By Jeff Gallatin
A former North Olmsted police officer fired late last year for alleged misconduct has filed suit against the city as well as several past and present safety workers and unnamed other municipal employees, saying he was wrongfully terminated and is seeking damages.
Attorneys for Brian Bielozer and his wife, Lisa, filed the suit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court April 25 seeking $25,000 for financial losses already incurred, court costs and an unspecified amount for damages. The suit names former city safety/service Director Scott Thomas, North Olmsted police Chief Jamie Gallagher, Capt. Ron Cox, Detective Chuck Fioritto and five employees named as John Does since their names could not be ascertained at the time of the suit’s filing. The case was assigned to Judge Hollie L. Gallagher. The suit is in addition to the action already filed by representatives for Bielozer challenging his firing by the city last year.
Attorneys for Bielozer, a 15-year-veteran of the department, were unavailable for comment in time for this edition. They allege in the suit that there was a pattern of harassment of Bielozer by the city and staff which led to his firing.
North Olmsted law Director Michael Gareau disputes the suit’s allegations.
“The city denies the allegations,” Gareau, said declining further comment, citing the ongoing nature of Bielolzer’s appeal.
Other safety officials also declined comment, citing the ongoing nature of the legal actions.
In the suit, Bielozer’s attorneys allege there was a pattern of negative incidents directed toward Bielozer by Gallagher, both when he was a captain and subsequently as chief of police, meant to intimidate and harass Bielozer. It cites an incident at a shooting seminar in 2007, and subsequent events. It also cites internal investigations and other disciplinary measures. The suit alleges the pattern continued when Bielozer was off duty due to medical leave after a knee operation on July 18, 2012, and then when his cruiser was involved in a collision with another vehicle on Interstate 480 on April 14, 2013. The suit alleges Gallagher went to Bielozer’s home without a warrant or permission, “presumably in an attempt to observe Bielozer abusing his medical leave of absence.”
The suit says Gallagher took pictures of Bielozer and his family on April 27, 2013, from behind a neighbor’s tree, as well as after entering the Bielozers’ backyard, yelling out “Brian,” apparently mistaking Bielozer’s brother Keith, for Brian. The suit contends this, along with other incidents, caused Bielozer and his family high amounts of stress and anxiety, leading to other personal physical and emotional problems.
In addition, the suit contends Gallagher had Cox and Fioritto give false and misleading information about Bielozer to LEADS representatives, which ultimately led to his not being allowed access to the system anymore. It also said that despite Bielozer getting the top score in a promotions test for a vacant sergeant’s position, Gallagher notified Bielozer of internal investigations, which led to other actions and a hearing, where Bielozer was removed from the promotions eligibility list for the sergeant’s position.
In taking its actions, Bielozer’s personnel files showed the city had filed a series of alleged police conduct violations against Bielozer.
In Bielozer’s discharge case, his termination letter from then safety-sservice Director Scott Thomas refers to three separate internal department investigations. Thomas also notes a Nov. 25 disciplinary hearing in the presence of Bielozer and a Fraternal Order of Police representative and many other incidents.
The file contains one report and reprimand on an incident in which Bielozer allegedly drove his police cruiser head on at a wrong-way driver, noting department policy is that pursuits are justified only when the officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe a suspect has committed or attempted to commit a felony.
The report reads, “By driving head-on toward a wrong-way driver, when the reason given for the pursuit by North Ridgeville P.D. was for a traffic offense, Officer Bielozer placed himself in a dangerous situation that outweighed the need to immediately apprehend the suspect. There is no reasonable expectation of a positive outcome to be gained by driving directly at an oncoming suspect on a limited-access highway.”
It also details incidents in which department officials said Bielozer involved himself in an investigation on a relative after receiving orders not to, accessed a department computer illegally and left his assigned post during a SWAT incident.
The report indicates several times Bielozer’s willingness to assist fellow officers when needed, but frequently notes this along with references to a need to correct reports and make sure needed information is provided.
“After one hundred and twenty days of suspension, written reprimands, shift counseling, referral to other services and a major lawsuit filed and settled against you for use of force, you have failed to modify your behavior and still continue to act outside the rules of a police officer for the city of North Olmsted,” Thomas notes in upholding the decision to fire Bielozer.
City officials said Bielozer’s actions led to his prohibition from using the LEADS system, the computer system used by police officers as part of their job. His inability to use it effectively ended his being able to function as a police officer, city officials said.