynard admitted it happened it on the porch of a fellow officer’s house during a party with colleagues. A female officer said she was there and saw him do it. She added that she wasn’t offended.
Fellow officers said the other time occurred in Washington, D.C., when they were walking down the street during a night of partying. According to the report, Maynard said he didn’t remember doing it, but when he was told that a friend of his said it happened, Maynard said he had no reason to doubt his friend’s account.
Maynard also acknowledged that his action in Washington, D.C, “could constitute public indecency if anyone had seen the incident and been offended,” Duckett wrote in the report.
While calling those two incidents “stupid,” “immature” and “inappropriate,” Duckett said they shouldn’t exclude Maynard from consideration for the chief's job.
“Officer Maynard’s immature actions in displaying his penis to co-workers well over a decade ago were not assertive or hostile in any way,” Duckett wrote. “In our interview, Lt. Maynard made a persuasive case that he was then a young, inexperienced and somewhat foolish officer, as well as a single man who was a rather hard partier at that time, but that he is not that man or officer today …
"Accordingly, I would not find those foolish actions from the 2000s fatal to his candidacy as police chief now.”
Duckett did not make a recommendation one way or the other about hiring Maynard, but his report concludes by saying the city “would be well to focus on what each candidate would do to lead a significant culture change within the police department away from the use of sexual banter and slurs, even if used in a joking way.
“A city with an overall fine police department deserves a leader who can make that happen,” the report says.
Note: The copy of the investigation report provided to WCPO was not redacted in any way. However, WCPO chose to redact it before publishing it here to protect the identities of officers who testified in the investigation, to protect personal information, and to delete hearsay and uncorroborated claims against Chief Maynard.