A meeting of the Civil Service Commission lasted just four minutes, but must have seemed like a lifetime to Charles Horner, who had been suspended on May 23 and terminated by Portsmouth Mayor James Kalb on Oct. 3.
Commission member David Erwin began the session by giving a scathing indictment of city government and the police department.
"There exists and has existed a serious and significant breakdown of communication channels in both the city government and the police department," Erwin said. "There exists and has existed a serious and significant lack of personnel management within both the city government and the police department, as evidenced by the absence of a meaningful and useful performance appraisal system."
Erwin also said a serious and significant morale problem exists in the police department, "that impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the department."
That having been said, the atmosphere in the room changed instantly as the commission got down to dealing with individual charges made against Horner when he was fired.
"In regard to the reasons for termination listed in the Oct. 3, 2008 letter to Charles Horner signed by James D. Kalb, Mayor of Portsmouth, Ohio, the commission finds as follows:
"Reason one -- Insufficient substantiation, allegation not proved," Erwin said. He then repeated that decision on charges two through five.
"A review of the testimony before the commission fails to reveal sufficient evidence, either serially or singly, to justify the termination of the employment of Charles Horner," Erwin said. "The commission, therefore, finds and orders that Charles Horner be reinstated as Chief of Police with full pay, rights, and benefits retroactive to the date of his termination (Oct. 3, 2008).
In the original letter sent by Kalb to Horner on the day he was suspended, six charges were listed, but in the end those charges numbered five.
The main points of each charge centered around the theme -- engaged in conduct unbecoming a law enforcement officer; abuse of power; insubordination; and creating a hostile work environment.
"All I can do is thank the commission for doing the right thing," Horner said as he fought back tears.
Horner was asked what it had been like over the nearly eight months that he had been off of the job.
"I would rather not comment on that right now," Horner said. "It has taken its toll emotionally."
So when will Horner return to his office as Chief of Police?
"Obviously that rests with the mayor," Horner said. "Tomorrow if I can come back."
That is not likely to happen.
Portsmouth Solicitor Mike Jones said it would be his recommendation to Kalb not to have Horner return to his office until a decision is made as to a possible appeal.
"If the city chooses to appeal it would be to the Scioto County Common Pleas Court, and pursuant to the Portsmouth City Municipal Civil Service rules and regulations, as well as the Revised Code, we have ten days to make that decision," Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones said. "I haven't talked to Mr. Horner's attorney. I don't think that will be an issue, but that would be my advice just until there is a determination as to whether or not there is going to be an appeal."
The decision was a result of a two-day appeal hearing in November.