Thursday, December 23, 2010

PO-PI Pleads Guilty to a Felony

The following is another example of an unlicensed individual operating as an unlicensed PI only in this case he's also a police officer. 
Akron police lose 20-year veteran after he pleads guilty to felony charge involving database
By Phil Trexler Beacon Journal staff writerPublished on Wednesday, Dec 22, 2010 

An Akron police officer, whose career started with an explosive high-speed crash, has ended with a few illegal strokes of a computer. Sgt. Gary Webb, a 20-year veteran of the Akron police force, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge that he improperly used a law enforcement database to investigate parents regarding residency requirements for Copley-Fairlawn schools.

He performed the work off-duty as a contracted private investigator for the suburban district.

Webb, 47, resigned from the department Friday in anticipation of his appearance in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
On Monday, Webb pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony and was given six months of probation by Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove.

His attorney and the department's union chief said the state law that forced Webb's departure, claimed the career of a good police officer who made an unwitting mistake. ''I don't think he had any intention of violating the law and it's a shame because the city of Akron is losing an exemplary officer,'' defense attorney Brian Pierce.

Police Chief Craig Gilbride said Tuesday that an investigation determined Webb was conducting private investigations for Copley schools. The work required him to determine whether some families lived in the district.

On occasion, that private work led to the sergeant's use of LEADS, a state law enforcement database, to check license plates of families claiming to reside in the Copley-Fairlawn district. He used department computers to conduct the work, the investigation showed.

Ohio law prohibits the use of the LEADS system for anything other than law enforcement purposes.
''It's sad,'' Gilbride said, ''but it's the law and we continue to police our own.''
Paul Hlynsky condemned the internal investigation that led to Webb's criminal charges, a conviction that leaves him with a felony record that cannot be expunged for three years. With the conviction, he is banned from carrying a firearm.

Webb is vested in the state pension system, but he did not serve the required 25 years for a full payment.
''I think the law that was created is overly harsh and provides no latitude for a reduction to a misdemeanor. It's a classic case of creating a bad law,'' Hlynsky said.

Webb joined the department in February 1990 and was the partner of patrolman Russ Long. The two officers in 1991 were involved in a high-speed chase that ended in a violent crash. Long was left paralyzed. Webb also was injured but eventually returned to the department. Long's name is attached to the department's annual ''Officer of the Year'' award given since 1996.

Hlynsky said the computer violation investigation allowed Webb to fall victim to a ''personal vendetta'' waged by ''a few'' higher-ranking officers in the department. He declined to name the officers, but he said the entire matter should have been conducted internally without felony charges being brought.

''I hope these people that did this to Gary examine themselves because what goes around, comes around,'' Hlynsky said. ''This is nothing but vengeance against a guy that didn't deserve it.''
Brian Poe, superintendent of Copley-Fairlawn schools, said Webb began working as a contractor with the district in September 2008. His work ended in February 2010, and he had been paid $3,790 for 95 hours of investigative work.

Residency violations have been an on-going problem in the Copley district. In several instances, families have been found living outside the district and as a result, parents have been sued for back tuition payments.
Poe could not say if Webb's work revealed any residency violators, but he said the district does not condone illegal activities while conducting the work.

Akron police conducted an internal investigation. The State Highway Patrol conducted a criminal investigation. The Ohio Attorney General's Office handled the prosecution.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Same Robber Different Mask

Same Robber Different Mask           
The Ohio Association of Security & Investigative Services was founded in 1947 and incorporated in 1954 as the Ohio Association of Private Detective Agencies, Inc., a not for profit Ohio corporation. The later name change came about as security companies applied for membership and representation in the organization.
Initially, those entities were licensed by the Ohio Department of Commerce under a 1792 enacted piece of legislation that became Ohio Revised Code No. 4749.  As with any licensing entity, their assigned task was to collect fees and regulate the industry.  They exceeded their expectations in the collection of fees but poorly failed at the regulation of the industry. They were so good at collecting fees that the industry overpaid the State of Ohio $1.4 million dollars in licensing fees. Because of this overpayment the industry was promised that licensing fees would never be raised.
            Three problems arose with Commerce from this overpayment issue. First, when asked by the industry to increase its regulation enforcement, the industry was told that there was a hiring freeze and they could not add additional personnel, even though there was a surplus. Secondly, when public records requests were forwarded to Commerce in an effort to view the accounting of the licensing fees and this surplus, it was repeatedly denied. And last but not least, when the Taft Administration had a budget shortfall, it “stole” $400,000 from the industry’s surplus and covertly moved it into the State’s General Fund. 
            Because of the industries frustration with the Department of Commerce, legislative action was taken to move the licensing and regulation of our industry to the Department of Public Safety, Division of Homeland Security.  This was a move that was forced upon Public Safety, who did not want to undertake the responsibility.  Part of that legislation included wording for a Governor’s advisory commission of industry professionals to advise those in Public Safety of the difficulties of operating a successful business in Ohio with outdated rules and regulations.  The commission was legislatively directed to be up and running in a year’s period.  Two years after the legislation passed, the legislation establishing the Advisory Commission was still not operational. It was not until the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee held up Public Safety legislation and directed the then Director of Public Safety explain to the committee why the commission had not yet been seated. In order to forward Public Safety’s legislation, the then sitting director relented and proceeded with the formation of said commission.
            It should be pointed out that at the time of the movement of the PI/ Security industry from Commerce to Public Safety, there remained $1,000,000 in what was then called the rotary funds. Public Safety reduced that by billing the industry $800,000 as the cost of the move from Commerce to Public Safety. Of note: the same 9 person panel, who issued licensed and investigated complaints, remained the same.
As if the $800,000 movement fee was not enough, our industry was told that the computer system used for licensing our industry was a proprietary system that could not be transferred from Commerce to Public Safety so the industry was requested to cough up $395,000 for a new computer system. The system was acquired through a no-bid contract by the then Director of Public Safety through, a Tom Noe associate, and has never lived up to the bill of goods the industry was sold.  Since the remaining $200,000 in the rotary fund was not enough to cover the computer’s acquisition, the industry’s license holders agreed to a $25 yearly increase in fees.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ohio politics, Tom Noe, a lobbyist at the time of his demise, is currently serving time for bilking the State of Ohio out of millions of dollars. The deposed Governor of the State at that time pleaded guilty to lesser ethics violations.  
   All of the above was explained to the then incoming governor’s election team prior to taking office.  The industry was advised that the above abuse would be addressed by his administration.  We were later reassured by his legislative person that the revision of ORC 4749 was on his list of matters to be addressed.  Needless to say, that individual is no longer holds a staff position with the State and our industry continues to be abused on a daily bases. In fact, one of the members of the Commission recently made the public statement that, “We’re still being robbed by the same robber; he’s just wearing a different mask”.
            In regards to the abuse, the Governor’s first appointment to the Director of Public Safety, according to the State Inspector General, “ignored fraud and potential crimes for more than a year and failed to halt fraudulent activity.”  He was dismissed for said conduct.
            The Governor’s second appointment to Director of Public Safety fared no better, as she was given a vote of no confidence by the State Legislature, for lying to the State Inspector General. She was therefore not allowed to continue her appointment to said office. Interestingly though that during her reign as Director, one of her underlings, supposedly with the help of the department’s legal counsel, re-wrote ORC 4749, the legislation that governs the PI/ Security Industry.   It remains out there but is so self-serving and unconstitutional that it hopefully not see the light of day.
            Again, for those who are unfamiliar, the attorneys mentioned above come from the same staff of Public Safety that were either dismissed and/or convicted of lying to the Inspector General’s Office, attempting to set up the Inspector General by releasing confidential material, or illegally hacking into employee’s emails to search for alleged whistle blowers. Also of interest is the fact that a member of OASIS was approached by a lobbyist, who was related to the then Director of Public Safety, about representing them in fighting this purposed piece of trash the Department had forward as a revision to ORC 4749. A little lack of ethics, I believe, but then again, standard operating procedure for the State of Ohio.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Say It Isn't So Joe

                         While researching for my next blog I came across the following written by the late Joe Driscoll. No doubt Joe is rolling over in his grave as nothing has been done or accomplished since he was president of OASIS back in the early 90s. His thoughts are still germane even though no one is listening.

PI’s and Security: Wards of the State
By Joe Driscoll, OASIS Past President

Many years ago, I was employed by a state regulatory board and was involved in the day-to-day operations.  At that time, the board consisted of five members appointed by the governor – all of whom were peers of the licensed profession.  The board assistant attorney general, executive director and I attended board meetings and hearings.  While unanimity of the board was not always the norm, the board at least didn’t have to deal with members who may have had opposing professional agendas.  The profession was well represented by the board members’ experience, wisdom and ethics, maintaining a professional competence the public deserved and expected.  After all, protection of the public is the main reason state regulatory boards and commissions are in existence.  Thus, the public is not well served by interests in conflict with the mission of the licensed profession and its statutory requirements.  

Now this brings us to the idea that licensed private investigators and security officer providers be given their own state regulatory board or commission.  When it comes to important regulatory issues, no profession should be of the mindset that something is better than nothing when petitioning for a board because over the years private investigators and security officer providers have had to deal with a license law that gave us an advisory commission and ultimately a mindset that we cannot function without the guidance and control of law enforcement.  When any board or commission is dominated by outside forces then the profession it seemingly represents (or are these outside forces representing their own interests?) can no longer assure the public that decisions are based upon the licensees’ own professional experience, wisdom and ethics.  Having served on the state Private Investigator and Security Advisory Commission, I can say that even the best intentioned often times become incapacitated by outside self-interests resulting in a loss of direction and purpose that can turn the motivated into the inane.  Such opposing mixtures and agendas on any private or public board/commission will ultimately experience more time spent treating results than causes.

On or about 1990, I conducted my own survey into the composition of Ohio boards and commissions.  What’s not surprising is that there was majority peer representation on every board and commission I could find, that is, until I came to the Private Investigator and Security Advisory Commission.  The Advisory Commission consisted of eight (8) members, four of whom were private investigator and security peers.  Our combined industry never had a majority.  Private investigator representatives, on their own, were outnumbered three to one, and security representatives, on their own, were also outnumbered three to one.  Unprecedented!  Majority peer representation on boards and commissions is a tradition, and I’d say even a legal right, that should never be denied to those worthy of licensure.  And law enforcement domination and influence, as found on our old Advisory Commission, can easily be seen in very problematic sections of our license law.  Obviously the politicians didn’t believe that our Advisory Commission was worthy of existence, thus ending the tortuous politics.  What it should come down to is that if we, as an essential aid to business and the legal community, aren’t good enough to govern ourselves then we shouldn’t be worthy of licensure. 

Can a board dominated by outsiders ever meet the muster of traditional representation?  The idea that law enforcement on our board will procure some important political favors for us just doesn’t wash, as evidenced by our current jump-through-the-hoops law.  I don’t know of any other law that requires so much of its licensees.  The first step in our independence, which would lead to our own political influence, would be a peer-controlled regulatory board of competent and reputable businesspersons.  “We will only know who we are when we know who we aren’t”.  We aren’t law enforcement and we aren’t bureaucrats. We shouldn’t want these interests on our board any more than they would want us on any of their review boards.  Such a situation would be like dentists dominating the State Medical Board or the optical glass industry dominating the State Optometry Board.  These professions and our legislature wouldn’t stand for it.  So why should we?

Some years ago, I was in contact with the presidents of two out of state organizations representing PI’s and security.  We compared our state license laws, and I can say without a doubt that both were very surprised by a few of our sections of law.  One president commented, “Why did you allow that?”  Professionalism is gauged by knowledge, ability and merit.  If we wish to look professional in the eyes of the industry, public and our legislature, then we must take stands similar to what we did in the North Olmsted and Mansfield court cases.  Shining moments for OASIS.  Training and continuing education mandates for any licensed industry should be researched, debated and voted on by ethical and competent peers along with a representative of the public serving on our own regulatory board.  Since we have been suffering from our own lack of political clout, we should petition our politically connected clients, including their associations, for support in our legislative efforts.    

There are concerns about which state office we may wind up in should be have our own board.  A strong license law would extinguish those concerns by giving us self-governance.  Thus, our board and the executive director will be in charge and calling the shots according to law no matter where the offices are located.  With the right effort, we could have exclusive offices.  Before any of this can occur, we must convince the legislative and executive branches of government that such a board is worthy of existence and is self-sufficient.  After all the operational costs of running a board have been tallied, the balance sheet will have to show a profit for the state.  But first we must get out of the mindset that we can do little better than what we have been given in the past. 

English politician, social critic and historian Hilaire Belloc wrote in 1924, “We must make our opponents understand not only that they are wrong in their philosophy, not only ill-informed in their judgment of cause and effect, but out of touch with the past, which is ours.”  With that accomplished, the future can be ours.  When the time comes to take the big step, we will have to send a consistent message that we will do whatever it takes to be treated right and proper.  For decades we have been conditioned to think that others must govern us, so we must now think in terms that if we are going to end up with the same thing then nothing will be better than something.  Accepting just anything sends the wrong message, indicating a pattern of weakness.  Staying strong and united in our self-governing endeavor can only magnify the legal and political leverage we gain along the process.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Injustices of it all or in Ohio Love Kills

The Injustices of it all or in Ohio love kills

            The written word on law enforcement injustice in Ohio usually comes from the pen of private investigator/ author Martin Yant, who has written three books regarding that issue: Rotten to the Core I & II and Tin Star Tyrants, but as a follow-up to my last blog, I would like to add my personal touch and an explanation as to why that is a continuing problem in Ohio. It is something that every private investigator investigating in Ohio should know.
            If I might refer back to my last blog, if you read it, Ohio is a local rule state with 88 county sheriffs and therefore, 88 princedoms each financed by their respective local taxpayers. The concept hasn’t changed much since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.  Interestingly, enough since some of the 88 princedoms are located in poverty areas, some of those counties regularly run out of funds to provide law enforcement and again, Ohio has no law enforcement entity to provide a backup plan when that happens. If you need a deputy during one of those times you’re just SOL.
            Since the princes of those princedoms rule their respective domains with an iron fist, they may not allow the state’s enforcement arm, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, to enter their respective county.
            Case in point: several years ago, we were called in, two years after the fact, to investigate a fatal automobile accident in which a Suzuki Samurai rolled over in one of those above counties where the OSP wasn’t welcome.  The deputy usually assigned to road duty that evening had marked off sick, so the Sheriff handed a jail deputy a gun, provided him a cruiser and sent him on his way. Remember again from my last article, it only takes 582 hours of training to be sworn law enforcement officer in Ohio; it takes even less to be a jail deputy.

            Anyway, two young lads, after a night of drinking, were southbound on a State Route, which is usually enforced by OSP, when the road came to a Z curve. Needless to say, the vehicle continued to precede straight, full speed ahead and flipped in to a water filled ditch, causing one of the two to drown.  Neither wore a seat belt and the survivor claimed he wasn’t the driver.
Where does a private investigator usually start such investigations?  They get a copy of the police report.  In this case, the report consisted of the two required pages and nothing else.  No measurements, no photographs, no interviews and no chemical test run on either the deceased or the uninjured individual; Ohio law enforcement at its finest.
            If that didn’t make you scratch your head, this will.  We were requested by a plaintiff’s firm to run down facts regarding a possible wrongful death matter in Southern Ohio. The facts were as follows: a 20 year old male, with the mentality of an eleven year old, fell in love with a 15 year old female. The two ran away together because the 15 year old female’s mother didn’t want their daughter associating with a 20 year old, mentally challenged individual. They made an official missing report to one of those previously mentioned princedoms.
            As the Sheriff’s Department investigation in the missing matter progressed a deputy observed the two walking hand in hand, walking a dog. When the deputy attempted to apprehend the two, one of the youths struck the deputy’s face, allegedly, with the chain that they were using to walk the dog. It caused a minor scratch, according to an eyewitness at the scene.  Of course that’s not the way it was put out over the airwaves. It was officer injured attempting to apprehend two desperadoes.
The chase was on and the two unarmed, they had dropped the dog chain, desperadoes ended up in an upstairs bedroom of a vacant house. Prior to their demise a deputy had stated to one of the family members that: “when we catch him, we’re going to beat the crap out of him”.  They never got the chance.

The vacant house, to which the two fled, was surrounded by law enforcement and subsequently burst into flames. The two youths perished in the blaze which was ruled a murder-suicide, even though there was no evidence of an accelerant ever found in or around the areas near the bodies, nor found on any articles of their clothing. In an effort to “find traces of accelerants, the State Fire Marshal ordered the house to be “washed down”, three times, thus making the alleged “accelerant” unidentifiable.
            Thus is the life for a PI investigating in Ohio.  Every year, for as long as I can remember, and I been at this for 40 plus years, one or more of Ohio’s dually elected Sheriffs is indicted for wrong-doing.  The Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association keeps continuing this political farce while the Ohio Highway Patrol runs as fast as possible away from the idea of become a state policing agency. Forget a public records search. You can try but there may not be any truthful records on file regarding the incident you’re investigating or they may be so inadequate that are totally useless.
            In the next blog we’ll address the licensing entity for Private Investigators in Ohio. If you think the above is mind boggling wait till you read about that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Final Chapter

The Final Chapter

            A while back when I was teaching a college course on private investigations, I noticed that there wasn’t a text out there that assisted a want to be investigator how to become a PI in the State of Ohio. It was also the number one question I was asked while serving 9 years as the Executive Director of Ohio’s private investigator's association, OASIS; “How do I become a PI in Ohio?”
            I thought that I had addressed that issue when I threw together all my notes into a small text and manual entitled, you guessed it, “How to Become a PI in Ohio & Other States.”  It appears now that I completely left out a chapter for those from out of state who wish to conduct private investigations in Ohio.
            First to steal from Jeff Foxworthy: “You know you’re from Ohio when you know what direction you’re going when you say up by the lake (Erie) or down by the river (Ohio River).”  We also get a little mixed up with directions when dealing with Ohio cities; example: Sandusky is up by the lake, but Upper Sandusky is closer to the river.  So rule number one, we here in Ohio need explicit directions when assigned a task.
            Secondly, there are a multitude of date base companies that advertise national criminal backgrounds; well here in Ohio we know that can’t be true because in Ohio you can’t even get a statewide criminal background check. Ohio’s statewide criminal history data base, The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification, is a fingerprint based system that is not opened to public access. Also Ohio is a home rule state with 88 different and separate clerks of courts for what we here call The Court of Common Pleas, felony court. This court also handles, with separate clerks, divorce matters. So you have 88 separate and different jurisdictions to deal with in locating a felony record; heaven forbid you’re looking for a misdemeanor arrest because you’re now adding a thousand or more separate and independent entities with no standard data program; that is if they even have computerized records.
            Thirdly, it always interesting in dealing with attorneys, insurance companies and private investigators from major metropolitan areas; Ohio has three main cities, all beginning with the letter “C” after that it’s all farmland and want-to- be cities and townships which take us back to number two. Home rule in Ohio has allowed for a group of 3,500 people or more to form a political entity with its own police department and corresponding court system; each with its own set of rules; also it only takes 582 hours of training for one to become a police officer in Ohio, so reading and writing in English is not always a requirement; which you’ll quickly learn when reviewing some police reports. Also because of home rule Ohio has no police entity with statewide law enforcement jurisdiction; we have the Ohio Highway Patrol which does and outstanding job investigating vehicle accidents and handing out speeding tickets so if your investigative needs are limited to those two items you are in luck.

            Along those same lines there are 88 separate coroners’ offices with only the big 3C having certified forensic pathologist. So once a determination of the cause of death has been determined try getting it reversed, but that’s another day and another story.
             Fourthly and related to number three, if your needs are for an insurance or worker’s compensation investigation in either eastern or southern Ohio, or down along the river, as we here in Ohio say, you need to be advised that the leading industry in those locations is marijuana cultivation, to be followed by the sale of prescriptions drugs and bringing suit against the coal and/ or power companies.  Therefore if you expect private investigators to crawl around in a corn or soybean field in order to get the money shot you’ll need to pay a little extra as there are more mines and booby-traps in those fields than in all of Afghanistan or Pakistan.
            Fifthly, once you get south of Interstate 70, which divides the state in half, you are in Appalachia, north of that is the snow belt so don’t expect expedited service in either place.   Road construction season last from the end of winter to the beginning of winter, or what we here in Ohio refer to as Orange Barrel season, so the mileage an investigator turns in is always going to be more than what you expected.
            Sixthly, the demographics of Ohio's three “C “cities is under constant change.  There used to be a lot of comments made about having to press one for English and two for Spanish; well at my bank here in Ohio’s capital city there is now  a third choice, Somali. This is because we currently have the second largest population, next to Minneapolis, of Somali immigrants in the United States.  This in turn goes with Ohio’s ever increasing Hispanic population, so therefore make sure the investigator you hire is fluent in their respected area’s languages as you can go into several stores in this area and never hear a word of English spoken.
            Last but not least like the majority of other states, The State of Ohio's enforcement of non-licensed private investigators is dismal at best so there are countless unlicensed non-professionals ready to do anything on the cheap. If that’s what you are looking for then welcome to it but if you’re looking for a professional investigator who can deal with the above six problems then you need to look where Ohio’s professional investigators are listed: professional organizations such as The National Association of Legal Investigators, Intellenet, PI or check with Ohio’s licensing entity; The Department of Public Safety, Division of Homeland Security at: As always you get what you pay for and in Ohio you may have to pay a wee bit more because of all the above; cause it may not be rocket science but it isn’t  something just anyone can do, especially in the Great State of Ohio. You know the one that’s round on the ends and high in the middle.