Hilliard Northwest News

OVI charge on Hilliard law director

Bradford decision planned after legal proceedings

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Tracy Bradford will remain Hilliard's law director while an OVI charge against her is pending in Franklin County Municipal Court.

Bradford has the support of Mayor Don Schonhardt, who said he will wait until the conclusion of Bradford's trial or the disposal of the case before considering whether discipline or other action is necessary.

Schonhardt, Police Chief Doug Francis and Human Resources Director Gerry Edwards met May 6 with all seven members of Hilliard City Council in a closed executive session to discuss personnel matters.

No action was taken, but future executive sessions are anticipated, City Council President Brett Sciotto said.

Because discussion of personnel is one of the exceptions to Ohio's Sunshine laws for public meetings, Sciotto did not comment about the subject matter of the closed-doors session.

Before moving into executive session, board members voted 6-0 to hire special legal counsel for the meeting, Stephen J. Smith of Ice Miller. Nathan Painter, an attorney, abstained from the vote.

Smith was expected to bill an hourly rate, but the amount was not immediately available.

Schonhardt said Bradford was not driving a city vehicle, nor on city business, when Hilliard police stopped her shortly before 9 p.m. April 23 on Smiley Road near Polley Road in Norwich Township, less than a mile from her Scioto Trace residence.

"It is a personal matter," Schonhardt said. "(Bradford) has no history (of similar incidents) and there is no reason for me to believe she cannot continue in her present capacity (as law director)."

Bradford, 50, was arrested for OVI and "marked lanes," indicating she had been weaving before police stopped her vehicle.

Video from the cruiser's dash-mounted camera shows Bradford submitting to several field sobriety tests before she was arrested.

Audio recordings indicate the arresting officer was not aware of Bradford's employment with the city until another officer informed him.

Hilliard police would not release a narrative of the incident, a component of most police reports, because it is part of an ongoing investigation, a records clerk said.

According to an Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles report local law enforcement agencies are required to file in association with OVI arrests, Bradford was described to have "slow speech" and had a "poor performance" on field sobriety tests. The report notes an "odor of alcohol."

Bradford did not submit to a chemical test.

While at the police station, Bradford called Schonhardt to explain what had occurred.

Schonhardt described Bradford as "extremely upset" and that he had difficulty understanding much of what Bradford told him.

"I called Francis (and) he explained to me where it all stood," Schonhardt said.

Francis told him Bradford had been arrested and was being processed as any other citizen for a charge of OVI.

"It can be an emotional time for anyone stopped by police," Schonhardt said. "I called the chief to ensure procedure had been followed (and) to learn more about what happened and how (Bradford) got in the situation. I will let the judicial system run its course."

Bradford appeared April 30 in Municipal Court with her attorney, Bradley Koffel, a specialist in OVI defense.

Her arraignment was continued to 10 a.m. May 23, according to court records.

Full driving privileges were restored to Bradford at the April 30 court appearance.

Koffel said May 3 that Bradford will plead not guilty at the arraignment.

"Mrs. Bradford wants the chance to participate in the legal system as is the right of every citizen," Koffel said. "She is being tried for OVI, not for being the law director of Hilliard."

Koffel said police make arrests based on probable cause, but that a conviction requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, a much higher standard to achieve.

"We believe there is a lack of physical evidence to support (the charge)," Koffel said. "The video does not support what the officer says."

Bradford was named law director in February, succeeding Pam Fox, who took the post of law director in Worthington.

Bradford had been an assistant law director since February 2004.

Bradford was an assistant city attorney in Dayton from January 2002 to February 2004.

From February 2000 until June 2001, Bradford was director of economic development and public safety for Hilliard.

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