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JUST IN - Troopers put on administrative leave; Patrol in process of firing them

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:13 PM

Gov. Ted Strickland has requested the state Highway Patrol fire two Sandusky post troopers engaged in a prank involving a costume that resembled a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

A report released Tuesday afternoon says Troopers Craig Franklin and Eric Wlodarsky were placed on “administrative leave pending the disciplinary process for termination.” The move comes after patrol superintendent Col. Richard Collins and Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Henry Guzman met with the governor to discuss the Jan. 20 incident.

“The Ohio State Highway Patrol does not tolerate inappropriate behavior,” Collins said in a prepared statement. “After further review, and upon recommendation of the governor, we have commenced termination proceedings for the trooper and (former) sergeant involved in these reprehensible actions.”

Wlodarsky used a cell phone camera to snap a photo of Franklin wearing KKK-like garb while both were on duty at the Sandusky post one day before Martin Luther King Day. Wlodarsky then forwarded the photo to Sgt. Jason Demuth of the Norwalk post. Demuth forwarded the photo to a Toledo post dispatcher.

On Tuesday, Strickland told the Associate Press the troopers’ behavior could not be tolerated.

Guzman initially recommended Franklin and Wlodarsky be fired. However, a union contract provision allowed them to keep their jobs if they maintained a clean record for two years.

All three troopers were required to attend a diversity awareness class. Wlodarsky was demoted April 3 from sergeant at the Sandusky post to trooper. The patrol transferred him to the Norwalk post the next day.

Franklin received a five-day unpaid suspension. Demuth has served a one-day unpaid suspension for failing to report the Jan. 20 incident to a supervisor.

Lt. Jim Bryan, the Norwalk post commander, referred questions about the state’s current action to a patrol spokesman. He said he wasn’t aware that the move would affect Demuth’s future.

“As far as I know, the investigation is concluded and his penalty has been determined and I’m not aware of any changes to it,” Bryan said.

Bryan, during an April 14 interview, said: “It's just very disappointing. We hold ourselves to a much higher standard.”

Demuth started at the Norwalk post Feb. 9, 2005 as a sergeant. He was a trooper at the Sandusky post from April 1999 — after graduating from the academy — until his promotion.

Lt. Gregory Greggila, the Sandusky post commander, also referred questions to a patrol spokesman.

“I had nothing to do with it,” he said about the process. “I can’t make any comment on it all.”

Wlodarsky told an investigator there was no malicious intent behind the picture.

“I hold nothing against any race,” he said last week.

An audio recording from the investigation indicates Wlodarsky was counseled for a November 2006 incident while he was a Mansfield assistant post commander. Another trooper said Wlodarsky failed to respond for back-up on a traffic stop of a car carrying a group of black males — and instead delivered Cleveland Browns tickets to an off-duty trooper.

Franklin earlier apologized and said he was embarrassed about the KKK prank.

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