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Lebanon officer resigns after investigation of missing tickets

Lebanon Police Vehicle.jpg
Posted at 12:11 PM, Apr 04, 2022

LEBANON, Ohio — A Lebanon police officer resigned last month after an administrative investigation found that he had not submitted 140 traffic citations to Lebanon Municipal Court over a five-year period.

According to the administrative investigation report submitted to Police Chief Jeff Mitchell on March 9, the investigation started after court officials contacted police administration about three driving under suspension citations issued between July 7, 2021 and March 1, 2022 by Officer Eric Holmes that were missing. Following an audit, an additional 25 traffic citations were found to be missing from court records.

According to the report, Capt. Michael McCutchan said the administrative investigation was started to determine if Holmes had violated department policies and procedures that included the code of conduct, honesty, malfeasance, conduct unbecoming an officer, uniform enforcement policy, and violator relations.

The report said the court contacted police officials on Feb. 28 about officers improperly citing traffic offenders under an incomplete driving under suspension code. After a generating a traffic log of driving under suspension offenses in 2022, it was found that Holmes had written six of 18 DUS citations issued. The court also could not provide any information on three of the citations as there were no records.

Police also audited all 103 traffic citations issued in 2022, which yielded another missing citation issued by Holmes.

McCutchan said he asked court officials to investigate any possible scenarios involving court clerks misplacing citations. He also instructed an audit on 473 citations issued by police from July 1, 2021 through Feb. 28, 2022. That audit revealed another 24 missing citations, according to the report. This brought the total to 28 missing citations.

On March 2, McCutchan found the hard copies of all 28 missing citations in Holmes’ mailbox. He also was able to retrieve cruiser camera video associated with five of his most recent traffic stops.

McCutchan met with Holmes on March 2 and advised him of his rights. Holmes declined having legal counsel or union representation present during the interview, where he admitted to writing multiple citations but did not issue them to the offenders, according to the report. He was placed on paid administrative leave on March 3.

City Attorney Mark Yurick said city police do not have a ticket quota system and that those who were stopped by Holmes and not properly issued a citation would not be required to appear in court or be responsible for court fines or costs. Mitchell said to his knowledge, there has never been a ticket-writing quota system in Lebanon.

“The people who were stopped and a citation was later completed with their information do not even know that this even occurred so no they have no liability with the court,” Mitchell said.

During the citation reviews, Holmes did not get the signature from the driver being cited. In two instances, Holmes admitted to investigating traffic crashes and citing the “at-fault operator,” but then not entering the information to the state traffic crash report, the report said.

“After I reviewed these past five traffic stops, it was evident that Officer Holmes had no intention to issue citations to these offenders,” McCutchan wrote.

An audit of all traffic citations issued by Holmes from 2017 until 2022 was conducted. Of the 613 traffic citations issued, 140, or 22%, appear to be missing from Lebanon court records “and are presumed to be fraudulent.” McCutchan said Holmes’ practice of not submitting citations to the traffic offender or the court started in 2018.

In his report, McCutchan noted Holmes’ resignation and sustained the departmental charges against Holmes.

“... At no time were any vehicle operators issued citations that were not completed at the time of the traffic stop and properly submitted for internal and municipal court processing. During the course of the administrative investigation Holmes resigned from his employment with the city,” Mitchell said in an email statement.

“At my request the Warren County Sheriff’s Office conducted a criminal investigation which has been completed and provided to the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office for consideration of criminal charges,” Mitchell said. “The agency (Lebanon police) has conducted a review of all traffic citations issued during the past four years and determined all are accounted for both internally and with the municipal court.

“The actions of the former employee were his alone and no citizen was issued a citation from these fraudulent citations. The agency has conducted a review of our policies and procedures for citation accountability and implemented steps to more effectively identify deviations from the traffic citation process. The actions of this former employee does not reflect the values and character of this agency,” Mitchell said.

When asked “why” would the officer do this, Mitchell said, “The ‘why’ for the actions of this former officer remains known only him except for what was provided by him in the course of the administrative investigation. He was a very committed and competent police officer which makes the ‘why’ that much more puzzling.”

Warren County Chief Deputy Barry Riley confirmed Monday morning that a criminal investigation into the matter has started and is ongoing.

Holmes had been a member of the Lebanon Division of Police since Jan. 7, 2015. During his tenure, he served as a canine handler, field training officer, bike patrol officer and officer in charge.

Holmes received two oral reprimands while employed as a Lebanon police officer for improper emergency response to a call for service in December 2018; and for damaging a police vehicle after striking a light pole in a parking lot in November 2015. He also received 27 compliments from peers, supervisors, and the public, according to the report.