Former Akron police Chief James Nice allegedly made racially-charged comments about the city’s public safety director, multiple sources told Channel 3 News.
The former chief’s racially charged comments were directed specifically at Charles Brown, an African-American and former police captain now serving as a member of Horrigan’s cabinet, sources said.
As public safety director, Brown oversees Akron police operations.
The ex-chief is also the focus of a criminal investigation in which he is accused of coercing a notary to approve a car title transfer despite it lacking proper signatures. Nice, according to the sources, then used his influence over a police detective who interviewed the notary in the course of an investigation.
The car title belonged to the son of a female police officer. Nice is alleged to have been having an affair with the officer, sources said.
Mayor Dan Horrigan only learned of the indiscretions on Saturday, he told reporters during a press conference. That same day he made an ultimatum to Nice: Resign or be fired.
Horrigan told reporters Monday that as a result of Nice's actions the chief "lost the ability to lead the department."
Capt. Kenneth Ball was named interim chief until a replacement is found. Horrigan only touched on the allegations Monday, saying he was given evidence of Nice's "conduct unbecoming of an officer, inappropriate contact with a city employee and potential criminal misconduct."
The mayor did not go into detail, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
The city announced the resignation Sunday afternoon after receiving Nice’s letter notifying the city of his decision. In a brief phone call Sunday evening, Nice sounded stunned by the abrupt departure, but declined comment. Nice is represented by attorney Michael Callahan.
Callahan said the chief “regrets any inappropriate comments or behaviors, either insinuated or otherwise, but he categorically denies any criminal conduct whatsoever.” While the mayor was guarded in his comments, multiple sources laid out a far more damaging account of Nice's alleged conduct.
The sources spoke to Channel 3 News on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing criminal investigation. It was Akron police union officials who first learned of the chief’s alleged conduct, sources told Channel 3 News.
The sources said that local used-car dealer Joseph Nice, the chief’s nephew, presented the allegations to a police officer last week. The officer then forwarded the information to his superiors. The derogatory comments are alleged to have been recorded.
The tapes, however, have not yet been made public and sources say the city has not heard the recordings. The recordings are only in the possession of Joseph Nice, a source said. The conversations were recorded inside Joseph Nice’s former used car lot, Metro ACC Auto on East Waterloo Road. The chief frequently visited his nephew’s shop, sources said.
Joseph Nice, 41, was indicted this year on charges of forgery, grand theft and tampering with records. He could not be reached for comment.
Until now, the case had not garnered any media attention. Nonetheless, county prosecutors on Aug. 15 filed a motion with Common Pleas Judge Jason Wells requesting a gag order be placed on anyone connected to the case. The judge has not yet ruled on the motion. Nice is a former longtime FBI agent who was tapped by former Mayor Don Plusquellic in 2011 after a national search. He was the city’s first police chief hired from outside the department ranks.