EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner has been placed on administrative leave following his indictment on multiple charges related to theft and fraud.
"The city of East Cleveland has been alerted that a criminal indictment has been returned against the city's current police chief, Scott Gardner," said East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King in a statement. "While we are presently unaware of the facts and circumstances surrounding the indictment, we have a zero tolerance for criminal conduct. Therefore, pending the conclusion of the city's investigation, Chief Gardner is suspended and placed on administrative leave."
According to the indictment, Gardner is accused of the following offenses dating back as early as 2014:
- One count of aggravated theft
- One count of grand theft
- One count of theft in office
- One count of telecommunications fraud
- One count of tampering with records
- Two counts of passing bad checks
- Six counts related to alleged violations of the Ohio tax code
In the aggravated theft charge, Gardner is accusing of failing to pay more than $150,000 in taxes between 2014 and 2019. He is also accused of grand theft between $7,500 and $150,000 from the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 39, (and/or) the city of East Cleveland, (and/or) the East Cleveland Police Department.
Arraignment for Gardner is scheduled for Sept. 12. When reached by 3News for comment on Friday, Gardner said the indictment was a "surprise" to him and directed us to his attorney, Kimberly Kendall Corral, who expressed similar shock.
"Had the news not reached out to put me on notice to check the docket, I wouldn't know either," Corral told 3News. However, records reviewed by WKYC indicate Gardner's legal team at least knew about the investigation back in January.
Gardner, 47, has been with the East Cleveland Police Department since 1999. During his tenure as chief, he has been one of the most visible voices in the city's efforts to lower its violent crime rates, which remain among the highest in the state of Ohio.
This is not the first time Gardner has faced a criminal inquiry. In 2014, he faced multiple other charges including records tampering and filing false statements, but later pleaded guilty to lesser accusations of prohibition and tax violations. He was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay nearly $30,000 in restitution.
"I'm not surprised at all," Councilwoman Patricia Blochowiak told WKYC. "I've had concerns about the police chief himself, the mayor."
Blochowiak is leading an effort to recall Mayor King, who appointed Gardner despite his previous guilty plea. If residents indeed vote to oust King this November, City Council President Nathaniel Martin would assume the duties of the mayor's office.
"The level of leadership is just totally in the pits," Blochowiak lamented.