The Canal Winchester Times

Charges are dismissed but officer could be indicted

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Felony drug charges against a Madison Township police officer and his wife were dismissed July 10 in Franklin County Municipal Court, but the case is still under investigation by Hilliard police.

Timothy W. Johnson and his wife, Wendy M. Johnson, were arrested by Hilliard police June 24 after a two-month investigation. Each was charged with one count of possession of drugs, a fifth-degree felony.

Both were arraigned in Franklin County Municipal Court on June 26. Judge David Tyack released both on a recognizance bond and they appeared for a preliminary hearing July 10. The case was dismissed from Municipal Court for consideration of a future indictment, according to Christy McCreary, a spokeswoman for Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Johnson's request to retire from the Madison Township force was granted by township trustees in a unanimous vote last week.

Trustees filed multiple charges of violating departmental rules against Johnson June 27 and had scheduled a hearing July 14 at which they were expected to take disciplinary action against him. However, township attorney Mike Short recommended the township accept Johnson's request to retire.

Short said Johnson will be entitled to his pension, which is not within the township's control; but the township is able to remove him from paid administrative leave and consider its separation with Johnson complete.

"As you know, Johnson was on paid administrative leave until we could have this public hearing," Short said at the July 14 meeting. "In the interim, as of July 12, Johnson has gone on unpaid leave, asking for permanent retirement. I don't think it's important to go forward with our discipline charges."

Trustee Victor Paini said Hilliard police investigators told township officials they believe this was an isolated incident with Johnson and does not involve any other township employees.

"We don't have any reason at this time to believe that anyone else was involved with this, so we're not currently investigating internally," Paini said. "But if Hilliard's investigators find anyone else is implicated, we would investigate."

Trustee Gary McDonald, who retired as a Madison Township police officer after 33 years of service, said he also believes this is an isolated incident.

"I am not aware of any other such incident as this in the 33 years I was employed with the police department," McDonald said.

According to Paini, the situation has renewed a call for more stringent drug testing policies within the department, and will likely be a topic of discussion during the current contract negotiations between the township and the Fraternal Order of Police.

"We currently have a policy in place for random, mandatory drug testing of our public works employees, which is in line with the commercial driver's license requirements," Paini said.

Public safety and other township employees are only required to submit to a drug test if there is a "reasonable suspicion" of use while on duty.

Interim Police Chief Ken Braden said the loss of Johnson should not present any scheduling problems for the department because additional officers were hired last year, but he hopes a replacement can be chosen after the first of year.

ThisWeek reporter Kevin Corvo contributed to this story.

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