Last updated: July 08. 2014 2:23PM - 2199 Views
By Jane Beathard and Kevin Dye jbeathard@civitasmedia.com



Village Law Director Ron Parsons reads a drafted resolution to West Jefferson Village Council Monday night that would approve a settlement and end litigation with former police officer Rodney Rutherford.
Village Law Director Ron Parsons reads a drafted resolution to West Jefferson Village Council Monday night that would approve a settlement and end litigation with former police officer Rodney Rutherford.
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West Jefferson Village Council approved a settlement with former police officer Rodney Rutherford on Monday.


Council voted 6-1 in favor of the agreement, with member Cory Coburn casting the only negative vote.


Members Ron Garver, Steven Johnston, Randy Otis, Ray Martin, Jim King and Doug Eakins voted for the resolution.


Under terms of the agreement, Rutherford will dismiss the appeal of his July 2013 firing by Mayor Darlene Steele.


Instead, he will resign, effective that date. The village will contribute a minimum amount to Rutherford’s police retirement account for five months between his departure from West Jefferson and re-employment by the Franklin Township Police Department in Franklin County.


West Jefferson Law Director Ron Parsons put that amount at between $3,000 and $3,500.


Parsons said the arrangement satisfied both Rutherford and village officials.


“It (settlement) allows Rutherford to say he resigned and was not fired,” he noted.


The vote came after a 30-minute executive session. Parsons read the proposed resolution to council.


The resolution simply stated that the village accepted the resignation. The resolution was to be effective on its passage.


Steele fired Rutherford, a 22-year veteran of the department, on July 3, 2013 for dereliction of duty, after he allowed a suspect in a domestic violence case to walk away from the East Main Street police department. Her reasons also included prior disciplinary actions against Rutherford.


Chief Terry Ward recommended Rutherford’s firing. Village council unanimously backed up Steele’s decision at a July 15 public hearing.


Rutherford appealed his firing in Madison County Common Pleas Court, as the law allows.


His attorney, Michael Moses, said council did not follow proper procedure during the public hearing and failed to draw a “finding of facts” at its conclusion.


Fellow Officer Mallory Wise accused Rutherford of failing to promptly assist her in responding to the June 18, 2013 domestic violence call on Pearl Street. The suspect in the incident, Roger Lowe, later walked away from the police department after Rutherford allowed him to step outside to smoke.


Wise, who remained on Pearl Street, spotted the man as he approached the scene and alerted others. Lowe was eventually convicted of domestic violence, escape and telephone harassment in connection with the incident.


In a flurry of court filings during the last year, Moses argued council erred in handling Rutherford’s dismissal.


Moses said council president Garver excluded evidence beneficial to Rutherford on July 15.


That evidence included transcripts of police radio conversations from June 18; a recording of a July 2 hearing involving Steele, Rutherford and Ward; and a sworn statement that other officers routinely allowed suspects to step outside police headquarters during interview breaks.


In addition, council member Doug Eakins conferred privately with an audience member during the July 15 proceedings and prejudiced other members against Rutherford, Moses said.

Garver briefly addressed the resolution after Monday’s meeting.


“There is a pending settlement and what we did tonight is part of that process,” Garver said.


Jane Beathard can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1616, or via Twitter @JaneBeathard.


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