FRANKLIN SQUARE — Salem Township resident Ed Farmer criticized trustees Tuesday about the reinstatement of Constable Dan Valentine after his recent court case, saying “his reputation is compromised.”
“Is there a certain amount you’re allowed to steal that you keep your job?” Farmer asked during the trustees’ meeting.
Valentine was charged with theft, a first-degree misdemeanor, after being accused of pocketing five mini bottles of liquor at the Wine Connection in Columbiana in October. After being contacted by Columbiana police, he returned the bottles and tried to make restitution, telling the officer he just forgot to pay. He had purchased a case of beer, but didn’t pay for the mini bottles.
Trustees placed him on paid administrative leave in November and then reinstated him to full duty two weeks ago after he pleaded guilty to an amended charge of disorderly conduct, which is a minor misdemeanor. The assistant prosecutor in Mahoning County court in Canfield had filed a motion to amend the charge. Valentine paid a fine of $100 and was ordered to stay out of Wine Connection.
Trustee Bill Heston responded that Valentine went to court and he was not proven guilty of theft. He said disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor and the trustees have no power to dismiss him, per their legal counsel’s advice.
“It’s no different than if you worked for us and got a speeding ticket. We can’t fire you,” Heston said.
Farmer talked about the case involving former speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in a multi-million dollar alleged bribery scheme and lost his job as speaker. He remains as a state representative and even won re-election in November. Farmer then talked about Valentine, saying he was accused of stealing and didn’t lose a day of pay.
“A lot of people are upset about this. I’m not the only one,” he said.
Heston told Farmer he was the first to come to a meeting to complain, noting that trustees received three or four letters in support of Valentine. When trustees held a special meeting regarding Valentine, nobody from the public attended.
“We got no letters of complaint,” he said.
Trustee Ray Heddleson also tried to explain the situation, how Valentine was on administrative leave until after the court hearing and how legal counsel advised trustees that the charge he pleaded guilty to being a misdemeanor, they couldn’t get rid of him.
Farmer then talked about video showing what happened in the liquor store. According to Heston, Valentine picked up the bottles and forgot to pay for them.
“There’s nothing else I can do for you,” Heston said to Farmer.
“I would think an elected official would be held to a higher standard than me,” Farmer said.
Heddleson again pointed out that disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor and it’s no different than if Farmer had a disagreement with someone.
“What he did was wrong,” Farmer said.
Valentine wasn’t present for the discussion, but came in later in the meeting to report he had nothing formal to report. A message was left for Valentine to see if he had any comment, but the call was not returned.
In other business, trustees agreed to purchase more fuel and motor oil for the road department and went into executive session for part of their reorganizational meeting. Trustee John Wilms will serve next year as chairman, with Heddleson as vice chairman. Meetings will remain at 7 p.m. the second and last Tuesday of the month.
The next meeting will be 7 p.m. Jan. 12 at the administration building off state Route 558 in Franklin Square.
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