Hilliard Northwest News

Law director pleads guilty to reckless operation

Charges amended after Bradford originally was pulled over on suspicion of driving drunk

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Hilliard Law Director Tracy Bradford pleaded guilty Aug. 14 in Franklin County Municipal Court to reckless operation of a motor vehicle, resolving a case that began almost four months ago with an arrest for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Bradford, 50, appeared with her attorney, Bradley Koffel, in the courtroom of Judge David Young.

She pleaded guilty to an amended and reduced charge of reckless operation of a motor vehicle, a two-point violation. A traffic charge for "marked lanes," or weaving, was dismissed.

Young handed down a 180-day sentence, but suspended 177 days.

Bradford was credited the three-day balance for completing a state-certified driving intervention program while the case was being adjudicated.

Bradford was fined $375 and Young ordered her to pay $119 in court costs and a $120 probation fee.

Young suspended Bradford's license through Feb. 4, 2014, but Bradford granted her a permit to drive for work, business and other court-approved purposes.

Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt said there will be no administrative discipline of Bradford, and she will continue in her role as law director.

Following the plea, Koffel said the case was resolved as he expected, with no preferential treatment or undue prosecution of Bradford.

"The special prosecutor was objective," Koffel said. "He did not offer Bradford any preferential treatment (nor did he) overprosecute."

The special prosecutor was Glenn Willer, who serves as a prosecutor for cities of Reynoldsburg and Whitehall.

Willer said he accepted the reduced charge "based upon the facts of the case."

"I'm comfortable with the result," Willer said.

Koffel said he had "a strong feeling," based on the evidence and Bradford's account of her April 23 arrest by Hilliard police, that the original charge of OVI could not be proved in court.

"But we understand why police arrested her," said Koffel, adding that law enforcement officers generally make an arrest when a defendant indicates consuming any amount of alcohol.

"Based on what she told me, she had such a small amount of alcohol, there was just no evidence of impairment (to sustain the charge)," Koffel said.

Via email, Bradford said she "is pleased to have my case resolved" and "that the offer to plead to the lesser charge of reckless operation was appropriate, given all the facts."

"I thank everyone involved for their professionalism," Bradford wrote.

Hilliard police stopped Bradford shortly before 9 p.m. April 23 on Smiley Road in Norwich Township, less than a mile from her Scioto Trace residence.

Bradford was arrested for OVI and "marked lanes," indicating she had crossed the center line before police stopped her vehicle.

Video recordings of the arrest show Bradford began a field sobriety test during the traffic stop but refused blood-alcohol tests at the police station.

Koffel said a review of the video shows a "lack of evidence" that she was impaired.

An audio recording of the arrest indicates the arresting officer was not aware Bradford was the city's law director until a second officer who arrived at the scene told him.

While at the station, video recordings showed Bradford questioning an officer about his employment with the city as a police officer, but police Chief Doug Francis said at the time none of her comments were interpreted as threatening.

"The working relationship between the safety department and the law department has been exceptional while she has been going through her legal process," Francis said. "(Bradford) has been the consummate professional and has worked hard to foster her relationship with the police department.

"I am pleased that this case has been resolved and we are content with the outcome. We consider the matter closed."

Bradford also said the incident has not affected the relationship between her and the police department.

"We have a strong and enduring partnership that I'm proud to be a part of and that partnership has not and will not change," Bradford said.

Following her April 23 arrest, Bradford's arraignment was continued until May 23, at which time Bradford entered a plea of not guilty to the original charges. Koffel did not waive Bradford's "speedy trial" rights, ensuring a plea or a trial would begin within 90 days.

Bradford's service as Hilliard's law director was not interrupted during the court process, other than that she did not manage and supervise personnel in mayor's court each week while her case was active.

In her stead, Schonhardt said he asked Finance Director David Delande to attend court to supervise as necessary or when scheduling allowed at no additional cost to the city.

"As an employee of the city of Hilliard, (Bradford) has always exhibited an exemplary work ethic and her on-the-job performance has been outstanding," Schonhardt said.

Schonhardt described the circumstance that contributed to Bradford's arrest "as an anomaly that is clearly not indicative of her personal character or past behavior."

Schonhardt said Bradford had "utilized the legal process available to all citizens who appear in court," and the city will continue to rely upon her expert knowledge of the law.

Bradford was named law director in February, succeeding Pam Fox, who took the post of law director in Worthington. Bradford had been the assistant law director since February 2004.

From February 2000 to June 2001, Bradford was director of economic development and public safety for Hilliard. She worked as an attorney in Dayton from 2001-04.

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