Former Milton Township police chief Michael Saltsman is suing the township and a trustee he’s feuded with over how he was demoted from chief to corporal after an independent investigation found he failed to oversee the department properly, mistreated a woman officer and intimidated citizens who wanted to file complaints against officers he favored.
Saltsman, 48, filed the lawsuit against Milton Township and Trustee Dave Tomaino Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court seeking $50,000 for being improperly demoted, the filings say. WKBN reported about the dysfunction in the Milton Township Police Department in March.
Saltsman claims the township and Tomaino violated Ohio law when the demoted him to corporal and retaliated against him for reporting “illegal activity and/or violations of work rules” by the police department and the board.
The filing specifically cites an incident in which he notified trustees about one of his employees disrespecting him, employees skipping the chain of command, the board usurping his authority and the board failing to compensate him for overtime.
Saltsman also said that trustees instructed employees under Saltsman to refrain from arresting Tomanio’s brother for “various acts of unlawful conduct,” though the filing never details what those were.
The suit also says when Saltsman accepted his demotion, he should have been demoted to his last rank, according to Ohio law. Instead of being demoted to sergeant, he was demoted to corporal.
He also claimed trustees publicly accused him of “engaging in illegal conduct.”
In March WKBN found documents, complaints, reports and other records obtained through public records requests highlighted several instances of dysfunction and discontent within the police department, including a corporal calling his superior derogatory names in conversations with officers from neighboring departments while on duty.
The township commissioned an independent investigation by North Canton attorney Jennifer L. Arnold, who presented her findings in a Sept. 21 report that found several instances that Saltsman and Cpl. Daniel Barb treated Sgt. Anna Maria Terry poorly and differently because she was a woman.
Arnold’s report, which focused on allegations of gender harassment, also turned up other conclusions, including that officials from other police agencies interviewed “do not wish to work with Cpl. Barb and Chief Saltsman as a result of their unprofessional behavior.”
Arnold also found there were “clear” chain of command issues within the department. Saltsman was issued a written warning, but more allegations were made against Saltsman and Barb in November, records say.
The report also mentioned that during the investigation, Arnold found Saltsman intimidated citizens who wanted to file complaints about officers Saltsman favored. The report said Saltsman required citizens to make the complaint at the station while Saltsman “stood over them” and read Ohio law regarding filing false complains against police officers.
“I believe this would have a chilling effect on individuals filing complaints against officers and could subject the township to additional concerns,” Arnold wrote.
Saltsman, 48, was eventually given an ultimatum, according to records: take a demotion or resign. Saltsman was officially demoted Jan. 22. Retired Austintown Det. Robert Schaeffer was hired as the interim police chief.
Saltsman, in 2007, had a run-in with Newton Falls police that ended with his ex-wife alleging Saltsman beat her, threatened to kill her and threatened to use his police power to intimidate her into deciding against filing charges against him.
No reprimand of any kind was in Saltsman’s personnel file and no charges were ever filed.
Newton Falls police reports from Feb. 1, 2007 said officers were called at about 1 a.m. to Saltsman’s wife’s stepfather’s apartment in the 400 block of Ridge Road for a man attempting to break into the building. Officers found Saltsman, who drove their in a Milton Township cruiser while wearing his police uniform, at the home.
Colleen Saltsman told police Saltsman beat her, refused to leave her alone. She told police she only wanted to remove her things from their Austintown home, where she said he beat her.
“She said that he told her that he would kill her if she pressed charges on him,” the report says. “She also said he would have her arrested.”
Colleen Saltsman showed a picture of her with a black eye to police and her stepfather told police he threatened to intervene when he saw Michael Saltsman choking his wife. During the police investigation, Saltsman called his wife several times, reports said.
“Colleen stated that she was afraid of Chief Saltsman,” the report says, “and that he had been ‘beating’ her for years.”