BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Jason Burns of Boardman, who lost his position as a paralegal for the Warren Law Department after being accused of being high on the job, now works as an independent contractor for the Boardman Township Police Department.
Burns, 34, was put on administrative leave by the city of Warren and was charged with felony possession of drugs while on the job. He later resigned from his position as a paralegal and a judge granted him intervention instead of conviction.
Some people are against his hiring, but Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols said he deserves a second chance and that Burns has been a recovering addict for more than a year. Nichols said he met Burns after reading his mother’s book on the passing of Jason’s brother, who also was a drug addict.
Nichols decided to he wanted to help him move forward. So, he hired Burns about a month ago as an independent contractor, not a township employee, to help the police department revise its legal policies.
“To help us look up case law and Ohio law that has an effect on our policies,” Nichols said.
Burns has about six weeks left on his contract. Burns, a sergeant and Nichols work together several nights a week in a conference room at the police station.
“He is never here by himself. He is always sitting at my side. He is not into our computer system,” Nichols said.
He said Burns is a good addition to the team and Nichols did get the support of trustees when he asked to hire Burns.
“He comes up with some great ideas. If I ask him to do something, the next session that we have he brings the work in completed. It is done professionally,” Nichols said.
Nicolle Pascarella of Turning Point Counseling Services gave her perspective on a recovering addict’s return to work.
“Recovery is a process. It is not just something that you wake up and you are a changed person. It is a process and that is why we say seven months to a year to get back into the workforce,” Pascarella said. “If they are working a program of recovery and active in a 12-step community and have the tools and the comfort level to get back in the workforce, I think they can get back in there.”
However, Pascarella admits there is always a chance of relapse.
“But it does not necessarily mean that it has to. Not everybody relapses. Some people do relapse, but again that is part of the recovery process,” she said.
Nichols said he has no regrets about hiring Burns.
“If something went haywire, if something went bad, if God forbid there would be a problem, then of course we would part company, but I still would not be hesitant to try it again someday with somebody else,” Nichols said.