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Canfield police chief reprimanded after 'inappropriate' relationship

Mahoning Matters learned Chief Chuck Colucci admitted to having a personal relationship with his subordinate while he was paid to handle human resource duties.
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Canfield Police Department Chief Chuck Colucci

CANFIELD — City police Chief Chuck Colucci was one of the two city police department employees investigated earlier this month by city officials for having an “inappropriate” personal relationship, according to a letter of reprimand.

Though the city’s internal investigation did not reveal any evidence of criminal wrongdoing and issued a statement to that effect on Jan. 16, Mahoning Matters later learned the period during which Colucci admitted to having a personal relationship with his subordinate coincided with a period during which Colucci was contracted by the city and received a pay increase to handle human resource duties.

Colucci was named police chief in 2009 and was given an annual salary of $69,797; in 2017, his annual salary became $79,095.

In 2018 Colucci received a $26,000 salary increase to $105,157, much of which accounted for additional HR duties he took on at the time.

“The human resource director should be an ethical, effective and collaborative leader,” reads the city’s job description for HR director.

Both Colucci and the subordinate — whose identity has been confirmed by a public records request but Mahoning Matters has chosen not to publish — received letters of reprimand from City Manager Wade Calhoun for violations of the police department’s code of conduct.

“Standard of Conduct for the City of Canfield and the Canfield Police Department require employees to conduct and present themselves in a manner that exemplifies professionalism, honesty, integrity, perseverance and dedication to the general public for whom we serve. Municipal employees shall attempt to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” read the letters addressed to Colucci and the subordinate.

“... You revealed that you engaged in actions and or activities both during work hours and outside work hours in a manner that may have a damaging [effect or bring] the public image, integrity or reputation of the Canfield Police Department into discredit or disgrace.”

According to the city’s Jan. 16 statement, Colucci self-reported the relationship to Calhoun nearly two weeks prior, detailing phone calls and text messages the two exchanged between August 2019 and January 2020.

Calhoun and City Attorney Mark Fortunato launched the internal investigation Jan. 5 and began reviewing the city’s and department’s policies, according to the statement. To keep the investigation confidential, other city officials were informed only on a “need-to-know” basis. Calhoun, however, later told Mahoning Matters that council members were fully appraised once the internal investigation was completed.

“It was two adults engaging in consensual activity, which, according to both of them, never turned physical,” Fortunato told Mahoning Matters.

Fortunato added the employees' relationship did not violate any laws or city policies pertaining to sexual harassment.

Both Calhoun and Fortunato affirmed the employees did not use city-owned devices to communicate inappropriately, nor did the employees’ relationship have any impact on police operations. Fortunato added other police officers interviewed during the scope of the investigation were unaware of the relationship.

The spouse of the subordinate filed a formal complaint with Calhoun on Jan. 10 but was told an internal investigation was already underway.

Soon after, Colucci was placed on a two-day administrative leave during the investigation, and the subordinate was placed on a six-day leave. Both were interviewed separately by city officials and signed Garrity warnings, which advise municipal employees of their rights during internal investigations.

“... Both employees stated the relationship was welcomed and the nature of the relationship consisted of each confiding in the other by discussing concerns and issues present in their respective marriages,” reads the city’s Jan. 16 statement. “These communications became more personal and frequent during the period of time previously mentioned.

“The relationship ended abruptly when the subordinate employee’s spouse discovered text messages that indicated an inappropriate relationship was taking place.”

Both were later permitted to return to work together. Fortunato said the subordinate’s duties, scheduling or wages did not change in any way as a result of the investigation.

Colucci declined to comment on the matter Wednesday.

Fortunato said Colucci’s position as the city’s top police officer did not influence the investigation or punishments.

“Whatever the position of the senior person … you have to analyze that,” Fortunato said. “In any relationship, we would have analyzed that. It had nothing to do with the title or nature of the job or superior.”

Per Colucci’s letter of reprimand, he will no longer handle human resources duties for the city. Those duties transferred to Calhoun on Jan. 1, as per his most recent contract extension with the city, approved in June.

Colucci joined the city police department as a reserve officer in 1996. He was made a full-time officer three years later, then assistant chief in 2006.

The position's duties include advising the city manager on employment applications, vetting, hiring, disciplining and termination of all city employees subordinate to the HR director, as well as supervision, training, evaluation and discipline recommendations of all city department heads and oversight of internal investigations of employee misconduct.

Council approved Colucci’s 2020 annual salary at $109,045, but according to his letter of reprimand, the loss of HR management duties has decreased that salary by $8,000, to $101,045.

Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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