Sus­pended Wood­stock of­fi­cer paid nearly $300K re­tire­ment

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - LOCAL NEWS - CHRIS FUNSTON

A se­nior Wood­stock po­lice con­sta­ble who re­tired from the force while fac­ing Po­lice Ser­vices Act charges cost tax­pay­ers close to $290,000 in pay for the roughly 32 months he was sus­pended from the job.

Const. Wayne Sczepan­ski — sus­pended with pay since March 2016 — quit the force on Nov. 19, re­sult­ing in the charges of de­ceit, in­sub­or­di­na­tion and dis­cred­itable con­duct be­ing ad­journed in­def­i­nitely.

Though the Po­lice Ser­vices Act no longer has ju­ris­dic­tion to pro­ceed against the 36-year po­lice vet­eran, who is now a civil­ian, Wood­stock po­lice Chief Bill Ren­ton said On­tario chiefs should have the abil­ity to with­hold the pay of sus­pended of­fi­cers fac­ing se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions.

Though he de­clined to spec­u­late if he would have used that author­ity to sus­pend Sczepan­ski with­out pay, Ren­ton said it would be bet­ter to have the abil­ity to sus­pend an of­fi­cer with­out pay and not use it than to not have it at all.

“It’s done. This one’s re­solved,” said Ren­ton, “but it’s safe to say we need to have that abil­ity.”

Sczepan­ski could not be reached for com­ment by press time.

The author­ity to sus­pend po­lice of­fi­cers with­out pay was to be granted last June through Bill 175, the Safer On­tario Act, but that leg­is­la­tion was put on hold by Pre­mier Doug Ford’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment just one day be­fore it was sched­uled to come into ef­fect.

The bill would have been the first up­date to the Po­lice Ser­vices Act in more than 25 years. Changes to the act would have al­lowed po­lice chiefs to sus­pend of­fi­cers with­out pay if those of­fi­cers were charged with a se­ri­ous crime, were in cus­tody or were un­der bail con­di­tions that in­ter­fered with their po­lice du­ties.

“It will be in­ter­est­ing go­ing for­ward if those au­thor­i­ties are granted,” said Ren­ton, not­ing that sus­pend­ing an of­fi­cer with­out pay would re­quire a lot of con­sid­er­a­tion and “fact-check­ing.”

On Nov. 10, 2016, Sczepan­ski pleaded guilty to charges of in­sub­or­di­na­tion and dis­cred­itable con­duct but not guilty to a charge of de­ceit. The hear­ing of­fi­cer, though, did not ac­cept the guilty pleas at that time, be­cause there was a dis­pute about the de­tails of the agreed state­ment of facts.

De­tails of the charges have not been dis­closed.

The now-re­tired Wood­stock con­sta­ble isn’t the only of­fi­cer to quit the a po­lice force while on paid sus­pen­sion.

In Septem­ber, Dale Howe, a vet­eran Lon­don po­lice of­fi­cer, who was paid more than $150,000 while sus­pended amid a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion fol­lowed by an on­go­ing in­ter­nal po­lice probe, also re­tired.

Also in Septem­ber, dis­graced Chatham-Kent po­lice sergeant Robert Mu­gridge was sen­tenced to 90 days of week­end jail time and pro­ba­tion for de­fraud­ing friends and fam­ily af­ter rack­ing up al­most $250,000 in loans to beef up his life­style. He was paid to stay home while the court case dragged out for three years, cost­ing tax­pay­ers nearly $400,000.

Mu­gridge re­signed days be­fore he was ex­pected to be fired by the force in its in­ter­nal dis­ci­plinary process.

Wayne Sczepan­ski

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