This Warren County village is abuzz over the hiring of a new police chief who isn’t a certified peace officer and faces a felony charge.
The Harveysburg Council voted 3-2 on Monday to appoint former Officer Rickey Couch as police chief, according to the village clerk.
Couch, 51, surrendered his peace officer certification on Feb. 28 after the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation began investigating an alleged illegal use of OHLEG, the state’s law enforcement agencies data system, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Couch can serve as the village police chief.
“There is no state law that requires a police chief to be a peace officer,” said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Couch surrendered his certification as part of an agreement with the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office in which he was placed on diversion on a fifth-degree felony charge, unauthorized use of the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway.
“If he successfully completes the diversion, we dismiss our case,” said Greg Flannagan, public information officer for the prosecutor’s office.
Harveysburg Mayor Faith Sorice broke a 2-2 tie to hire Couch, said Clerk Carol Nelson, who was involved in another incident that has prompted recent attention in this village in eastern Warren County.
Sorice replaced long-time Mayor Dick Verga, on leave while awaiting trial on charges that he touched Nelson’s buttocks during a council meeting in April.
Since Monday’s vote, residents have been raising questions about Couch.
He could not be reached, but his lawyer, Lucas Wilder, discredited any claims that Couch had a felony conviction.
“We hope that he stays in that position. He’s a good person,” said Wilder.
Couch was chosen over Steve Bucholtz, the acting chief since the retirement of John Heisler in June.
Heisler said Couch was a good officer, but the village council should have picked Bucholtz “hands down” due to Couch’s lack of a peace officer certification.
But Stephan Sorice, the mayor’s husband and a former councilman, said Couch’s hiring was an attempt to break with the “good, old boy network.”
By Lawrence Budd - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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